Digital painting is one of the newest forms of painting to gain popularity in the last several years. Technologies have been developed to the point where software in popular digital painting applications can accurately mimic the effects of paint on paper. Whether you are a traditional artist, an experienced vector illustrator, or simply interested in experimenting with digital painting techniques, it is definitely a medium worth exploring.

The demand for digital painting has increased, mainly due to popularization of conceptual art used in the entertainment industry in film and video games.

Digital painting programs have been developed to accurately reproduce the behavior of different mediums. Most of them include tools to create stunning representations of watercolor, oil and acrylic paint, chalk and oil pastels, charcoal, conté, pencil, pen and ink, airbrushing, markers, and more. Most programs will allow you to select from a wide variety of different papers and canvas material, from textured wet watercolor paper, to smooth illustration board, and even include textiles, crumpled paper and wrinkled tin foil, to name a few.

The benefits of using a digital painting program are virtually endless. You can try a multitude of mediums without having to purchase all the tools and supplies individually. There is no prep work to be done and no mess to clean up afterward. There is no need to concern yourself with the rate at which your paint is drying or to be careful of making mistakes or smudge marks on your pencil drawing.

A large number of history states give you the ability to undo and redo multiple times in order to correct mistakes or contemplate various techniques. Multiple layers can be added and edited independently, allowing you the flexibility to experiment on separate layers, keeping your existing artwork safe.

Layers can be set to different blending modes in order to change their appearance. Using dark tones on a "multiply" layer will darken and add value to shadows. Lighten highlights using "screen," add or remove saturation with "saturate," change color tones with "color" and much more. It is best to simply experiment with the different layer blending modes and see how they change the appearance of your illustration. Layers can also be made more transparent in order to soften effects, highlights and shadows. Transparent objects no longer have to be "faked" but can be easily represented by adjusting the transparency levels of the layers on which the object resides.

Color hue, saturation, brightness, opacity and myriad other elements can be edited with the image manipulation tools often included in digital painting programs. They can be applied to various objects, areas of the painting or layers independently, or performed on an adjustment layer for easy editing or deletion.

Virtually any sized canvas is available; artists are no longer confined by the constrains of standard canvas sizes. Keep in mind size limitation when uploading your files, as well as available computer memory, since a large file size will increase rendering time.

Most programs have preset color palettes and many color-blending options. Photos can be added to the background layer (or in some cases they can be "pinned" on your canvas) and colors can be selected by using the eye dropper tool. Reference photos and sketches are easily imported to help develop the painting, simply by tracing over the sketch or using the photos as a guide for highlights, shadows, human proportions, color and more.

There is also a handy erase tool that can be used with any level of transparency. Easily erase pen and ink, oil paint, watercolor and more - all impossible with traditional painting.

Artists can paint with a mouse, although most find using a graphics tablet and stylus pen produces more accurate results and mimics the feel of real brushes or pens. These tools allow the artist more precise hand movements and provide an experience closely resembling traditional painting or drawing. Using a stylus makes creating strokes easier and more natural.

Graphics tablets often contain many levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing the artist to have much more flexibility and control. Pressure sensitivity settings can be customized to make brushes thicker or thinner depending on the amount of pressure applied to the tablet. They can also control the transparency, wetness of the brush, velocity, length of stroke, rotation of stroke, and much more.

Most digital painting applications come with a wide array of brushes to choose from. They provide the functionality to build new custom brushes suited for your style. Textured brushes can be developed quite easily to create the hard edges necessary for foreground focal points in your piece, where softer brushes can be used to create defocused backgrounds and create a feeling of depth.

Digital Painting Software

Software applications for digital painting vary widely in their user interfaces, tools, brush selection and features. Here are a few of the more popular software programs used by digital artists.

Photoshop is one of the most popular image-editing applications for photographers, but it contains an enormous amount of functionality for the artist. A large brush library is included with the software, and it is easy to create new brushes or import them from a previous piece. The image manipulation tools allow artists to adjust tonal values, hue, saturation, brightness and more, simply by adding adjustment layers. There are also filters that can be used in moderation to add special effects to your painting.

Corel Painter is an application that specializes in producing an accurate user experience with traditional media such as painting, drawing, and printmaking. It represents more types of media than almost any other program, and adds unique functionality and controls such as adjusting the amount of water on your canvas or brush when using watercolors or adjusting the thickness of paint when using oils. The program also includes pattern pens, artist tools, and a variety of textured surfaces.

ArtRage is an inexpensive painting application that also mimics traditional media closely. Mediums include watercolor, oils, spray paint, airbrush, pencil, chalk, crayon, inking pen, felt pen, acrylic and more. Pencil and pastels can be smeared or blurred. Paint can be applied in any thickness, and can be watered down, moved around with a palette knife, or applied with a variety of different brushes of various sizes and shapes, including a paint roller. There are some fun features included as well, including reflective metallic paint, glitter paint, and a variety of fun canvases such as crumpled paper and tin foil. Like Photoshop, you can paint on several layers, adjust your hue, saturation, brightness and blending mode to each layer as necessary, and export into Photoshop with layers and blending modes intact.

Digital Painting for Tablets

With the introduction of tablets and tablet-based applications, drawing and painting programs have become increasingly popular. Some of the “apps” available are suitable for professional-level digital painting, while others are simply designed for entertainment purposes. Tablet styluses are now available and some apps have functionality where rotating the stylus will produce different results, such as a thicker or thinner stroke on the brush. One key feature to check when using a tablet for digital painting is the output resolution of the files. Some apps only output in low-resolution and therefore files will not be suitable to upload. Some highly-recommended digital painting applications include ArtRage, SketchbookPro, Layers, ArtStudio, Paperby53 and Procreate.

With the recent advances in digital painting applications, it is now possible to have a realistic painting experience with programs that provide the tools to create astonishing illustrations with a traditional style. The possibilities are literally endless.

Image Credits

graphic palette by pagadesign

Head cold by AidarZ

Kingfisher by DanielVijoi

castle on head by id-work

Headache by AidarZ

Heaven's Gate by bulentgultek

Sign Here Please! by bonathos

Waiting for the bus by bonathos

Ruins on the hill by Ann_Mei

Sleeping girl by kubizmac

Dancing Lightly by TonisPan

Big eat small by bonathos

Industrial sci-fi landscape by g_muradin

girl with rose by grafik-art

Undead mummy by g_muradin

Pterosaur by aaronrutten

Santa Claus with elves by AidarZ

Red bags with gifts for Christmas in the winter forest by Ann_Mei

Dragon shows dorsal fin to Stegosaurus by ryooota

Snowmen jazz band by g_muradin

girl face by id-work

Earth globe by Ann_Mei

Egg by Ann_Mei

cute cartoons by caborial

Labrador Dog by AbhishekSingh

Summer fantasy landscape by Sashmir

bald eagle calling by id-work

Miss Fire by crisserbug

Mobi Icons | Creative by scottdunlap

designer with a digital brush by nullplus

Painting in Digital Tablet by luismmolina

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