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Top 10 Tips For Better Digital Illustrations

Stock Photo - Close up of human hand working with tablet

Drawing digitally is like stepping into a whole new world full of unlimited creative potential. These days artists can use a wide range of programs to create magical digital illustrations. So if you’re thinking about dabbling in digital art, check out these ten tips to help you stay on track!

1. Buy A Pen Tablet

Illustrating with an optical mouse is the equivalent of drawing with a rock. Sure, you could use one, but it’ll take ages to draw something and the results will be very poor. Instead, buy a pen tablet for easier digital drawings.  Despite its intimidating design, they’re quite easy to use! Keep experimenting and you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Pen tablets come in all shapes, sizes, brands, and price range so get one that works for you!

2. Plan Everything Out

The reason why art is so hard is because it’s not as straightforward as people think. Art requires planning. From the idea, to composition, colors, and even materials, every part of the process requires you to think in order to create a beautiful piece. Before you start your drawing, ask some questions. What or who do you want to draw? What are the details like? Which colors will you use? Take note of your answers and use them as a guide.

3. Know Your Brushes

Smooth brushes, grunge brushes, photo brushes—oh my! You can get them free online, purchase unique ones or better yet, create your own. All drawing software comes with default brushes but feel free to test different versions for the best illustrations such as the settings and test strokes. The more you know about your brushes, the more solid your foundation will be.

4. Clean Up Your Line Art

One of the hardest lessons to learn is the line art. Line art is essentially the sketch you’re using for illustrations. Creating a painting with a sloppy sketch is like driving a car with no directions. The solution: Keep your line art very clean and redraw your sketch until it is as clean as it can possibly be in order to transition smoothly into coloring. This step takes lots of time so pace yourself when meeting deadlines.

5. Don’t Erase, Just Paint!

Beginners in digital art often assume that the only way to fix their work is using the Eraser Tool. But there is a better option! Digital illustrations and paintings usually require multiple layers of paint so you can paint over your errors instead of just erasing them. Not only will you notice that your workflow becomes easier, but you also gain greater confidence in your drawing abilities.

6. Study, Study, Study!

Research and observation will go a long way especially when starting out in illustrations. Study colors, light and shadows, photos, other professionals’ artwork. Your favorite artists are where they are today because they never stopped experimenting and making notes, plus the Internet makes it so easy to access a limitless pool of resources. Try to learn a little more about a technique on a daily basis to hone your skills and achieve higher levels of success.

7. Photo References Are Your Friend

If I told you to draw the last person you met, could you do it from memory? It is impossible to have a photographic memory of every detail you encounter but in art, you need to know what certain things look like from multiple angles. Regardless of what you retain in your mental catalogue, make sure to create a physical one by placing a reference folder on your computer. Fill the folder with images for inspiration and learn more about anatomy, composition, color, and light.

8. Experiment with Other Tools

Some of the most widely used tools for digital illustrations in Photoshop are: Lasso Tool, Marquee Tool, Free Transform Tool, and Liquify. No doubt, these tools allow you to edit your current drawing or painting more efficiently as you can move, resize, reshape, rotate, or warp any detail without having to start over. Getting to know these tools is as important as knowing Control-Z because they give you the ultimate control over all your illustrations.

9. Layer Adjustments Make Everything Better

Need a brighter illustration? Use Curves. Need to change the colors? Use Color Balance. Want to add colored gradient fills? Gradient Maps would do the job. These are just a few examples of layer adjustments and they can be your life savers! So familiarize yourself with the different types of these adjustments for better efficiency when picking the perfect color or lighting scheme for your projects.

10. Just Keep Drawing!

Lastly, remember this —practice makes perfect! Drawing is like training for a marathon. In order to use your time effectively and create stellar work, you have to constantly engage your designing skills. So the more you draw, the more your hand adjusts to the movements required to paint the perfect stroke. Don’t let digital art intimidate you! Channel your creative spirit, and take advantage of software like Photoshop to realize your full potential.

There you have it! Follow these tips and you’ll be creating amazing illustrations in no time! Do share any other tips or experiences you may have, we always love hearing from you!  Good luck, and happy creating!

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