Digital painting: what is and how the painting of the future works

Discovering the technique that applies new technologies to the art world


Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, or you did, but you have not understood what it is, you’ve certainly seen a work done with this practice at least once, and you’re more likely to see it every day. We are talking about digital painting, and now we will explain in detail what it is.

It is an emerging art form, in which the traditional forms and techniques of painting (such as oil or acrylic colors, watercolors or inks) are digitally applied by means of a computer, a hardware interface (typically a graphic tablet with its stylus, but also a modern tablet) and software like, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, SketchBook or the free Gimp. The result is an original work of art in a digital bitmap file format.

Digital painting: how is it done?

The artist therefore uses his painting techniques to create his own digital painting directly on the computer.

All digital painting programs are equipped with a canvas and a vast palette of colors, and are designed to reproduce in a more accurate way the stroke and the technique of real physical instruments, for example the various types of brushes, pastels, pencils, charcoal or nibs, but also the most modern means such as airbrushing.

Most computer graphics software is also extremely flexible, as they allow the user to create new brushes based on the desired style, combining the shape and textures that you like.

Further variations of the effect can then be obtained with one’s own dexterity, modifying the pressure or the angle of the pen on the tablet.

The more the digital artist manages to develop these skills of control, the more his works are closer to those of traditional painting, without losing that aspect and that typical feeling of digital painting.

In short, a digital artist must obviously be able to master the specific techniques of his medium, but otherwise the necessary knowledge is the same as those of a traditional colleague: from perspective to composition, from the use of color to that of light.

Without forgetting, as is obvious, the main ingredient of any form of art: creativity.

Moreover, compared to a classic painting, a considerable advantage is represented by the possibility of working on several levels and going back, correcting errors or smudges, or modifying your project potentially indefinitely.

All this, naturally, without the need to wait for the paint to dry!

Digital painting and other forms of digital art

It is a sub-genre of digital art, in this case created directly on the computer by the artist’s hand, rather than on the computer itself automatically on the basis of the mathematical models set by the artist (as in computer-generated art).

Digital painting also differs from photo editing, because its product is an original construction created from scratch, and not from a photograph that is only digitally manipulated in a second moment.

In digital paintings it is obviously possible to incorporate photographic elements, but it is never a question of the source or the primary starting point for the work.

Furthermore, the difference with matte painting must also be kept in mind, which can be defined rather as a specific technique of digital painting, applied in particular in the cinematic field to reproduce the backgrounds to be used for the scenes.

Digital painting applications

Sometimes we do not notice it, because the best digital artists can not point out in the least the difference between their works created on the computer and those made with the classic techniques: the brush and the canvas.

Yet digital painting is now present in many fields of our daily life and is used in the most varied fields of application: from illustrations for advertising to book covers, from commercials to comics, from video games to movies.

Precisely the entertainment sector is one in which digital art has become more widespread in recent years, so much so as to provoke a real boom in the demand for this type of professional figures.

But digital painting is now even more simply a true form of art in its own right, which often incorporates the teachings launched by conceptual art.

Starting from the pioneers of digital techniques in painting, such as the avant-garde group of fantalogica, we have now reached a vast use of the possibilities guaranteed by information technology.

Just to mention just some of the best known artists in the current panorama around the world, we can name Craig Mullins, Max Kostenko, Linda Berkvist, Albert Whitlock, Norman Dawn, until you get to Marc Simonetti, who even the least you on the subject could know for having made the famous covers of Game of Thrones.