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.
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.
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: