How to Start Digital Painting? [Beginner’s Guide for 2024]
Are you a beginner in the world of illustration? Or looking to get some illustration work, but don’t know what you want? This list of the most vital styles of illustration is a good place to start.
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Compared to traditional art, digital painting offers more tools and brush strokes. Plus you don't need to worry about the mess and cost of art supplies.
In fact, for entertainment art like video games and movies, digital painting is the standard.
The most amazing thing about getting started with digital drawing is that it’s easy to start. You do not need a high-end computer or an expensive studio. Best of all, you don’t need to purchase expendable materials, such as brushes, oil paints, canvases, etc.
To start learning digital art as a beginner, all you need is a decent computer, some digital art software like Adobe Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint, and a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet.
Digital art can be self-taught and I will share some online courses that can help you get started.
So, let’s jump into the article!
What is digital painting?
Digital painting refers to the creation of visual art using digital tools, such as a graphics tablet and software. Artists use digital brushes and techniques to simulate traditional painting styles, applying colors and textures to a virtual canvas.
It allows for the exploration of diverse artistic styles, effects, and unlimited color palettes. This makes it easy to edit and experiment with the artwork. Digital painting has gained popularity for its efficiency, versatility, and ability to seamlessly integrate with other digital media.
Graphic design vs digital painting
Digital painting emphasizes creativity, brushwork, and texture replication, often mimicking traditional painting and drawing.
On the other hand, a graphic designer focuses on communicating a marketing message. They do this by using different fonts, graphics, and images.
Finally, digital artists share their works only via digital media. Graphic designers often also produce graphics for newsletters, magazines, product packaging, and more.
How to start learning digital painting?
Several online platforms offer excellent courses for learning digital painting. These courses teach you how to start creating digital drawings and paintings, which illustration software to choose, and what digital tools you should invest in as a beginner.
Here are some suggestions:
Udemy: Digital Painting Mega Course: Beginner to Advanced
Udemy has a wide variety of courses that teach you how to start digital painting. However, one of the best ones is Austin Batchelor’s Digital Painting Mega Course: Beginner to Advanced.
The course is one of the top-rated courses trusted by businesses worldwide and has been completed by almost 43,000 students. It has 16 hours of on-demand video and you also get a certificate of completion. This can be helpful when you’re starting out as a freelance illustrator or digital artist.
The course also comes with 24 downloadable resources that can help you start practicing digital painting on your drawing tablet.
Coursera: Fundamentals of Graphic Design
California Institute of Arts is one of the biggest educational institutions when it comes to graphic design. It offers a beginner-friendly course on Coursera called Fundamentals of Graphic Design.
As I said, digital painting and graphic designing have overlapping skills, and that’s why you must learn the basic principles of graphic design before you start learning digital painting.
More than 750,000 students have already enrolled in the course and it boasts 17,000 ratings, out of which 82% are 5-star ratings.
The course instructor is Michael Worthington. You get a shareable certificate and 2 assessment quizzes to help you become one of the best digital illustrators.
Skillshare: Digital Illustration: Learn to Use Procreate
Procreate is one of the most popular iOS apps for digital illustration. Do you want to start digital art on an iPad? Then, learning Procreate is a must. Jarom Vogel’s Digital Illustration: Learn to Use Procreate on Skillshare is a great course to learn more about the app.
The course has 10 lessons and will only take you a little over an hour to complete. It is a beginner-level course and teaches you to set up your first canvas, using the select tool, brushes, and erasers, creating and organizing your layers, and adding color, texture, and effects.
The course is already completed by 185,000+ students and comes with a hands-on class project.
CGMA (Computer Graphics Master Academy): Digital Painting
Computer Graphics Master Academy (CGMA) offers different courses in digital illustration. Their course Digital Painting is one of the most sought-after courses among design students.
This is an 8-week long course that is mainly targeted towards intermediate digital designers. You can expect to watch 8 to 10 hours of content every week, and a Q&A once a week.
You need to have Photoshop or an equivalent design painting program and a drawing tablet, preferably Wacom. I will share more about design tools later in the article.
Proko offers a wide variety of courses related to digital art. One of their most popular courses is called Getting Started with Digital Painting by Marco Bucci. This is a great course if you want to learn digital painting on the most popular digital painting software - Procreate, Photoshop, and Krita.
The course has more than 7,000 views and is suitable for beginners and intermediate designers. It comprises 20 lessons that will take you nearly 5 hours to complete.
Traditional artists looking to apply their existing skills in the digital medium can also opt for this course.
Before enrolling in any course, read the reviews, check the course content, and ensure it fits skill level and learning goals.
Additionally, some platforms may offer free programs or sample lessons to help you assess the course before committing. Along with the courses, you can also read some books about graphic design to enhance your knowledge.
How to start digital painting?
One of the most daunting questions that haunt digital illustrators is, what device to use for digital art?
You can either go with a Huion or a Wacom graphic tablet with a drawing pen. Or, go for a combination of a graphic tablet and a high-resolution monitor for a better drawing experience. The choice of devices depends on your budget and preferences.
If you own an iPad, you can simply buy a drawing pen, pay a one-time fee for Procreate, and start learning digital art. But if you don’t have an iPad, then consider these devices to start learning digital art.
A graphics tablet or pen display allows you to draw directly onto the surface with a stylus. Popular brands include Wacom, Huion, and XP-Pen. For a more portable option, consider tablets like the iPad or Android tablets with stylus support.
Wacom Intuos Series
The Wacom Intuos series includes a range of affordable and versatile graphics tablets. These tablets do not have a screen, so you draw on the tablet while looking at your computer monitor. They come in different sizes, offering options for various preferences and budgets. The Wacom Intuos is often recommended for beginners due to its reliability and quality.
XP-Pen Deco Series
XP-Pen has the Deco series, with graphics tablets and a stylus for drawing on the tablet's surface. The tablets are known for their affordability and sensitivity levels, making them suitable for digital art beginners. The XP-Pen Deco series provides a range of sizes to accommodate different preferences.
Huion Kamvas Series
Huion's Kamvas series consists of pen display tablets, where you can draw directly on the screen. The Kamvas tablets are available in various sizes, providing a more immersive drawing experience. They offer competitive features and are often chosen by artists looking for a budget-friendly alternative.
These devices vary in features, sizes, and price ranges, allowing users to choose based on their preferences and budget constraints. It's essential to consider factors such as pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition, and overall build quality when selecting a graphic device for digital art.
Additionally, personal preferences, such as the desire for a screen or budget considerations, play a significant role in the decision-making process.
A high-resolution monitor is beneficial for accurately viewing and editing your digital artwork. Many artists prefer monitors with good color accuracy for better representation of their work.
When looking for high-resolution monitors that pair well with a graphics tablet for digital art, it's important to consider factors like color accuracy and screen size. Here are three popular and affordable options:
Dell Ultrasharp U2419H
The Dell Ultrasharp U2419H is a 24-inch IPS monitor known for its excellent color accuracy and sharp display. It offers a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) and provides a good balance between quality and affordability. The IPS panel ensures wide viewing angles, making it suitable for digital art applications.
The AOC 24B2XH is a 24-inch monitor with an IPS panel, offering Full HD resolution. It is budget-friendly while still providing decent color reproduction and wide viewing angles. The slim design and thin bezels make it an aesthetically pleasing choice for a dual-monitor setup.
The ASUS VG245H is a 24-inch gaming monitor that also serves well for digital art. It offers a Full HD resolution with a 75Hz refresh rate, making it responsive for creative work. The monitor features ASUS Eye Care technology to reduce eye strain during prolonged use, and its affordability makes it a popular choice for entry-level artists.
Remember that preferences may vary, and factors such as color accuracy, screen size, and budget constraints play a crucial role in choosing the right monitor. Additionally, it's advisable to calibrate your monitor for accurate color representation, especially when working on digital art projects where color accuracy is essential.
Microsoft Surface devices, equipped with touchscreens and the Surface Pen, are valuable tools for digital artists. Their 2-in-1 design provides versatility, allowing artists to seamlessly switch between laptop and tablet modes.
With features like pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition in the Surface Pen, artists can achieve precise and expressive brushwork.
High-resolution displays ensure accurate color representation, crucial for digital artwork. Devices like the Surface Pro and Surface Go are also portable, which can be handy.
They’re compatible with popular creative software. The optional Surface Dial for intuitive controls further helps the artistic workflow.
In essence, Microsoft Surface devices provide a seamless, versatile, and powerful platform tailored to the needs of digital artists.
Most popular software for digital artists
Now you know about the tools - let’s look at some essential software for digital painting.
Popular options include Adobe Photoshop, Procreate (for iPad), Corel Painter, Clip Studio Paint, Krita (free and open-source), GIMP, and Autodesk SketchBook.
Renowned for its extensive features in image manipulation, photo editing, and digital painting, it boasts a robust layering system for advanced compositions and a wide range of customizable tools.
However, the subscription-based model might be a drawback for some users due to its cost, and the software carries a relatively steep learning curve, especially for beginners.
🔔 Read our guide on Adobe Photoshop vs. Adobe Illustrator
Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint is a digital art software with a particular focus on illustration, manga, and comic creation. It features specialized tools for comic and manga creation, an excellent brush engine, and pen pressure sensitivity.
The software offers both one-time purchase and subscription plans. However, the interface might be less intuitive for beginners, and certain features are specific to comic creation.
Procreate stands out as a digital painting app exclusively available for iPad users. Recognized for its intuitive user interface and ease of use, it offers a powerful brush engine and an extensive brush library.
Procreate is affordably priced as a one-time purchase. However, its limitation to iPad users and the absence of certain advanced features are a drawback for some.
Procreate is an excellent choice for beginners and iPad users seeking a straightforward and affordable digital painting app.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
GIMP, or the GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a free and open-source raster graphics editor designed for photo retouching and image editing.
While GIMP lacks the polished interface of some paid software, and certain features may not be as advanced, it remains a solid (and free!) option.
It is especially suitable for beginners on a budget, since you get a decent set of features for free. GIMP also offers an active community and plugin support, So, it a reliable choice for those entering the world of digital art.
According to Comparably, the average digital artist in the US makes $57,519. However, this may differ according to the skills, experience, and software in use.
In this “how to start digital painting” guide, I covered anything and everything that you might need to get started on your journey to become a professional digital artist.
If you want to choose a career as a digital artist, then the future is surely bright. So, start your digital painting journey today.
If you own an iPad, just buy a drawing pen and pay a one-time subscription fee for Procreate, and you are ready to begin. If you do not own an iPad, go for the XP-Pen Deco Series graphic tablets that are useful, beginner-friendly, and affordable.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your graphic tablet today and start creating your digital art!
Rohit is a novelist (not a NY Times Bestseller!), an avid reader, a passionate content writer, and does YouTube on the side as a hobby! When he is not researching and writing content, he loves to read books and watch movies, TV shows, and anime. You can reach him at: email@example.com