From Pencil to Stylus
Drawing Tips for Beginners of the Digital Arts
As time tracks on and my art skill blossoms and grows, I find myself thinking, “Man I wish I knew how to do that when I was working on drawing XYZ." I'm here today, typing away, to give my readers some tips. Things you need to hear and things you need to know that could help you out in the end if digital art is your shtick.
Note: I use an Apple iPad to draw digitally. The software I use is procreate. An app for graphics and digital art published by Savage Interactive for IOS and iPadOS. It's pretty cheap. A one-time purchase of $10 ($9.99) on the iPad and $5 ($4.99) for the iPhone. However, my tips are universal for the most part. They can be applied from Adobe Photoshop to Krita.
Enough nonsense. Let’s jump into this!
Tip #1 Don't Get Discouraged
When first getting into digital art. Your art isn't the same as traditional methods (drawing, watercolor, etc). It took me a bit to learn my software (Procreate) and get used to drawing on a tablet. Thus, my art wasn't as great at first. Keep pushing through it. It'll get better with time.
Mike Tuck from the Facebook group “That One Art Group” says, “I wish I knew that it was okay that I wasn’t as good as some other artists. That I would eventually improve at my own pace and develop a style that suits me. That I didn’t have to be these other artists and I could be me and that I didn’t deserve the negative comments I got. That believing in my self was important.”
Tip #2 Let Your Mistakes Guide You
By the title of this tip, I’m talking about iterative drawing. This is an entirely universal technique. Struggle with drawing noses or eyes? Iterative drawing. It’s the process of drawing the same thing side by side again and again. It's a great way to watch your skill bloom and learn from what you did wrong with the last piece. It allows you to develop the core idea of what you need to do to better your art. And fast. Want to get better at drawing noses fast? Draw the nose from one point of view (P.O.V.) again and again. Side by side so you can glance back at the previous attempts.
Tip #3 Under-drawings are Beneficial to the Final Product
Under-drawing is the drawing beneath your final product. It includes your base references like the circles with a cross-section for heads. It's the sketch before the ink. When I make my under-drawing I use vibrant colors like red or blue. But on paper, I draw with a light pencil. I also use a pencil brush for texture to remind me that the under-drawing exists. That way, I don't get side-tracked trying to make all the lines match up identically with the under-drawing. It’s okay for the line art to differ a little. As for the under-drawing and the vibrant coloring, if they're too harsh when I make the line work layer, I just turn the opacity down a bit. The benefit of an under-drawing is it isn't met to be perfect. It’s a prototype before the finished piece. Some people can jump right in and start drawing or painting with no guide. I am not one of them. I probably will never be.
Tip #4 Make Friends
This doesn't have anything to do with drawing techniques. I highly recommend joining an art group on Facebook or another social media platform. Most of them, like the one I'm in called "That One Art Group," is full of friendly artists both masters and amateurs who are always willing to give advice. Should you be willing to accept it. Always be open to constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is criticism that is beneficial and meant to truly help the artist not to attack them.
Tip #5 Don't Be Afraid of Traditional Art
I hadn't picked up a pencil in so long that when I finally did, nothing came outright. It just wasn't the same as digital now that I've gotten used to it. I recommend picking up a pencil regularly. Also, if you can't get something right digitally try it on paper. Sometimes I struggle with eyes but then I draw it on paper, take a picture, and use it for reference in the drawing app. It helps a lot. Also, it’s okay to use a reference. Just don’t steal someone else’s art and always credit them if possible.
Tip #6 Draw in Gray-scale before color
This isn't a technique I use personally but I know a lot of artists who do. Especially when painting portraits. Paint everything in gray tones. Then add color on top. It helps when wanting to capture the detail provided in-depth.
Tip #7 Reverse it
Sometimes you don't see if a drawing is staying true to symmetry. Try flipping the image horizontally. Any mistakes will come clear to you. Although, note that the human face is not completely symmetrical. Eyes are not identical. Neither is hair. Add some variety to give it a little "pop."
Susie Murphy Hemsworth says, “When you aren’t sure, put it aside. Later try looking at it reversed like a mirror. Or even upside down. It’s surprising the things you’ll pick up on seeing it afresh. Squinting helps give it a standing back view.”
Tip #8 Start on a dark background not white
I make this mistake a lot. It's instinctual to want to start on a white background. Since that's usually the color of paper. The truth is white is not a neutral color. Starting with black or a 50% gray (halfway between black and white) will help you. It helps with color and reducing eye strain from staring at a screen. Background color determines how colors are perceived by the eye. The white background makes dark colors appear harsher and black background makes light colors appear lighter. I'd start with the 50% gray. It’s the most neutral there is. It's up to the artist in the end. Just make sure to check the image with different shades of grey as the background. This will help achieve the best out of color.
Tip #9 You Can’t Have Fundamentals Without Fun
I cannot stress this enough and seemingly, neither can my friends from my art groups. You need to work on fundamentals. Start it early rather than late. I wish I had; my art would be way different now. Work on values, learn your software, learn how to use masks, work on anatomy, how light affects your piece, and more. It will seriously aid you later.
That’s all for my tips. Although, not the end of this article. I asked my fellow artists from Instagram and Facebook's “That One Art Group” and “Digital Painting: Tutorials & Feedback (By Paintable)” to give some of their advice and I am using their advice to finish up this article.
Artemis Powell says, “I wish I had known fundamentals, particularly shape and value. Drawing digitally made it so easy to do line art and cell shading that I leaned too heavily on my cartoon-ish style to hide that I didn't understand anything about values and human anatomy. Because my art looked so polished, because of the digital medium I was using, it allowed me to be ignorant of gaping holes in my anatomical knowledge."
Leyliah Anne Lecaros says, "I wish I'd put more effort into learning basics like values, that would have saved a lot of frustration! And I wished I wasn't afraid to use brushes with textures back then. It helps add character and style." Her Instagram is @blueclift.
Matt Brodie Jasper (Negi) says, "I wish I had known that it is better to practice anatomy when you first start instead of developing a style around bad anatomy and it being hard to fix later on."
Faith Magno says, “I wish that using references and experimenting wasn’t shamed on. I also wish I’d known not to rush things, and that I had practiced fundamentals in my early progress.” Faith’s Instagram is @eunxii_art.
Laura Ulrich says, “I wish I’d known that I would be hired for my skill with it for almost every job of my twenties. If I had known that, maybe I wouldn’t have gone after the “employable” biology degree and pursued digital art instead!”
Matthew Harvey says he wishes he’d known, “God damn anatomy…I’m still trying to learn it.”
Melody Borg says she wishes she'd known "Not to spend too much time on one thing, especially studies. It's better to do 10 quick drawings than slave over one. And make sure to do warm-up sketches before starting on something new otherwise you'll get stuck and frustrated diving in too deep!"
Galriad Tan says, "Draw, draw, draw. Be your harshest critic and your biggest fan. If anyone of you doesn't feel like you can be your own biggest fan, don't worry I'm here! And you guys are awesome!"
Emily Athena says, “LAYERS! Oh my god, it took me forever to figure out the layers…”
Katie Blaine says, "Your sketch is not absolute. You can change whatever you need to at any time if you think it works better. Also, dear god, remember to check your layers frequently. Nothing like painting for two hours and realizing you're on the wrong layer."
Instagrammer @randomspirits says, “Don’t chase the perfect brush. There aren’t shortcuts. Paint and draw as much as you can. Focus on fundamentals and don’t get too distracted by only trying to make final art pieces.”
If I could add every comment I got on Facebook for this topic… the article wouldn’t end. I’d like to thank everyone from Instagram and Facebook for helping me with the tips and giving their advice. I don't think there was a single rude comment on the thread I posted asking if they had advice for newbies. I truly appreciate being a part of their group.