Should You Make Digital Or Traditional Art?

Or they would be if I was half as good with a graphics tablet as I am with a pen. Still, I can't make trippy rendered backgrounds using pencils.....

Or they would be if I was half as good with a graphics tablet as I am with a pen. Still, I can’t make trippy rendered backgrounds using pencils…..

If you’re new to making art, then you’re probably going to encounter this whole question at one point or another. Chances are, you probably already have your own preferences but, if you haven’t made up your mind yet, I thought that I’d give you some of my thoughts on this whole subject in case it’s useful.

Personally, I’m something of a “best of both worlds” kind of person and I tend to make my art traditionally (usually using ink and watercolour pencils), then I scan it and edit/improve it digitally before posting it on the internet.

Doing this allows me both the precision and old-fashioned physicality of making traditional art, but it also allows me to edit my art and do lots of cool stuff with it once I’ve copied it onto my computer. Like this:

"Curious Wonderland" By C. A. Brown

“Curious Wonderland” By C. A. Brown

Surprisingly, I’m not really the only artist who does this – I’ve seen countless Youtube videos where actual professional artists and illustrators point out that they tend to sketch and/or ink their art by hand and then they scan or digitally photograph it and add colour etc… digitally.

So, it doesn’t really have to be a “one or the other” thing. It’s perfectly acceptable to use both traditional and digital techniques when it comes to making your art – in fact, just follow the general rule of “if it works best for the picture you’re working on the moment, then use it“.

But, if you’re still undecided, then I thought that I’d list some of the advantages using of each medium in case it’s helpful.

The main advantages of digital art are that it’s versatile, clean, quick, cheap and easily changeable:

Rather than buying (and periodically replacing) lots of paints, pens and/or pencils, all you need to get started is a fairly cheap graphics tablet (or even just a mouse) and a free image editing program like GIMP.

Although I haven’t really practiced drawing much using this program, it can certainly be used to create things like this:

Yes, I cheated and (amongst other things) used the "Render" feature for the background....

Yes, I cheated and (amongst other things) used the “Render” feature for the background….

Not only that, making art digitally allows you to precisely choose the right colours for your picture without having to worry about mixing paints or blending coloured pencils.

Plus, most digital art programs will allow you to choose from a wide range of digital brushes, pens, airbrushes etc… without actually having to physically buy or own all of these different things. This also means that you won’t have a messy and cluttered studio which is crammed with art supplies – which, I suppose, is a good thing if you don’t like the idea of that.

If you have to make lots of art quickly and on a regular basis, then you don’t have to worry about scanning or photographing digital art before you put it on the internet. You don’t even have to worry about things like having to manually fill in large areas of solid colour in your picture either. This is probably why, for example, a lot of professional webcomic creators tend to work digitally rather than traditionally.

In addition to this, it’s a lot easier to correct any mistakes you make digitally than it is to correct them physically. Literally, all you have to do is to click “undo”, it’s that simple.

On the other hand, the main advantages of making art traditonally are practicality, precision, portability, physicality and uniqueness:

Although you’ll need a computer and a digital camera or a scanner if you want to put your traditional art on the internet, you certainly don’t need any technology to make it.

All you really need is a vaguely decent sketchbook and whichever types of pens, pencils, paints etc… that you prefer using. The main advantages of this are that you can make art pretty much anywhere, you don’t have to worry about computer crashes and it’s a lot easier to show your art to people quickly.

Another advantage of making art traditionally is that it’s… well… a lot more intuitive than making art digitally. You don’t need to learn how to use an image editing program and you don’t need to get used to using a graphics tablet, you can just get on with actually painting or drawing straight away.

Not only that, I’ve also personally found that drawing with an actual pen is about ten times more precise than drawing with a blunt graphics tablet stylus too (then again, I’ve had much more practice with pens than with styluses).

The other great thing about making traditional art is that it looks distinctive and unique in a way that digital art doesn’t. For example, with a traditional painting, you can see lots of little variations and imperfections in the paint which don’t really appear in paintings made using pre-made and uniform digital brushes.

This is just a personal preference, but digital art can easily just look kind of “standardised” and slightly too “perfect”, whereas traditional art almost always looks like something unique that has been made by an actual human being.

Finally, the other great thing about making traditional art is that – once you’ve finished, you have an actual physical painting or drawing which you can hold in your hands.

All of your hard work and effort is actually rewarded by an actual physical object rather than just an intangible collection of pixels on a computer screen – I don’t know why, but there’s just something indescribably wonderful about this.

At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to deciding whether to make art digitally or traditionally. Just experiment with both and see what works for you.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.