7 Digital Art Tips For Beginners Easily Improve Your Art Skills [NOW!]
There are 7 easy digital art tips and tools that have consistently worked for me and I want to share those tips and techniques with you. So you can easily improve your digital art skills and start painting masterpieces. I mostly use Photoshop, however, a lot of these digital art tips will be transferable to other digital art software, let's begin.
Here are 7 digital art tips for beginners:
- Learn shortcuts
- Pick only a few brushes to work with
- Use lower opacity for drawing
- Use liquify & transformation tool when you make mistakes
- Create a base layer first for coloring
- Clip layers for less miskates
- Use the smudging tool to soften edges
TIP NUMBER 1
- LEARN SHORTCUTS
Learning shortcuts before starting a digital artwork is extremely helpful. These are top 6 digital art shortcuts that will save you an immense amount of time when you are drawing. You should assign these shortcuts to your express keys.
Remember time is a precious resource don’t waste it. The time you invest in learning a few yet simple digital art shortcuts will be worth the value you receive at the end.
- Ctrl+Z for undoing things which is the most common digital art shortcut and should definitely always be on your mind. Or assigned to one of your express keys.
- Holding R allows you to rotate your canvas freely and therefore is also a nice shortcut.
- Then we have Ctrl+T which is a transforming tool and helpful if you are trying to make your canvas big or small. Pretty much-used to scale, rotate or distort things.
- Ctrl- and Ctrl+ is for zooming. Of course, this becomes obsolete if your touch-enabled tablet allows you to pinch to zoom with your fingers.
- The Alt key, while in brush mode, activates the color picker as long as you hold it. This is incredibly helpful with painting.
- The Right-Click, which in Photoshop lets you browse through your brush set and adjust the size of the brush.
TIP NUMBER 2
- PICK ONLY A FEW BRUSHES TO WORK WITH
Pick your brushes early on don't get got caught up with the many different types of brushes. There are some brushes that are perfect for a highly specific thing like certain textures, clouds or chains. But for most of your drawing and painting process, a simple round brush is often enough. You can change the pen pressure, hardness, and opacity.
TIP NUMBER 3
- USE LOWER OPACITY FOR DRAWING
For sketching, I typically use a simple round brush with slightly reduced opacity. Why a lower opacity? When you’re drawing many lines over or along with each other, the areas they have in common will come out stronger. This acts as a great guide for when you work on your line art layer.
You can, of course, experiment with different brushes if you want your sketch to have a certain aesthetic. Make sure to put the sketch on its own layer. That way you can color it if needed. Try not to lose yourself in details too much and rather focus on the overall composition and proportions. When working digitally you can easily mirror the image, which can quickly expose errors that you might overlook because you get so used to your drawing in its regular orientation.
TIP NUMBER 4
- USE LIQUIFY & TRANSFORMATION TOOL WHEN YOU MAKE MISTAKES
Use the Liquify and transformation tool when you spot mistakes after drawing for a bit, these are great tools you can use to avoid having to draw everything from scratch again. As I mentioned before, you can mirror the sketch to see any oddities that have gone unnoticed and then use the liquify tool to push and warp everything to its correct place. I love this tool because you can just play around with it because sometimes you are not really sure what exactly is wrong with your drawing until you see it corrected.
A tool like liquify can also be found in Krita and Gimp. But another helpful tool that is also included in Clip Studio Paint is the transform tool. There is a bit of a difference between those programs but the application is pretty similar and great to use on details. Use a lasso and circle the area you want to change, the eyes for example.
Then use the transform tool to create a grid to warp the subject to your liking. It's especially helpful when you want to match objects to a certain perspective like for example add posters to a wall. An important note though: The liquify or the transformation tool is best used while you are still in the sketching process because they lower the quality of the areas you work on.
Lines for example often become noticeably blurry afterward. With the sketch, it usually is no big deal, since it will most likely disappear later in the process anyway. But if you wrap your line art heavily you might notice it.
TIP NUMBER 5
- CREATE A BASE LAYER FIRST FOR COLORING
We want to create a basic layer that helps us stay inside the lines when we color. One way to do it is by using the lasso tool to trace the outer line of your drawing. This way you make a selection of the inside that you can then fill on a separate layer. Select the space outside of our drawing and then invert the selection. This effectively selects the inside of your line art.
Fill it and you have a solid base layer. Once we have that, we want to make sure we only paint on the base and not outside of it. For that, you can lock the layer. Now, you can only paint on the parts of that layer that already have color in them.
TIP NUMBER 6
- CLIP LAYERS FOR LESS MISKATES
Clip layers If you are scared of making mistakes and want to quickly adjust and change things, make sure to try using clipping layers. For that, you need to right-click on your layer and select “Create clipping mask”. But as soon as I create a clipping mask, everything outside the area that we defined with our base layer disappears.
Only the areas that overlap with the base layer can now be seen. The rest gets clipped. This is super helpful because now we only have to focus on the area inside the line art. Using this technique you can create layers for single purposes like hair, skin, eyes, clothes. Basically, as many as you like. Just keep in mind that you will quickly increase the number of layers and navigating hundreds
of them can become quite confusing.
TIP NUMBER 7
- USE THE SMUDGING TOOL TO SOFTEN EDGES
Smudging tool is not as bad as it seems for a long time I despised the smudging tool because it has such a characteristic look when you try to implement it in your work. But that was because I didn’t know how to use it properly. The smudge tool actually is pretty versatile.
You can use different brushes with it, creating different effects. You can use it for textures and interesting transitions. What I love to use it for is to soften edges. For example, I start cel-shading a piece and then just go over the hard edges to soften them to my liking. The brush isn’t standard with photoshop as far as I know, but you can easily build such a brush for the smudge tool yourself.
Pick the smudge tool and open a regular round soft brush. Then open the brush settings and set the spacing to 25 %, scatter to 29%, count jitter to 46%, activate transfer and you are done.
My last advice when it comes to digital art is, let the tools grow with you. Start with a tablet appropriate to your needs and budget. You don’t want to spend a fortune on a tablet when you do not see yourself working with it for a long time.
For beginners, I highly recommend starting with a classic drawing tablet without a screen on it because they are far more affordable and you won’t hate yourself too much if it starts gathering dust. With practice, you will get used to looking at your computer monitor.
After all, you can always see where the cursor is on screen. Some people actually use games like OSU to practice their accuracy if they’re not drawing or painting something anyway. For digital art, I think an understanding of the software is oftentimes more crucial for your workflow than whether your drawing tablet has a screen built-in or not.
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