By now, most of you already know that I mostly draw digitally, but for those who don't know me yet or haven't been following me for very long: hello, I'm Ellen, and I'm a digital illustrator! :)
I notice that digital art is still fairly unknown territory for many. Thus, I regularly get questions like:
"How do you make your drawings?" ("By drawing" :))
"So what does that mean, digital art?" ("Aha well, listen! ...")
"Do you draw that all by yourself?" ("Yep!")
"Digital art, is that actually drawing?" ("Yes it is!")
"Doesn't the computer draw that for you?" ("Absolutely not!")
Therefore, in this blog, I want to take a closer look at this - for many still unknown - world and introduce you to 'digital art'. In addition, I also want to clear up some misconceptions around digital art.
Because what exactly is digital art? And what is traditional art? And what is the difference between the two?
Let's start with traditional art.
Traditional art is well know by everyone and has been practiced for centuries (even since prehistoric times) and in different ways. You draw traditionally when you work:
On paper, canvas, wood, stone, ...
With pencils, charcoal, pen, markers, wax crayons, chalk, ...
- With brushes and paints (watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oil paint, ...)
I can say with certainty that we have all drawn with traditional materials before, because that's how we start drawing as children. My first steps into the world of drawing started with a simple pencil and a lot of scrap paper, and that's how I drew for many years.
Until at some point, sometime in 2013, I discovered digital art through my dad (thank you, papa!). And then ... a whole new world opened up for me. I instantly fell in love :)
In digital art, you draw - simply put - on your computer. To do this, you use software programs on your computer that allow you to draw digitally. Some examples are Procreate, Clip Studio Paint, Photoshop, Corel Painter, Sketchbook, Krita, ... to even Microsoft Paint (admit it, we've all been playing around with that at some point ;)). And there are many more!
In these programs you draw on a digital canvas, with digital brushes, pencils, erasers, ... and use all kinds of handy tools that can facilitate, speed up and/or take the drawing process to a higher level.
Many who are first introduced to digital drawing start with the mouse to get their lines on the canvas. But if you have ever tried it yourself in Paint, you know how clumsy and frustrating that works :) That's why drawing tablets were invented, allowing you to create your drawing by drawing on it with a special pen (stylus) and where your drawing appears on your computer screen. This allows you to draw each line yourself by hand and you actually draw as you would in a traditional way, but now you work directly in the computer through a tablet instead of on paper or canvas.
There are different types of drawing tablets
1. Tablets that you connect to your computer, where you draw on the tablet with your stylus, enabling your drawing to appear on your computer screen. Here, the tablet does not have its own screen (and no built-in computer), but you use the screen of your computer itself. Examples of this type of tablet are the Wacom Intuos or the Huion Inspiroy.
- For beginners and hobbyists, this kind of drawing tablet is recommended because it is less expensive to buy than other kinds of drawing tablets.
- It comes in multiple sizes, handy if you have limited space and therefore need a smaller model.
- Overall and compared to other types, these drawing tablets are not that expensive.
- You need an external computer/monitor.
- It can be awkward if you work with a laptop because the keyboard sits between your screen and tablet (which can cause neck and back pain). An external monitor next to your laptop can be a solution for this.
- Your drawing does not appear under your hand, which can feel strange and uncomfortable at first.
2. Tablets with their own screen that you connect to your computer. Here, you draw with your stylus on the tablet/screen of the tablet and your drawing appears under your hand, as in traditional drawing. This tablet is not a computer in itself, but an external screen that is pressure-sensitive and allows you to draw on it with a stylus. The software runs on your computer, not on the tablet itself. Examples of this type of tablet are the Wacom Cintiq and the Huion Kamvas.
- It gives an authentic feeling of drawing because your drawing appears directly under your hand.
- These drawing tablets are available in multiple sizes.
- These tablets are ergonomically better as you can adjust the height and tilt of the tablet to your liking and you don't have to look at another screen.
- You need an external (powerful) computer, therefore you are not very mobile.
- Generally, these tablets are quite large, so it can be inconvenient if you have limited space.
- Usually, these drawing tablets are expensive.
3. Tablets with their own screen and built-in computer. Here, you draw on the tablet with your stylus and your drawing appears under your hand, as in traditional drawing. The tablet is a computer in itself with a screen that is pressure-sensitive and allows you to draw on it with a stylus. Examples of this type of tablet include the iPad Pro and Wacom MobileStudio Pro.
- This tablet gives an authentic feeling of drawing because your drawing appears directly under your hand.
- You are mobile because you don't need an external computer and monitor.
- The touchscreen works very intuitively.
- Because you are quite mobile with this tablet, you can set up your workspace and the tablet ergonomically.
- These drawing tablets are usually quite small, so there is limited choice in terms of size.
- Usually, these drawing tablets are expensive.
I myself currently use an iPad Pro and a Wacom Cintiq as drawing tablets, and Procreate and Clip Studio Paint (formerly Photoshop) as drawing programs.
Misconceptions about digital art
Now that we have had a look at what digital art is, I would also like to talk about some misconceptions I often hear about digital art:
"Digital art is not real art".
"With digital art, your drawing is made by the computer."
"In digital art, you don't have to be able to draw yourself."
"A digital drawing is ready in a second."
But nothing could be further from the truth :)
With digital drawing you definitely draw everything yourself. The computer does not do this for you. You have to draw every line you need for your drawing yourself. In fact, the process in digital drawing is not that much different from traditional drawing. You still have to sketch, do your line work, fill in colors, add light and shadow manually, ... And you need to have an understanding and knowledge of anatomy, composition, perspective, color theory, etc.
A drawing tablet (in combination with a drawing program) is a drawing medium, just like traditional materials are drawing mediums. It's not a better or worse medium than traditional drawing, it's just a different one. For digital drawing, you still need to be able to draw yourself. So there is (still :p) no magic cable that you plug into your ear, where you think of your perfect drawing and it appears ready-made on your screen :)
In all honesty, I must admit that as a digital artist, it feels quite frustrating when someone tells me that my drawings are not really drawn, just because it is drawn through a computer. All the while I have been practicing my (digital) drawing skills for years, spending hours toiling on each drawing and drawing everything manually myself: from sketch to finished illustration. And in fact only because this person usually does not know what digital drawing really entails.
A feeling of underestimation and lack of understanding is unfortunately still a daily reality for many digital artists. However, digital art is just as much practice, learning, work, investing hours to years of time, perseverance, sweat and sweat, wanting to throw your stylus, bursting into tears when your drawing doesn't come out the way you wanted to, ... as traditional art.
Digital vs traditional art
Is one medium better than the other? Not at all. Actually, it's mostly about your own preference. Each medium has its own advantages and disadvantages. And you will always have pros and cons. But the most important thing is that you do what you feel comfortable with and what brings you the most joy. For instance, I prefer drawing digitally rather than traditionally and will only sporadically pull out my traditional drawing materials. Just because I am totally hooked on digital drawing :) I enjoy doing it immensely.
And I have the greatest respect and admiration for the artists who (continue to) draw traditionally. They are able to do many things I will only be able to dream of. But like me, they follow their hearts and in the end, that's what it's all about.
What medium do you use to draw? Are you tempted to give digital a try? Are you curious about how digital drawing actually works? I plan to zoom in on how such a digital drawing is created in one of my future blogs. So be sure to keep an eye on this blog! :)