What Is Digital Paint?(The definition)



Digital paint is an emerging art form in which traditional painting techniques such as watercolor, oils, impasto, etc. are applied using digital tools by means of a computer, a drawing tablet and cordless drawing pen, and software. Digital painting differs from other forms of digital art, particularly computer-generated art, in that it does not involve the computer rendering from a model. The artist uses painting techniques to create the digital painting directly on the computer. The main difference between digital and traditional painting is the non-linear process. That is, an artist can often arrange their painting in layers that can be edited independently. Also, the ability to undo and redo strokes frees the artist from a linear process. But digital painting is limited in how it employs the techniques and study of a traditional painter because of the surface differences and lack of physicality. The digital artist has at their disposal several tools not available to the traditional painter. Some of these include: a virtual palette consisting of millions of colors, almost any size canvas or media, and the ability to take back mistakes, as well as erasers, pencils, spray cans, brushes, combs, and a variety of 2D and 3D effect tools. A graphics tablet allows the artist to work with precise hand movements simulating a real pen and drawing surface. *



A Short Demonstration



Contrary to popular belief, digital painting, is not just pushing a few buttons and getting the results you want. The image does not magically appear on your screen. You have to build a painting in much the same way you do on canvas or paper. The first step to becoming a successful digital painter is learning how to handle the painting software so that you can achieve the desired results. Just like learning to paint on canvas you have to learn how to mix color, how to draw with a cordless drawing pen on a drawing tablet and how to adjust the myriad of brushes and textures at your command. Once these tasks are mastered you can get down to the task of being creative. 

A few years ago I was called upon to teach a class in traditional painting. It was during my first class of instruction that I learned of all the things I had learned and stored in memory, to be called upon when needed. When I was asked by a student to explain how I would achieve a certain effect I wanted to say " I don't know I just do it". As you can probably appreciate this is not an acceptable method for instruction. It was then that I realized that I would have to analyze all of these stored skills I had, in order to explain how they are performed. Painting successfully on a drawing tablet requires this same process. You learn hundreds of procedures either by reason or by accident and store the results in your memory to be called upon when needed. This is not a very glamorous explanation of the painting process but I feel it is a fairly accurate one. 

Like more traditional methods of painting using a drawing tablet to paint with requires the same hours of planning, drawing and mastering of painting tools to achieve the end result whether it be successful or not. Your tools give the same results; it's just a slightly different route you take to get there. 

In these few lines of text and illustrations I will try to make comparisons between painting on a computer and more traditional methods. 

Step#1: Planning

Like its traditional counterpart painting with a drawing tablet requires that you plan in advance as closely as you can what the end result should be in case you arrive there by accident. Every one does this in a different manner, I usually paint the image in my head from start to finish. I have gotten very good at this over the years and I find that it facilitates swiftness in execution of the piece and adds to the spontaneity.

Step #2: Start With A Blank Canvas (Screen)


The next step is to prepare the painting surface. Traditional methods require that you build a stretcher frame and stretch some canvas over the surface primed with gesso. On a computer a dialog box appears when you press new and asks you for a size and resolution.( Now this part is easier than wrestling with a piece of canvas and a wood frame!) 

Step #3: Laying out Your Painting Tools

When you do an oil painting you select your favorite brushes and other painting implements and have them ready to use when needed. You also take out your paints and squirt them on a palette in an order that is familiar to you. On a computer you do the same you select the tools you are going to use and the color palette and lay them out on your screen so that they are accessible when needed.

color palette


Step #4: Sketching Your Image




Traditional methods require that you usually make a sketch of what you are about to paint on your canvas. This is achieved with the use of a pencil or some other drawing implement. The amount of detail in the sketch is dictated by the amount of detail you want to achieve in your final painting. On the computer you use a cordless drawing pen and drawing tablet. You select what you want the drawing pen to be, in this case a 2B pencil, then you sketch on the drawing tablet the same way you would draw on the canvas. Each line you draw on the tablet is recreated on the screen. You continue to draw in this manner until your sketch is completed.



Step #5: Painting the Image



Now the fun begins! Traditionally you would mix your colors on a wood or glass palette with the desired painting implement, then apply the color to the canvas where you want it. On a drawing tablet you pick up your cordless drawing pen, select what type of brush you want it to be, then select or mix the color you want from a color palette on the tablet screen and apply it to your electronic canvas. You know this sounds mighty familiar and it is. Today's painting software is designed with a lot of input from professional artists and so imitates as closely as possible more traditional methods of painting. When you use a drawing tablet to paint with you will quickly discover how natural it is to use!

Step #6: A Masterpiece!


After you have applied all of your colors to the digital canvas in the order you planned in step #1 you should see your masterpiece emerge. How successful you are in achieving this depends solely on how skillful you are at using the available tools. The only real difference between painting in this fashion and more traditional methods is where the image is placed. It's on a digital canvas!

I Can't Hang This On My Wall!

To the rescue a digital painter's best friend, a high resolution color printer. With this mammalian you can output your work to real paper and frame it just like a traditional painting.

To Sum It All Up

From the afore mentioned comparison of painting with a drawing tablet as opposed to more traditional means, one question might arise WHY? Why not just use traditional oil instead of learning a new technique like this. The answer is simple. Why learn to paint with watercolor when you can paint with oil, why learn any new mediums for that matter, the reason is in the results. These mediums all yield  quite different results. In the not so distant future as with film for your camera traditional art supplies and materials may become a thing of the past!

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