Digital Painting - Beginner Advice?

Not sure if this would be better in off-topic or advice but I'll post it here anywho, as it is asking for some tips! :)

I've bought myself a graphics tablet and I'm really wanting to start some digital painting. Problem: I have no idea where to begin. I've looked at some tutorials and that on the internet, but I feel that either they're dedicated to people who have no experience in 'real' art, or for those who already know the basics to digital painting. I've been painting/drawing my whole life but I've not done so much as picked up the digital pen, yet.

Has anyone here any experience in this field, and if so, how did you start off? I'm interested in character and landscape design more than still life, so any tips in that area would be fantastic!

Fingers crossed someone may know something. ^^

Leighcakes:
Not sure if this would be better in off-topic or advice but I'll post it here anywho, as it is asking for some tips! :)

I've bought myself a graphics tablet and I'm really wanting to start some digital painting. Problem: I have no idea where to begin. I've looked at some tutorials and that on the internet, but I feel that either they're dedicated to people who have no experience in 'real' art, or for those who already know the basics to digital painting. I've been painting/drawing my whole life but I've not done so much as picked up the digital pen, yet.

Has anyone here any experience in this field, and if so, how did you start off? I'm interested in character and landscape design more than still life, so any tips in that area would be fantastic!

Fingers crossed someone may know something. ^^

Drawing on a tablet works sort of like drawing on paper (except not as good), you'll find yourself using the same techniques. You'll first want to make sure your tablet is set up to work this way. You'll want to make sure you have pressure sensitivity enabled, and make sure you install the tablet drivers. then you'll want to play with the settings, so the pen works well for your drawing style.

Next you'll need an art program that works for your tablet. I use Photoshop, but you can get Gimp and Sai for free.

Then you'll want to learn the ins and outs of that program and understand what "Layers" are.
After that, it's pretty much just playing around with the program until you find a technique that works well for you.

I hope that helps a little, if you have any more in-depth questions, feel free to ask.

Leighcakes:
Has anyone here any experience in this field, and if so, how did you start off? I'm interested in character and landscape design more than still life, so any tips in that area would be fantastic!

The question I would pose is whether or not you're doing it for yourself/fun, or for other people/business.

I might suggest starting with a few ideas...

1. Blank slate. Imagine something on the screen, and play with tools to see how you can create various shapes to achieve the image. Brush settings, different style brushes, etc. Go hog wild, just make notes of what tool did what and how you can use them in the future.

2. Image manipulation. Take an existing image and play with every tool that allows you to alter the image in various ways. Could be as simple as translate tools to reshape it or filter galleries to see what the program can do to alter the image for you.

In addition to the single image, start mixing images together, cutting them, cropping them, creating various montages to see what you come up with.

3. Layers. Dragon hit the nail on the head with this one. If your software has layers, learn to love them.

4. Constructive, not destructive. The one thing I see a lot with other artists is how "destructive" they are with their art. This harks back to layers, but a good image will have layers of complexity and adjustments, allowing any artist to go back and make any change to their art at any point. If you simply 'replace' portions of the image, you have to rebuild it if you want to go a different route. (This makes more sense after you see the difference between the two)

That should get the ball rolling. There are a lot of subtleties depending on your program and what you want to accomplish. I'm always interested in helping other artists or collaborating, feel free to bug me on PM anytime you want feedback/guidance/technical assistance.

Thanks for the replies!

I've already got Photoshop installed, just need to find the time to sit down and install the tablet and get used to it. I know how to use Photoshop fairly well, just not with a tablet. And I'm doing this for fun, mainly. I'm not allowed to paint at home (the joys of having white carpets) and I have always been interested in digital art. I'm a subscriber to ImagineFX and I'm always really envious of how awesome their paintings come out. :P

A few questions, if you have the time to answer;

1) What's a good starting point? I don't want to dive in to the deep end and try and draw some detailed scenescape or character, essentially wasting my time. Is there anything specific that would benefit me if I started with that?

2) Brushes - are there any specific type of brush that work best for digital painting? Or does it all really come down to exploring them myself and finding one I like?

3) Layers - should I be flattening as I go, or leaving it until the very end? I don't really want to end up with 100+ layers and no idea what each is. Do people normally name them, or just flatten them, or is there another technique?

Thank you for your help so far! I'm quite excited to get started. Just finishing up my uni project and I can get stuck in. ;)

I'd recommend avoiding Photoshop for actual drawing and switching over to Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, it's interface is designed for tablets and moves a lot of the tool palettes out of the way, so you work with the whole screen instead. There's also a trial option before you plunk down the money for it. Also the latest verison supports Copic markers! XD

In my situation, I have a tablet PC (Toshiba Tecra M7) and I find that the problem with Photoshop is it's design is on a standard computer set up - meaning you'd have the keyboard available. My laptop can swivel it's screen and lay down flat, converting it to a tablet format, so I can draw on the screen much like the Cintiqs. But it removes access to the keyboard for the various tool hotkeys, and of course, being a laptop, I can't exactly carry a keyboard around with me. ;)

1) No real answer for that, whatever suits your fancy.

2) No real answer for that too. I'm still trying to find a decent crayon brush. =)

3) Layers, it's an iffy situation as like you said, sometimes it's better, if you're training to be a fast concept artist type, to not bother with layers and just paint over the existing art, instead of spending too much time managing said layers.

Leighcakes:
1) What's a good starting point? I don't want to dive in to the deep end and try and draw some detailed scenescape or character, essentially wasting my time. Is there anything specific that would benefit me if I started with that?

It really doesn't matter. Start 'simple' (whatever 'simple' means for your general skill levels) because you're going to be spending a lot of time practicing and experimenting.

2) Brushes - are there any specific type of brush that work best for digital painting? Or does it all really come down to exploring them myself and finding one I like?

It all comes down to practice and experimentation (it's a reoccuring theme you'll get from most people with formal art training, get used to it) to find not only what suits you but also suits your desired 'style' (assuming you don't have your basic individual style already locked in) annnnd what imitated media you feel gives you the results you like most.

3) Layers - should I be flattening as I go, or leaving it until the very end? I don't really want to end up with 100+ layers and no idea what each is. Do people normally name them, or just flatten them, or is there another technique?

If you're going to use layers, name them, move on and flatten at the end (or if you're really anal about it, flatten your final copy not your WIP file copy). Flattening as you go removes most of the advantages of using layers in the first place.

Also, as ThriKreen said, there are certain styles and approaches where layer management is just a waste of time.

Leighcakes:

A few questions, if you have the time to answer;

1) What's a good starting point? I don't want to dive in to the deep end and try and draw some detailed scenescape or character, essentially wasting my time. Is there anything specific that would benefit me if I started with that?

Start by experimenting with something simple, in my case, my first was a cat.

Leighcakes:

2) Brushes - are there any specific type of brush that work best for digital painting? Or does it all really come down to exploring them myself and finding one I like?

You really have to experiment. I've known people who absolutely love brushes and have huge collections for everything from lizard scales to feathers to general shapes, I've also known people who only use the same brush in several different sizes.

Leighcakes:

3) Layers - should I be flattening as I go, or leaving it until the very end? I don't really want to end up with 100+ layers and no idea what each is. Do people normally name them, or just flatten them, or is there another technique?

The more layers you have, the larger your file will be. As a good rule of thumb, if you're not absolutely sure about something, don't flatten it. Always name your layers. I try to keep layers for specific purposes (background layer, line art, base color, shadow and highlights, weather effects, ext.) that way I don't end up with say one cloud on one layer and another cloud on another layer, all my clouds are on the same layer.

All my eggs are in one basket, but I don't mix apples and oranges...

Thanks for the replies, they've been really helpful!

I've got tomorrow off uni and no work so I will get down to business tomorrow afternoon, with luck. :) Who knows, I might post my first ever digital creation for a bit of critique. ;)

Leighcakes:
1) What's a good starting point? I don't want to dive in to the deep end and try and draw some detailed scenescape or character, essentially wasting my time. Is there anything specific that would benefit me if I started with that?

Working with some tutorials might help. Simple objects; like a fruit bowl on a table. Replicating existing work is always good for practice. Find an image you like and try to duplicate it. It also forces you to learn new tricks.

Leighcakes:
2) Brushes - are there any specific type of brush that work best for digital painting? Or does it all really come down to exploring them myself and finding one I like?

I prefer a soft edge brush with opacity controlled through tablet pressure; but that's my personal preference. You can find a lot of brushes for free online, or you can build your own when you become savvy enough. You'll eventually begin to favor certain ones based on what you do.

Leighcakes:
3) Layers - should I be flattening as I go, or leaving it until the very end? I don't really want to end up with 100+ layers and no idea what each is. Do people normally name them, or just flatten them, or is there another technique?

My suggestion; never flatten. Flattening your image is a destructive process. You can always save out a new image in any format as a flattened image, but retaining the original layered file is always a good idea. You can always refer back to it, extract things from it, make any changes to it etc.

As far as layer management, I would suggest each layer represents a noticeable contribution to the image and named appropriately. For example; "Highlights", where you add in highlights all around your image. You can also create group folders to store several layers at once to keep things clean and tidy.

Learn to appreciate layers. You can control aspects of your image you'll never be able to be flattening it.

While the other replies are excellent, I would recommend Ctrl+Paint (http://www.ctrlpaint.com/) as a good resource for both general and specific tutorials for digital art. There are tutorials on how to blend colours digitally, how to use brushes and lots of other things I think you would find useful. To begin with, I'd look under Getting Started >> Digital Painting 101. Hope it helps.

So I found out my Photoshop key has been revoked (well done me) so I had to use Fireworks as my last resort for my first piece. Hey... at least it wasn't paint.

Anyway, I just tried a simple line portrait of my Guild Wars 2 character (although I wish she'd be a more still model! :P) to begin with, I just wanted to get used to how sensitive it was, and feel a little more comfortable with not looking at where my pen is going. I'm (fairly) happy with how it turned out. :)

I'm saving the sketch file and I'll probably try out different brushes/colours etc to see which I like best. I did have a go with a water-colour pencil brush which I thought had a nice 'authentic paper drawing' look to it. But, as I say, I'll be using this sketch to test out different styles. :)

I picked up one of those Japanese ball joint characters, drilled a hole in the pelvis for attaching one of those Gundam stands, so I have a model that I can pose around as a reference when drawing.

I just wish the boobs weren't so large, hard to pose her crossing her arms. ;)

I know some people have said start simple, but don't forget that although the pen works the same way as a pencil it is not quite as easy to control.

I started by simply scanning in a pencil drawing (or just importing a photo before I had a scanner) and tracing over it, just to get a feel for the pen. That way you can also get used to using layers and then you can have fun experimenting with different tools as you go. Tutorials are great, but just messing about with the program can be very rewarding. Make plenty of save files as you go along, and just have fun with it. Then you can give it a go without a hard copy as a base.
Good luck :3

Oh also, I don't have photoshop, I use GIMP, which is pretty good, and free, which is even better.

 

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