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How to Do Digital Art

How to Do Digital Art

Digital art is exploding. Over the past five years, it has been steadily increasing and growing

I’ve been a digital artist for years, and for me, it’s a great thing to be able to create on my own terms whenever and wherever I want. 

That being said, I know many of you might be starting your journey as a digital artist, so I want to share some insights on how to do digital art

In this article I want to share these things:

  • What you need for digital art
  • How beginners can make a digital drawing
  • The best apps for digital art
  • The different types of digital art
how to do digital art

Different types of digital art

There are different ways to create digital art. Each type uses a digital art program. Even though you are using a program to help you make the art, do not be fooled.

It is hard work to create art, even if it is digital. The only thing to keep in mind when using each program is that it’s a tool like a pencil, paper, desk, etc.  

3D Digital Art

3D

3D digital art looks 3 dimensional. It is created from software that allows you to build shapes and construct various shapes into characters, environments, scenes, etc.

There are many different 3D programs. Some of the most popular are Maya, Autodesk 3D Studio Max, ZBrush, and Cinema 4D.

Creating 3D digital art requires learning three main aspects:

  • Learn the software
  • Being able to model shapes into objects. This is like sculpting but doing it digitally.
  • Learning how to add color, texture, and lighting within the software to help make your 3D art look good.

Vector illustration

vector illustration

(Screenshot above is Behance.net)

Vector illustration is drawing with a computer or tablet and using vector-based software to draw.

The most famous vector drawing software is Adobe Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator and other vector software allow you to create digital art and be able to resize it to any size without losing quality.

Softwares that aren’t vector-based like Photoshop use little dots called, pixels, to create art. Illustrator and other vector programs do not use pixels.

They use lines, which results in the lines staying crisp no matter what size you scale your art.

Pixels will get blurry when you try to make them bigger.

Digital photography

digital photography

(Screenshot above is Behance.net)

Digital photography is exactly like normal photography; however, you are using a digital camera.

With digital cameras, you use a memory card that stores your photos; whereas, you use a roll of film with normal photography.

The process of digital photography is the same as regular photography. You have to set up lights, know how to take pictures, etc.

Digital illustration

digital illustration

Digital drawing is drawing on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

This is pretty similar to vector illustration, but you don’t have to use vector-based software.

The most popular drawing programs used are Adobe Photoshop and Procreate.

With both vector illustrations and digital drawing, you use a digital brush in order to draw. A digital brush is a digital drawing tool that is standard in every digital drawing application.

Digital drawing is not a shortcut to drawing. You’ll still have to learn how to draw.

With that said, drawing digitally does allow you to save money and time.

Digital painting

digital painting

This is exactly the same as digital drawing. In fact, many people interchange the terms digital drawing and digital painting.

They are different, but many artists who make digital drawings also create digital paintings.

The most popular programs used for digital painting are Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, Corel Painter, and Clip Studio.

Whether you create a traditional painting or paint in a program, you’ll still need to know the fundamentals of painting.

The benefit to digital painting is you’ll save a lot of money because you don’t have to buy brushes, canvases, and paints.

Digital animation

digital animation

Digital animation is exactly like traditional animation but you create your artwork with software.

As a result, you can say that vector illustration, digital drawing, digital painting, and digital animation are all related.

They are born from their traditional counterparts and use a program as the medium to create art.

Website design

web design

(Screenshot above is Dribbble)

Unlike many of the other types of digital art, website design didn’t evolve from a prior creative field.

Website design is the skill of creating the visual look of a website.

In the early days, graphic designers created website designs, but as the web matures, specialized positions emerged in order to create website designs.

Graphic design

graphic design

(Screenshot above is Behance.net)

Graphic design is one of the oldest types of digital art.

You could say graphic designers were the first to use software like Photoshop and Illustrator on a professional, consistent basis.

Graphic design is the skill of designing marketing material in a visually compelling way.

This is why website design was initially part of a graphic designer’s role because a website is considered a marketing endeavor.

Digital photo manipulation

photo manipulation

Digital photo manipulation is where you take an image and you use software to enhance the image or make the photo a new expression of art that is beyond the initial image.

With the popularity of digital photography and programs like Photoshop, digital photo manipulation has exploded.

This can be as simple as adjusting the color or brightness levels in a photo or using the photo as the foundation to add art on top.

Photography and digital photo manipulation go hand and hand. Photography is like the cake and digital photo manipulation is like the icing.

Best way to get good at digital art

free drawing course

I really believe that drawing is the skill that helps you become great at many of the types of digital art I mentioned above.

Whether it’s digital animation, 3D digital art, photo manipulation, digital drawing, or digital painting, drawing is the skill that nurtures all these other skills.

Concept artists, artists that work on video games, or if you’re a traditional artist that uses a display tablet to craft a different art form, drawing is a great place to start your foundation. 

With that said, I will cover some tips you can use for your digital art below and you can join my free drawing course to help you improve your drawings in a week.

Digital art tips for beginners

Draw what you are passionate about

It’s a long journey in order to improve your skills. Whether this is drawing skills, painting skills, or whatever.

It takes lots of effort and time.

The only way you’re going to persevere and continue to go through that journey is if you’re drawing what you are passionate about.

Mix that with what you’re not good at

It’s important to draw what you love, but if you only draw what you like then you’ll start to discover you’re not being fulfilled.

You might also discover your skills are getting stale.

That’s why you want to sprinkle in things that you want to learn to get better at.

By continuing to learn different things, it may be hard, but when you accomplish the tasks, you’ll feel exhilarated.

It’s this mix of doing what you love and learning that will ensure you have a sustaining and rewarding journey.

Learn to control brush strokes

brush control exercise

No matter which software you use, all of them use brushes.

Brushes are the standard tool. This is why it’s a foundational skill for you to get great at controlling your brush.

Practice your control so you can:

  • Draw parallel lines pretty quickly
  • Have your lines go from thin to thick with the line still looking good

Setting up your digital canvas properly

digital canvas

Setting up the right size canvas is important for digital drawing and digital painting.

It’s one of the basic things that many can forget, but it’s the first thing that will ensure the success of your art.

Here’s a checklist of all the things you need to do:

  • Make your canvas 300 dpi. This will help your art look good when it’s printed.
  • The image dimensions should ideally be 3000 px. Typically at this size, your brush strokes should not look pixelated when you zoom in at it 200%.

Have the right brushes

digital brushes

There’s a lot of brushes out there. I even have my custom brushes available to purchase.

There are two brushes that you’ll always be using.

They are the staples in any drawing or painting you’ll make.

You’ll need a round brush and a hard brush. Make sure you have a round brush and hard brush that you like.

Essential Digital Art Tools

Before you start making any digital art, you’ll need tools in order to create art. 

No matter what you want to create, the important thing is to have these two tools.  

  1. Digital art software
  2. Laptop, computer, or tablet for digital art

Digital art software for beginners

drawing apps

The software is the tool you’ll need that will help you create the art. Think of software like a painting easel or sculpting clay. 

The software or digital art app is the medium you’ll use to express your artistic creations. 

As a beginner, you might not know what software to use. 

The software depends on which type of digital art you want to pursue. Listed below are various types of software, which are popular within the type of digital art. 

I’m going to focus on software that has a low learning curve. These software tools are the best because they are not only great but also easy to use. They are also the industry standards. 

Type of Digital ArtRecommended Software
3D Digital ArtZBrush, Blender
Vector illustrationAdobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer
Digital photographyAdobe Lightroom
Digital drawingAdobe Photoshop, Procreate, Clip Studio Paint, Autodesk Sketchbook
Digital paintingAdobe Photoshop, Procreate, Corel Painter, Clip Studio Paint
Digital animationProcreate, Adobe Animate, Cartoon Animator 4, Adobe Character Animator
Website designAdobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver
Digital photo manipulationAdobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom

Art laptop

macbook pro

I recommend going with a laptop when creating your art. 

One of the joys of creating digital art is the ability to create it anywhere. After all, you never know when inspiration will strike. 

I highly recommend getting a Macbook Pro. Apple laptops are built for creative professionals and I love the way you can run different programs, browsers, and apps without a hitch. 

That being said, in the following article I cover the best laptops for digital art in much detail. I discuss all the things that are important to know when choosing your laptop. 

A laptop is a big purchase, so you want to make sure you buy a laptop that works for you, and I discuss all the details you need to know in the link above. 

Graphics tablet

ipad pro

In case you don’t want to get an art laptop you can get an art tablet, or if you’re like me you’ll want both. 

If you want to be a professional digital artist then you’ll definitely need to get either a laptop or tablet. 

There are only two drawing tablets I recommend, and that depends on whether you prefer an Apple product or a PC product. 

If you prefer a PC, then I would go for the Microsoft Surface Pro. Something to keep in mind is that the Surface Pro 7 can double as a laptop and drawing tablet. 

If you’ve read any of my other articles around digital art, then you probably know that the iPad Pro is my tablet of choice. 

When you combine the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, it is the best tablet for digital drawing or digital painting hands down. It has great features like incredible pressure sensitivity, the ability to create a perfect line, and many other new tools at your fingertips!

Read Also:

Learn to draw digitally

Now that I’ve covered the digital art tools and different types of digital art, I want to go into the process of digital drawing. 

Like I mentioned before, traditional drawing is a skill that easily will help you in other digital art fields, so I want to share the creative process with it. 

You will see how even though I have a general direction I want to go in, I’m not a slave to it and change things when needed. 

Step 1

Oak flowers and flowers from meadowsweet were conjured up by my magicians to make the most beautiful maiden anyone has seen. They baptized her that day and named her Blodeuwedd.

When I first started drawing, I just dove in. 

I realized the creative process is easier and more importantly more exciting when I have an idea, challenge, or story as the seed. 

The highlighted passage is a story I found interesting, and I wanted to do my interpretation of it.

Step 2

digital drawing thumbnails

I sketched different poses of the main character, which is the wife in this story. 

Spoiler alert: I didn’t like any of the four initial poses. 

I do like the low camera angle I drew for the composition though. 

(Composition Tip: Your scenes become more dynamic and interesting by placing the camera at a low angle)

Step 3

I drew another thumbnail, and this time I used a model’s pose as a reference. 

The model’s pose felt right for the story I was telling.

In my sketch, I changed the camera angle so it was towards the bottom.

Also, I rotated her body, so you would be facing the front of her body more. 

I drew her body in a ¾ angle instead of a full frontal view because it’s more dynamic and easier. 

Step 4

digital drawing refined sketch

I refined the sketch more. 

The story mentions oak flowers, so I made sure to add oak roots and leaves approaching her.

I added a circular ring around her with roman numerals, as that makes it feel more like a magic spell. 

Launching from the magic ring, I drew these beams. 

They represent energy that is emitting from the ring. 

I tried different shapes of the energy beams but ended up drawing straight lines that go up because it looks more graphical. 

The energy would be strongest where the beam connects to the ring, so I made the base of the beam wider, and I added some variety to the line so that way it wouldn’t be a completely straight line.

Originally, I planned on placing trees in the background. 

In the sketch, you can see many tree barks in the background. 

I tried different trees, but ultimately I found that the trees made it a bit difficult to read the energy beams. 

Step 5

digital drawing final piece

I placed large hill-shaped masses in the background, which didn’t conflict with the energy beams and still gave a nature vibe.

In this drawing, I want viewers to notice her face, so I placed a lot of detail around her face. 

All the linework from the details adds a grey value to the area, and placing grey next to her face makes her face stand out. 

I don’t use a lot of stark blacks in the final piece but making her eyelashes, lips, and eyebrows black helps attract your eyes.  

To help the viewer read the illustration better and add more depth to the scene, I divided different areas into different values. 

  • White value: the tree roots, leaves and the empty sky in the far back
  • Light grey value: the ground the character is sitting on
  • Dark grey value: the character and the hill-shaped masses

I loosely planned to divide the composition into different grey values in the sketch phase, so it is something you need to consider before drawing the final piece. 

When you think about values in your composition, it makes your art more pleasing to look at.

(Composition Tip: Place objects in between your main focus and the viewer. In this case, I drew leaves and tree roots. This helps viewers be engaged more with the art)

Conclusion

There are incredible benefits to doing digital art. 

A good reason to do digital art is that it is often a lot cheaper than its traditional counterpart. 

For example, you don’t have to keep buying paints if you digitally paint. 

With all the different programs you can use, digital art makes it easily accessible for you to try different types of art. 

Plus there are a ton of digital art tutorials out there to help you master whatever skill you’re trying to develop. 

The most expensive thing you’ll need is your computer or graphic tablet. 

I hope this guide on how to do digital art helps you. If you haven’t already started digital art, then I highly recommend you go for it. 

It might feel a little weird at first, especially if you have a strong traditional art background, but stick with it. You’ll be glad you did!

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