How to get started with digital art

The beginner’s guide to digital painting

How to get started with digital art

You want to get started making digital paintings too, but you don’t know where to start? In this article I will show you how to get started with digital art. The great thing is that making digital art doesn’t have to be expensive, it could be you already have most of the equipment you need!

I haven’t tried out all the products that I show as examples in this article. I’d always recommend reading some reviews of products to make a considered choice. Also, the prices are only an indication, click the link if you want to see the exact price of a product.

At the end of this article you will find the best way to get started with digital art in my opinion. However, that’s just my opinion of course, take from this article what you need and make a considered choice based on your personal situation. Finally, if you have any questions, be sure to ask them!

Have you already bought everything you need to get started with digital art, but do you struggle with drawing? Then check out these 12 digital drawing exercises.

Note: In this article you’ll find some affiliate links, this means that if you buy something, I will get a small commission. This won’t cost you anything, but you will be supporting this website and allow me to continue making free digital art tutorials for you. Thank you for your support!

How to get started with digital art – The hardware

First thing you’ll need when you want to get started making digital paintings, is hardware. There are four main options:

Wacom Bamboo graphic tablet
Graphic tablet
Graphic display
All in one Tablet
Smartphone







Graphic Tablet

A graphic tablet works a bit like a mouse and needs to be attached to your PC or laptop. You can draw on the surface of the graphic tablet using a special stylus (some variants need to be charged, others don’t). The surface of the graphic tablet reflect your screen. So when you put your stylus in the upper right corner of the surface, you will find your cursor in the upper right corner of your screen.

They are relatively cheap, actually you can get a decent graphic tablet for around $50 – $100. Wacom graphic tablets are seen as the industry standard, but when you get started with digital art, I would advise getting a low budget graphic tablet, they can do a great job.

I’d recommend getting a graphic tablet at A5 size, this is large enough to make fluid strokes (A5 is around 5.8″ x 8.3″).

Pros

  • Cheap option (depending on the brand you choose)
  • Doesn’t need batteries or charging
  • Not very susceptble to damage (since it doesn’t have a vulnerable screen)
  • It’s also very handy to use in stead of a mouse, to prevend RSI

Cons

  • You need a PC or laptop
  • Takes some time to get used to, since you need to watch the screen and can’t look at your hand while drawing

Veikk A50 ($56)
Wacom Intuos graphic tablet
Wacom Intuos ($72)
Huion Inspiroy ($85)
Wacom Intuos Pro M ($380)








Graphic Display

If you want to make digital art on your computer, but don’t want to use a graphic tablet, then a graphic display might be an option for you. They are more expensive than a graphic tablet, but let you draw and paint directly on a screen. Perhaps this will feel more intuitive to you.

Pros

  • Drawing directly on a screen feels more natural than drawing on a graphic tablet
  • It takes less time to get used to than drawing on a graphic tablet

Cons

  • You need a PC or laptop
  • They are more expensive
  • Low budget models might have some lag
  • You might experience parallax/offset
  • The stylus needs charging (for some models)

Parallax: the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions. (dictionary.com)

Huion GT-191 CAMVAS ($300)
XP-PEN Artist22E ($400)
Wacom Cintiq 16 ($650)
Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 ($2500)








All in one Tablet

With an all in one tablet I mean a tablet like an iPad (Pro), Microsoft Surface Pro or Android tablet. There are many drawing apps out there and some of them are free! You might already own a tablet, if that’s the case, then all you need is a stylus to start making digital art. Of course you could draw with your finger, but that isn’t very comfortable and won’t feel very intuitive. Finally, what’s great about all in one tablets, is that you can take them anywhere. You could draw during a trainride, while enjoying a cup of coffee in a cafe or just while relaxing on your couch!

Pros

  • Portable, you can take it anywhere!
  • Drawing on a screen feels very intuitive
  • You can use Procreate 😉 (if you have an iPad that is)

Cons

  • They are fairly expensive
  • You need to buy a separate stylus

On a Microsoft Surface Pro or Wacom Mobile Studio Pro you can run full software packages like Photoshop

Samsung Galaxy Tab ($280)
Apple iPad ($330)
Apple iPad Air ($460-$600)
Apple iPad Pro ($1070)
Microsoft Surface Pro ($1500- -$1900)
Wacom Mobile Studio Pro ($2250)















Getting a stylus

When making digital art on an all in one tablet, you’ll probably want a stylus. Make sure to check the compatibility of a stylus with your tablet before you make a purchase. Another thing to check is if the stylus has pressure sensitivity, since a stylus with pressure sensitivity will give a much more natural feel when drawing.

Below you will find some examples, note that the Wacom Bamboo Tip is compatible with some Android devices, but doesn’t have pressure sensitivity. The Apple Pencil 2 is compatible with the 3rd generation iPad Pro.

Wacom Bamboo Tip ($50)
Surface Pen ($85)
Apple Pencil ($95)
Apple Pencil 2 ($125)








Smartphone

Finally, you could get started with digital art on your smartphone. Downside is that the screen of your smartphone is probably pretty small, which makes drawing on it more challenging. Also, you will probably want a stylus to make drawing a bit easier.

In case you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone, you could get the app Procreate Pocket, which is great to get a feel for digital art.

Pros

  • You probably already have a smartphone, so you don’t have any costs
  • It’s portable, you can draw anywhere

Cons

  • The screen is probably quite small
  • You will probably want to buy a stylus

How to get started with digital art – The software

Another thing you’ll need when getting started with digital painting, is software or an app on your phone or tablet. Prices for digital painting software range from totally free to super expensive. When getting started with digital art, my advice would be to start off with some free (or low budget) software, just to see if you enjoy making digital art.

Also, the choice of digital art software depends on your hardware, because not all software is compatible with all devices. Procreate for instance, can only run on iPads and Photoshop runs on a PC or a Microsoft Surface Pro for instance.

Free software and apps

There are quite some free digital painting programs out there. Perhaps you want to try out one of these programs before you invest in a more expensive program or subscription

Krita

This is an open-source program and a good alternative to Photoshop. Maybe it’s not as powerful as Photoshop, but it has a lot of options. At the Krita website you can find tutorials and resources to get started with your painting adventure. You can download the program for free here.

Medibang Paint software

Medibang Paint Pro

This is another free digital art program which is great for manga artists. Mediabang Paint Pro lets you create comic panels easily, has a tool for comic page management and finally the programs snap guides will let you create perfect lines easily. Also, this program is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS! You can download the program for free here.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro image

Autodesk Sketchbook

Another free app and software package is Autodesk Sketchbook. It is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. The program has a nice, stripped down interface, so you won’t get distracted by all the tools. You can get this digital painting program for free here.

Paid software and apps

Next will cover some digital painting programs and apps for which you need to pay. Some of these programs or apps are very low budget and some are super expensive! However, in my opinion you really don’t need to spend a lot of money 😉

FREE TRIALS: Before you purchase an expensive digital art program, be sure to check if a demo or trial version is available. That way you can check if you like the program before buying it.

Procreate $9.99

For only $9.99 you can get the app Procreate for your iPad or Procreate Pocket for $4.99. You only need to pay once and will get all the future updates, that’s pretty awesome. With each update, the Procreate team adds more and more great features to the app, making it a true, full blown art creating program. The great upside of this app, in my opinion, is that it is very beginner friendly, so you’ll be making awesome digital paintings in no time! Get the Procreate app here.

Corel Painter ($360) and Corel Painter Essentials ($32)

This is a great program (for Windows and Mac) when you want to get the feeling that you are painting with real painting. Since it really does a great job mimicking real paint and pencils. The program Corel Painter Essentials is a stripped down version, but costs a lot less!

Corel Painter
Corel Painter Essentials











Clip Studio Paint Pro ($60)

Clip Studio Paint Pro

This is a great digital art program for manga and comic artists. The program has thousands of customizable brushes and also a pretty cool AI based coloring feature.

Adobe Photoshop and Fresco app ($9.99/month)

Adobe Photoshop is used by a lot of professional artists and has a LOT of features. Since it has so many features it can be quite overwhelming though, making it less suitable for beginners. Another downside to Photoshop (and the Fresco app for iPads) is the pricing. Being tied to a subscription might not be what you want, especially when it comes to the Fresco app. You’ll have to pay $9.99 a month while you only need to pay $9.99 once to get Procreate.

How to get started with digital art – My opinion

Flo and her old Wacom Intuos3
This is my old Wacom Intuos3, the first graphic tablet I ever bought!

Perhaps you got dizzy from all the information in this article, but I want you to be able to make a considered choice when getting started with digital painting. But maybe you just want to hear my opinion and want to know what I would do. Before I can give you a proper advice, I think it’s important to think about how serious you are about getting into digital art. When I got into digital art about 12 years ago, I was totally passionate about it and was willing to invest a decent amount of money. If I would have to start over right now, I would probably get an iPad or iPad Air, an Apple Pencil and Procreate to get started.

So if you’re really passionate about drawing and making art, perhaps it is worth it to save up money and invest in an iPad (or iPad Air, iPad Pro). I think Procreate is a great app for beginners and you can find a lot of tutorials online.

Possible situations and advice

You’re very passionate about making art and willing to invest

In this situation I would recommend getting an iPad (Pro), an Apple Pencil and the app Procreate OR if you already have a PC/Mac and want a program with an overkill of features 😉 you could get a Wacom graphic tablet or Cintiq and subscribe to Photoshop or buy a program like Corel Painter.

You’re very curious about digital painting and don’t want to invest too much

In this situation I would recommend looking at what you’ve already got. You have a PC or Mac? Then you might want to invest in a low budget graphic tablet and try out free art software like Krita. If you have a (Android or Apple) tablet you could invest in a stylus and try out the Autodesk Sketchbook app for free.

You’re just a little curious but don’t want to invest

When you’re curious about digital art but don’t want to invest anything (yet), then I’d recommend getting a free app or program for you phone, tablet or computer. It will be pretty hard to draw with your mouse or finger, but it will give you an idea of the possibilities of digital painting software.

Get started!

I hope you found this article useful and that it has helped you with your first steps to get started with digital art. Finally, I would like to wish you a lot of fun creating digital paintings! Above all I’m very curious to see your creations of course! So be sure to share them.

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