A helpful start to digital art

Dec. 9, 2022, 1:34 p.m. | By Alexander Liu | 1 year, 5 months ago

A guide for beginners to get started in digital art

Wacom drawing tablet with pen Photo courtesy of Cyrotux (Creative Commons).

Digital art! You’ve seen it -- from breathtaking depictions of nature to fantastic sci fi scenes, digital art has exploded in popularity across the internet. And with the expansion of the internet, there are more applications than ever for digital art skills. From logo design to video editing, there’s an increasing demand for art talent in all manner of fields. 

Even more recently, artificial intelligence has pushed the boundaries of what is and isn’t digital art, while its marketability has exploded. Likewise, Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and the rapid growth of the digital art market has made digital art much more lucrative. 

It’s no surprise then that more and more people are becoming interested in digital art. Fine arts teacher Roger Kirk explained the broad applications of the unique art medium. “Digital art, because it has that corporate side to it, [is] more beneficial for a wide variety of different professions,” Kirk says. 

That being said, starting digital art can be a daunting task with the seemingly endless amount of equipment and software needed to begin. Don’t worry though, as it can actually be a straightforward and cheap process! 


The first thing you’ll need is something to draw with, and the good news is you might already have everything you need. If you already have an iPad or Android tablet with a compatible stylus, then you’re good to go. 

Otherwise, you’ll want to get a graphic tablet. Graphic tablets work like a mouse, except you use a stylus to draw directly on the surface of a tablet. Graphic tablets make drawing infinitely easier than using a mouse, and you can buy decent graphic tablets for under $50 from companies like Huion and XP-PEN. That said, there is a still a significant learning curve as drawing on a graphic tablet is very different 

Graphic displays, such as an iPad or Wacom tablet accomplish much of the same function, but are much more expensive. Those displays allow for more intuitive control and portability by incorporating a display in the drawable area, but are also completely optional and achieve the same purpose. 

Even if you don’t have access to either of those tools, don’t worry. There’s a litany of programs nowadays that allow people to draw even using only a smartphone. 


Hardware aside, there’s also the question of which software to use. Luckily, drawing software has evolved far beyond the likes of Microsoft Paint. 

For PC and Mac, Adobe Photoshop has long been the industry standard, and anybody enrolled in the Digital Art class at Blair has free access to it. Medibang Paint is a free alternative for anyone without a Photoshop subscription. Procreate is hands down the best application for iOS with its ease of use and many features, while Ibis Paint X works great on Android devices.


Now you have everything you need to start drawing, but where do you even begin? There are so many tools and techniques to learn, and it can all seem incredibly overwhelming for beginners. Luckily, there are many great tools specifically made to help beginning digital artists improve. 

To familiarize yourself with your specific drawing software, YouTube is a great place to turn to. There are tutorials for every drawing software imaginable, as well as great exercises for beginners to start drawing.

There are also entire art communities on Reddit, DeviantArt, ArtStation and more dedicated to helping beginners improve their skills.

No matter what setup you use, you should remember that tools don’t make the artists. Even with basic software and hardware, you still have infinite possibilities to express yourself in your own artwork. Good luck! 

Last updated: Dec. 9, 2022, 2:37 p.m.

Tags: Digital Art ART

Alexander Liu. Hi, I'm Alex (he/him) and I'll be a staff writer for SCO this year. I'm passionate about public policy and international relations. In my free time, I enjoy drawing and watching terrible rom-coms. More »

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