Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote an art-based article, so I thought that I’d talk about making digital art today.
Since “digital art” is a fairly wide category of art, I’ll be writing this article in a fairly general way that will hopefully apply to whatever image editing program you choose to use for your digital art – whether it is an expensive subscription-based one, the default art programs that came with your computer or even an open-source one you can legally download for free.
1) Realistic colours: One of the reasons why digital art can sometimes look amateurish or unrealistic is because the artist has just used the basic default colour palette that came with their program. However, almost every image editing program (even old versions of MS Paint) will also allow you to create custom colours using a colour board – like this:
These are four examples (including old, new, free and commercial) of a useful feature that almost every image editing program has.
But, one of the best ways to get truly realistic colours is to use your image editor’s colour selection tool. Sometimes this is called “color picker” or “pick color” or a number of other names, but the icon for it in most programs usually looks like a pipette or a dropper. It allows you to set your brush colour to the exact colour of the pixel you click on with it.
This allows you to directly sample actual realistic colours (and, if you aren’t experienced at making art, then it might surprise you that the actual colours of things are subtly different to what you’d expect) from things like photographs, resulting in much more realistic-looking digital art, like this:
This is a reduced-size preview, the full picture will be posted here on the 30th May.
In this digital painting, I made the colours look realistic by using GIMP 2.10’s “colour picker tool” to get some colours from a photo I had taken of the same scene before I prepared the painting. And, although I only sampled about five or six colours from this photo:
This is the photo I took several months ago (of the coast at Haslar) before making the digital art.
It resulted in a slightly more realistic-looking piece of digital art when I tried to recreate it a little bit later. So, whatever this tool might look like or be called in your editing program, be sure to experiment with it.
2) Multiple ways of doing things: This is a lot more useful if you’re adding digital elements to traditional art than if you’re just making digital-only art, but it is worth remembering that there are usually multiple ways of doing the same thing in image editing programs – and the most obvious one isn’t always the simplest or best way. So, don’t be afraid to experiment.
For example some editing programs (like GIMP 2.8, 2.10 etc…) include digital lighting effects – where you can add a light source and it will affect the whole image. This can be useful, but a much simpler way to add things like bloom effects to light sources is simply to use a large digital airbrush – of the same colour as the light – in the area around the light sources, like in this (heavily) digitally-edited watercolour painting of mine:
“Dereliction Heights” By C. A. Brown
Another advantage I found with using digital airbrushes to add lighting is that it allows me to much more easily control the amount of light and/or bloom, and allows for multiple light sources in the same image whilst maintaining the clarity of the rest of the picture (which can become washed out or faded if you apply a digital lighting effect to the whole image).
Likewise, when I was going through a 1990s nostalgia phase a couple of years ago, I wanted to add the types of floral patterns that used to be common back then to my art. Originally, this either involved lots of scribbling and painting (with traditional art supplies) or it involved lots of crude airbrushing in MS Paint. But, when messing around with the options on an awesome late 1990s program called “Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6”, I found that by selecting an area and using the “Add Noise” effect before using the “Glowing Edges” effect, I could create something similar to a retro 1990s floral pattern in a fraction of the time:
To give another example, if you want to convert a colour image into a greyscale one, then most programs will have an option for doing this. But, you can also do this yourself by finding the saturation options in your editing program (it’s usually called something like “Hue/Colour/Saturation” or “Hue/Saturation” in the menu) and just lowering the saturation to zero. Yes, this is a little bit more long-winded, but it’ll come in handy for the times when – for example – you only want to convert part of a picture to greyscale etc…
Anyway, the point of these examples is that there are usually multiple ways of doing the thing that you want to do. Whether it involves using a part of the program in a different way to what it was intended for or whether it involves combining several effects in one or more programs, you can not only speed up the artistic process a bit – but also do things that the program doesn’t have a simple one-click option for. So, be sure to experiment and mess around with whatever program you are using.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂