How to paint digitally - Tricks and tips.

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

I'm back from a short trip to Edinburgh and feeling super charged to make some new artwork. With this new spur of energy I have switched my gaze to creating portraits digitally, a medium that is alien to me. So far I have made only a few 3 hour portraits but I really feel like the medium agrees with me. I try to limit myself to 3 hours per painting as a method of tracking my progress when learning a new media, as I have done before with my one-hour charcoal and graphite portraits in the past.

Something that I love about the digital method is accessibility of it Though I have only tried out a few of the brushes (and there are hundreds out there) It feels as though you can replicate any number of traditional techniques using a tablet. Not only does this save time preparing materials such as paints, inks, canvases etc but the general workflow is so much quicker and cleaner!

This hand painting was the first attempt I had using my new XP-Pen graphics tablet so i wanted to keep it to something simple. Then I decided to draw a hand... Overall i'm pretty happy with how things turned out, I never thought I get to this level of realism on my first attempt though obviously I still have a long way to go. Some areas around the index and little finger and the thumb need a lot of tightening up to get rid of that blur, though not always an undesirable effect it takes a lot of impact out of the straight-copy attempt I was trying to make.

I added a splash of red as an interesting design element, I think I had just re-watched the berserk 2016 series at the time and was inspired by the stark contrast used in the logo during the intro.

I have attached a sped up time-lapse of the digital process that I used below. Currently at 5 minutes long as I, personally enjoy watching these videos at this speed, but let me know if you would like something slowed down and maybe even captioned or narrated below and I'll consider it for next time!

I then moved on to something more challenging in my estimation, though its all I've really drawn in a year, to the human face.

Really happy with this sketch also. I used the same blocking in method as the previous hand painting to block in the main values of the skin and hair using a five-colour grey scale pallete. I tried to keep a painterly approach throughout keeping the rough brushstrokes in places as I generally enjoy more textured pieces.

Certain areas of the portrait definitely need some consideration for next time. For example the areas around the neck and shoulders and the left side of the face are a little too smooth for my liking. This could be remedied using a textured brush over the top of the piece, maybe on a second layer, to add the realistic textures of skin i.e freckles, pores, blemishes. Also, the shadowing on the dark side of the nose and the nostrils, and under the chin are fairly under-developed and could use a little darkening.

I then added the same stark red to the piece as a background to tie the piece into the last, a element I will probably keep as both an identifier to my digital works and a small homage to an inspiration. I used a copied background layer and played around with the layer settings to get the desired effect above, providing a cut out of the portrait that still retains some of the contrast with the red background but also gives a new war-paint like element to the face.

I'll be working on digital for the foreseeable future, so sorry to those of you that enjoy my traditional work but I will be doing both. Just not enough hours in the day to do everything sadly. Also, I've been busy working on portrait commissions! Thank you so much to the few of you that requested a portrait this month, not only is it a huge motivational boost but it really helps me keep the lights on. :')

If you'd like a custom piece of your own you can visit this link: to find out more! Much love & thanks for reading.


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