If you’ve looked into the options for digital painting software you’ve probably seen Paint Tool SAI.
This is a digital drawing & painting program for Windows originally developed back in 2004.
It was first released in Japan with a full Japanese interface but has been translated to English(and a few other languages).
It’s quite popular with anime & manga artists due to its Japanese roots, but you can use this for practically any type of art projects. Only problem is learning the SAI interface.
All of these tutorials are here to help you learn and they’re totally free.
Perfect for anyone new to the software who wants to start painting fast. You’ll find a huge variety of topics here and these tutorials should help you move from novice to confident artist in no time.
The very popular JelArts channel on YouTube put together this brief video on Paint Tool SAI for beginners.
It’s probably the best place to start because it covers a lot of what you’d need to know for getting started drawing and painting.
Brushes, selection tools, managing document sizes, changing colors, everything like that.
If you’ve ever painted in other software like Photoshop or Krita you can probably learn the SAI interface fast.
Still, it helps to have a guide and JelArts put together one incredible guide with this video.
As a follow-up to the tutorial above I also recommend this video for learning a few semi-advanced tips.
This video pushes beyond the absolute basics and forces you to think about what you’re doing as a workflow in SAI.
All of these tips again come from JelArts who has a lot to share in the way of digital painting.
Please note this video is fairly long totaling around 25 minutes so it’s not a quick watch.
I suggest bookmarking it for later so you can come back and soak up a few tips you might miss on your first viewing.
Speaking of painting tips I have to commend this awesome video for its narration, style, and easy-access for beginners.
TheOdd1sOut is a massive YouTube channel with over 6 million subscribers.
All of their videos talk about something different and this one is especially valuable. It’s a series of quick shortcuts you can memorize to significantly improve your Paint Tool SAI workflow.
If you’re brand new to SAI these shortcuts may take a little time to memorize.
But they’re absolutely worth the effort and you’ll see the results in action once you’re doing a lot of painting in the software.
Here’s a fairly generic but still very useful guide for improving your paintings in SAI.
The video totals 10 minutes and it’s broken down into different tips on how to handle your brushes, mix colors, and how to alter your drawings with the many tools built into SAI.
If you come from a Photoshop background you should recognize a lot of these tools.
But they all work a bit differently in SAI which can feel like re-learning everything over again.
While this tutorial probably won’t make you a brilliant artist in 10 minutes, it will help to improve your workflow and your output quality.
Working from lineart is super common with digital illustrations.
The tough part beyond line art is learning how to paint inside the lines and stay true to your original art. Thankfully this video offers a handy guide to the whole process focusing on clipping groups inside SAI.
You’ll learn how to create different selections to prevent your brushes from going outside the lines of your original work(scanned or digital).
Plus you’ll learn how to add clipping layers into your document to alter your colors with ease.
A very handy tutorial if you’re just getting into painting on the computer.
When you’re new to creating art with a tablet the whole thing can feel wonky.
And when you haven’t done much work in painting software it can feel even more confusing. One key point that few artists grasp right away is layering your work.
With this tutorial you’ll learn how to organize layers in Paint Tool SAI and how to work them into your painting routine.
Totaling around 20 minutes long this is the perfect guide for getting up-to-speed on layers as a digital artist.
There’s one big component to creating awesome work that every artist needs to study: brushes.
This goes beyond simply picking different brush styles and designs.
You also need to think about opacity, pressure, and various settings that come along with painting software.
Check out this guide on the many Paint Tool SAI brush settings by YouTuber RaijinDIYT.
In this video he shares the brush settings from his Paint Tool SAI setup, so it’s not meant to be the optimal choice for absolute newbies.
Rather this gives you a glimpse into how a pro artist uses SAI brushes for day-to-day artwork.
We’ve finally come to a specific “how to draw X” tutorial with PaintTool SAI.
You knew there would be at least one, and let me tell you why I love these so much.
They remove the worry of creativity and overthinking your subject.
Instead you just sit down and paint exactly as the video does.
That way you’re learning the techniques rather than using extra brain power to think of a certain artistic style or subject matter or whatever else goes through your head while painting something.
I absolutely recommend this tree drawing tutorial because it’ll teach you SAI with a practical project. Definitely a nice one for beginners.
Painting the tree isn’t as difficult as you might think. However if you do struggle with this tut I recommend practicing it a few times a week until you get comfortable with it.
Typically the workflow of a digital artist may start with the line art, then move through coloring and finally add some lighting/shading into the mix.
If you want to learn more about a solid SAI workflow have a look at this 15-minute video to get a fully narrated guide to the whole process.
It is fairly short and you should be able to keep up with it even if you’re not a stellar artist(yet!)
This vid is more about learning to use SAI rather than learning to color or draw or shade.
So the goal isn’t to master shading or coloring, but rather to get comfortable practicing that stuff in Paint Tool SAI.
Here’s another really awesome shading video with a focus on cell shading.
This is a specific technique that many artists use and it’s especially popular with digital art. The trouble is that if you’ve never tried it before you may not know where to start.
In this fantastic 15-minute video you’ll learn all about cell shading for digital painting.
What it is, why you’d use it, and how to apply this to your work in SAI.
And you’ll pick up a few advanced workflow tips if you ever want to use this shading technique on the regular.
I really like tutorials that get detailed about specific things.
With these kinds of tutorials you learn how to practice in certain software and worry less about what you’re drawing.
In this tutorial you can watch how YouTuber Pluvias paints clothes in her anime-style artwork.
This video does not have audio narration so you have to watch the screen to follow along.
I know that might annoy some people but I really think this clothing/fabric painting tutorial is one of the best out there.
Not to mention it’s totally free and one of the many great SAI tuts on Pluvias’ channel.
Here’s one more really cool tutorial from Pluvias, this one a bit shorter than the previous one.
In just about 3 minutes you’ll learn how to alter lighting in your paintings without having to re-paint over certain areas.
This is a tiny goldmine of knowledge considering the techniques used here can radically decrease how much time you spend on a painting.
Again, no narration. So you’ve gotta watch the screen closely and try to follow along the best you can.
Learning to paint hair is always a challenge. No getting around that.
However you can learn faster if you start digitally and follow along with videos like this.
Over the course of 10 minutes you’ll pick up 3 different hair style techniques all painted from scratch in Paint Tool SAI. The artist does not have any audio narration but there is a lot of writing on the screen explaining each step.
So if you’re willing to follow along while you draw this is perfect.
Although with the lack of audio it really helps to have a dual monitor setup.
YouTube artist Cyarin does a lot of different art tutorials on her channel including both digital and traditional work.
One that I really like is this painting effect tutorial showing you how to create a simple glowing effect in Paint Tool SAI.
The focus rests on a painting a small mushroom and the final result is simply beautiful.
It’s really hard to create this majestic angelic glowing style with simple brush strokes. You really have to think about what you’re doing and try to stumble onto this kind of technique by yourself—or watch a tutorial like this to show you how.
I always like to mix in a few speedpaints into these guides because they’re so cool and almost like mini-tutorials.
This specific speedpaint also by Cyarin uses PaintTool SAI. It does not have any narration and it is sped up so the video goes quicker at around 10 minutes long.
Still it has to be one of the coolest speed painting videos with SAI on YouTube.
It shows you how Cyarin creates a simple sketch, then refines that sketch to create linework. Then she gets into the painting process and you can just watch the layers fly.
Because this moves so fast you may not learn a lot right away.
However it’s worth saving and watching this again to see if you can pick up some techniques from her entire process.
If you already have some experience painting then you might pick up PaintTool SAI without too much effort.
On the flip side if you’re struggling to get into coloring then this painting tutorial is gonna help.
It runs in real time and spans over 40 minutes of painting from start to finish. No speedups and no malarkey.
A brilliant starting point for painting in color if you’re new to SAI or digital painting in general.
Before you can do any coloring you have to get familiar with line art.
This is typically part of your quick sketching phase where you’re trying to lay out the general idea for your piece before you paint anything.
If you’ve never done this digitally then I highly recommend watching this entire tutorial start to finish.
It’ll show you how to go about lineart in SAI and how to do so with confidence.
You really have to figure out your line art process before you can start painting well, so this is certainly a great starting point for beginners or semi-skilled traditional artists moving into the digital realm.
Remember how I mentioned that SAI is a huge hit in Japan?
Well that means you can find tons of tutorials on how to paint the anime/manga style.
They’re basically everywhere and I have to say this one is perhaps my absolute favorite.
The end result is a complete living room interior painted in the modern anime BG style.
You can find similar tutorials like this in written form online. But I always like videos because you get to see every single step of the process.
If you want to create layout artwork or background design work then you should absolutely save this tutorial. Maybe even check out some of the recommended tuts in the sidebar too.
Most eye tutorials using PaintTool SAI teach you how to make anime eyes.
And that’s great!
But I also think it’s good to learn how to paint realistic eyes along with other realistic features digitally. That way you can learn to exaggerate on your own and even practice digital drawing from life.
This eye tutorial comes from YouTuber Jenna Drawing who has a massive following on her art videos.
In this specific tutorial she teaches you how to create an eye from scratch using PaintTool SAI.
You’ll see her sketch the initial eye, then tighten up the lines and finally get to painting. It’s a process that I really recommend following if you want to improve your digital art skills.
Last but certainly not least is this really cool video showing a few advanced tips & tricks for Paint Tool SAI.
Check out this vid once you’ve done enough tutorials to feel comfortable painting on your own and developing your own work in SAI.
You can watch the vid and follow along but you really should feel pretty comfortable before attempting more “advanced” tricks in your workflow.
While this video does explain a few key pieces of the GUI it does not hold your hand through everything.
But keep this vid saved until you’re somewhat comfortable working in SAI. At that point you’ll be itching to learn bigger techniques for painting faster, using quicker shortcuts, and rendering with more accuracy.