Hello! I've been drawing my whole life, but I've never done digital art, I know nothing of it and feel like, one step behind bc of it. What would you recommend for a beginner? Thanks!
Hi!! I’m really sorry this took me such a while to answer, but I really had to think the question through since I, myself, have been drawing since I was a little kid. But, on that note, I know several ones that consider themselves beginners and they, too, felt at loss.
Honestly, things aren’t as complicated as people might think. The first thing I suggest you to do is to save a collection of art that you find inspiring, perhaps even styles that you admire and want to be something like. Don’t immediately think you will draw like this though — even if you’re a natural and draw things perfectly, you, yourself as an artist, will probably not feel completely comfortable with it. Understand and accept that an artist always strives to be better, and yes, that includes those talented artists that you admire! I assure you that they too sit there and groan at least every now and then because their art isn’t going the way they want to. It’s part of being an artist, and all you need to do is to feel comfy in that and see it as a challenge of sorts. So, as soon as you have accepted this, you’ll be ready to take action!
The first step I’d say is to study the art (or photos) that you collected. What is it that you like about them? What is a method the artist seems to be using? What makes it unique? How would you translate all this into your own style, using it as inspiration and not as outright copy? Think of it as ‘I really like this thing about this artist, but if I did it, it’d probably be this way instead.’ Remember, though, that the first years (and it will be many years, but they’re fun and educational, so don’t worry!) will all be a tryout for you. It’s all experimental, so don’t limit yourself too much. Think of how you’d like to try out things, and as you go, realize what you find fun to draw. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve been doing it since you’ve been little, it’s all about your mentality and when you’re ready to develop as you grow up. No one is a master at painting at the age of 5 (okay let’s admit it, all kids are little art geniuses, but you know what I mean).
Second is tracing. Before everyone gasp and say how horrible it is, I’ll tell you that it’s highly educational and it doesn’t mean that you’re some thieving copycat. You’re just trying out the ways of other artist and kind of getting a grasp of how they do things, it lets you become comfortable with your own brushstrokes as you follow theirs. Never post traced art without permission (unless it’s public, non-licenced art, such as classical illustrations, etc) and never trace with the goal to copy them. Think of tracing as a method of getting used to art and understanding drawing. Do this during the first period of your learning state, but you must learn to not keep doing it, and eventually I suggest you stop altogether (unless you’re really in a rut). One tip is to alter the traced pics to your liking, to add your own style and touch to it! Be experimental.
Third step is drawing by reference. You might be wondering, after tracing, how does one just stop? You use can still use said pictures as a guidance, but instead of tracing them, use them as a reference, meaning you simply look at them while you draw on your own. Remember that it’s okay to not have it look exactly like how it originally looks! Remember that it’s your art and it’s all about your path, in the end. Reference is something you never have to quit using, in fact, I highly recommend you use them, but use them with care. Simply learn the difference between copying and using inspiration.
Fourth step is to study and learn tutorials and how to draw books. I’ve already made a list of useful anatomy books here (I highly recommend checking that out!) and my own tutorials can be found here.
A few years ago, I wrote some tips for one person who asked for them, and I’ll quote:
- Make a list of things you like; things that interest you, things you’re passionate about, things you like to draw. It could be anything, like “Silver, Mythology, Coffee” etc. Then, go on a follow spree. Search for these things and follow the blogs you find interesting. Then, make an inspiration blog; like I have my blog hoursleep that’s there only there for the purpose of inspiration.
- Then, follow art blogs! How-to-draw blogs, art inspiration and whatnot. This is really nice since it helps you refreshen your artsy parts of your brain every now and then.
- When you are bored, make sure to have a paper and pen with you; preferring in a small, travel-size. Doodle whatever - and if possible, draw the things or people around you, even if it’s all messy. You won’t regret doing these doodles. They’re good for you.
- My final tip is NEVER THROW ANY DRAWINGS AWAY, NO MATTER HOW “UGLY”. Save every drawing you do!! Why? One day you’ll need to look back and see your improvement - or perhaps things you even liked about it! I like to look at my bad, ugly art and redraw them to something better. This is a great way to practice your skills, and nothing boosts your self-esteem more than seeing how you’ve become better with time. ♥
And that’s about it, honestly. Many feel too intimidated to be starting out with art, especially in later age, so all you need to do is to sit down and feel comfortable by letting other things teach you first. Starting out drawing without any clue how to start is much like trying to learn advanced maths without knowing the basics first. It’s okay to to depend on other sources first, it’s okay to feel frustrated over your art, it’s all okay, because you do have room to grow, always. Never feel like your lack of experience means that you have no hope. You always have, you just need to be determined!
Oh, and I realize now that these weren’t specific for digital art. So have some extras that are more specific for that subject!
I highly recommend getting a tablet. I know that not everyone can afford a Cintiq, but if you can, don’t hesitate to get one! (I really recommend getting Cintiq 13hd for first time users, such as myself). However, getting a normal tablet is perfectly fine as well. Wacom Bamboo is my absolute favorite, and do not buy from Trust. Once you get your tablet, don’t feel frustrated because it doesn’t look perfect, or even good. It’s completely normal, and you’ll need a few weeks at least to adjust. I remember getting my Cintiq and I worried that I had spent so much money on a thing that I couldn’t even draw on, but given time I grew used to it, and now I draw on it just fine, and I have no regrets. In fact, I’m so happy I got it, I truly am!
If you want a free program, I suggest getting GIMP. It got a lot of tools and yet isn’t too advanced for those just starting out. However, what I truly recommend is SAI for beginners. Sai is very simple but it has just about everything you need, and I myself used that for years, and I still do when I sketch sometimes. When you feel ready to advance, I fully recommend Manga Studio 5. It’s my favorite program for painting and it got amazing preset brushes that are simply perfect, in my opinion. Photoshop CS5 and higher is extremely good too, but while I don’t think it’s that good for painting (many may disagree, since I’ve seen many artist paint in this program), it’s completely wonderful for touch-ups, effects, and filters. Keep in mind that Photoshop is a rather advanced tool, especially if you’re used to SAI. Going over to Manga Studio 5 is easier because it is like a mix between SAI and Photoshop.
Keep in mind that there are many digital art tutorials out there that tell you how you “must” draw/colour. However, drawing digitally is like art in real-life too, it’s all about your own taste and what tools and methods you like to use. Use tutorials as a guide, not a rulebook. No, not even mine. For example, tutorials might teach you how to lineart and cellshade, but you might prefer lineless, smooth works over that style, and that’s fine! Or you want to mix the two! Or maybe, you want to do lineart but you want to colour outside the lines. be experimental, try out things you haven’t tried before. Try odd brushes, try colours you find fascinating, try messing with layers, just mess things up. If you’re afraid to mess things up, you can save your document before doing anything extreme, just so you can feel safe going outside your comfort zone. You learn a lot by daring!
I hope that was of any help! Let me know if you have more questions.