What Is Digital Art and How Can You Make It?
In the 21st century, people spend more time in front of their screens and are more likely to browse art online. Also, they use digital artwork more often for their projects and designs.
If you are an illustrator already familiar with traditional hand-drawn art, you might consider switching to digital. Adding such works to your portfolio can help with recognition online and finding new clients. Read further to learn all the basics of digital art creation.
What is digital art?
The term ‘digital art’ was first introduced in the early 1980s. Computer engineers and artist Harold Cohen created a program called AARON. It was used to produce art autonomously, using Cohen’s skills combined with artificial intelligence.
Since then, the term ‘digital art’ has been used to name any kind of art created using electronic devices: computers, tablets, software, and such. It is also used to define art made or produced on digital media—illustrations, animations, digital painting, videos, and other types of digital creations.
The process of creating digital art is easier and quicker compared to traditional art. It can also be recreated infinitely, while traditional art usually exists in one copy. However, digital art can feel less valuable when it comes to art admiration. You cannot touch it; for some people, physical connection is key to art perception and appreciation. Also, due to the unlimited number of copies that can be created, digital art typically costs less than traditional art.
Where can digital art be used?
Besides digital media, such art can also be used in the following ways:
- to create prints for clothing, stationery, and other things;
- as book illustrations;
- as a part of website design: simple flat illustrations are commonly used to make websites more memorable and unique;
- as NFT art: some artists sell their art in the form of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to raise funds for charity or for self-promotion.
How is digital art created?
You only need a computer with a graphic tablet or an ordinary tablet that supports drawing, e.g., Apple iPad and Apple Pencil. Depending on the chosen brushes, digital art can remind you of various traditional illustrations. Digital brushes can recreate the texture of watercolor, ink, chalk, pastel, and other materials.
If you intend to sell digital artwork as prints, you must also work on the pre-print preparation. It ensures that the printed version of the illustration will look the same as the original—the colors will remain bright, and there won’t be any unnecessary cropping or other problems that might ruin the visual’s perception.
To prepare an image for print, you have to switch its color mode to CMYK, set the resolution to 300 DPI (dots per inch) or higher, define bleed and crop marks, pick the right printing profile, and save the art as a PDF.
How to make a digital illustration
- Sketch your idea on paper. There’s no need to make the sketch detailed, as you will do the main work later in a graphics editor or an illustration tool.
- Scan it. Place your image on a scanner, close the lid, and scan. Save the result in PNG, JPG, or JPEG format. If you don’t have a scanner, use a smartphone or a camera to take a photo of your sketch and upload it to your computer.
- Open the scanned image in a graphic editor of your choice. You can use Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, CorelDraw for notebooks and PCs, or Procreate for tablets.
- Create a new layer and position it on top of the sketch. Start outlining the image. It’s better to pick a smaller brush with sizes from 2 to 4 pixels, especially if you have small details on the sketch.
- Choose a color palette. You can pick the colors yourself if you are a more seasoned artist. But if you don’t have much experience with color combinations, you can use special websites to help you. Platforms like Coolors and Colorhunt allow you to select existing color palettes. Then, you can either look at their color codes or download them in PNG to open in a graphic editor and use as reference.
- Do the basic coloring. Just fill the outline with simple colors without adding shades and hues. At this stage, you can see how a chosen color palette works for your visual and easily recolor it if necessary.
- Add depth and details. Once you’re satisfied with the colors, you can polish the illustration by adding shades, lighting, extra details, and other elements.
- Merge all layers and export the file. Before merging, make sure to save a copy of an image containing layers, so you can always return to it if you want to change something or create a version for print. Save the finished illustration in a preferred format.
Popular websites to sell digital art
Stock image websites
Once you learn how to create digital art, you might want to sell your artwork. One of the beginner-friendly ways to earn money on your illustrations is to sell them on stock content websites. Customers use image stocks to quickly get high-quality digital art without spending time and money on hiring an illustrator and waiting for the images to be delivered.
Depositphotos.com is a popular stock content marketplace featuring 230+ million royalty-free graphic and audio files. It has an international audience of over 29 million users. After becoming a Depositphotos contributor, you will receive royalties from selling your artwork online. The royalty amount depends on your contributor level, which depends on how many copies you have sold. You must create a diverse portfolio with varied illustrations to gain recognition and get higher profits.
Overall, selling your artwork on photo stocks is much easier than setting up a personal website and investing time into promotion. Besides, image banks often showcase popular files, sorting them into thematic categories and trendy collections. Also, artists can get promoted in the platform’s newsletter and other marketing material.
You can also place digital art for sale on print shops like Society6 or Redbubble. Such websites create printed goods with your art. You upload illustrations, pick the types of goods you want to offer (posters, pillows, cups, and other things), and adjust your graphics, so they look good on these goods. Once a customer orders something with your print, the website does the rest for you, preparing the item and sending it to the client. Then, you get paid. The price depends on the item ordered. For instance, stickers have low prices, while hoodies usually bring more profit.
Just like with image stocks, you must create a diverse portfolio with various creative and trendy artwork to get noticed. However, while stock websites help promote their contributors, print shops require you to do most of the promotion, which can be time-consuming.
No matter which option you’ll pick—image stocks or print shops—the income most likely won’t be enough to cover all your living expenses at first. Still, such websites help you promote your artwork and build an audience while paying you at the same time. That’s why it can be a good option for beginner artists.
To sum up
Digital art is created with the help of electronic devices and graphics software. Such art is quicker and easier to make than traditional art, but it doesn’t look less eye-catching. Discover the basics of creating digital illustrations in this article and make your first visuals. You can sell digital art on stock content websites and print shops to get passive income and promote yourself as an artist.