I'm just gonna do a brief crash course on them. It's important to note that at the bottom of the sidebar for every brush, you can change the settings to suit your needs. SAI is unique in that it doesn't have brushes the way programs like Photoshop do. All SAI brushes are the same brush, but with different settings. This sounds bland, but you'd be surprised how diverse it can get!


Pencil

I recommend using this for line art. It's most relatable to the standard round brush tool on most art programs, and it doesn't have any blending settings by default, which makes it great for drawing crisp lines on top of other lines or colors.


Airbrush

Similar to Pencil, but soft, fuzzy edges! Personally, I just use Pencil, but change it to having softer edges and/or tweak the density (AKA the opacity), because I have Pencil keybound but not Airbrush.


Brush

Also similar to Pencil, but Brush has blending features, somewhat like using acrylic paint. Your selected "foreground" color will be affected and changed by any colors you're drawing over. Great for painting! I don't recommend for line art, though!


Watercolor

This is a super cool brush that's pretty unique to SAI. With most of the brushes, the pressure sensitivity of your tablet pen controls the diameter of the brush as you draw. For this Watercolor brush, however, pressing hard will draw more opaque, while pressing soft will blend colors. Play with it! It's a ton of fun, and also great for painting.


Marker

Similar to Brush with some blending features, but a slightly different feel. Personally, I don't think I ever use Marker.


Eraser

Self-explanatory! Like Pencil, but for transparency instead of opaque color.


SelPen (Selection Pen)

Just like the Marquee/Lasso/Wand tools, except you get to draw the selection zone by hand.


SelErs (Selection Eraser)

Counterpart to the SelPen, this erases where you draw on an existing selection.


Bucket

Click to fill an area with a solid color! Use the settings similarly to how you use the Wand settings to tell the Bucket tool how much or how little to fill in.


Binary Pencil

This is your tool if you do pixel art!


Gradation (Gradient Tool)

Use this to create a linear or circular gradient! You can tell it to either make the gradient between your current "Foreground" and "Background" color, or between your "Foreground" color and transparency.


You can right click empty squares in the "Brushes" window to make a new custom brush! When you do this, you can select an existing brush type as a starting point for your custom brush. I only have one custom brush which I use for texturing--and you can replicate it easily! Here are the settings for my custom brush, which you can set up to have it yourself!

There are some cool tools under the "Layer" menu;


"Convert Luminance to Opacity" is great for people scanning traditional art to color. Here's how it works:

5. Custom Swatches

Just as with the gradient sliders, this is not a color-picker, so you need one of the first three options open. Once you have a color selected, you can right click one of the empty squares here and select "Register Color". It will then fill that little square with your selected color, which you can click at any time later to grab that exact color again! These automatically save, and will be here every time you open SAI! To save a new color over an existing swatch, just right click that color and select "Register Color" again to override it with your current color. You can also right click an existing swatch and select "Delete Color" to clear it.

Tutorial: Using PaintTool SAI!

I use v.2 of SAI because it offers several features that v.1 lacks, and I strongly recommend it!

If you already own SAI v.1, you can download v.2 for free at: PaintTool SAI v.2

Most of this tutorial will be applicable to SAI v.1 as well!

If you're having trouble getting pressure sensitivity to work, check out this tutorial!


Customization

When you first open SAI, you'll be using the default layout, which has both side panels

on the same side. Personally, I dislike this, so I go to "Window" on the top tab bar

and select "Show Navigator and Layer Panels on Right Side".

Any time you want to make transparent lines out of an opaque image, that's a great tool!


"Outline" under the same "Layer" menu is also very useful!

Below your color options are your basic tools, so let's run through them real quick!

Do you find yourself zooming out or sitting back periodically to get a full view of what you're doing, trying to make sure it still looks right from afar? Use additional views!

Under the "View" menu, select "New View" to open up a mirror image of what you're drawing in a new window. To make the most use of this, you'll want to click this button here: (highlighted in purple)

Original Photo; 100% opaque in all areas

As you can see, mine is almost always on 15. Here's what it does!

See? Transparent!

You can mouse over them and they'll tell you what they do, so I'm not going to waste time here reiterating it.

Important things to note:

A "Linework Layer" is another one of those special layer types and allows a ton of neat control over your line art. Open it up and play with it!

The "Create a Layer Folder" option can be part of a clipping! So you can use this to make a clipping layer within a clipping layer!

Neither is better or worse! Certain situations work better with either setting, so toggle it when you need to!


4. Shape Tool

Do you have need for a perfect circle? A perfect square? A perfect triangle? Click this!

This is one of the tools that will create a special layer type. You won't be able to do all the functions you can on a basic layer type on a special layer, but that's okay! When you're done using the specific tools for the special layers (1 on the diagram below), you can create a new blank layer (2) and merge it down into the special layer (3-4), and it will make the special layer a basic layer, while keeping the appearance of everything you've done on it so far!

1. Color Wheel

This is the only color picker I use, personally; I hide everything else because this gets the job done for me!

2. RGB Sliders

Despite how it looks at first glance, you can achieve 100% of the same colors available on the color wheel by using these sliders! The RGB sliders correspond with RGB color codes (where 000 000 000 is black and 255 255 255 is white). If you're more familiar with hex color codes, you can use a converter such as this one to translate to RGB, or double click the "Foreground" color to input an exact hex code! (I'll show you where that is in a moment!)

3. HSV Sliders

This abbreviation stands for Hue - Saturation - Luminance. Don't ask me why it's a V. Same as the RGB sliders, you can achieve any color with this.

4. Gradient Sliders

This nifty tool works when you and pick a color and then click on the squares at the ends of the bars . It's not a color-picker itself, so you'll need one of the first three options open to use it! It will then create a gradient between the two colors you've filled it with, and you can then click anywhere in the middle of the bar to select that part of the gradient as your color!

Under the "Filter" menu are two color-changing tools. Between them, you can turn any existing color into any other color at all, so please make use of this instead of redrawing things!

In the same menu, there's even a filter for adding a blur!

Now let's talk about layers!

Whether or not you moved this sidebar to the right, we're going to be looking at wherever the sidebar is that is not the tools sidebar we've been playing with thus far. Look for this:

5. Text Tool

This is something that isn't included in SAI v.1! It's a nice, basic and fairly self-explanatory tool. Just like above, it will create a special layer type, which you can merge with a normal layer when you're done to allow normal functions on the layer again (you don't have to do this if you have no need to).

Beneath the text options, there's a checkbox that says "Fit Outline to Pixel Grid". I've found that checking this results in crisper lines on the text, but feel free to play with it and see what you prefer!

Beneath this, you have your options for fonts. SAI accesses the fonts installed to your computer, so any that you download will show up here! (You have to close and reopen SAI for newly downloaded fonts to show up!)

It will open up a new mini-window within SAI, as you can see above, that updates as you draw on the original, which is great for keeping track of how things look as a whole. Don't like having the new view stuck inside SAI like that? Select "New Floating View" instead, and it'll pop out as an independent window that you can drag anywhere on your monitor.

Can now be colored in a new layer beneath it!

Color effortlessly inside the lines! TECHNOLOGY!

You can add as many clipping layers as you want. They'll all stay inside the shape of whatever is on the first layer beneath all the clipping layers. So in the above example, the red square. I could add as many clipping layers on top of that as I wanted, and they would all stay within the red square.


Beneath that, you can find these layer tools:

1. Marquee Selection Tool

Click and drag to select a square area of your canvas. When you have an area selected, anything you do to your canvas will only apply to the selected area. So when you draw, it won't draw outside the selected area. Filters you apply will only happen inside the selected area. You get the idea.

With any selection you make, you can then use Ctrl+T to open up new tools for reshaping/resizing that selection!


2. Lasso Selection Tool

Just like the above option, except instead of a square, you can draw the shape you want to select. Ctrl+T applies to this as well!


3. Wand Selection Tool

This tool also selects an area, but you can do some neat things with it. As with all tools, selecting it opens up extra options at the bottom of the sidebar. With this tool, we have "Selection Mode" and "Selection Source".

"Selection Mode" gives us the following options:

"Transparent Area" - Selects pixels matching the opacity of the pixel you click

"Similar Colored Area" - Selects all pixels touching the pixel you clicked that have the same color

"All Similar Colored Pixels" - Selects all pixels on the entire image that have the same color you clicked

Play with these options to find which works best for what you need in any situation!

Beneath those options is a slider marked "Range of Similar Color". You can use this to increase or decrease the threshold for what SAI will consider "the same color". For instance, having this range set at 0 means only that exact color will be selected. Increasing it enough will include slight variations in the color during the selection. Again, play with it until it works for you!

Beneath that is "Selection Source", which gives us three more options:

"Current Layer" - Selection will only consider pixels on your current layer (a good default)

"Specified Layer" - I'll be honest I have no idea how this works :)

"Merged Image" - Selection will consider all pixels on the entire image, across all layers

Beneath that are two more check boxes.

Anti-Aliasing is SUPER IMPORTANT! With this turned off, the edges of your selection will be hard, because the edge pixels will all be at 100% opacity. With this on, the edges will allow for a bit of transparency, which softens the look.

If you try this and it doesn't work, remember that the bottom layer INSIDE the folder should have clipping turned OFF, so the layers in the folder ABOVE it with clipping ON will stay within that shape (in this case, the purple scribble) instead of just the main one (the red square).

Under "Canvas" > "Background", you can change the appearance--or even the style--of your background as you draw. By default, it will often be set to "White". This means that if you export the image, even as a .png, you will not have a transparent background. But as you can see, there are plenty of options to accommodate how you work and what you're exporting!

Click the same button (now on the individual windows instead of where you first found it) to return to the more full-screen view you had before!


Lastly, under the "Help" menu, you can adjust your keybindings and options. I really recommend keybinding the tools you use the most, because it really streamlines your work flow!



Random other info:


To the right of that is the canvas flipping button! This is SUPER USEFUL. It's insanely helpful to flip your canvas, as this tricks your brain into thinking it's seeing the image for the first time, and you'll catch mistakes immediately! This does NOT change the actual orientation of your canvas.


If you make a mark with your brush, then hold down shift and make another mark, it'll draw a straight line from the first to the second marks!


At first it looks like you can't import images into an existing canvas, but you can! Images can be copied and pasted onto existing canvases. You can also have two canvases open at once, and drag layers from one to the other.


SAI does have a cropping tool! It's hidden under "Canvas" > "Trim Canvas by Selection". You have to have pixels selected first with either the Marquee, Lasso, Wand, or SelPen tools.



Hopefully this is helpful! Enjoy!

6. Scratch Pad

Use the "Brush Size" slider bar directly above this little window to alter only the brush size for the scratch pad; the brush you're using to actually draw will be unaffected! You can then scribble in the little white space to test out a brush or color, or even scribble down color combinations as you work. However you choose to use it works just fine!

Beside the "Brush Size" slider to the left are undo/redo buttons that only affect the scratch pad. To the right is an eraser button that will clear the entire pad (which can be undone with the undo button to the left!)

Just as above, you can use that little grey bar to resize this window! That's true for anywhere you see that!

Reposting this to remind you where we're at!


6. "Foreground" Color

This is your currently selected color. You can actually click this box to open up a new window that lets you adjust the hex code, RGB sliders, and HSV sliders!


7. Color Swap

Click this to swap the "background" and "foreground" colors around! Allows you to easily switch between two colors. With keybinding, this becomes a breeze!


13. Switch to Transparency I'm skipping around a bit

This takes whatever brush you're using and effectively turns it into an eraser. Instead of laying down color, it lays down transparency instead! This can be used on any brush, and it will use the exact same settings as the brush (shape, size, texture, effects, etc) which is surprisingly useful!


14. "Background" Color

Can be loaded up with the color you want, and switched between for easy access!


8. Move Tool

Can be used to click and drag the layer or selection. Use Ctrl+T for the Transform Tool, which lets you resize, rotate, and flip the selection!


9. Zoom Tool

Can be used to zoom in or out of a part of the canvas. Alternatively--and a bit more easily--you can use the - + buttons on the top bar above your canvas to zoom in or out, or the square button to the immediate right of those to snap the canvas to a zoom where 100% of the canvas is visible. Scrolling also zooms in and out if you're using your mouse.


10. Rotate Tool

Same as above, you can also use this tool or the rotate tools to the right of the zoom tools on the top bar to tilt your canvas. Just like with the zoom, you can click the square next to the rotate tools to snap your canvas back to 0 degrees rotation.


11. Hand Tool

You can use this or hold down the space bar and click and drag on the canvas to move around without disturbing what you're doing!


12. Eyedropper Tool ("Syringe")

Use this, and then click anywhere on your canvas to select a color. Whatever the color of the pixel you select will replace your "Foreground" color! You can also right-click to select a color like this--which I have keybound to the button on my stylus!



Now let's move on to your BRUSHES!






After conversion; greyscale, and white areas have become transparent

As you can see, you have a ton of options for customizing the layout to what works best for you! Feel free to play with it!


Likewise, you can use the little mini-tabs above the color wheel to select what is showing in that panel. There are several options for how you want to display a color picker, from a wheel to sliders. Let's start by going through each of these!

Moving on to Stabilizer!

You can find this magical godsend of a tool in the top toolbar towards the right:

Play around with it and see what works best for you, and don't be afraid to change it in situations that call for more or less control! Just please, for the love of god, don't make yourself do line art on Stabilizer 0.



We're almost done! Let's go through your menu bar!


SAI v.2 has an amazing recovery tool that allows you to salvage unsaved work!

Now, again, I'm just going to run through the crude basics.


Layer Effects

Kind of limited, and not something I commonly use. Probably best to keep this condensed to save space.


Mode
This is where you can select all your Multiply/Overlay/Dodge/Burn/etc layer filters!


Opacity

Self explanatory!


Lock

I only use the first and last options here. The first (far left) being a pixel lock. This means drawing on this layer will only affect things that currently have opacity. In other words, you could draw a shape, then turn this lock on, and then color all sorts of things and it would never go outside the lines. It's very similar to a clipping layer, which we'll get to momentarily.

The other lock, on the far right, prevents any changes from being made to the layer at all (in case you need to remind yourself not to mess with something important).


Clipping Group

This will save your life if you've never used it before! A picture's worth a thousand words, so here: