What is Digital Painting?

Digital painting in process © Kiri Østergaard Leonard, 2013

Digital painting in process © Kiri Østergaard Leonard, 2013

Digital painting has become increasingly popular over the last many years, despite of this it’s still a mystery to many people what exactly it means to paint digitally. I’ve been asked about it several times myself so I hope that this blog post will cast some enlightenment on how it works.

Painting digitally is kind of like painting regularly, only less messy and with the result that you don’t actually have an original piece when finished. Why no original? Because it’s painted directly on the computer. You can print it out but a print isn’t considered an original because you can produce endless amounts.

The benefit of painting digitally is you can always paint on top without fear of ruining the paper and also you do have the wonderful ‘undo’ button so if you mess something up, you undo and try again. It’s a very forgiving medium in that regard. You also do not have to worry about buying paints, drying times, smudging the pencil and so on.

My current computer setup with my drawing tablet.

My current computer setup with my drawing tablet.

To do good digital paintings you need a good painting program. There are a variety of programs available for digital illustration such as Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop and ArtRage, just to mention a few. These programs provide you with a variety of ‘brushes’ that imitate traditional brushes more or less successfully.

Further you need a tablet. There are many different brands of tablet out there. Personally I swear by the Wacom Intous model, currently I have the most recent one they put on the market #5, before investing in that I had a Wacom Intous 3 that served me for over 8 years. What exactly is a tablet? A tablet is essentially your paper. It’s a flat plactic surface that comes with a pen that look and feels much like a regular ballpoint pen. You drawing with the pen on the tablet and the line you draw then shows up on your monitor in your painting program.

Intous 5 Wacom Tablet

My Intous 5 Wacom Tablet

It can be difficult to get used to painting digitally at first if you come from a traditional background, however traditional knowledge will only improve your digital work. Painting methods are the same, you still need to know composition, values, colour, edge control and so on to make a good digital piece.

If you’re interested in seeing a video of the painting process YouTube has thousands, here’s an example of a guy painting a dragon in Photoshop. The video has been sped up so it’s only 5 minutes although he actually used an hour painting:

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Kiri Østergaard Leonard
kiri@kirileonard.com

Award winning Illustrator, Artist and Creator Kiri Østergaard Leonard happily shares her experiences making a living as an artist and pursuing a creative life. She grew up in a tiny village in Denmark, left her country behind to pursue art in the bustle of New York City and now resides in the delightful weirdness of Austin, Texas surrounded by sunshine and felines.

1 Comment

  • Bernard Clyde

    24.03.2017 at 10:42 Reply

    It’s good to hear that digital painting is a very forgiving art form that you can easily undo your mistakes as you go along. I think it’s amazing to see how technology has given us another way to create beautiful art. It’s important that you find the right digital painting software that you are comfortable using so you can create your best work.

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