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What is Digital Illustration? - A Beginner’s Guide

Ryan
Dec 02, 2022
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Digital illustration is the process of creating images using a computer. It encompasses a wide range of mediums and techniques, from traditional drawing and painting to 3D rendering and animation.

Digital illustrators may use various software programs to create art, including drawing and painting applications, 3D-modeling tools, and even video-editing software.

While the technology and tools available to digital illustrators continue to evolve, the need for creativity and imagination is the one constant.

This blog post will explore the world of digital illustration, different types of digital illustrations, and how to get started in this exciting field.

If you like to jump straight into the action, then head over to “Digital Illustration for Beginners” which is the best online course for learning digital illustration.

Hardware Requirements

Hardware requirements for digital illustration can vary depending on the software and techniques used.

For beginners, a laptop or desktop computer with a drawing tablet, also known as a graphics tablet, is a good place to start. 

Look for a computer with at least 8GB RAM and an Intel Core i5 processor or better.

For a drawing tablet, you can go for something entry-level like the Wacom Intuos. This Wacom tablet will give you a good feel for digital illustration without breaking the bank. 

However, you can invest in a graphics drawing monitor if you have a higher budget.

Drawing monitors are easier to use than drawing tablets because on a drawing monitor you can draw directly on the screen that is underneath your hand. With a drawing tablet, you need to look at the computer monitor, and not directly at where your hand is drawing.

However, an entry-level drawing monitor costs around $300, while an entry-level drawing tablet costs only about $60.

Another hardware alternative is a graphic tablet. An iPad is a great option and can be used with an Apple Pencil. If you do not fancy an iPad then MS Surface Pro and Wacom Cintiq are other excellent choices.

The benefits of an iPad are portability and ease of use. Moreover, Apple Pencils are pressure and angle-sensitive, which makes them great for drawing and painting.

However, the iPad and Apple pencil combo can be a bit pricey, with the entry-level iPad costing $449 and the Apple Pencil costing $99.

Software Requirements

As a digital illustrator, you will need software that enables you to create the types of graphics and illustrations you want. Two of the most popular illustration software programs for digital illustrators are Procreate and Adobe Photoshop.

Procreate is a drawing and painting app that is available for iPads. It offers a wide range of features and tools to create your illustrations, including layers, different brushes, and the ability to adjust the opacity and flow of your colors.

However, Procreate is only available on iPad and doesn’t offer the same range of features as Adobe Photoshop. “Digital Drawing in Procreate for Beginners” is an excellent course that teaches you everything from the procreate interface to creating a character sketch from the scratch.

Adobe Photoshop is a software program available for both Mac and PC. It is part of the Adobe Creative Suite, which includes a range of software programs for graphic design, web development, photo editing, and video editing.

Photoshop has a wide range of features and tools to create your illustrations, including layers, masks, and a range of brushes. However, Adobe Creative Cloud can get expensive fast, with the monthly subscription costing $19.99.

Our course “Digital Drawing in Photoshop for Beginners” is a great place to start your journey as a digital illustration artist.

For a detailed comparison between Procreate and Adobe Photoshop check out our blog post on Procreate vs Photoshop.

The world of digital illustrations is not limited to drawing 2D bitmap images using Procreate or Photoshop.

You can also use software like Blender to create 3D animations or Inkscape for vector graphics. The software you need will depend on the type of illustrations you want to make.

Research the different software options and choose the ones that best suit your needs and abilities. Some other software tools to consider are Sketchbook, GIMP, and Corel Painter.

Digital Illustration Styles

There are multiple styles of digital illustration that you can explore. Your style will depend on your personal preferences and the project you are working on.

Digital illustrators usually specialize in more than one digital illustration style.

Some popular digital illustration styles are:

Caricature

A caricature is an exaggeration of a person’s striking physical features for comedic or rhetorical effect. Caricatures are often used in political satire. Check out our course “Drawing Caricatures” to learn how to draw caricatures of famous people and your loved ones.

@Loopydave

Cartoon

A cartoon is a drawing that typically depicts humorous situations. Cartoons can be found in newspapers, magazines, TV shows, and movies. Check our course on “How to Draw a Cartoon Character” where you will learn how to draw a cartoon character from start to finish.

Cartoon of a bird sitting on Snow White's hand
Disney- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) 

Flat Illustrations

Flat illustrations simplify reality, focusing on 2D shapes and colors rather than creating realistic 3D images. This style is often used in infographics or other designs where complex images would be difficult to understand. 

Realism

Realism is all about creating illustrations that look as realistic as possible. This can be achieved through attention to detail, light, and shadow to create depth and dimension.

Fashion Illustration

Fashion illustration is an integral part of the fashion design and clothing industry. It visually communicates ideas about outfits, shoes, and accessories.

Example of a Fashion Illustration

Fantasy

Fantasy illustration involves the creation of fantastical creatures, worlds, and characters to tell stories that are often otherworldly or supernatural in nature. This genre can be found in various mediums, including gaming, graphic novels, comics, animation, and film.

MLM Illustration By Maria Lia Malandrino
@art_bymemo

Anime

Anime is a type of illustration that originated in Japan. It is characterized by highly-stylized art. Anime illustrations often include exaggerated facial expressions and dramatic gestures to convey emotion. Anime is usually published as comic books or graphic novels.

Anime of a terrified girl

Vector vs. Raster

Vector and raster are two digital illustration terms that often trip up beginners. However, they are quite easy to understand.

Vector and raster are the two main types of digital image files.

Vector files use mathematical formulas to draw the image. This results in images that are made up of a series of lines, points, and curves. These images can be scaled up or down without losing quality.

Raster files are a grid of pixels. Raster images lose quality and become blurry when zoomed in. However, the raster format is better for complex images with a lot of detail, such as photographs.

What Does a Digital Illustrator do?

Digital illustrators are artists who use computer software to create artwork. They use their creativity and technical skills to create visually appealing illustrations and convey the desired message.

Digital illustrators may work for advertising agencies, design studios, and the entertainment industry. However, many digital illustrators choose to work independently as freelance artists.

Digital illustrators can work in various styles, depending on the project requirements. They may design logos, create cartoons, illustrations for books or magazines, website graphics, or digital animations.

How to Become a Digital Illustrator

Becoming a digital illustrator isn’t as easy as it may seem. There is a lot of competition, and it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd. 

However, with hard work, dedication, and the right skills you can become successful in this field. 

Here are six essential tips to help get you started:

Learn the Fundamentals of Art

To become a digital illustrator, you must first understand the basics of art. This includes composition, color theory, perspective, and lighting. These concepts are essential in creating both traditional and digital artwork.

You can watch online tutorials on digital illustration and read art books. You can also take an online course on the fundamentals of drawing to build a solid art foundation. 

Practice

The only way to improve your digital illustration skills is to keep practicing. Try out new software programs and brushes. 

Experiment with different tools, techniques, and styles. The more you practice, the better you will become at digital illustration.

Build a Portfolio

As a digital illustrator, your portfolio is your calling card. It is a collection of your best work that showcases the depth and breadth of your skills and abilities.

When starting out, include all digital illustrations you have created, even if they are practice pieces.

As you build your portfolio, choose different projects to showcase your range as an illustrator. Include both personal and professional projects.

Approach the Prospective Employer

Once you have a strong portfolio, you can start approaching the prospective employers you want to work for. 

Research employers that align with your interests and values. Include a link to your digital illustration portfolio when you contact the employer.

Promotion

As a digital illustrator, it is essential to promote your work. Create a website or blog to showcase your portfolio. Share your digital illustrations on social media and other online platforms.

Promoting your work will increase your visibility and reach a wider audience. This will also attract the attention of potential employers and clients.

Our courses “Social Media for Artists” and “Creating Video Content for Social Media” will help you create content that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Network

Digital illustration is a competitive field. To succeed, you must network with other professionals and build relationships with art directors and prospective clients.

You should also attend digital illustration conferences and meetups. Get involved in online communities. The more people you know, the more opportunities you will have to find work as a digital illustrator.

Types of Digital Illustration Jobs

Digital illustrators are in high demand. With digital media becoming increasingly popular, the need for skilled digital illustrators has grown.

Corporations and businesses of all sizes always look for talented digital illustrators to help them create marketing materials, logos, and illustrations for their products and services.

Here are some of the popular digital illustration jobs that you can pursue:

Comic Book Illustrator

As a comic book illustrator, you will be responsible for creating the visuals for a comic book. This includes the characters, backgrounds, and other elements in the comic.

Suppose you are interested in becoming a comic book illustrator. In that case, you should be able to create illustrations that convey the story the writer is trying to tell.

Book Cover Design and Illustration

Books are often sold by their covers. As a book cover digital illustrator, you will be responsible for creating an eye-catching and visually appealing cover that accurately represents the book’s content.

To succeed in this field, you should have a good understanding of book cover design principles and the ability to create striking illustrations relevant to the book’s subject matter.

Film Storyboarding

A film storyboard illustrator is responsible for creating the visuals for movies and commercials. A film storyboard illustrator has to understand the script and create illustrations that accurately portray the action.

To succeed in this field, you should have a basic understanding of filmmaking and the ability to create detailed and accurate illustrations.

FAQs

Can I be an illustrator without a degree?

Yes, it is possible to become an illustrator without a degree. While a degree may give you some basic industry knowledge, it is optional to become a successful illustrator.

The quality of work in your portfolio will matter when finding a job as an illustrator.

What skills are required to become a digital illustrator?

Some basic skills to become a digital illustrator include understanding art fundamentals and creative imagination. These skills help digital illustrators create stunning visuals that accurately represent their client’s products or services.

An online course in digital illustration can help you develop these skills and give you the confidence you need to start your career as a digital illustrator.

Additionally, digital illustrators need to have excellent communication skills. This is important because they often work with clients to discuss their specific needs and wants.

Finally, digital illustrators must be professional to build trust with their clients.

How much do digital illustrators make?

The income of digital illustrators varies depending on their industry, location, and experience. 

In general, digital illustrators can expect to earn anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 a year in 2023.

What is the difference between digital illustration and graphic design?

The main difference between digital and graphic design is that digital illustration is about creating artwork. In contrast, graphic design typically uses existing images, illustrations, and graphics to create designs.

Additionally, digital illustrators often focus on a single image, bringing it to life with color and detail. On the other hand, graphic designers create visuals that communicate a message using elements like color, layout, and fonts.

Finally, digital illustrators use their art to tell stories, while graphic designers create visuals that communicate information.

Digital illustration is a growing field with many opportunities for those with talent and passion. If you are getting started in this amazing field, then don’t forget to check out our digital illustration course – it is the best online course for beginners.

If you have a passion for creating stunning visuals, 21 Draw is the perfect platform for you. Our online drawing courses will teach you the fundamentals of digital illustration and give you the skills needed to create professional artwork.

Ryan
Ryan

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