How to Make Digital Art: The Beginner's Guide

How to Make Digital Art: The Beginner's Guide

With the immense number of resources available online, art school is practically at your fingertips. As a new arrival to the world of digital art, it can be disorienting. And with the market so saturated, knowing where to begin your journey can be difficult. 

Whether you’re looking to practice in a studio or are simply searching for a new hobby, here are five steps you can take toward establishing yourself as a digital artist:

Choose Your Weapon

As the title suggests, one of the first steps to take is getting digital. While there are a range of options out there, choosing the right piece of hardware will require reflection and research, especially given the level of investment it requires. Here are a few factors to consider to help you make an informed decision:

  • Objective: Before making any major decisions, you’ll first need to decide what it is that you want to create. Ask yourself what inspired your original interest in digital art. Was it a scene from a video game? A graphic NFT? If you’re going into 3D modeling, you’ll likely need a powerful laptop. If it’s vector-based art you want to learn, you may want to consider purchasing a tablet.
  • CPU: A powerful CPU can make or break your digital art experience. As every device has limitations, make sure the one you’re after will be able to handle the demands of your workflow before making the purchase. You’ll want to look for a CPU with high processing speeds and multiple core-count, which will be able to efficiently handle all the multi-tasking and programs required in digital art.
  • GPU: Ensuring your device is also equipped with a powerful graphics processing unit, or GPU, is a step that can’t be missed, particularly for those going into gaming production. As the equivalent of several CPUs, a good GPU with high clock speeds and dedicated video RAM will take care of all the heavy lifting during production to guarantee your computer performs at optimal speeds.
  • Budget: Of course, getting the perfect device will be limited to the most obvious factor: cost. That’s why it’s important to make a concise list of all your needs and wants in order of priority so that you can spend wisely.

Don’t Fear References

Given the common misconception that digital artists produce everything from scratch, it’s easy to avoid references at all costs. The reality is, as a beginner digital artist, referencing is one of the best ways to go about learning techniques and to eventually develop a unique style.

It is often said that you have to know the greats before you can be one, and with digital art, that’s no different. Whether it’s to understand the basics, such as color theory, composition, and lighting and shading, or to find inspiration in other digital artists’ pieces and learn their process in order to craft your own, don’t be afraid to study what you aspire to one day be. In fact, a simple exercise you can begin with is to attempt to recreate pieces that inspire you—you may just end up finding your own style through this process.

One of the best “greats” to study is reality itself. There’s no need to try to create these things from scratch—you can learn from reference images and assets, too. For example, if you’re creating a new character, you can begin with 3D assets of certain anatomy to help you out. If you’re trying to produce a natural environment, pop in a reference photo of a forest for ease.

Start a Portfolio

Seeing other portfolios may make you feel like you can only begin yours once you’re at the same level. But as a beginner, your portfolio should showcase you as a work in progress. This doesn’t mean put absolutely everything in—remember, quality over quantity. But once you’ve done a few pieces you’re proud of, begin setting them aside to form a collection, even if it doesn’t look like the ones you’ve seen just yet.

The beginning of your journey is the time to experiment and find yourself in your digital art. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can begin communicating your style to others through your portfolio.

A beginner’s portfolio should be more about expressing your potential as a creative, than showing expert work. This can be a powerful way to communicate your potential, and showing your progress from day one to where you are currently can help you do just that. Whether it’s to get feedback or to track your own growth over time, it’s never too early to start a portfolio.

Find Your People

While lone geniuses do exist, sometimes it takes a village to raise a digital artist. Whether that means seeking out a mentor or online groups of fellow artists such as Cubebrush’s artist forums, finding your people in the world of digital art can be the stepping stool you need to advance. And nowadays, it has never been easier. Connecting with other digital artists can help you:

  • Get feedback on your portfolio, even if it’s still in progress
  • Collaborate with others on competitions or freelance projects
  • Find a support system with other newbies to help fuel your encouragement 
  • Discover resources like tutorials, assets, and other tips and tricks
  • Find the answer to any questions you may have
  • Build a network that may help you find employment down the line

Patience, Practice, and Persistence

At the end of the day, the many paths to becoming a digital artist can’t be summarized in one article. While there is an abundance of options and various routes to go down, all of them require an immense amount of hard work. That’s why it’s important to always be patient with yourself, practice consistently, and be persistent in achieving your goals.

Check out Cubebrush for all the best support for new digital artists.