Digital Art for Absolute Beginners
Digital art is more popular than ever. Whether we are consuming it as phone backgrounds and website profile pictures, in our favourite webcomics, or watching soothing TikToks of artists at work, it is everywhere. With the myriad of programs available, and hundreds of tools and brushes available in each one, it can feel as though anyone could take it up as a hobby–and anyone can!
If it’s something you’re interested in, carry on reading as we break down what beginners will need to start their journey into digital art.
Whilst it may be true that only a bad workman blames his tools, it is also true that he needed some to begin with. The same is true of artists – you need something to make the art! In this case, it could be as simple as an art programme on your phone and your finger. Let’s run through some options.
The most basic of tools, most people starting out in digital art have access to a computer and mouse, or a phone and their finger! While using a mouse has its drawbacks – repetitive strain being just one of them, lack of pressure sensitivity being another – it does the job of getting a feel for digital art before investing any money in it.
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If you will be using your finger and trying digital art on your phone, skip ahead to where we talk about different apps for digital art.
A graphic tablet is a simple little surface and stylus. It acts much like a mouse, controlling your cursor on screen. It can take some getting used to, as you have to look at the screen to see what you are drawing, as opposed to looking down like you would when drawing with paper and pencil. That being said, you can find them for as low as £26.
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Similar to a graphic tablet, graphic displays are surfaces and a stylus that goes with them. There’s a clue to the key difference in the name – a graphic display is also a screen, so you can see exactly where you are drawing. This can make them easier to get to grips with. The cost is the big difference between the two – you can find some online for around £150, but they run well up into the thousands for the professional models. Be wary of cheaper ones, as they can lag, and as with anything always read the reviews.
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Android, Mac, whatever your preference, there are a range of good quality tablets to suit most budgets and they can be perfect for starting out in digital art. Using your finger to draw may be fine at first while you’re getting a feel for it; investing in a decent stylus will help enormously. There are a range of free drawing apps to get you started, and some paid ones once you’re ready to invest. We’ll talk about those below.
Photo credit: Iryna Imago / Shutterstock
As with the tablet, there are multitude apps available and fingers are free to draw with. The added bonus is that most people already have one, or have access to one. While your drawing area is quite small, it can be excellent for beginners to see if they really would be interested in furthering digital art as a hobby or even a career.
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There are a number of free and paid apps available for PCs and Macs, and everything in between. Here we have our top three free and top three paid apps to suit all budgets.
Krita is an open-sourced art and photo editing program that is often compared to Photoshop, though not as powerful and comprehensive as that behemoth. It still has a multitude of options for brushes and tools and can be used to create beautiful art. The Krita website also has free tutorials to start you on your creative journey.
GIMP is another open-sourced program, specialising in image manipulation. It’s been around for a long time and, as such, has a slew of devoted users – well deserved, as it is easy to get to grips with and packs quite the editing punch for a free app.
Medibang Pro (2022)
Medibang is a painting and editing app that is angled for comic and manga creation. It has a range of presets and templates to make it easier for comic artists to tell the stories they want to tell. It’s free but has a range of features to explore.
Photoshop is currently the reigning champ of photo editing and digital art software, and it’s easy to see why. The tools available with it seem limitless, it’s incredibly powerful and is more than capable with anything from intense photo editing to creating digital masterpieces. After all, there has to be a reason it has entered the public lexicon (“Do you think that’s photoshopped?”).
The downside is the price. Prices start as low as £120 for the year, but can run up to £600 for the year depending on the package you opt for.
CorelPainter is another paid program, which you can get via subscription that is repeated annually or a one time purchase. The one-time purchase is the better deal and, although it does usually run at around £360, you can get flash sales. CorelPainter specialises in creating the feeling of working with real paints, and it shows in the art created with it.
(There is also a free app and a £4.99 app from CorelPainter called Painter Mobile that is created for mobile phones – whilst not as powerful or in depth as the full version, they are definitely worth a mention!)
If you’ve watched any digital art videos on Tiktok, the odds are at least some of them were done using Procreate. Exclusively for iPads or iPhones, Procreate is a favourite among beginners. It costs just £9.99 for the iPad version as a one-off payment, or £4.99 for the iPhone. Its interface is simplistic and its functions are almost futuristic, packing a lot of artistic tools into such a relatively cheap little program.
There is always a way to get started in digital art, no matter your budget. Whether using your finger to draw in a free app on your phone, or using a purpose-bought graphic display and stylus. It’s never too late to start. Enjoy the journey you're beginning and, no matter how the first pictures turn out, keep going!