Creating Water Drops

Creating Water Drops

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Hello! My name is Liz Staley and I’m a long-time user of Clip Studio Paint (I started using the program back when it was known as Manga Studio 4!). I was a beta-tester on the Manga Studio 5 program and for Clip Studio Paint, and I have written three books and several video courses about the program. Many of you probably know my name from those books, in fact. I write weekly posts on and on CSP Tips, so be sure to come back every week to learn more Clip Studio Tips and Tricks from me!

Now that we’ve learned how to paint the surface of water, and water ripples, how do we paint a water drop? This is actually a fairly easy process, though a few properties of water make some steps of shading and highlighting the drops a little counter-intuitive.

Again, there are tons and tons of amazing tutorials out there on how to paint water drops and this is just one of them, so if this technique doesn’t fit with your working style I really recommend checking out a few more tutorials and seeing what you can take from each one to make a process that works for your style and workflow!

In this article we will cover the following topics:

Painting a Round Water Drop
Changing the Water Drop Shape

Let’s dive right in and get wet!



Painting a Round Water Drop


First let’s start with a canvas with a simple background. I decided to put down a nice purple color with a paint tool for the background of my image.



Next pick a color that is slightly darker than your background color. This is going to be the base color for our water drop. The easiest way to pick a slightly darker color that your current color is to double-click on the Foreground color box in your toolbox menu to open the Color Settings window. The little circle in the color field is your current color. Click a little bit below the current color. The top left part of the Color settings shows your previous color and the new color that you’re choosing, so it’s a great way to compare your background color and the color for your water drop.


Create a new layer above the layer with the background color. Then use the Elliptical Marquee selection tool to draw out a perfect circle selection by holding down SHIFT on your keyboard while making your selection.



Now using the Soft airbrush tool to mostly fill the circle with the slightly darker color. We’re using the soft airbrush instead of the Fill tool so that we get a little bit of color variation and some transparency in our base color.



Now let’s make another new layer above the drop base layer. This will be the layer for shading the inside of our water drop. Right-click this new layer and go to Layer Settings - Clip to Layer Below. This will constrain our shading to the circle that we made for the base of our water drop, making it that we can shade without going outside of the boundary. You can also do this clipping step from the main menu of CSP by going to Layer - Layer Settings - Clip to Layer Below.



When you’ve successfully set a layer to clip to another layer, you will see a pink line to the left of the layer thumbnail, as shown below in the layer named “drop shadow”.



Now let’s shade our water droplet. Take a color darker than your base color and use a soft airbrush tool to add shading on the side of the drop that the light is coming from. I know, it sounds like that doesn’t make any sense, but if you look at photos of drops of water on a surface with a strong directional light, you’ll see that the shaded part of the drop is actually on the side where the light source is! Since I decided on a light source coming from the bottom left of my image, that’s where I added my shadow color.



With our shading done, make another new layer and set it to Clip To Layer Below” like we did before. Then change the Blending Mode to Glow Dodge. This will be our highlight layer. Your layers should look something like the screenshot below now.



We’ll now use white and a soft brush to build up a highlight on the side of the drop opposite the shadow. With the Glow Dodge blending mode you can really make that white highlight in the center pop, so build it up in the middle while keeping it more subtle on the edges!



Now we can add some smaller highlights on the same side as the shading we added earlier. To do this I made another new layer and set it to Glow Dodge, then used a chalk brush to add a few small highlights on the opposite side, but you could do this on the same layer if you want to.



Use the Blend and/or Blur tools to soften the edges of the highlights, if desired. After blending and blurring you can go back in with the white color again and brighten up the center areas of the highlights again if they get too dull and need some extra “pop” (Which I did end up doing later in my drawing.)



Select the shading layer again and click on the Create Layer Mask icon, shown in the red box below.



Using the soft eraser tool, we’re going to erase just a tiny bit of the shadow away from the very edge of the water drop to let the base color show through. You could do this without adding the layer mask first, but if you accidentally erase too much of the shadow or decided later you want to bring some of the shadow color back, then you can edit the layer mask instead of having to start over or painstakingly pick the shadow color again and repaint it.

We’re also going to add a layer mask to the highlight layer and erase just a tiny bit of the highlight away from the edge of the drop as well. This adds a little bit of an outline to our water droplet.



Our drop is just about done, but to add to the look let’s put a cast shadow on the background. Even though water is clear, it still casts a shadow.

Create a new layer beneath the water droplet base color layer and select a color darker than your background. The shape and length of your shadow will depend on the strength and angle of your light source.



My light source is fairly low, so I made a pretty long shadow with the soft airbrush tool. I made the shadow darker close to the drop and lighter further away. The further away from the drop, the blurrier the edges of the shadow will get, so I also took the blur tool and slightly blurred the edges a little more.



Water droplets do this cool thing where the shadow will have a light refraction in it if the light is coming through at a pretty low angle. To mimic this look, I made another layer above the cast shadow but below the drop base layer and set the blending mode to Glow Dodge. Then I took white and made what I can best describe as a soft, stretched “X” shape in the shadow. This light will be brighter where the two curved lines meet and will fade out at the ends.



With the basic shape put in, I took the Blend tool and feathered the reflection out a bit to get what I ended up with in the image below.



If you don’t want to go through putting this type of reflection in your drop shadow, you can add just a bit of reflection by making a new Glow Dodge layer and just adding a little touch of white in the shadow by the water drop with a soft airbrush tool. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can use either of these tricks just to add a bit of interest to the shadow.



It was at this point where I realized my highlights didn’t pop quite as much as I wanted them to. So I created a new layer above everything and set it to Glow Dodge, then added a little bit more white above the highlights very gently with the Soft Airbrush to give a bit of glow.



This is great for making perfectly round drops of water, but water droplets aren’t always circles.



Changing the Water Drop Shape


In this section we’ll discuss two pretty simple ways to change the shape of our water droplet without having to redraw it! To do this, first we need to make a merged copy of the art we already created.

To do this, we’re doing to turn off the visibility of any layers that aren’t part of the waterdrop art. For my drawing, that’s the white Paper layer, the initial purple background layer, and the layers I made to show the cast shadow and light reflections in the shadow. (Because I’m changing the shape of the drop, I want to also change the shape of the cast shadow, so that’s why I’m not combining the shadow with the drop.) Turn off your unneeded layers by clicking the eye icon to the left of the layer in the Layer palette.



Next go to Layer - Merge Visible to new layer. This will combine our currently visible layers together but copy them to a new layer, keeping our original layers and artwork safe. If we decide later that we want to go back to our original art, our layers are still there and unchanged!



Next, turn off the visibility of the original drop art layers and rename your flattened droplet layer to something that’s less generic. I chose “merged drop” and put this layer all the way at the top of my layer stack.Aside from this layer, the white Paper layer, and my flat purple background color, all my other layers are turned off.



With the merged artwork layer selected, go to Edit - Transform - Mesh Transformation.



This will put a grid of lines and boxes over our artwork. The squares at each line intersection are control handles that we can click and drag to adjust the shape of the artwork.



With an altered shape of the water drop achieved, I painted the cast shadow back in using the process in the section above.



To make lots of droplets, you can copy the merged drop art several times and change the size of each drop using the Scale tool. Then use the Liquify tool and push, pull, pinch, and otherwise change the shape of each drop easily! You can then quickly paint in the new shadows for each drop. This process is much faster than painting each water droplet individually!







If you’re still having trouble painting water, again there’s so many tutorials out there on CSP Tips and on the internet at large that you can also look at and take the bits you like from each tutorial to make your own style of water.

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