Tips for Beginners: Getting Started in Digital Art

Tips for Beginners: Getting Started in Digital Art

The biggest problem that arises when you move to digital illustration is preparing your set-up and choosing a device. This article summarizes the main things you need to think of when getting started.


If you’re thinking of starting digital art for the first time, the following questions might have crossed your mind:


“Can I draw with my current computer?”

“Drawing software sounds expensive.”


If you’re worried about this, read below for a summary of all you need to know when getting started. (Please note that prices in this article are only a guideline.)


1. Computer


If you already own a computer, you can continue using it without buying a new one. You can also use a laptop to digitally draw illustrations if it has good enough system requirements. If you find that your computer lags or freezes a lot, you should consider adding more memory or replacing it.


If you go to a shop to purchase a new computer, let the person helping you know that you are looking for a device for art programs and digital drawing so they can help find one that better suits your needs.


Memory-wise, although you can draw using only 4 GB memory, I recommend going with 8 GB or more if you want to get the most out of your new device.
Many recommend Mac computers for drawing, but you can absolutely draw without any problems on a Windows device. Feel free to choose the operating system you prefer.



You also have the option of drawing on a smartphone or tablet using a stylus. However, these options tend to be limited technologically, so they might hold you back or make you feel less confident as they tend not to reflect the details of strokes.


Make sure you select a device that meets your drawing needs, including how serious you want to draw.


2. Illustration software


Digital illustration refers to illustrations drawn using a drawing program or application. Various types of software exist, ranging from freeware to paid professional programs and applications.


Expensive software have advanced features, but that does not necessarily mean it’s easier to draw with (or that they will meet your needs).
It’s best to get some hands-on experience first. Most paid software have a free trial, so you can choose whether or not to purchase something after testing it. Also consider your budget.



The big names in software

Adobe Photoshop
A world-famous graphics software. With its long history and advanced features, it has attracted many professional designers. It is often known simply as Photoshop.
Adobe 7-day Free Trial


Clip Studio Paint
A sophisticated software for comics and illustration. The software is popular with many professional artists, especially comic artists. It’s sometimes abbreviated to “Clip Studio” or “CSP”.
30-day free trial of Clip Studio Paint


Paint Tool SAI
An intuitive and simple drawing software. The software has less features, but operates smoothly even with low specification.
31-day free trial of SAI
Software is an important tool for drawing. You should choose the software according to what you want to draw, whether illustrations, comics, portraits, anime-style art, watercolor-style paintings, landscapes, or characters.



3. Pen tablet


Connect this tool to your computer to draw.
You can draw smoother lines with a pen tablet, so if you want to draw a picture on a computer, you should prioritize this tool. You will find several companies that sell pen tablets, but Wacom tablets are the most popular products. Wacom’s product line-up is really solid.



Wacom has a huge range of tablets in different in sizes and specifications, but if you are a beginner, theWacom Intuos S is a good budget choice at less than 100 dollars. However, it only comes in a small size of 200 × 160 mm.
Although it is slightly more expensive, the Wacom Intuos with Bluetooth comes in a small and medium size (264×200 mm) size. In addition, this product comes with a bundled two-year Clip Studio Paint license, so it’s ideal for artists without a drawing software.


In any case, you should test the drawing feeling before purchasing the pen tablet.
Please keep in mind that the tip will gradually become short, and will require replacement after a certain period.




4. Monitor

You don’t need to purchase a new display if you’re confident with the current one.
However, if you are planning to buy a new monitor, choose a large one because it will reduce the tiredness. 20 inches or more is good!



5. Other

Although this is not a necessary item, if you want to draw the sketch on a paper, you need a scanner. You can convert the sketch into a digital data, open it with software, and ink digitally. You can also import hand drawn textures/colors and use them as illustration materials. If you want to export the illustration, you will need a printer.
There is no need to buy a new mouse or keyboard if you already have one that works properly. Consider buying a new one when you start using a lot of shortcut keys.


If you want to start digital drawing, the start-up costs can vary wildly depending on what you buy:


Computer(Including the monitor)… Between US$450–US$2,800
Pen tablet… Between US$100–US$2000 yen or more
Software… Free or up to $300 yen (or even more depending on what you buy!)
Scanner… From US$100


On the other hand, if you decide not to buy a computer, and use a freeware with a small pen tablet, you can get started from around US$100.



When drawing traditionally, your supplies eventually run out and you have to purchase them again. However, with a digital environment, you do not have to replace the equipment, costing less in the long term.
You don’t need to start with a high-performance computer, but can gradually shift to a more suitable device when you need to. You will gradually understand what you need for drawing a better illustration, such as a more pressure-sensitive pen tablet or a less glossy monitor.


See the following articles to learn more about creating illustration and manga in a digital environment!

・Extracting Hand-drawn Line Art for Digital Coloring

・The Differences Between Drawing Digital Manga and Hand-drawn Manga!


(Created by: Nyle Inc.)
(Author: Wakako Ishida)
(Illustration: Andy♂)