Fundamentals of digital painting

September 22, 2020 Digital Painting

After our article related to which digital art programs and softwares and after making a choice into one of those, we recommend reading the user guide of any software you have installed. Or if you don’t want to do it, here are some essential things to know when, since digital design for beginners can seem a lot:

  • Learn how to create a document and probably set your DPI at 200/300;
  • Learn how to adjust the brush settings – especially to activate pen pressure;
  • Learn opacity;
  • Learn brush hardness – I recommend painting with a rigid brush. The soft edges look messy and the mixture isn’t as good with a soft brush unless you’re painting like the sky. Even so, the clouds are prettier with hard edges, but mixed;
  • Learn layers and modes, starting with normal, multiplied and overlapped;
  • Learning to use masks is also very useful;
  • Learning keyboard shortcuts is useful to speed up your workflow;

Learn the fundamentals of art in general that apply to all media, such as:

  • Composition;
  • Structure and form;
  • Lighting and value;
  • Color Theory;
  • Perspective;
  • Anatomy (if drawing people / animals).
  • Frustrated with trying to find your style ? Try to experiment and let yourself be discovered by learning to draw more.

Example of workflow

There are many different ways to paint. Here is just one example of how you can start if you are overloaded, because the process of how to start digital art can seem complex.

  1. Start with a basic planning ;
  2. In a new layer, create an approximate sketch of a subject in lower opacity and optional from this layer, create a layer over it to do line work, and hide or delete (if you are nervous) the sketch layer;
  3. When you are satisfied with the sketch (or line layer), decrease the opacity;
  4. On a new layer below the sketch, paint with basic colors (no shadows / highlights) the shapes of your subject;
  5. On a new layer set to multiply, begin placing your details and shadows. Use colored tones in an ideal way, not just adding black to the base color. This will look bad and unnatural;
  6. In a new layer defined to overlap, put some highlights. Don’t exaggerate and observe where your light source is and keep it consistent;
  7. In a new layer, mix some colors using the dropper and a brush to make smoother transitions, but don’t exaggerate;
  8. In a new layer, add some touches as you think best;
  9. Sign and export.

It’s a good idea to save your work periodically. If your file is too big, you can merge layers, but be careful with that.

Transition from traditional to digital

You can take traditional sketches, modify them and paint. You can also start directly on digital. It is a personal preference. We recommend learning to do both and then doing whatever suits you best at the moment.

For example, maybe inspiration will reach you and you scribble on paper. Now it is good to learn how to transfer this sketch to digital, if you want.

Resources for beginners

Some resource suggestions for you to use during the creation of your first digital arts and also during your entire career as an illustrator.

  • Free images and references:
  • Unsplash
  • FreePik
  • Pinterest
  • Platforms and communities for artists:
  • ArtStation
  • DevianArt
  • Behance

How about now schedule a chat with us and ask questions online? Our teachers are active artists in the market and will teach you much more than just the techniques! Schedule a free trial lesson today!

We wish you an excellent journey as a digital illustrator and concept artist.