Digital Artist

Learn your way around PaintTool SAI

Tips & Tutorials
April Madden

This Japanese digital art program is popular with manga artists. We demonstrate the basics of how to find your way around it

PaintTool SAI interface

If you’re used to Photoshop, finding your way around PaintTool SAI shouldn’t present any problems.

The majority of tools are stacked on the left, with further controls available at the top. A sidebar contains your Layers palette, Preview and Navigation areas.

Next to your image, you’ll find your main illustration tools. Colour is selected via a hue ring. Below that you’ll find a Mixer palette, then brushes.

You can buy PaintTool SAI from the program’s official website.

1: Layer menu

Basic layer controls, blend modes, opacity, transparency lock, layer clipping and texture options can all be selected here. Ctrl/right-clicking selects the layer’s contents. Layer masks can also be used and the Eraser and Pen can paint on the mask.

2: Canvas tools

Flipping the canvas (H) gives a fresh view of your work, and rotating the canvas can assist when drawing certain angles or drawing upside-down objects. The Stop (square) button returns the view
to the default.

3: Colour tools

The familiar colour wheel – the buttons above house different ways of picking (RGB and HSV), a colour mixer, a swatch panel and a scratchpad. This can be used mixing colours, and can be useful if you’re used to traditional media.

4: Drawing tools

As with most drawing programs, extra tools can be downloaded. There is a huge amount of settings such as Texture. Hotkeys can be configured by double-clicking the tool icon, or via Help>Config>Key Config.

5: Selection tools

Rectangular Marquee (with layer transformation tools, also accessible via Ctrl/Cmd+T), Lasso and Magic Wand. Irregular selections can also be made, and Shift does not need to be held while selecting areas with the Magic Wand.

6: Preview and navigation

The Preview window is helpful for navigation or just for a very rough overview. Canvas zoom and rotation can be controlled and memory and keyboard usage are viewable in the bottom-right corner of the interface.