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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

6 Proven Ways To Effectively Improve Your Digital Art

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Here are 6 foolproof ways to skyrocket your digital art skills.

Let me guess, you’re new to digital art and don’t know where to start. It's pretty daunting in the beginning, but once you get past that, there's simply no limit to the incredible art you're going to produce.


I. Hardware

1. Getting Used To Your Digital Art Equipment

II. Software

2. Arranging Your Digital Workspace

3. Keyboard Shortcuts

III. Drawing Process

4. Key Tools

5. Color Theory

6. Studies

IV. Daily Habits And The Internet

V. Conclusion

I. Hardware

Types Of Hardware

When you start digital art, it’ll take you a long time to get used to the hardware. You’re no longer gliding your pen directly over your paper, or painting with a brush on a canvas. A lot of the sensations that come with traditional art are lost.

This new approach to drawing is pretty foreign and can be uncomfortable at first, so it goes without saying that you’re gonna improve your art a lot faster when you’re not worrying about how to use your new tools. And once you get the hang of it, it’s a whole new ballgame.

How fast you’ll get used to drawing digitally depends on the hardware you use. Now, there are three options. The first one is a graphic tablet. It’s the cheapest of the three. Basically, it’s a large touchpad which needs to be connected to your computer via USB cable. You do the drawing on the graphic tablet with a stylus and what you draw on it shows up on your computer screen. This sounds a little confusing- let me explain.

A good example is how you use the touchpad on your laptop. You’re not looking at the touchpad, you’re looking directly at the computer screen. Now imagine that the small touchpad is a bigger tablet, and instead of using your finger to navigate the screen, you’re using a pen to draw.

The second is a display tablet. This is a step higher than a graphic tablet and costs more. The display tablet is a touch screen tablet which does not have any software builtin and thus needs to be connected to your computer via USB. With a display tablet, you’re drawing directly on the tablet screen, which gives you a much better user experience.

Lastly, the ‘all-in-one’, a touchscreen tablet where the software and hardware are all in one (as the name suggests). Here there’s no need to connect it to your computer via USB. This is the most expensive option of the three. An example is the iPad Pro.

For more information about tablets, click here.

This next section is more catered towards artists who are struggling with the first, a graphic tablet, so if you’re using the latter two you might want to skip ahead to getting used to the software.

1. Getting Used To Your Digital Art Equipment

Traditionally, you can see whatever it is you’re drawing, while you’re drawing it. More specifically, you can see your hand, each mark it makes, and so you can formulate the next movement naturally without a second thought. There’s a certain hand-eye coordination you take for granted, and which is absolutely useless when it comes to drawing with the graphic tablet.

It’s a whole new experience drawing without looking at your hand, instead looking straight at your computer screen. And truthfully? It’s unpleasant. There’s no sugar-coating it. However, once you can get past this initial frustration, there’s a whole new world out there for your art.

There’s really one way to get rid of this sort of initial awkwardness. And that’s to retrain your hand-eye coordination. A practical and easy way to do this is to constantly and continually use your tablet, even when you’re not drawing.

When you’re using your computer, even for menial tasks such as homework, research, etc, use your graphic tablet. Instead of trying to cram getting used to your hardware and software in the span of a few hours a day, spreading it out makes for a more relaxed experience, and you’ll also absorb more. You’re no longer frustrating yourself with so many tasks at once.

II. Software

Digital art is all computerized. It’s digital. So the first step towards improvement is getting used to everything related to your software. Now, each program is different, and they all have their own quirks (you might want to experiment a little before you decide on one).

Luckily, there’s a huge variety of programs available for you. There’s one for everything! If you’re interested in comics and manga, there’s Clip Studio Paint Pro. If you’re aiming for a professional level of designing then Adobe Photoshop or Procreate is the one for you.

But enough about the actual software. Let me tell you how getting used to your software can help you improve. Even with the tutorials that come with each program, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are a few simple ways to break it all down and instantly get used to your software.

2. Arranging Your Digital Workspace

Your digital workspace is very much like your physical workspace in real life. Think about the layout of your office or homework desk. Normally, you’ll organize it in a manner that’s most comfortable for you. Even if it’s the bare minimum, you’ll find that you put books on one side of the table or place-specific things into their corresponding drawers. It’s human instinct to design our workspaces the way we want them to be.

Most people who are new to digital art don’t know that from the get-go you can arrange your ‘digital workspace’ however you want. Your program obviously comes with a preset arrangement, but you can change it as you wish.

Once you organize a layout specific to yourself, you’ll focus less on where each individual tab is, such as the layer tab or brush tab, and instead concentrate more on your art.

I remember when I first started digital art, I was utterly lost with the preset layout. There were just too many options!

Once I realized that I could cut down on all the unnecessary tools and ‘clean up’ a little bit, it calmed me down. I was no longer needlessly concerning myself on what each individual tool meant or where they were. I could focus more on the actual art, which seemed to magically improve once I gave it my full attention.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to arrange your workspace.

3. Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the key things you should learn are keyboard shortcuts. What are keyboard shortcuts? You’re probably already familiar with them. A famous example is copy and paste, or rather, Ctrl C and Ctrl V. Keyboard shortcuts are insanely helpful. They cut down on time and effort, and just make the whole digital painting process easier.

Your drawing program will come with preset keyboard shortcuts. I suggest you check them out and familiarize yourself with them. There’s also the option of changing them into something you might prefer more. Here are the most useful ones:

Ctrl Z/Undo

The control Z tool is used to undo. One of the most appealing aspects of digital art is the ability to undo. This seemingly simple action brings a whole new level of comfort to the table.

The fact that you can fix problems - that may once have destroyed your whole piece - with such ease will do wonders to your art. You’ll be able to experiment more, this time without the fear that it may ruin everything.

Use the shortcut instead of manually clicking the ‘undo’ option on the far corners of your screen.

‘M’/ Flip/ Mirror

Flip, mirror, whatever you want to call it, is another incredibly useful tool. When you flip your drawing, you get to see it through a new set of eyes. You’ll notice things you wouldn’t have noticed before. The mind often tricks you.

When you spend a lot of time on a piece, your brain will automatically ignore some errors that become painfully obvious once you flip everything around. Use this shortcut for a fresh perspective.

Color Picker

The color picker tool. Unfortunately, the shortcut for color picking is something that differs with every program. You can try the ‘Alt’ button.

This basically allows you to select from the variety of colors that are already on your canvas, the display screen, rather than going to the color selector pallet every time.

To use this tool, simply hover over whatever color you want - that’s already on your canvas - whilst holding the ‘Alt’ button (bear in mind this specific shortcut may not be the correct one in your chosen software, so make sure to check out the presets).


This is another tool for which the keyboard shortcuts vary. The most common ones are the ‘Z’ button, and the ‘+ & -’ buttons. Zooming in and out with ease helps get to all those intricate details. You’ll find that when you use these keyboard shortcuts you don’t spend so much time worrying about the unnecessary difficulties with the zoom features on the screen. It’s so much easier to zoom with the shortcuts, as you also have more control on just how much you zoom in or out. It’s a tool I use so often that I’d actually recommend you assign the shortcut to a button on your stylus (if possible).

III. Drawing Process

With digital art you basically have a limitless array of options. There are thousands of brushes, colors, and tools. But once again, it’s easy to get overwhelmed (this seems to be a recurring theme in today’s blog).

At the beginning of my digital art journey, I felt this need to use every single brush, every single color and every. single. tool.

I probably spent hours researching how to use every tool and setting. Please, learn from my mistakes. Don’t do that.

Focus on a few simple tools and theories instead. I’m going to briefly discuss a few key topics that’ll help your digital art.

4. Key Tools


The sheer number of brushes available are enough to excite anyone. It reminds me of that giddy feeling I get when I enter an art shop. There’s a simple joy found with the presence of so many options, and it’s no different with digital art.

However, in the beginning it’s best to limit yourself. Try not to go crazy with different shapes and opacities. Rather, choose a few simple brushes. To begin with I’d suggest a round hard brush, a round soft brush, a pen and an eraser.

Here’s a quick guide on how to choose which brushes to use.

Liquify Tool

The liquify tool! This is probably one of my favorite tools and I use it all the time. It allows you to ‘transform’ your painting very easily. With the liquify tool, you no longer need to redraw anything. It makes adjusting and re-proportioning your art very easy.

One thing to be aware of- the liquify tool only applies to the layer you’re using.

If you want to know more about the liquify tool, use this site.


As the name suggests, in digital art you can paint in layers. Have you ever made a rough sketch and then tried to ‘trace’ it by putting another, more transparent piece of paper on top? This is basically that. In digital art, layers give you the opportunity to break down your drawing process and organize everything at the same time.

Layers are a key tool in digital art. It’s going to improve your art almost immediately, because it’s going to simplify the drawing process and make everything ‘cleaner’. With layers, you can concentrate on different parts of your painting. Here’s an example of how I might assign my layers when doing a painting:

1. Rough sketch layer

2. Line art

3. Colour layer

4. Details/rendering

Note- in your program you will find that the layers are in the opposite order i.e.

4. Details/ rendering

3. Colour layer

2. Line art

1. Rough sketch layer

5. Color Theory

Every single color that’s on the spectrum is available for you to use with digital art. There isn’t any need to mix and match. If you need a particular color, it’s there.

It’s easy to go haywire with the colors, but you’ll find that with too many options your finished piece may not look quite... right. This is an interesting topic because it can apply to traditional art as well.

The difference is that with traditional art you don’t usually have hundreds of different colors. Instead, you have maybe 10 or 20 and you can adjust each one accordingly. But with digital art the subtle issues with color are more apparent. There’s a simple solution to this: color theory.

With a basic understanding of color theory, you’ll find your finished pieces look way better. Understanding hues and which colors go well together will bring a more professional quality to your work.

Here’s a helpful article on color theory.

6. Studies

Without a thorough understanding of the fundamentals, you’re never going to produce quality art. What I’ve seen a lot of people who are new to the digital art world do is use all their new tools at the same time without a proper understanding of what they really want to accomplish. Not only do they draw aimlessly, it also shows in their finished product that there wasn’t really a clear goal. Even more apparent is their lack of a strong base.

Luckily for you, there are plenty of ways to build up a solid foundation. One of the fastest ways are studies.

I should probably clarify- when I say studies I’m referring to portrait studies, figure studies, color studies, etc.

So if you’re interested in drawing landscapes, then search up a bunch of landscape photos for reference and study them! The same goes for other areas as well; if you’re interested in character design, or architectural art, then go on Pinterest and find a bunch of photos for reference.

What happens when you do these studies is you start building a deeper understanding into these fields. Personally, I used to be interested in portraits and figure studies. The thing is, I could never draw from imagination because I’d always get the proportions way off. The only way I solved this was by studying these portraits and human figures. That’s how I started to understand how to structure my drawings, and with consistent practice, they slowly started improving.

IV. Daily Habits And The Internet

The last thing I want to discuss in this blog post is concerning your daily habits and how to use the internet to improve your digital art.

By now it’s clear that the best way to improve your digital art is by daily practice. But there’s one thing that people often confuse; the key is not to work hard, but to work smart. Spending hours in front of a screen doing the same things won’t help you. In fact, it might lead to a burnout.

What you should do is clearly assign yourself some ‘practice time’ and ‘play time’.

In your practice time, you should do studies, work with a reference, try to understand structure and perspective, etc. Use the internet and sites like Pinterest to get material. And don’t forget YouTube! YouTube is a literal goldmine. There are thousands of tutorials and so much advice just sitting there waiting for you!

Additionally, you could also check out professional online courses that will help you gain lots of knowledge in only a short period of time. Most of them won't break the bank and are definitely affordable!

Here’s one of the best sites ever for beginners in digital art. Seriously, it can’t get better than this.

Once you’re done with practice though, it’s play time! This is your time to have fun and experiment. While you can basically do whatever you want during this time and paint from your imagination, I recommend you implement what you learned from practice time here.

It’s a great idea to put what you practice, into practice. Otherwise, what’s the point? The goal here isn’t to study, but to be creative and work with your newfound knowledge.

V. Conclusion

Well guys, I hope that you got what you were looking for. These 6 ways are definitely foolproof, I’ll give you that. Each one has a specific purpose, whether it’s to help you get comfortable with digital art or to actually improve your fundamental skills.

Unfortunately, just reading how to improve your art isn’t going to cut it, so stop lingering around, get some motivation and start drawing!

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