For the last twenty years, with the democratization of the computer and software intended for artistic creation, digital painting has become more and more important in many fields. Whether you are a beginner or experienced in traditional painting, knowing how to get started in the art of digital painting is a recurring question for people wishing to expand their horizons.
What is digital painting?
A new form of art.
With the evolution of technology, digital painting has quickly made a place for itself in the field of graphic design and many styles have emerged over the years. It is now possible to reproduce, in a realistic way, similar textures to oil paint, watercolor or pencil drawing, among others. With the advent of vectorization, in the 80s, many possibilities were offered to designers and graphic artists in many areas, promoting the rapid development of speed painting.
Nevertheless, digital art remains an artistic and creative discipline, and it requires skills from traditional drawing. The rendering of perspectives, the management of contrasts, shadows, the rendering of light, colors and gradients, only the ergonomics of the drawing tablet and the use of the drawing software will differ in the realization of a digital work.
Many areas of use.
Digital painting has become growingly important as it improves and becomes more accurate. Today, illustrators, designers and many creatives have become accustomed to drawing on a computer. With the evolution of technology, and the precision of textures, we can now create realistic images, as, or even more faithful than traditional painting, to retranscribe reality. It is thus used in video, with animated films and video games. It is also found in traditional films with the technique of "matte painting", consisting of integrating fake sets created by computer on filmed scenes.
Digital painting is also used a lot in illustration, especially with vectorial illustrations allowing the integration of drawings in DTP software, and for publication on different formats such as comics and manga, newspapers or even on the Internet.
What material to use for digital painting?
The graphics tablet.
The main drawing tool of the digital artist is undoubtedly the graphics tablet. With or without a screen, it allows you to retranscribe your drawing directly onto your computer screen, taking into account the intensity of your pencil stroke thanks to pressure sensitivity technologies. Many drawing tablet exist, but an A5 format is generally a good compromise to start in the digital painting world. It allows you to have a portable digital tool, taking up little space on your desk, while keeping enough work space for a good comfort of use. In order not to have to choose between a tablet with a screen allowing you to see what you are drawing directly on the operating area, or a tablet without a screen, more affordable and more transportable, the "scanner" drawing tablet, like the ISKN Repaper, can be an excellent compromise. With this type of drawing tablet, you simply place an A5 sheet of paper directly on the workspace and create drawings as you would in a notebook. The lines are then reproduced directly on your digital drawing software or on your dedicated phone application. This makes it an excellent compromise for people who are used to drawing, but are new to digital painting.
Digital painting software: A plethora of choices.
Once you have purchased all the hardware, you will wonder what software to install. There are many possibilities, from the most generic to the most specialized software, whether for Windows or Mac OS. It is important to try several softwares before finding the one that will suit you best, especially since trial versions are usually offered for paid software.
Raster drawing software.
These softwares allow to draw and edit matrix images, using two axes x and y, and with a resolution, in pixels, defined by the illustrator, the designer or the graphic designer. The great advantage of raster software is that it is easy to use for most people, while offering a wide range of tools. The management of colors and textures, and the numerous effects such as saturation, blur, and many others, are also the great strength of these interfaces. It will be used mainly in the creation and retouching of digital images. The best known of these softwares is undoubtedly the Adobe Photoshop cc software. Although it is very generic, and can be used both as a photo editing software and for graphic creation, it has the great advantage of offering a large number of drawing tools, making the possibilities almost unlimited. Thanks to its notoriety, finding a tutorial to learn how to work with Photoshop is child's play, as there are so many of them on the Internet. For those who want to start without investing in a paid software, the open-source GIMP software can be an interesting solution to discover the digital painting world. Some will also prefer Krita, whose intuitive and specialized interface gives this free software a real added value to start in digital art.
Vector drawing software.
Unlike software that uses a matrix and the pixel as a reference, vector drawing software allows you to create a drawing using curves and individual geometric vector objects. With this technology, unlike a raster image, your image will not lose quality if you want to resize it. This type of graphic design software is widely used in illustration or advertising, where a vector image can be printed in different formats or used in video, so that it does not become pixelated when enlarged significantly. Among the most popular is Adobe Illustrator cc, the vector counterpart to Photoshop, which offers a wide selection of options in its toolbar and power giving the user many possibilities. Similarly, a large number of tutorials are available on the Internet for Illustrator software. Those wishing to do page layout will more easily turn to Indesign. Like raster software, and for those who do not wish to invest in professional software right away, some free software such as Inkscape, allows you to discover and create vector drawings with a pleasant interface and many options.
How to start with digital painting?
From art on canvas to digital painting.
Pencil drawing and conventional painting are quite similar to computer drawing. The traditional techniques and the basics of drawing, such as coloring, proportions, textures or contrasts, remain the same, and, with the different brushes provided by your graphics software, you can easily find the effects you use on your paintings and sketches.
Learning to draw with a tablet is often accompanied by different and disturbing sensations at first because of the use of the stylus replacing your pencil. With practice, the habit will quickly take over the hesitation of the first moments. Thanks to the keyboard shortcuts, and those applicable to your touch tablet and stylus, you will work quickly and efficiently once your preferences are established. The other big difference is in the management of layers. Where in painting or drawing on paper, layering or coloring requires a precise order, digital drawing software allows you to use a layer for each layer of your illustration. You can thus free yourself from this constraint, and work or return to the layer of your choice whenever you want.
While painting or drawing is usually confined to one style per work, with speed painting you can easily mix several and be even more creative. From a pastel technique, switch to an acrylic painting technique if you wish. All the tools are at hand, and all you need is a computer and a graphics tablet to replace your palette and the hundreds of elements normally required to vary the different techniques and explore other artistic worlds.
When you want to start with digital painting, you are regularly confronted with the interface of the painting software, but many tutorials exist today on the Internet to master them. Once you have learned the basics, new horizons will open up to you, and the many tutorials available will allow you to improve and find your speed painting style, while learning new things regularly as the possibilities for drawing are unlimited.
Some tips to start with digital painting.
Use small brushes for your sketches.
As with classical painting, where the initial sketch is made with a pencil, don't be tempted to take a large brush to start your drawing. This is a common mistake, as it allows you to get an interesting overview, but by using a thin pencil, you will be able to improve the details of your sketch, without taking up all the space on your canvas. This will make your work easier later.
Use and overuse layers.
The various digital drawing programs offer the use of layers, and allow you to make them visible or not, but also to play with their opacity. By organizing your layers, you will also be able to control your work and draw on top of, or underneath, lines that already exist on other layers.
Select your brushes
Brushes, or digital brushes, allow totally different renderings depending on which one you choose. As in traditional painting, digital painting requires that you pay attention to the selection of the brush to get texture effects and strokes that make your drawing dynamic and pleasing to the eye. Some digital drawing software offer options that allow you to control the opacity of your brush, depending on the pressure applied on your tablet with your pen. Don't hesitate to test all the digital brushes available in your software, in order to familiarize yourself with the tools at your disposal.
Don't put on too many effects.
While it may be tempting to use effect tools that appear to simplify the task, overuse of them can make your design "mushy" and unappealing to the eye. Draw simply, with carefully selected brushes and colors. You are free to use available effects, such as using blurred brushes or blending colors, in small strokes at the end of your design, to refine and enhance it.
When making a drawing, especially when using a raster program, it may seem easier to select an A4 size when creating your canvas. The drawing surface of your tablet is your screen, so no matter what size you choose on your computer, don't hesitate to take a large canvas so you can zoom in on specific areas and get precision in detail when drawing.
With the computerization of data and new technologies, switching to digital design becomes a necessity for many. Choosing the right digital tools is an important consideration. For beginners in digital painting, going all digital can be scary, and the drawing tablet meets this demand, allowing to continue traditional drawing with a smooth digital transition. Many drawing tutorials and courses are now available on the web, and it is only too advisable for beginners to take them into account in order to progress quickly.