When to Use Vector Layers

Posted on: Thu, Dec 09, 21 - By Contact Graphixly

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!

I think the ability to work with both raster and vector in the same illustration at the drop of a hat is one of Clip Studio Paint’s strengths. I love having the option to use vectors for some areas of a piece but use raster for others. So this week I want to share how I use raster and vector together to create a full illustration.

In this article we will cover the following topics:

When to Use Vectors?
Creating and Editing Vectors

Let’s dive right in!



When to Use Vectors?


Before we go into how to create some vectors, I’d like to take a minute to talk about when I, personally, use vectors in my drawings. Ninety-nine percent of the time I ink my illustrations using a pen tool and a Wacom Cintiq stylus. However, sometimes I need to have more precise lines than I can get even with a steady hand and my normal inking tricks.

This is when using a Vector layer can really help. I love using vectors for mechanical, man-made objects or anything where I need to have very precise and perfect lines. Because of some tricks that the Vector eraser tool can do, backgrounds like cityscapes/buildings are also a good choice for vector layers.

However, I do know many artists who use vector layers for all their inking because they love being able to adjust their lines after making them. This is a great option if you’re not confident with inking or if you have an unsteady hand. Since CSP allows the use of drawing tools like pens and brushes on Vector layers, you can get lines with organic width changes with just the stroke of the stylus, and you can go back and adjust the line after it’s made.

So, despite that I only use vector layers in certain instances, Clip Studio allows for the easy use of vector lines in many situations. It’s all up to you to choose if you want to use them or not!

The image below is the one that I’ll be using for my example. I’ve inked the figure with my normal inking tool (my go-to is a brush from Flyland Designs called “BRUSH - Expressive”, which I love because it has a very natural brush-pen feel to it), but I want some more precise and smooth lines for the headphones, microphone, and coffee mug.



Inking these items is a great application for vectors, especially since we can use a combination of pen tools and Figure tools (straight lines, circles, etc) to make all these items. So, let’s get started.



Creating and Editing Vectors

To get started creating vectors in CSP, click on the New Vector Layer in the Layer palette, or go to Layer - New Layer - Vector Layer in the top menu. Be sure that you are on the Vector layer whenever you want to create a vector. Any line created on a vector layer will be treated as a vector, no matter the drawing tool that created it.

In the image below, the black lines are on my vector layer. I created the lines using my go-to pen tool. These lines look okay, but they could use a little fine-tuning to really look like a smooth, man-made pair of headphones.



Vector lines are made of control points that can be moved and repositioned to refine the lines. However, when making a vector line with a drawing tool, CSP has a bad habit of adding a TON of control points. Take a look at how many control points are in the selected vector line below.



With this many control points it would take forever to make this line nice and smooth. Thankfully, CSP includes a tool that can help us out in this situation and make the job much easier.

This tool, as well as many others that are used for refining vector lines, can be found in the “Correct Line” tool. A screenshot of the subtool menu for the Correct Line tool is below.



To get the number of control points down to a manageable amount, we’ll need the Simplify Vector Line tool. Select the Simplify Line tool, then use it like a brush to go over the vector lines you wish to simplify. You will see a bright green stroke to show you what you’re including in your selection, as shown below.



After you release the Simplify Line tool, CSP will delete a bunch of the control points from the vector line. This may make your line look a little weird, but that’s okay because we’re going to fix it!



Now we can use either the Operation - Object subtool or the Correct Line - Control Point subtools to individually move and reposition each point to achieve the look we want for our line.

If you’re using the Control Point subtool, make sure the mode in the Tool Property is set to Move Control Point instead of the other options, or else you may accidentally add or delete control points.

Using the Object tool and the Simplify Line tools, I worked at my set of headphones until I liked the look of them.



Another handy Correct Line subtool is the Correct Line Width tool. Using this tool on the Thicken setting, I made some areas of my vector lines a bit thicker to get some more variety to them.

Earlier, I mentioned that there’s a little trick with the Vector eraser tool that I love using for creating buildings. This setting is also handy in other applications, like inking the microphone in this example image!

To do this trick, select the eraser tool, then the Vector subtool. Next, in the Tool Property window, find the Vector Eraser setting and take note of the three icons under it.



The first icon is “Erase where touched” which only erases the areas that you go over with the eraser tool. This works just like your regular eraser tools.

The third icon (yes, I’m going out of order) is the Erase Entire Line option. This option will erase the entire vector line, regardless of how much or how little of it you went over with the eraser.

The middle icon is the one that we’re interested in for this little tutorial. This is the “Erase to intersection” option, which will erase your vector line up to the spot where it intersects another vector line. For instance, the line of the table and the line of the microphone base are both showing through the upright center stand of the microphone and they need to be erased. Note that in the image below I’ve taken the vector eraser and gone straight down the center of the mic stand. You can see the two spaces in the horizontal lines where the eraser has gone through.



Once I release the eraser, however, look what happens to the lines in the center of the mic stand!



With just one swipe, the lines are gone all the way to the two vertical lines of the mic stand. I love using this trick for making windows on buildings, by the way! You can make a simple grid of horizontal and vertical lines, then use the vector eraser to go between the windows and get rid of the unnecessary lines in a snap.

Don’t feel confident using the pen tools or curve tools to create your lines? You can use the figure tools to create a basic shape and then move, add, and delete control points to sculpt it into a more complicated one.

For example, to create the shape of the microphone I started with the ellipse tool and created an oval.



Then I used the control points to edit the shape to more closely match the sketch of the mic.



Here’s what my inked image looks like completed!



The figure was inked entirely on a raster layer, but the headphones, microphone, table edge, and coffee mug (as well as all the cords) are done with vector lines so that they look smooth and like a manufactured object. I think using a combined technique like this creates a fairly convincing mix of organic and structured lines for this illustration!





This was hardly an exhaustive look at using vectors in your drawings, but I hope that it got you interested in them if you’ve never explored the subject before. Remember that you don’t have to use vectors just for logos or inorganic objects. You can also use vector layers to get a pen inked look while retaining the ability to refine and edit your lines position and thickness. This is really great for those with disabilities, shaky hands, or who just aren’t confident in their inking abilities!

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