Digital painting for beginners

Hey artist!

Painting and art, in general, is all about bringing your creativity out (in this case, on a picture). Although people are born with the natural talent of drawing & painting, I believe everyone can learn to draw, paint and make art. If you are one of both, I’m here to give you a startup on digital painting.

Since you have decided to go digital, there are few things that differ from traditional painting in a digital painting.

digital art
Illustrations by hopeasfro

Notice it’s digital ‘painting’. This is a branch of digital art. In this post, however, I’ll refer to it as digital art. Note, I mean digital painting – as digital art can also refer to image editing which we aren’t talking about here.

When I started digital art, I had no idea what to do with the instruments I was given on the digital art app. I didn’t really know how to use layers or the brushes; changing brush shapes, maintaining art quality, e.t.c. nothing and that affected my work in the beginning.

In this post, I will be discussing on the colour scheme, canvas size, brushes, layers, art quality.

Colour scheme: This is referred to the different shades of a colour. This can be divided into colour terms such as tint, hue, tone and shade.

Colour Scheme

Now, some artists tend to use just any colours on their artwork. There are colours together which are not always to be so. There’s a very informative post I think you should view on the colour scheme. see here.

However, you are the artist, be free. It’s your art.

Now ‘choosing colours’ has been settled, we move to the digital in full.

Canvases: Most, if not all digital painting apps allow you to choose the size of the canvas and also a background colour for your artwork (I.e canvas colour). These are two major things to note on your canvas.

– canvas size: Some people tend to use too small or too big canvas sizes. You should choose your canvas size depending on your audience. How would they view it?

For example, my audience can be my Instagram followers. If I choose screen size as the size of my canvas when it’s time to post it, it’s going to be cropped or if I try to edit it to show in full, there would be white spaces as Instagram photo size is 1080px – 1080px. The canvas size was too big (the height was longer than 1080px).

Also, if my canvas size is too small, it will not only be hard for me to zoom in and add more detail while drawing, uploading it, the picture will expand and that won’t be good quality. It will be blurry.

– Background colour: Just as a warm colour tends to look cool when put between cool colours, it is the same for colours on a light or dark background.

With a light background, you tend to see bright colours too bright and vice versa, thus might not use them and pick something darker instead.

Sometimes it’s best to use a neutral colour like grey as a background colour. Some people are good in choosing colours no matter what background anyway.

It’s up to you.
Brushes: This is something for a different post. It is too bulky, so here’s a link to something useful Brush sets and uses. Yes, it shows brushes accustomed to Autodesk but, you pretty see similar brushes in other painting apps.

Basic mistakes in digital painting

Layers: As a digital artist, it’s best you learn to start sketching in layers. For example, drawing a landscape, with grasses and trees and a house close by. The lawn and trees can be on one layer and the house on another.

art hopeasfro
The houses were on one layer and the trees on another layer.

This helps the artist to be able to work on the background which is the lawn and not affect the house. Also in case of a mistake or change of mind, the artist can erase, draw, change on a layer without affecting the sketch on another layer. Altogether, the layer combines to make a picture with trees and a house close by.

– know your way around: Now, say making another layer (layer 2), if you sketch on layer 2, and decide to go back to sketch on layer 1, your sketch won’t be seen where the sketch of layer 2 lays.

The layer with the pale blue is on the first layer and the sketch using brown is on the second layer. You see, the blue isn’t visible where the sketch on the second layer is.

Here’s a link to more on the use of layers in digital art.

Art quality: I think maintaining art quality is what you learn over time. Apart from making sure the canvas is the right size so it doesn’t get blurry, I found out that using the smudge tool over and over an area doesn’t bring out a sharp blending.

Also getting the right image format is important. By saving your digital art in png or tiff, you are able to resave, share and edit without your picture losing some of its quality. If saved as Jpg, editing and saving your work again, your digital art will lose some of its quality. However, some drawing apps automatically so you need not worry.

Thirdly, I have learnt to use tools that give me the effect I want and not over manipulate to try to get it using a wrong brush. In conclusion, master your brushes, pencils and tools (multiply, overlay and the rest) in general.

Do you have questions?

I will love to answer,

Leave a comment!

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3 responses to “Digital painting for beginners”

  1. […] I wrote on colour theory on my blog before, you can visit it after reading this post.It’s digital painting for beginners . […]


  2. Nabbale Vicky avatar
    Nabbale Vicky

    Powerfully written. Thanks


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