7 Tips for Making the Transition from Traditional Drawing to Digital

Malyse, Astropad’s Director of Artist Relations, shares her experience with digital art and how she uses Astropad in her workflow. She did the featured image you see below on Astropad!

A digital painting of a woman with a headdress made of a fish and plants.

For a time, I could only draw digitally with a mouse. My first graphics tablet took the fun out of drawing and defeated me. Everything produced from it was terrible, except when my sister used it. So, I never blamed the device, just the operator. For the longest time, I believed that my hands were only coordinated for real paper and canvas. That changed four years ago when I worked with a more pressure-sensitive tablet. From there, hopelessness transformed into possibilities, but I still had a hard time translating my artistic abilities onto my tablet and screen.

Astropad is a good option for making the shift to digital art, without buying a graphics tablet. Your drawing results are there for you on both your iPad and MacBook screen.

If you are struggling to see your drawing potential digitally, here are 7 tips to help the journey:

1. Work on a large artboard, and scale down for finalizing files

When you scale down, you’ll maintain image quality. You risk pixelation when you resize your canvas from small to large. Utilize zooming in and out to go into detail, especially if you are working on a smaller screen.

2. Try going monochromatic, or start with a different color background

This helps if you don’t know where to start, or have trouble with color, shading, and line development. A blank white canvas, or access to oodles of colors, can be distracting. You can always experiment and add colors after you have your drawing down. If digital painting is more your style, a good base background color can help ground your image as you work.

3. Layers and undo are your friends, unless they cripple you

When using ink, it can’t be erased. Working digitally, you have versatility to experiment choices with layers, and erasing a mistake with undo. If this freedom hinders you rather than helps, try working entirely on one layer. Or, just erase and paint over mistakes, instead of using undo. That way, you learn to put more deliberation and investment into your choices until you’re comfortable with the “power” to organize or reverse your actions.

4. Try different textures, or make your own

If you scan your sketches and zoom in, you can see that your lovely sketch is comprised of fine textures. Play around with the individual brush setting in your software — the flow, opacity, and scattering for example — see what you like working with. You can even make your own brushes or purchase custom ones.

5. Bring in your own art experiences. Treat digital art as another medium

Just like when you buy new pens or brushes, it takes some initial adjustment. Give yourself an adjustment period with your graphics tablet and software. Learn your tablet preferences, and adapt software settings to your workflow. You have the skills, knowledge, and style, but it takes practice to translate that into a new medium.

6. Build confidence: scan your sketches and develop them digitally

If you feel frustrated with your results, use your strengths! I worked this way for years and still do. If you are pretty good with a pencil and paper; then sketch traditionally first, scan it in, and add the coloring via the tablet afterward. Over time, you’ll ease into working entirely on the computer, when you feel like it.

7. Eyes on your results

Be patient with yourself. There are many amazing works online, but sometimes it can make you feel inadequate about your own progress. When you feel that way, take a break from looking at other digital artists, and concentrate on building your foundation. Seek tutorials, and ask questions on forums.

Have an experience or advice to share? Feel free to comment, or ask questions on the Astropad community forum.