How should I start digital painting?

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

How should you start digital painting? I'm going to run through a quick guide for beginners to help you come to grips with what you'll need to start, and some of the basics of drawing painting digitally!

First You'll need: Software, a graphics tablet, something to paint and a little patience.

Digital painting software. This can be any of the following, there are a few slight differences between each of these but all can produce similar results;

  • Krita (FREE Download here) This is the software I have been using the most recently, It functions a lot like Adobe Photoshop, but seems more geared towards painting rather than photo manipulation, though both programs do them well!

  • Adobe Photoshop (Free Trial Here) Photoshop is a staple of the industry, meaning its good to get comfortable using it if possible. They offer a free trial for 7 days, then on after it's a paid subscription of £19.97 p/m. Once you have a decent understanding of digital painting and you're looking to build a portfolio, I'd recommend spending the first week learning the software then moving on to another program if you're on a budget just so you know how it works.

  • Procreate (Available on the apple app store) Another one of the best options out there, however only available on Ipad. You can purchase for a one cost fee of $9.99 exclusively on the app store. Probably one of the easiest also to pick up and use, I've only had a few opportunities to use it myself but it feels very intuitive. A great user interface and community sharing features.

Drawing tablet

  • XP-Pen artist 15.6 The table I use currently, a little pricier but worth the investment if you're serious about digital painting.

  • Wacom Intuos S This is the tablet I started on. A smaller, screen-less tablet, still perfect once you get used to looking up at your monitor while drawing. I would recommend this table if you're just starting out and you're not sure digital painting is for you yet as it won't break the bank.

  • Ipad pro One of the pricier options on the market but also one of the easiest to get to grips with. You'll also need to purchase an apple pen also with it as its a requirement with most painting applications. However you do also get the benefit of having a fully functioning tablet inbuilt with your graphics tablet, making it the most versatile option out there.

A reference photograph.

I.E Something to paint. It doesn't matter so much the subject unless you're new to painting I would definitely choose something simpler.

I often use stock photographs I have purchased from a large set that have been tailor made by an artist or photographer when I am working on longer, concept focused pieces.

(Proko offers a fantastic catalog of high quality life model stocks on his website, with both male and female options in a wide range of poses.)

If you're looking for free to use reference then there are a number of other sites you can use, such as: Pexels, Canva, Google images, Quickposes, and Line of action. Sometimes I'll save images I like from Instagram, Pinterest or while browsing the web and keep a folder on my PC for later.

If you do this however it's good practice (and the courteous thing to do) to ask for permission and reference the source of the image should you post it online.

You can also make your own using your smartphone camera which is perfectly acceptable! I've seen many artists do it online, and I've done it myself a few times. It can feel a little silly acting out full-action poses but its also the closing thing you can get to the real thing without hiring a life model.

Getting started

If you already paint traditionally then you'll have a leg up on the competition, traditional and digital both share many of the same painting techniques. You should have no problem transferring these skills directly over. Use this opportunity to get used to the tools first and the rest will come naturally. You should now play around with the software and learn the following as you go; Hotkeys for the issues you run into, How the colour picking pallete functions, Canvas settings, tablet settings and layer filters. I have briefly covered a few of these in a previous post (Link here), however if you'd like me to cover any of these in depth please let me know!

If you are new to drawing and painting entirely, I would focus on learning the fundamentals of art first. You can do this digitally or with pencil and paper but I would recommend traditional personally as there is less to contend with.

Once you've followed the steps above you're ready to begin! Try to have fun with it.

If you'd like a longer, step-by-step of a digital painting you can find one here! I'm currently working on some video content soon, so you should subscribe if that's something you're into

If you have any questions about any of the information here please feel free to comment below or contact me directly and I'll do my best to help you!



You can watch my latest Youtube video below:

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