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Clip Studio Paint announces subscription plan, angering the online artist community

Clip Studio Paint announces subscription plan, angering the online artist community


The ‘one-time purchase’ rival to Adobe Photoshop has betrayed its fan base

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An illustrated logo for Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint is moving to a monthly subscription when version 2.0 launches in 2023.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Celsys announced version 2.0 of Clip Studio Paint, its popular digital illustration and animation software, alongside plans to move over to a monthly subscription for updates to the service when it launches. It’s left some longtime fans who praised it for its one-time purchase model feeling very betrayed.

An announcement on the Clip Studio website states that “from 2023 onwards, the current Version 1 (the one-time purchase, perpetual version for Windows/macOS, ‘Version 1.x’ hereafter), offered as a download and physical version will no longer receive feature updates free of charge.”

This has subsequently outraged members of the artist community, who previously heralded the service as a fantastic one-time purchase alternative to software as a service applications like Adobe Photoshop, effectively adopting a similar business model that fans of Clip Studio Paint were trying to avoid in the first place.

The announcement was accompanied by a confusing flowchart detailing the benefits of the upgrade packages on offer. Those who remain on a perpetual license for version 1.x will not get any additional updates from the point of Version 2.0’s release in 2023. Buying a perpetual license for version 2.0 will grant you access to the base version but will not include any additional updates from 2.1.0 onward.

“We will continue to provide free updates with new features until the end of the year, before the app moves to Version 2.0”

Because of these changes, consumers could feel forced into accepting the third option, a subscription for existing users called an “Upgrade Pass” that is valid for one year, which will update their existing 1.x version to 2.0 and continue updating it to include additional upgrades and new features as they release.

When Adobe similarly moved applications like Photoshop and Illustrator onto a cloud-based software as a service model back in 2012, those who couldn’t afford (or didn’t want to pay for) a rolling monthly or annual expense sought out new, more affordable alternatives.

Clip Studio Paint Pro quickly rose in popularity thanks to having a one-time purchase price of $49.99, while a more professional version of the software with features for comic artists and animators was available for $219.

A customizable monthly subscription model that allowed you to adjust the features and number of devices required has been available for 99 cents a month for some time, with all three versions of the app getting free monthly updates and additional features. Clip Studio is now used across a wide variety of skill levels, from hobbyists right up to professional artists, though it should be noted that it isn’t considered to be industry standard software.

On social media, artists expressed feelings of betrayal over the new pricing structure. Many are claiming that the one-time purchase business model is a large part of its appeal, as they didn’t want to be locked in to paying for a monthly or annual subscription as they would with Adobe’s software suite. Those outraged by the decision are recommending a similar digital illustration app, Krita, as an alternative.

Pricing for the Upgrade Pass and the standalone version 2.0 software has yet to be revealed, but the announcement tries to reassure existing customers that “Update Passes will be sold for a lower price than Monthly Usage Plans.” New customers will be able to sign up for a monthly subscription without already having Clip Studio Paint version 1.x.

The brand did specify that Version 2 and onward will have a separate permanent license from version 1.x, so anyone still using version 1.x can continue to do so for as long as their system will continue to support it. At the time of writing, it’s still possible to buy and own the current version of the software, with Clip Studio Paint stating, “We will also provide free stability updates for major bugs or errors caused by the OS or specific devices, into next year and beyond the transition to Version 2.0.”