What is Digital Illustration | A complete guide to Digital Illustration

How to build expertise in Digital Illustration

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 had created a stir across the globe. Why? 

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

Can all artworks be featured in a museum? Of course not. But with the entry of the digital medium in 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, it has taken the art industry by storm. It has penetrated into almost all the aspects of our life, that it is almost impossible to escape from it.

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

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

What is Digital Art?

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 breathtaking artworks.

The flexibility and space for experimentation have made it garner a lot of popularity. 

Want to become a digital illustration artist, 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 Art

Transition from traditional art to digital illustration.

Image Source – Creatif Design Concept

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 since the prehistoric era through cave painting, rock artworks 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, it involved the use of pen plotters to create artwork on paper. 

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

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

The Digital Art Movement: The beginning

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

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

Frieder programmed an algorithm to create shapes and plot series in order to create an artwork and after that, he designed the program in such a way that the computer takes 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.

What is Digital Illustration/Art?

A digital illustrator working at his desk.

Image Source: expotarenargon

Digital art or Digital Illustration 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 that is done entirely digitally or images or artworks that were created through conventional methods and later finished using digital software.

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

Hardware 

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

You need a device to bring life to your imagination. A graphic 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. 

Beginners majorly 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 style of working. It takes a lot of practice to work with this device, 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 upgrade to the conventional Digitiser Pen Tablet.

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

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

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

Also, you 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 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 with a monitor or laptop. 

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

Software

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

So take your time and explore this exciting software 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 drawing

Digital art has completely revolutionized the art industry. It has gained a lot of traction due to the advantages associated with it.

  • Easy to start with and it’s 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 artworks 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 for minimal cost.

The differentiator: What’s your style?

The art industry is wide and has millions of people around the world trying to make a mark of themselves in the industry. But, the key to stand out and make your art speak for itself is to identify and establish your style. 

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 from Toronto, Canada. 

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

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

Art is about getting inspired and growing

A digital illustration about ideation and inspiration

Image Source – GraphicMama

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 style. 

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

But, the artist can establish and differentiate themselves through their artworks only if they have a consistent style. 

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

Creating your own style will give you a tough time. Sometimes you might even get stuck due to creative block but remind yourself that 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 an idea of another artist. That would lead to a violation of ethics as it will count as intellectual and artistic theft.

How to kickstart a career in digital art?

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

So, we can ease this 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 to excel in any field.

You might be someone who is very creative and might have experimented with designs, colors, patterns at some point. 

If you want to be the best in what you do then you have to spend a lot of time honing your skills.

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

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

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, snippet from your day, basically, something that is fun, engaging, or literally anything that inspires you and you believe that the audience will be able to relate to it.

3. Start building your network

It is obvious that we cannot make ourselves known overnight. It takes years of practice, hard work, and diligence to make a mark in any industry.

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

Start taking part in competitions, set up craft stalls to sell your artworks, attend events like Comic-Con.

4. Keep learning and seek constructive criticism

Keep exploring new ideas, subjects and methods, basically never stop learning. The inspiration you can take from many 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

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

It could be about your perspective about art, why you want to pursue art, 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 and a few of them have managed to make 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 managed to win the hearts of the masses.

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, cute and 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 urbans 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 favorite things to draw are animals, kids, and nature. 

She is well known for creating artworks that carry a 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 in the field of digital illustration/art (that you can face as well)

Not everything comes easy, digital art might have a lot of merits but if you want to pursue a career in this field. It is best that you analyze the pros and cons before diving into this field.

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

  • Credits for your artwork

One of the main challenges that you would 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 the credits.

How copyright infringement is a huge challenge for digital artist or illustrators?

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

It is better that you make sure that all your artworks that are going online have a standard watermark and you mention a note below the caption stating that anyone who reposts your artwork gives you due credit.

  • Creative block

Every artist’s worst fear is ‘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 yourself in doing things you love. 

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

 a digital illustration of a lady spending time with her pet.

Image Source- Behance

  1. Take a walk
  2. Meet-up with your friends
  3. Listen to 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 to deal 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. 

You may also like: Awesome Jobs for Creative People

  • Engagement Rate

Every artist has a love-hate relationship with social media. Social media plays a vital role as it gives a medium for you 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 artwork 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 everyday might pull you down at times.

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

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 the creativity.

As per Henrik Ibsen, “a picture speaks a thousand words”. There have been several artworks that 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 criticized, they still managed to garner the attraction of the masses for the creativity and the meaning behind it.

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

Image Source – The Strategy Bridge

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

What the future holds for digital illustration/ art?

What is the purpose of art? For some it is to encourage deep thinking in the minds of the viewers, for some it is bringing their vision to life, for some it’s experimenting with their creative process.

Most importantly, the artist and their work get the exposure it requires by reaching as many people as possible. 

This role is actively played by the digital medium where the artist can use different software and hardware to expand their artistic creativity and enhance the viewers’ experience, social media provides the perfect platforms 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 is revolving 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 has acted as a perfect level playing field for budding artists to experiment with this medium.

Digital Art and the AR/VR craze

What is the future of digital art like?

Technology has completely revolutionized the art industry with new updates everyday. 

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

Since the past few years digital artists have actively explored the use of artistic experience in AI based applications such as AR, VR and holographics.

Augmented Reality and Digital art

It involves the use of still photos from the real world and merging it with live videos or animations which can only be viewed through mobile screens.

Holographic Artworks

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

Developments in digital illustration/ art – 2021

Sotheby, a 277 year-old auction house, has recently announced that it is all set to sell digital artwork in collaboration with an anonymous digital  artist. 

Before this, Christie’s had sold the most expensive digital artwork made by artist Beeple for $69 million. 

Yes, you read it right. A digital artwork worth $69 million!!! If you’re wondering why is it so special? Then it is a collage of 5000 images which was created one per day, over a span of 13 odd years.

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 itself 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 much beyond AR/VR and holographics.

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

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