I began doing digital art at a very young age, starting in the second grade. My inspiration was mainly from the fan art of some of my favorite cartoon characters. When I first tried to create something, I was very unsatisfied with how it turned out. The lines were messy and the coloring was super off. It just didn’t look good to me. During this time, I began to develop the mindset that art was a god-given talent reserved for only the best of people. It discouraged me a lot, so I began to use art bases and recolor them with the paint bucket tool to make it look like I drew them. I showed my “pieces” to my friends and family, who most likely knew it wasn’t my art, but I was happy to receive some admiration. Because of this, I began to rely on bases for the majority of my youth rather than practice my actual skills.
It’s one of the biggest mistakes of my art journey that I’ll always regret. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self to stop and practice, but I can’t do that because it’s all in the past. Instead, I’ve decided to share with you seven tips and debunks that I wish I knew when I began digital art. You will save yourself from going down the dark path that I did.
1. You don’t need expensive equipment.
This is a common misconception I see amongst digital artists or artists in general. Just because your favorite artist is using an expensive tablet with a fancy stylus pen, doesn’t mean you need to rack up the money for the same devices. I still use my dad’s old Samsung phone back from 2015 and I can create pieces I’m proud of. Of course, if you have money and want to invest, go for it. Check out this article to find which tablet suits you and your budget. I chose this article because it gives you a good description of each tablet and where you can purchase them.
Alternatives to pricey tablets can be your phone. Shocking, right? This applies to an iPad too. You can download a drawing program (free or not) from the App Store and begin drawing from there. Some phones have pens attached to them, so use that as a stylus pen. As for others, your finger works just as well.
2. Decide and understand your art program.
Just like seeking out expensive equipment, you don’t have to invest in a drawing program unless you want to. I use a free drawing app named Medibang for free and I can choose whether or not to buy the upgraded version. I recommend this app because it gives you a lot of features despite not paying for the upgraded version. If you want to spend money on an art application, go for it! It’s great that you want to invest money into your interests. This article here gives you a good diverse selection of programs you can work with.
Once you download the app, don’t just dive in and make art immediately. Understand what the features in your app do. I spent a whole month or two struggling with line art until I figured out the correcting tool on Medibang which now saves me a whole lot of time. Play around with the different brushes they give you, figure out where the undo button is, check out the color wheel, etc. With this, you should have a general idea of where to go for certain effects and features.
3. Tracing? Think again.
I mentioned this controversial topic about the idea of tracing over somebody’s art. With technology continuing to grow, it’s no surprise that tracing is becoming a viable option for digital artists. Many people have discussed how tracing harms your art skills while others are defending tracing. In my honest opinion, tracing helps you to a certain extent. Sure, tracing helps people with line art and gives people lots of information such as anatomy and perspective. The only thing is, you won’t be able to understand why certain aspects in the piece are there. For example, you won’t know how real anatomy works because you’ve never practiced and just copied the lines of another artist’s work. This is where beginner digital artists will realize they can’t draw without tracing, hence building their reliance on it to produce art. Not to mention, sharing your traced art is committing art theft and can get you in a lot of trouble with the artist and their community. The only exception to this is if you are tracing photos you have the rights to. Graphic designers do this often, so they’re allowed to trace since their main focus is design rather than focusing on the art style.
Understand that tracing and referencing are two different things. Tracing is going over an artist’s artwork and copying line-through-line. Meanwhile, referencing is observing things and putting them on the canvas with your skill. Referencing is quite helpful, even professional artists use references. It helps train your perception skills and helps make things look natural without stealing anybody’s work.
4. Practice effectively.
Oftentimes, digital artists advise beginners to “just practice”. Their intentions mean well but generate confusion and the feeling of being lost on where to begin. To get better at drawing, you need to ask yourself what you need to practice. Do you need help with anatomy? Here’s a brief explanation of anatomy. You don’t understand color theory? Boom, a helpful video about color theory. As you can see, getting help is easier than you think. Don’t be afraid to seek help because you’ll need it. If you are looking for more tutorials, then it’s time to turn to Skillshare. It’s more focused on creative educational purposes rather than entertainment like YouTube. It costs money, but if you’re willing to invest then go for it. Some art classes that I recommend are:
- Art School Boot Camp: Drawing Rebellious Anatomy
- Color Workshop: The Basics for Artists and Illustrators
- What Every Artist Should Know: The Fundamentals, Finding Your Style, Profiting, & More.
5. Art block? I got you.
One of the most dreadful things you can experience as an artist, in general, is art block. You don’t have any kind of motivation to draw and are stunting your growth. Beginner digital artists tend to overflow with creativity, so they won’t burn out for a while. If you’re at the stage where you’re burned out, take a break. Get some good night’s sleep (because I know your sleep schedule is wack). If you’re a beginner but you’re stuck with art block, I have some recommendations for inspiration.
- Social media: The area where digital artists flourish the most. If you’re looking for inspiration, go through Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc., and find artists that can get you motivated. This is how I get rid of my art block. I look through my favorite artists and take inspiration from something such as their fan art to their full-blown pieces.
- Music: Believe it or not, music can generate lots of vibes and can give a feel for your next art piece. I have a personal playlist that I shuffle through to motivate myself, but feel free to use or create your own.
- Art memes and prompts: A lot of artists tend to follow daily art prompts to get their gears turning. Some might be as simple as a word while others are more specific. You can turn to google and search up “daily art prompts” for guidance. Depending on the month, there are also art challenges such as “Mermay” which gives you one theme for a mermaid each day of May. You can also look at art memes that aren’t your typical internet memes. It usually sparks a response within an artist, so that could motivate you to draw something.
6. Have patience.
This advice is difficult to follow for a lot of people. There will be times where you feel like you should just give up on art because you’re “not improving” but that isn’t the case. There is no such thing as your art becoming worse. It has to do with your perception of your art compared to your actual skills. As you can see, the graph is never aiming downwards or backward. It’ll always spike up or stay stagnant which means you’re always improving even when you think you aren’t.
I’ve had my fair share of giving up when I was first starting. What I often did was compare myself to professional artists even when I’m just a beginner. I was comparing myself with somebody who most likely had years of experience with art while I only had two months. Needless to say, if you find yourself comparing your art to others, remember that everyone improves at different speeds. You have to co your experience when you’re comparing yourself to others because they have most likely done art longer than you. With enough time, you’ll get there.
Digital art or art, in general, is a process and I hope you consider jumping into the digital art scene. Don’t force yourself to draw just because people expect you to. Draw because you want to and remember to have fun.