What is digital art?
Digital art is simply the use of technology as the medium for art. The term can also be used to refer to art that started on traditional media but was then digitized, such as paintings and sketches. After these works are made they can be scanned into a computer and digitally edited.
Digital art doesn’t even have to be drawn by hand. For example, digital photography is also considered digital art, especially if the camera images are later enhanced using software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.
What is the history of digital art?
Digital art actually goes several decades back, predating the rise of the home computer. The first examples of digital art can be traced to the 1960s, with the work of John Whitney, who is often considered an early pioneer of computer graphics. With the help of mathematical functions, he would program computers to generate works of art.
The different types of digital art
There are many types of digital art, and some will be easier than others for you as a beginner. Below is an outline of the most common ones, from the beginner-friendly ones to the ones requiring more skill.
Photo painting and digital photography
Digital photography is a subset of photography, though cameras that use physical film are so rare now that the terms ‘digital photography’ and ‘photography’ are often used interchangeably. Digital photography uses a range of tools and technologies, from your smartphone to DSLR cameras which use electrical sensors to take pictures.
Photo painting, on the other hand, also known as photoshopping, is where photo editing software is used to edit digital photos. These programs are available on computers, graphics tablets, and even smartphones.
When many people think of pixel art, what comes to mind is early Nintendo and Sega video games like Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, and PAC-MAN. Technically, a pixel is the smallest element of graphical representation on a screen. They are the building blocks for all the images we see on our computer, smartphone, and graphical tablet screens. Pixel art has been around for a long time and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, thanks to popular games like Minecraft.
Two-dimensional, or 2D, art is a very popular art form and the starting point for many digital artists’ careers. With 2D art, you can make just about any kind of art and correct mistakes on the fly without compromising the final result.
Correcting mistakes can actually be a pain in traditional art, so 2D art is a boon for beginners, thanks to the undo and layering features of most drawing software.
Three-dimensional, or 3D, art is another popular form of art among artists of all skill levels. While 2D art is all about flat figures and landscapes, 3D art adds an extra dimension: depth.
This makes the art look more realistic and exciting. 3D art is easy for anyone to start, but it takes advanced skills to make great 3D art, so beginners interested in pursuing this kind of art should be ready to commit and work hard at building their skills.
Animation is a general term for any kind of art that seeks to create motion out of otherwise still images. Think cartoons, animated movies, and anime, among others. Some kinds of animation are more complex than others, and require knowledge of both 2D and 3D art.
There are, however, basic ones that you can easily do as a beginner. If you’re looking to have a career as an animator, you should work very hard and try to advance your skills to stand out.
Fractal or algorithmic art is not nearly as popular as the others mentioned above, but is no less capable of producing beauty. Fractal art is generated purely with computers, and requires you to have solid mathematical and programming skills to pull off.
Dynamic painting is yet another kind of art generated primarily by computers. Basically, a simple concept piece is fed to the computer, which then brings its elements together to masterfully create a never-ending image that remains unique.
Free digital art software for beginners
There is plenty of free digital art software for beginners and professionals alike. Below are some of the most popular:
Krita is digital art software created by artists for artists. The aim of the program is to make digital art software more affordable and accessible. It’s been around for over 20 years now and has been growing rapidly, thanks to support from the community and donations.
Krita has a wide array of colors, brushes, and dockers for a customizable experience. Krita is compatible with Windows (8.1 or higher), Mac (OSX 10.12 or higher), and Linux. It also supports Huion, Wacom, and Surface Pro tablets.
Autodesk Sketchbook is a fantastic free resource for beginning artists. It has lots of different brushes, and you can customize their sizes, opacities, and shapes. You can also separate your work into layers for easy mistake correction and experimentation.
The software is available on both Windows and Mac devices, as well as smartphones and tablets running on iOS or Android.
GIMP is another veteran of the industry, having been around for many years. It is an alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It features multiple brushes, pencils, and even airbrushes, as well as channel and layer features.
Paid digital art software for beginners
There is also plenty of high quality and affordable paid digital art software. Below are some of the most popular ones.
Adobe Photoshop is arguably the most popular digital art software in the world. It’s been around for many years now, and set an early example for other photo editing programs to follow. It features multiple brushes and customizable settings for virtually anything you might want to do.
There are also millions of colors to choose from and it can do most stuff, from photo-manipulation to 3D art. You can get Adobe Photoshop as part of the Adobe Creative Suite, which will give you access to lots of other great software, like Adobe Illustrator.
The Adobe Creative Suite offers a one-week free trial, after which you will have to sign up for a subscription to continue using it.
Adobe Illustrator is software for creating vector-based art. Unlike the raster based images in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator uses paths to produce digital images. It is also part of the Adobe Creative Suite.
Adobe Illustrator Draw
This is a special version of Adobe Illustrator meant for use on mobile phones. It works on both Android and iOS systems. It does not have all the features of Adobe Illustrator, but it still allows for the creation of a wide range of digital art and is excellent for artists on the go.
This is a 3-tiered program featuring CorelDraw Essentials, CorelDraw Standard, and CorelDraw Graphics Suite, at an increasing price. The most expensive of them, CorelDraw Graphics Suite, offers a 15-day free trial. It is available on both Windows and MacOS devices.