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 for a fact that the learning curve to learning digital art is very high because it feels very different and it takes some time to get used to.
But it’s so much easier than traditional art and less messy.
Not to mention, that you can erase your mistakes!
If you’re clueless and want to know how to start digital art, then this post has got you covered!
I’m going to be discussing a lot of topics related to digital art in detail, so feel free to skip to the sections you want to read.
I will be covering what exactly is digital art, 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 be providing 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.
If you are interested in developing your art skills further and making money with it, do check out my new free art email course!
Okay, let’s begin with the basics.
This post includes affiliate links to products I truly (from the bottom of my heart) recommend, meaning at no extra cost to you, I may earn a small percentage which I will use to pamper my poor pups.
What is digital art?
Digital art is basically art that is created using technology.
So, instead of using traditional mediums like canvas or paper and pencils, you’re using your computer or graphic tablet 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 and then 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.
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’m going to cover the two most popular options that Illustrators and Digital Artists use.
Depending on your budget and your resources, you can pick whatever works best for you.
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.
I knew that illustrating was something I was going to do for a long time, so I saved up to buy a Wacom Cintiq while illustrating for clients constantly or doing basic graphic design. This is a graphic tablet with a 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 Bamboo if you’re strapped for cash. You can get it for less than $100. 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.
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. Once I got this Wacom Cintiq, I used it for 2 years before I upgraded to this iPad Pro and apple pencil.
Why I switched 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.
- Animations and Gifs become so much easier with ProCreate. I took this lovely class on creating gifs and Illustrations in Procreate to learn how to do this.
- 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, in general, is a little slower and more painstaking to understand than ProCreate. I was able to learn ProCreate in 1 day by watching this class on Domestika. Photoshop took me months to understand. It’s not beginner-friendly.
I now use only my iPad to draw all my illustrations because I used to travel 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.
It’s worth every penny.
How do you start a 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 to make digital art.
1. Start with a rough sketch
A lot of 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 and it just comes so naturally to me.
So, your rough sketch can be super messy, because we’re going to clean it up on the tablet any way! So, don’t bother making it neat.
I’m going to draw myself hugging my older pup. Her 6th birthday was 2 months ago.
You can use any plain sheet of paper and a pencil. There are no stringent requirements.
2. Transfer the photo to the software
Now, you can take a photo of the sketch and transfer it to the drawing app you’re using on the drawing tablet.
I’m using the iPad and the Procreate app.
Decrease the opacity of the layer of the pencil sketch to 70-80% so that it becomes easier to trace over the sketch.
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.
You can neatify any lines and even make corrections as you deem fit.
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.
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 if you’re editing a certain part, you can work within the specific layer instead of messing with the whole illustration.
5. Add the shadows and highlights
The illustration is almost complete.
Once you finish coloring the piece, you can add shadows and highlights to add more depth.
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:
- 8 Grainy Brushes for ProCreate
- Character Drawing Toolkit for Procreate (This pack comes with free drawing tutorial worksheets!)
- 21 Custom Pencil Brushes for Procreate
What is the best app for digital art?
I have tried Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Procreate.
And according to me, 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.
It’s also travel-friendly and environmentally friendly.
Once you pick up digital art, you may never want to go back 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 every day – you will get better really 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.
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.
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 really speed up your growth and I’ve been able to learn so much in the last couple of weeks just by taking these courses. They’re 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.
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.
Books for Artists
For making comics:
You can check out my detailed list of drawing books I suggest for beginners here.
Need more help? Check out my Creative Bundle for Creators
My Creativity Bundle has helped Creators from all over the world become better creators and just create.
It’s the answer to beating your creative blocks and is the best-seller in my creative section.
The Creative Guide for Creatives includes:
- Tips to harness negative energy to constantly create. Also includes hacks to self-introspect and get past creative blocks.
- Detailed sections and exercises to get past the fear of imperfection, imposter syndrome, the fear of rejection, and more!
- Specific hacks to set smart goals, break them into actionable mini-goals, and stick to them till you’re done creating your project.
- The essentials of a business including making money online and gaining clients. It includes a fun Business Plan template that you can use to get started as an Entrepreneur.
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. I have a post that’s dedicated to overcoming creating blocks here.
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:
- How to become a digital illustrator without a degree
- How to get noticed as an artist on Instagram as a Beginner!
- 10 things I wish I knew before becoming an Illustrator
- 10 signs you’re a natural-born artist
- 23 surprising ways to overcome creative blocks
- How to be a confident artist and keep drawing even when you feel like you can’t
- How to start an Art Blog from scratch that makes money!
- 13 Easy ways to make money online as an artist
- 9 drawing books that every beginner artist should have
If you need some inspiration for your creative journey, take my free creative skills email course that will help you tap into your creativity and push you to excel!