Digital art tips & tricks

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What does she have to tell her nail tech to get that look? Jorah Bright

Some ways to step up your portrait game

Digital art has become more and more popular in recent years as more and more people switch their mediums from traditional to digital. Artists are sharing their work on social media and gaining a following from it. With this rise, more and more people are getting involved in art and learning how to draw.

I was one of those people. I started drawing in late 2019 and switched to digital during the initial lockdown of 2020. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about digital art and picked up a few tips and tricks that I am here now to share with you. I use Clip Studio Pro for my art, but these tips should be universal for any program!

References

One of the most important pieces of drawing is using references. If someone tries to tell you that using references is wrong or cheating, they’re lying to you. Using references is more than okay – and is standard practice for almost every professional artist. Using references will help you with your drawing. When looking for references, I recommend AdorkaStock. They have a huge gallery of pose references meant for artists. You can likely find what you’re looking for, or something similar, if you’re looking for a pose reference.

Additionally: Frankenstein your references. Combine them. It’s a lot easier to put a face reference onto a body reference and make it one than having them separate and trying to make them work together. That being said: use more than one reference. Use as many as you need. Not sure if one thing looks right? Find a reference. Use yourself as a reference if you need. Lots of artists use their own hands as references when drawing hands.

Practice

I know, I know. When you ask an artist what you can do to make your art better, they always say to practice. But they’re right! My art from a year ago is so different from my art right now. The more you draw, the more you learn. Keep practising.

A good way to practice is to do individual studies. Find a few references for something you want to practice and focus on that. Want to do a nose study? Grab a few pictures of different noses and draw them. See how the lines and the planes can be different. You can do these studies for almost anything: anatomy, eyes, hair, portraits – and the more you study, the more you learn.

Texture

One of the biggest things that I’ve learned in the past few months is to add texture to your drawings. Adding textures makes drawings feel more realistic. For clothing textures, grab a noise brush, add a clipping mask onto your clothing layer, change the blend mode on the clipping mask to multiply, set your brush to the colour of the clothes, and draw. Once you’re done that, lower the opacity to your liking. I tend to stick around 25% to 40%. Then, do it again on a new clipping mask layer but with the blend mode set to screen. Then, lower the opacity, I recommend 10% to 18%, but it’s up to you. For skin texture, the premise is the same, but I recommend looking up a skin texture brush for whatever drawing program you use.          

Lighting and Shadows

Adding lighting and shadows to your drawing can be incredibly important. It adds a great deal of depth. The easy way to do this is to apply a clipping mask to your base layer and use multiply for shadows and screen for highlights with the colour of your base layer as what you’re using. This will give you the basics of darker and lighter than your original colour. But don’t stop there. As much as your drawing has more depth to it now, leaving it here can make it look muddy and less visually interesting. After that, play around with complementary colours. A complementary colour is whichever colour is opposite on the colour wheel. Using complementary colours allow your shadows to stand out more and your art to look more distinct in its colours.

by Jorah Bright

Watch Other Artists

Watch other artists. Find videos of other artists, whether they be simple tutorials, speed draws, or process videos. Watch the way other artists do things and see if it can be applied to your art. My personal favourite Youtube channel to watch is Drawfee. Each episode has three to four people drawing in their own unique styles. By watching so many different styles, there’s a lot you can pick up on. And each video has a different drawing challenge, so there’s a lot of different things they draw that you can learn from.

Planes of the Face

Learning the planes of the face – the ways that the skin lays on the face above muscle and bone – can be really important in anatomy practice. But a simpler way of learning face anatomy and proportions is by using your own face. The bottom of your ear will usually line up with the bottom of your nose and the top of your ear will usually line up with the bottom of the eyebrow. The corners of your mouth will line up with the centre of your eye. And to extend past the face, your hand is normally the size of your head, your feet are the same size as your forearm, and your elbows are at the same point as your bellybutton. Remember: these are very, very general rules of proportions. Not everyone’s face and body will be like this, and it’s okay if it’s not. These art rules are often taken from old European artists who used themselves or other European models for their art. Keep that in mind when you research art techniques. If you don’t line up with their rules, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.

Eyebrows

Eyebrows can make or break a portrait drawing. They are key to expression. Furrowed brows can mean anger while raised brows mean surprise, all while the eyes never change in shape. When you work with portraits, pay attention to how the eyebrows are placed and curved.

Warm-up Drawings

I cannot stress this enough: warm-up drawings are one of the most important things in art. If you are about to draw a big piece that will take you a long time, warm up first. Sketch something small, anything you want. Doing warm-ups will prepare your muscles for drawing and can prevent small injuries in your hands and shoulders. Warm-up drawings can help with linework and get you in the right frame of mind to work on a drawing.

Hand Stretches

If you are an artist, please take care of your hands. If your hand starts hurting, stop drawing. Many artists wreck their hands by ignoring aching hands and continuing to draw. Stretch your hands before you work on a drawing. Add this to part of your warm-up drawing. If you are someone who draws a lot, consider buying a hand brace for carpal tunnel prevention.

Have Fun!

Even if you feel like your art is terrible, you just made art. You took something that didn’t exist before and then created it. It’s a great feat. All art is good art. Keep drawing, keep practising. Draw because you love it and you have fun doing it, not because it may be good or bad.

And those are my tips and tricks! I hope they are helpful to you, and I wish you happy drawing.

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