What is Digital Illustration? A complete guide to Digital Illustration

What is Digital Illustration? A Complete Guide

Table of Contents

Art has always had the power to attract the audience with its creative process, the mystery, the science, and the beauty behind it. Any form of art, including digital illustration, is something that cannot be subjected to definition, nor can the ideation be trapped in a box. 

Paintings like ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci, ‘The Starry Night’ by Vincent van Gogh and ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt have created a stir across the globe. Why? 

Because all these artists had their own unique sense of style and were very experimental in their creative process, which attracted the masses. 

Can all artworks be featured in a museum? 

Of course not. But the entry of the digital medium into the artistic space has opened up an avenue for budding artists to experiment, showcase, and excel with various types of digital illustrations.

Thanks to technological advancements, the art industry is being taken by storm. It has penetrated into almost all aspects of our lives, and it is almost impossible to escape from it.

Art is one of the most popular industries that have flourished since the technological revolution. 

You can now publish your work in different digital mediums with the click of a button, and your audience will have the option to like, comment, and share, giving you the exposure you just need to get started.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn about Digital Illustration, its Evolution and its Beginning.
  • Read about the essence of an Art.
  • Know the essential tools for a Digital Illustrator.
  • Learn about the advantages of Digital Illustration, its Power and Differentiating factors.
  • Understand how to start your career in Digital Illustration and learn from some of the most famous Digital Illustrators.
  • Learn the challenges you are likely to encounter as a Digital Illustrator.
  • Read more on the future scope of Digital Illustration and Developments in Digital Illustration World: AR, VR, Web 3.0 and NFTs.

What is Digital Illustration?

Digital art or Digital illustration is the new age art form that incorporates the style of conventional art tools like pencil, brushes, and oil pastels into technology to create mesmerising artworks.

The flexibility and space for experimentation offered by digital platforms have made them garner a lot of popularity. 

Want to become a digital illustrator, but the start seems too overwhelming? Don’t worry, we have made this comprehensive guide to help you embark on your artistic journey.

The Evolution of Digital Illustration

Here’s a brief history lesson for you.

Experimentation and the use of art are not something new to us. We have been using art through cave paintings and rock artworks since the prehistoric era and have come a long way from there.

It is undoubtedly one of the most creative fields to explore. It gives us a platform to think out of the box and unleash our creativity.

The definition of digital art has evolved over the years. During the 1960s, when programming languages were deployed for artistic use, they involved the use of pen plotters to create artwork on paper. 

Later, the period from the 1980s to the 1990s witnessed a transition where digital art referred to creation, storage, and distribution through digital technologies.

Today, digital art has gained immense popularity, and its use can be seen in vast areas such as advertisements, billboards, brochures, and even museums. 

Digital Art Movement: The Beginning

One of the first and the most famous artists to enter and experiment with digital art was Frieder Nake. He was a skilled mathematician who also had a great knack for drawing.

Frieder experimented by marrying the world of technology and algorithms with the creative process of art to produce something completely revolutionary. 

Frieder programmed an algorithm to create shapes and plot series in order to create an artwork, after which he designed the program in such a way that the computer would take over to create random elements in between the artwork. 

So, the appearance of the final outcome produced was based on chance as it had no direct human interference. 

One of his famous artworks which were created this way is Hommage à Paul Klee in 1965.

Art: It is About Getting Inspired and Growing

The field of art is vast, and you might come across several artists from different geographical regions flourishing in the digital art industry with their unique styles. 

There are several factors that determine the style of the artist. They could have taken inspiration from their ethnicity, nature, life story, or mentors, or it could even be a case of random experimentation. 

However, artists can establish and differentiate themselves through their artwork only if they have a consistent style. 

Like the great French artist Henri Matisse once said, ”Creativity takes courage”.

Creating your own style is going to give you a tough time. Sometimes you might even get stuck due to a creative block, but remind yourself that this is a part of the creative process. 

During this period, take time to refresh with some trips and invest yourself in activities you love. This might help you get inspired and unleash your creativity. 

But, never go down to a situation where you just copy another artist’s idea. That would lead to a violation of ethics, which would count as intellectual and artistic theft.

Essential Tools for Digital Illustration

Digital Illustration or Digital Art falls under the broad term of new media art. It is an art form that uses digital technology during the creative process. 

This involves artwork done entirely digitally, or images and artwork created through conventional methods and later finished using digital software.

We understand that choosing from an array of hardware and software can be daunting for a digital illustrator. That’s why we have made it easier for you by curating a list of digital illustration/art tools.


One of the essential elements required for digital illustration is the hardware component.

You need a device to bring life to your imagination. A graphics tablet is a gadget that can help you with it.

It allows users to draw using their hands with the help of a pen-like tool called a stylus. 

It will then convert the information from the stylus to an image using this device. These are the kinds of graphic tablets that are widely used in the field of digital drawing.

1. Digitizer Pen Tablets Or Graphic Pads

These are the most basic types of graphic tablets. An artist uses a stylus to draw over a touchpad while looking up at the screen. 

Majorly beginners use it as it is affordable and requires less maintenance.

A digitizer pen tablet is connected to a monitor or a screen and does not need to be charged.

But it is useful only if you are comfortable with this work style. Working with this device takes a lot of practice, and many find it challenging.

It is a go-to tablet for you if you are a beginner on a tight budget.

2. Monitor Tablets

Monitor tablets are Graphic tablets that have an integrated screen. This tablet works like an upgraded version of the conventional Digitiser Pen Tablet.

But a monitor or a laptop is still needed to be connected.

It has a lot of scopes, as an artist will have great line control due to the visuals. 

The only drawback could be the palm rejection feature. The higher the palm rejection capability, the higher the cost. 

You also need to invest more if you need a high-touch response.

Overall, if you have a moderate budget and need a monitor to work, you can go with this tablet.

3. All-In-One Tablets

If the budget is not a major concern for you, this is the best that the market can offer.

It is laden with elite features like palm rejection, a wide range of pressure limits, excellent responsiveness, and extreme line control.

The feature that sets it apart is portability. You do not need to connect this device to a monitor or laptop. 

The most promising model is the iPad Pro. Though it is expensive, its attributes are top-tier.


Finding that ideal software is the second and most crucial part of your Digital Illustrator journey. You need to be in perfect harmony with the software. The availability of different features and the space for creativity and exploration affect an artist’s creation.

So take your time and explore the below exciting softwares and choose what’s best for you. Here are a few examples:

  1. Adobe Illustrator
  2. Procreate
  3. Affinity Designer
  4. Inkscape
  5. Adobe Photoshop CC
  6. Autodesk Sketchbook
  7. Corel Painter
  8. Adobe Fresco
  9. Krita
  10. Clip Studio Paint Pro

Advantages of Digital Illustration

Digital art has completely revolutionised the art industry. It has gained a lot of traction due to the advantages associated with it, like:

  • Easy to start with and comparatively a lot less messy. 
  • You can unleash your creativity as digital drawing provides you with lots of room for experimentation.
  • Minimal Requirements as all you need is a computer, software, and a tablet, and you’re good to go!
  • All the artwork created, stored, and transferred through the digital medium will remain intact permanently. So, you need not worry about them getting damaged. 
  • Digital media plays a great role in attracting viewers, and digital art involves the use of art for mass production. This way, your work can get better exposure at a minimal cost.

The Power of Art & How It Can Change the World

Art is one of the most powerful mediums to convey a message as it enables us to reinterpret the meaning through a new lens. It has the power to change the world and move people by instilling a new wave of emotions within them.

Artworks float on the internet, and everybody pauses to embrace creativity.

As per Henrik Ibsen, “a picture speaks a thousand words”. Several artworks have caused a stir across the globe for some fearless depiction and portrayal of real-world issues through the lens of an artist.

While some were heavily criticised, they still managed to garner the attention of the masses for their creativity and the meaning behind it.

One such artwork was – ‘Guernica’ by the well-known Spanish artist Pablo Piccaso.

Guernica is one of the huge oil paintings created on canvas by Piccaso in 1937. It represented a massacre in the Basque village caused during the Spanish civil war. Since then, it has been known as a powerful anti-war symbol, representing every city that has ever been bombed.

The Differentiator: What’s Your Style?

The art industry is vast and has millions of people worldwide trying to make a mark on it for themselves. However, identifying and establishing your style is the key to standing out and making your art speak for itself. 

Success comes with hard work, and sometimes it might take months, if not years, of dedication to finally figure out your style. 

There are so many successful digital artists who have created some mind-blowing brands with their unique sense of style. 

If you are a part of the Instagram community, you might have come across the cute web-comic page of @hubman.chubgirl. It is a page run by a couple based in Toronto, Canada. 

They share their daily lives through digital comic illustrations and have also experimented with digital merchandise, thus raising a fan base from different corners of the world. 

For a second, if we talk about India, think about the brand Chumbak. What do you visualise? Bright colours, funky designs, and young and quirky themes? All this is because they have established a unique style that sets them apart from others.

How to Become a Digital Illustrator?

With so many options available on the market and thousands of people suggesting to you what to do with your life next, getting confused seems fairly possible.

So, let us ease this problem for you. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are ever planning to enter this field:

1. Develop your skills

Skill development is a vital aspect of excelling in any field.

You might be very creative and have experimented with designs, colours, and patterns at some point. If you want to be the best at what you do, you must spend a lot of time honing your skills.

You can do this by attending workshops and online courses and practising as much as you can.

Sometimes, even rough doodling might give you the inspiration to create something mind-blowing.

Also Read: An Ultimate Guide On Graphic Designing

2. Always carry a pen and paper with you

No matter what style and medium of art or illustration you want to do, pen and paper will always remain an artist’s best friend. 

In the field of art, you can get inspiration from any corner. As an artist, you should be paying attention to details, so always be ready with a pen and a diary in hand no matter where you go. 

Make it a habit to quickly doodle or draw any situation, a person, a snippet from your day; basically, something that is fun, engaging, or literally anything that inspires you and you find relatable for the audience.

3. Start building your network

It is obvious that we cannot make ourselves famous overnight. It takes years of practice, hard work, and diligence to make a mark in any industry, all the more in the artistic field.

Taking small steps will help you a long way. Since you are a newcomer to the industry, your first step is to start building a network with your fellow artists.

Start taking part in competitions, setting up craft stalls to sell your artwork, and attending events like Comic-Con.

4. Keep learning and seek constructive criticism

Keep exploring new ideas, subjects, and methods; never stop learning. Inspiration can be taken from many sources, but ultimately you have to find your artistic voice. Practice always helps. 

A lot of us struggle with accepting criticism of our work. But, it is vital that you seek constructive criticism, as it will help you identify your weak areas and will push you to do better. 

Through constructive criticism, you might get valuable insights and a fresh perspective on how doing or experimenting with certain aspects might put you on top of your game. 

5. Learn to talk about art

It is not enough to just sit in a studio and keep designing and drawing your thoughts and imagination to survive in the art industry. The mark of a true artist is when you learn the art of talking about art.

It could be about your perspective on art, why you want to pursue art or your style. If you are really passionate about it, you don’t need a specific list of topics. There are endless aspects of art that you can speak about. 

Make use of opportunities that come your way. Interact among your peers, mentors, and art lovers. You never know when a particular conversation can lead to you finding your future client prospects, so never miss an opportunity to hold a meaningful conversation.

Famous Digital Illustrators You Should Know About

There are a lot of digital illustrators across the globe, and a few of them have made a mark of themselves in the industry. 

Here is a list of some of the top digital illustrators from around the world whose style of artwork has won the masses’ hearts.

  1. Alicia Souza

Alicia Souza is one of the finest and the most sought-after illustrators based in Bangalore, India. She is well known for creating “happy stuff, for happy people”.

Her art style is fun and cute. It mainly revolves around the inspiration taken from her daily life, usually incorporating her family of five – Alie (herself), George, Charlie, Henry Oats, and the latest addition to the family, Little Olie!

She then converts it into fun posts and webcomics that have managed to strike a chord with the young urban here. Apart from running her own Instagram page and business website, she also has a client portfolio that includes big names like Google, TOI, Infosys, and Cadburys.  

2. Sanjana Desai Art

Sanjana Desai Art is a concept artist and illustrator based in Mumbai. Her favourite things to draw are animals, kids, and nature. 

She is well known for creating artworks that carry the message of spreading love and kindness. Her recent work includes creating illustrations for Shantanu Naidu’s book – I Came Upon a Lighthouse. 

3. Pecca Chan

Pecca Chan is an illustrator based in Toronto. She and her husband are well known by her business Instagram username @hubman.chubgirl. 

Her artwork involves making digital drawings, stickers, diaries, and toys of her everyday life and sharing their life stories.

Challenges Faced in the Field of Digital Illustration 

Not everything comes easy in life. Digital art might have a lot of merits, but if you want to pursue a career in this field. You should analyze the pros and cons before diving into this field.

Here are some of the challenges that you might have to deal with:

  1. Credits for your artwork
  2. Creative block
  3. Engagement rate

1. Credits for your artwork

One of the main challenges that you will have to deal with as a digital artist is copyright infringement.

Art is art, and art gets stolen. The internet is going to steal it without giving you credit.

Though there are ways through which you can report these kinds of users for violating your intellectual property, it’s still a huge challenge.

It is better to ensure that all your artwork going online has a standard watermark and that you add a note below the caption stating that anyone who reposts your artwork gives you due credit.

2. Creative block

Every artist’s worst fear is the “creative block”. The entire art industry functions on creativity, experimentation and innovation. It might be frustrating for you to run out of ideas at some point. 

We need to understand that having a creative block is a part of the learning process, but to jump back to form and get your creative self back, you have to invest in yourself by doing things you love. 

Here are some tips on how to deal with a creative block:

  1. Take a walk
  2. Meet up with your friends
  3. Listen to the music and groove
  4. Sketch
  5. Watch your favourite series or movie
  6. Bake 
  7. Doodle 
  8. Digital Detox

Every artist might have their own way of dealing with creative blocks. Keep trying different things, go with the flow, and see what works for you to generate fresh and innovative ideas, as creativity can’t be forced. 

Must Read: Awesome Jobs for Creative People

3. Engagement Rate

Every artist has a love-hate relationship with social media. Social media plays a vital role as it gives you a medium to directly engage with your audience and get to know them better.

You would definitely hope for a good engagement rate on social media for every piece of art you post.

The reality is that the social media algorithm keeps on changing from time to time, and the pressure to perform and new comparisons every day might pull you down at times.

It is crucial to understand that we don’t change our art for the social media publicity game. Instead, make art for yourself and not for the likes!

Future Scope of Digital Illustration?

What is the purpose of art? 

For some, it is to encourage deep thinking in the viewer’s mind. For others, it brings their vision to life, or it’s that it allows them to experiment with their creative process.

Most importantly, the artist and their work get the exposure they require by reaching as far and as many people as possible. 

This role is actively played by the digital medium, where the artist can use a multitude of software and hardware tools to expand their artistic creativity and enhance the viewers’ experience. Social media provides the perfect platform to share their work.

A few decades ago, no one would have imagined that technology would dominate the world. The story is totally different today.

Everything we are doing today revolves around technology. Art is ever-evolving. The combination of both has enhanced the artistic experience. 

The increase in the number of people using technology and a decline in the prices of digital art software have acted as a perfect level playing field for budding artists to experiment with this medium.

Developments in the Digital Art World – 2022

Technology has completely revolutionised the art industry, with new updates every day. 

With the launch of new technology every day, it becomes important for artists working in the digital medium to keep themselves updated with the latest technology.

Over the past few years, digital artists have actively explored the use of artistic experience in Web 3.0 and AI-based applications such as AR, VR, holography and NFTs.

The AR/VR Craze and Digital Illustration

It involves using still photos from the real world and merging them with live videos or animations that can only be viewed through mobile screens.

Holographic Artworks

These types of artwork are produced by creating an image with the use of laser lights to produce a 3-D image. 

Must Read: AR/VR Applications: Know How They Combine Reality With Virtuality

Web 3.0

This new web version, built on the rock bed of blockchain technology, offers digital illustrators the features of traceability, decentralisation, authenticity, and data protection. 

This big band technology of the 21st Century enables the artist to connect to the target audience and sell their artwork or gain projects directly, efficiently and securely.

NFTs: Radicalising the Digital Illustration Market

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) came along with the cryptocurrency, embedded with blockchain technology. These digital tokens are linked to fully digitalised artwork, allowing you to sell or buy the artwork asset while ensuring its authenticity and proof of uniqueness and ownership. 

The NFTs are changing the way we experience digital illustrations, unlike physical artwork, by protecting them against theft, duplication, plagiarism, etc., and offering copyright protection.

Wrapping up

Digital illustration has opened up new avenues for artists to experiment and explore the field of art. It has presented us with a new way of looking at the world. 

The digital world is expanding every day with the latest technological developments, and so is the digital art industry. 

Today, digital art is expanding much beyond graphic tablets and digitizer pens, and artists are exploring the possibilities of expanding their creative process beyond AR/VR and holograms to the latest radical developments like NFTs.

We hope that this blog helps you start your journey as a digital artist. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do you describe a digital illustration?

Digital art or Digital illustration is the new age art form that incorporates the style of conventional art tools like pencils, brushes, and oil pastels into technology to create mesmerising artworks.

2. What does a digital illustrator do?

The digital illustrator creates artwork entirely digitally or creates images and artwork through conventional methods and later finishes it using an array of digital software and hardware, showcasing their creativity.

3. How do I get creativity for digital illustration?

There are several factors that determine the creativity and style of the artist. They could have taken inspiration from their ethnicity, nature, life story, or mentors, or it could even be a case of random experimentation. However, artists can establish and differentiate themselves through their artwork only if they have a consistent style. 

4. What are the challenges faced as a digital illustrator?

Here are some of the challenges that you might have to deal with: copyright infringement of your artwork, creativity block as the artist is likely to run out of ideas at some point, and how to increase engagement rate with the viewers ai social media platforms.

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