How Do I Start To Learn Digital Painting And How To Avoid Common Mistakes


Digital art myth

Let’s start with breaking down the myth about digital painting being easier than drawing on the paper and even worse - saying that digital art is actually not an art at all. Believe me it is not easier, it requiers the same learning curve and understading the theory. If I’m starting let me say learning about traditional painting on canvas, I need to study and learn a lot of about tools, paints, different kind of medias. The same applies for digital art. I need to learn to understand the program I’m using and all the tools within it and unless I have crazy talent from the childhood I need to learn about colors, light, shadows, composition, lines, values. The process between traditional art and digital one is different, the tools we are using as well. But in the end a sketch is a sketch and painting is a painting - requires an artist to be completed. Digital painting has only one advantage - we can easily redo/undo our steps and we can draw thousands lines over one space without damaging paper under it.


Choosing the right software

Nowadays it is easy to be overwhelmed with all the possibilities we have online. It is always good to do your own research what software do you actually need. Do you need vector or raster (pixel) based program? What features does one have and what not and do you actually need them? Because in the end the programs dont determine the artist. It’s just a tool what will let me to express my creativity and imagination. Doesn’t matter if it’s a charcoal and paper or Apple Pencil with Procreate. Make a list, do your research and decide what is best for you.


The theory is a core

Find a good book. YouTube, websites are great for specifics and additional references. Book will force you to slow down, study methodically and let you approach things with purpose. I do understand for some of us a book is really not a best friend but to get something you need to invest into that. I tend to get easily distracted when I’m studying from a PC that’s why I prefer to print everything on the paper and be able to make notes, highlight and sketch around it. Follow the basic fundamentals - colors, light, shadows, composition, lines, values


Having an idea

It is very important to have an idea what you are going to paint. It doesn’t have to be in details, it’s enough for example as I want to paint a spaceship reaching to Mars. I want to bring the focus on Mars under explosion. With this approach wou will avoid to stare on a blank canvas for hours. Without idea and direction you will not be even able to make a first sketch and expand your details.



Sketching doesn’t have to be professional and full of details. Nobody will see it anyway. Sketching is for you to project your idea on the canvas and have prepared composition. Do not spend much time with first skecht. It’s a waste of time and probably you will still want to change many things in the meanwhile.



Eliminate the number of brush packs you are using. Believe me, 10 similar pencils will not make me a better artist. Stick to few of them, try to understand how they are set up, how they are working. With a time and experience you can expand your collection as at that time you will understand and have the feeling when it is needed to get a new brush pack or not to fasten your painting.



Once you are familiar with basic fundamentals you can start to take courses (follow viedo tutorials) focused on certain topics like painting dragons, magical beasts or medieval castles. In these courses you can expand the knowledge of the theory and actually apply it very good.


Daily sketching/painting

Daily sketching or painting is without discussion. Even small 15-20 minutes every day will be moving very fast with your skills. Getting better in something means invest time and effort into it. In the beginning I was not painting daily so only when I had mood once in two weeks or so. You would be suprised how much of it you will forget and how is it affecting your skills and perception.


Don’t be blind, open your soul

Study, watch and explore objects, people, buildings, everything around you. How is the light falling on the vase? What will the shadow l do with my red T-Shirt in the corner of a room. What is special about this cherry. Check closely and focus on details. Do you know how small kids learn? While watching and listening.


Refference book

Take pictures of things you are interested in. Make a journal or book of refferences with pictures, sketches, poems whatever caught your eye. Very handy if you are lost and you dont know what to paint. This book will be your well of inspiration.

The above few steps should forward you to the right direction. Of course there is much more behind the scene but we can’t talk about everything in one article. Would be boring, common.