Switching from traditional art to digital art has been the best decision I’ve ever made.
I started drawing digital art in 2016. And I can tell you that the learning curve to learning digital art is a little high in the beginning because it feels very different and takes some time to get used to.
But once you get used to it, it is so much easier than traditional art and less messy. I talk about the differences between digital art and traditional art here.
Not to mention that you can erase your mistakes – by far the biggest pro, in my opinion. It’s also easier to monetize digital art.
If you’re clueless and want to know how to start digital art, then this post has got you covered!
I will be discussing many topics related to digital art in detail, so feel free to skip to the sections you want to read.
I will cover what digital art is, what tools you really require to draw digitally, and how you can get started with digital art even if you’re starting from scratch.
I will also provide you with multiple resources so you can get better at it quickly and explain my process with how I go about drawing digitally and how long it took me to learn to draw digital art.
Also, I send free drawing tutorials every week. So, if you’d like to keep up, please sign up here:
What is digital art?
Digital art is basically art that is created using technology.
So, instead of using traditional mediums like canvas, paper, and pencils, you’re using your computer, graphic tablet, or both to create art.
You can also use a mix of traditional and digital art to create art.
You can also create art using traditional mediums, scan it into your computer, and retouch it using Photoshop or similar software.
Digital art is changing the world, and it’s so much easier to get clients and send them the finished pieces via email rather than ship art physically.
I make a lot of money monthly as a digital artist by making portraits, eBook covers, and illustrations for bloggers.
Digital art has provided so many opportunities for people and made it easy for anyone to become an artist!
What do you need for digital art?
There are multiple routes you can take to produce digital art.
I will cover the two most popular options that Illustrators and Digital Artists use.
You can pick whatever works best for you, depending on your budget and your resources.
1. A computer and a graphic tablet
If you already have a good computer or a laptop, then you can just get yourself a drawing tablet (with or without a display) and hook it up to your computer/laptop to start drawing digitally.
This is a cheaper option.
I knew that illustrating was something I would do for a long time, so I saved up by buying a Wacom Cintiq while illustrating for clients constantly or doing basic graphic design. There are multiple size options you can consider according to your budget.
This is a graphic tablet with a display.
This is easier to use because you can see what you’re drawing while you’re drawing as it has its own display.
I understand that a Wacom Cintiq is not an affordable option for most Illustrators who are starting out, so I highly recommend getting a Wacom Intuos if you’re strapped for cash.
You can get it for very cheap. Check out the price here.
This tablet doesn’t have a display, so while you’re drawing on it, you have to look at your monitor or laptop screen to understand where you’re cursor is and what you’re drawing.
Alternatively, if you want a cheap drawing tablet with a display for less than $200, I suggest
2. iPad Pro + Procreate
If you’re planning on getting really serious with your art and sticking with it for a long time, then get an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil.
I used my Wacom for 2 years before I upgraded to this iPad Pro (whose price has now come down) and apple pencil.
Why did I switch from using a Wacom Cintiq to an iPad?
- ProCreate on the iPad is much faster and smoother than Photoshop. It’s perfect for any illustration style. The brushes are more beautiful and easy to use as compared to Photoshop. You can also get multiple brushes on Creative Market. These are my favorite.
- ProCreate is a small one-time fee of $9.99 for the iPad. You never have to pay for anything again. Whereas with Photoshop and Illustrator, you have to pay monthly – this is a huge recurring expense to bear especially when you’re not earning from illustrating.
- An iPad is portable whereas the other drawing tablets I mentioned earlier need to have an ongoing electrical connection (if they have a display) 24/7 and must be hooked up to your desktop/laptop in order to work. It can take a lot of space on the table and can’t be carried to a cafe or airport. However, an iPad can be carried and used anywhere – on the plane, in cafes, anywhere. This means I could draw in a cafe just by carrying my iPad. No laptop is required.
- Anybody can draw with ProCreate. As a person who’s been using photoshop as a teenager, it’s easy for me to navigate around it. But Adobe generally is a little slower and more painstaking to understand than ProCreate. I learned to use Procreate in 1 day by watching this class on Domestika. Photoshop took me a few months to understand. It’s not beginner-friendly.
I now use only my iPad to draw all my illustrations because I traveled a lot (before COVID), and it really paid for itself.
Additionally, you can save time-lapse videos of your drawings on Procreate, which is really cool.
I highly recommend you get an iPad pro and Apple Pencil if you are in love with digital illustrations and want to pursue it as a career or just want to as a hobby.
It’s worth every penny.
How do you start learning digital drawing?
Okay, now that we’ve covered what digital art is and what supplies we need, let’s get down and dirty with the details.
Drawing digitally isn’t that hard if you understand the steps involved in making digital art.
1. Start with a rough sketch
Many artists draw their rough sketches on the tablet directly, but I find it so much easier to draw my rough sketches on paper rather than on the tablet. I love that feel of pencil on paper; it just comes naturally to me.
Start with a very simple sketch.
Let it be something very small like a flower or a coffee cup. Don’t try to do something hard in the beginning – it will be difficult to convert it into a digital drawing.
You want to start with something easy till you get the hang of digital drawing.
Your rough sketch can be super messy because we’ll clean it up on the drawing tablet anyway! So, don’t bother making it neat.
I’m going to draw myself hugging my older pup. She’s going to be 7 next month, and I want to celebrate her life.
You can use any plain sheet of paper and a pencil. You don’t need to use a fancy sketchbook.
Because you’re just going to use the sketch as a rough guide to creating your illustration.
There are no stringent requirements.
2. Transfer the photo to a digital software
Now, you can take a photo of the sketch and transfer it to your drawing app on your drawing tablet.
I’m using the iPad and the Procreate app.
Decrease the opacity of the pencil sketch layer to 60-80% so that it becomes easier to trace over the sketch.
If it’s still too harsh, decrease it to 40-50%.
You just need to be able to see the sketch layer so that you can draw over the sketch layer.
3. Draw over the pencil sketch
Using the pencil sketch as a guide, draw over the sketch using your pen stylus. I’m using the Dry Ink Brush in Procreate to do this. It comes free in Procreate.
You can neatify any lines and even make corrections as you deem fit.
I really take my time with the outlines because this determines how the illustration will look.
I brought the face of the character closer to the dog as I was drawing and shortened the neck so that the dog and human are closer in proximity.
Once you’re done with the outline, you can hide or delete the sketch layer, as it’s no longer necessary.
4. Color the illustration
Now, simply add color to the illustration.
This is honestly the best part about digital art. It’s very soothing and relaxing to color your digital art.
I love making stickers this way too.
When adding color to the illustration, make sure each part is in a different layer.
This makes it easier to make changes to the illustration and manipulate the layers if you feel the need to.
If you’re editing a certain part, you can work within the specific layer instead of messing with the whole illustration.
I have a whole post here on how I color my digital art. It even includes a video!
5. Add the shadows and highlights
The illustration is almost complete.
But if you want to make your digital drawing pop out and give it more depth, then you can add shadows and highlights.
I explain how to do draw, color, and add highlights and shadows in this post.
Please give it a read if you want more specific instructions.
Voila, you’ve just learned how to draw digital art!
If you’re using Procreate, here are some fantastic resources:
What is the best app for digital art?
I have tried Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Procreate.
And in my opinion, Procreate is the best software I’ve used. It’s only a 1-time fee of $9.99, and it’s much easier to learn, in my opinion.
You can take this simple course by Brad Woodard: Procreate for Beginners – Digital Illustration 101 to understand how to use Procreate quickly!
He breaks down everything you need to know to create art on the iPad. He briefs you on the shortcuts and explains how to use the app and create art. Check out the course here.
Is digital art easier?
In my opinion, digital art definitely is much easier than traditional art.
There is a learning curve, but once you pick it up – it’s so much faster than traditional art, especially if you’re drawing easy little art that you can sell as stickers or merchandise.
It’s also travel-friendly and environmentally friendly.
Once you pick up digital art, you may never want to return to traditional art.
It’s very addictive.
How to become good at drawing digital art faster?
So, you’ve understood what goes into creating digital art.
But if you’re wondering how long it will take for you to get better, it really depends on how much you draw and how often you draw.
If you draw one piece daily, you will get better quickly.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just creating a rough sketch in your sketchbook or working on a big piece or watching a tutorial.
Every little bit helps you speed up your progress!
And what about your art style?
Discovering your art style may take a couple of months or years, but it’s worth it. I have so many art styles now – I have an anime art style, a cartoon art style, and a kawaii art style.
I vary the art style depending on the post I’m writing about or what the client wants.
It took me nearly 4 years to develop my illustration style.
Please understand that you cannot rush this process.
Finding your art style, the color palette you are most comfortable working with, and your drawing shortcuts will take time.
It’s like playing the piano. At first, you’re focusing on which key you should hit, and with practice, your fingers are 1 with the keys.
You don’t really think; you just do.
I explain how you can find your art style in this post.
Is digital art good for beginners?
Digital art is good for beginners because:
- Digital art is so much easier than traditional art
- There is almost zero cost of drawing supplies once you have a digital tablet and a pencil/stylus
- It’s much faster and less messy as compared to traditional art
- You can make money selling digital art easily as compared to traditional art
- The scope and opportunity for digital art is more than traditional art now.
So, in my opinion, you should definitely get started with digital art – there is a good chance you’ll be hooked on it for life – just like me.
If you’d like free drawing tutorials every week, please sign up here:
Courses for Artists
I highly recommend checking out Domestika’s Courses because they have courses on almost anything you want to learn, and they’re structured beautifully.
It’s very well organized, and its website is super fast. Their app is lovely too. You can download the classes and watch them offline, and the best part?
Once you buy the course, you own it forever!
Online courses speed up your growth; I’ve learned so much in the last couple of weeks just by taking these courses. They were not expensive either!
Here are some of my favorite online courses:
Delve into the world of Japanese kawaii and create lovable characters with their own personalities. Illustrator Ilaria Ranauro aims to tell stories through the images and characters she illustrates.
She sells her stickers, prints, washi tape, and more via her online Etsy shop and creates children’s illustrations for clients around the world, including Penguin Random House Mexico.
In this course, she teaches you about kawaii culture and how to illustrate unique characters of your own ready to be printed and shared with the world in sticker form. Create a unique character that sparks joy and leaves people with a smile on their faces.
Check out the course here.
Female characters do really well on Instagram, and if you’re looking to gain more followers on Instagram, taking this course will actually help you do that!
Isabella loves to weave the stories behind her female cartoon characters into her artwork, and, in this course, she shows you how to use Procreate to bring everyday heroines to life. Discover how to create vibrant illustrations from start to finish using photos for reference. Check out the course here.
You can check out all the other illustration courses here.
You can also check out my detailed list of drawing books I suggest for beginners here.
Final thoughts on how to get started with digital art
Creating digital art is a journey.
It cannot be learned in one day.
So, it’s okay if your art doesn’t look like what you imagined it to be.
You have to practice every day. It’s okay to experience creative blocks.
Don’t be hard on yourself for not having a drawing style you like.
Some find it almost immediately, and for some, it can take a while.
If you have any questions about becoming an illustrator or digital art, I’m more than happy to help.
Please leave a comment below with your question, and I’ll get back to you immediately!
Here are some more posts related to illustrating and drawing that you may enjoy: