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Sculpting a flat patch of membrane into an endocytic vesicle requires curvature generation on the cell surface, which is the primary function of the endocytosis machinery. Using super-resolved live cell fluorescence imaging, we demonstrate that curvature generation by individual clathrin-coated pits can be detected in real time within cultured cells and tissues of developing organisms. Our analyses demonstrate that the footprint of clathrin coats increases monotonically during the formation of pits at different levels of plasma membrane tension. These findings are only compatible with models that predict curvature generation at the early stages of endocytic clathrin pit formation. We also found that CALM adaptors associated with clathrin plaques form clusters, whereas AP2 distribution is more homogenous. Considering the curvature sensing and driving roles of CALM, we propose that CALM clusters may increase the strain on clathrin lattices locally, eventually giving rise to rupture and subsequent pit completion at the edges of plaques.