Easy Steps to Improve Your Digital Illustrations

by Anthony Clark

Over the years, drawing as got very easy with the advent of technology and the evolution of computers. Artists transfer their ways of drawing from the normal pen to paper that we know to the one drawn with a computer system. The significant difference is that the production is digital, and the interface is straightforward to relate with. The evolution over time had afforded a way to fuse the traditional art blurring and to blend with the digital trends of art. And the presentation is more in digital media.

Digital illustration, however, is the use of recent digital and technological tools to (re)produce images with a straightforward and explicit manipulation under the discretion of the artist using devices called pointing devices (e.g. mouse, tablets). There is a difference between these digital illustrations and the art that are generated by computers (computer-generated art) using the programmed mathematical models created and controlled by the artist. Moreover, they are also different from the photo manipulations that deals with the intentional manipulations of images or combinations of images to form a concept. But digital illustrations are those constructed from scratch through drawing and painting.

Easy Steps to Improve Your Digital Illustrations

Hence, to create unique and fantastic art that will be alluring for the audience, there are tips and cerebral steps to work out considering the intentionality demanded to be an outstanding illustrator. Creating exceptional digital arts is more like preparing for a great match - the El-Clasico as called in Spanish, and to achieve this all effort must be exerted to be the victor and of course the competition is against self. However, it requires a very high level of patience, commitment and immense strategies.

Train Yourself Consistently - Not Just Draw Consistently

Train Yourself Consistently - Not JustDraw Consistently
Train Yourself Consistently - Not JustDraw Consistently

As much as consistency is preached, it must be understood that drawing every day alone cannot do the work of improvement in an artist. Imagine that all you started doing as an artist is to draw stickman for a very long time, after such measured time, it will not have translated to a very demanding and highly sought skill like hyper-realism. So, with consistency comes a level of limitation with care is not taken, and such artist is not intentional about growth. However, the only way to grow is to challenge yourself to get better than you used to be every day. And this brings an experience to build on.

So, just like for an athlete, a six-pack abs do not only surface on its own nor his room filled with trophies and medals but with intentional training both physically and psychologically. This means that as an artist, you must train yourself consistently, not just draw always.

List Your Weaknesses and Strengths as An Artist

To keep track your progress and as an artist and illustrator, you must keep a record of the things to celebrate and the things to work on better. And these are your strengths and your weaknesses. A simple to do that is to keep journals or create a new document with a two paneled table with one side labelled strengths and the other shortcomings. Log in the details, and you have noticed them in yourself.

Example of strengths can be your understanding of color psychology and the ability to translate it into very colorful art. Another can be your style of art and the extent of creativity in all your illustrations. These strengths might be those you discovered in yourself, or those things pointed out but people around including the communities of others artist.

Examples of weaknesses can be the amount of time taken on each illustration that makes you a slow illustrator; it can also be the quality of materials and gadget affordable to you as the case may be.

Set and Target Your Creative Goals

One of the things that will help you improve your digital illustration skill is to set creative goals and work towards achievement. This, in many ways, allows you to enhance your skill as it encourages consistency and growth. Sometimes, its good to have an expert's opinion on your work printout.

Know that Rome is not an empire built in a day; you must break your big goal and vision down to the small bit and achieving it in that wise. The general goal is to be better in digital illustration but, the smaller goals might be to improve the quality of framework sketches, the sense of light and body pose.

An English quote said "the bridge between goals and accomplishment is discipline" and this is to say that we need the highest form of discipline to achieve the set goals and even any other way of life goals in life.

Determine and Tackle Your Old Habits

Determine and Tackle Your Old Habits
Determine and Tackle Your Old Habits

There are those bad habits that are holding you back from being successful in your creative journey. And the primary way to achieve that is to reflect on the past works done and bring out those things that are done which should be done.

Truth is there is always that thing that makes the former design low, and the goal here is to fish them out and make a conscious effort to get them fixed. Unless this is done, those mistakes and bad habits will be repeated over and over again, and in any way, the growth as a digital illustrator will not be definite.

The first and primary goal of this task is to know and improve the weaknesses that your illustrations exhibit. It is essential to keep collages of old and past works for them to serve as a reminder of how much you have grown over time.

Learn Strategies Used in Process Videos

Some videos show the processes of achieving a particular effect in digital illustration or even a general video of a digital illustration from start to finish. Most artists show their digital illustration step-by-step processes utilizing screenshots, videos and animated GIFs, so these should be what an upcoming illustrator will pay attention to and will study to absorb and learn the strategy used by the artists.

All thanks to technology, we live in a generation where artists' secrets are not as secretive as it used to be in time past as different artists share their secrets daily given an upcoming artist more ground to cover to be better in the art.

Instead of just watching the art in bewilderment and amusement, it will be essential to study the accompanying notes to each processed video, and in case there is none, a diligent study can be carried out to understand what was done in the videos.

Improve Line Art and Your Sketch Quality

One of the ways to make illustration better is to have a very comprehensive and detailed line art and sketches before painting or adding color in any way. To get something nice and very clean, one of the ways is to sketch over and over again. Even, there might be times that it will be required to sketch like thrice or even more to get a better quality in all your choices.

Sketches and line arts form the framework of the intended illustration, so great attention must be placed on it in all ways and as such must be improved to get a better illustration with better quality.

Develop Ideas Efficiently

Before any illustration is embarked on, you must be very sure that the idea is not one that it haphazardly cooked ad, it will be evident after the whole painting. The concept of the illustration must have been considered thoroughly, and master as this even makes the workflow more comfortable and more straightforward.

The disadvantage of not efficiently developing ideas is that it makes you have many uncompleted projects, and in the long run, most of them will not be revisited.

However, the primary way to develop ideas more thoroughly and efficiently here is the list of the few things that can be done.

  • Keep stock of the sketches that birth the main idea and have them in view when the main illustration started.
  • Also, create a web diagram that will help you develop the idea and let the central idea be at the center of the web diagram for effectiveness.
  • Keep a list of keywords to remember when the main painting started so as not to get stuck or stranded after starting the illustration painting.

Work on Speed

Another way to improve one's illustration skills is to focus on more speed arts. There is a number of ways to get better with speed, and one of it is to convert your initial sketches to thumbnails which will allow you to practice lighting and the coloring schemes. This practice act aims to develop muscle memory and also to test run your sketch before the actual painting.

This might look like extra work to be done, but a commitment to it will yield over time as it will allow you to master some subtle acts in the art.

Develop a Painting Formula

You do not start painting by painting (sound surprising?). Yes! To begin painting there are things to be done and be put in place to achieve optimum effectiveness in the whole painting exercise, and this is to have a painting formula that will guide you from start to finish of the entire painting.

Before painting, break down the whole painting exercise into sections to form a formula to work with for subsequent painting exercises. Listed below the three most important sections for a formula to have:

  • What to be done before starting

To start a painting session and an exercise, there are those things the need to be in place, like the self-assessment which are those things you have learnt over time and wanted to implement in the session. Another thing is the diagrams needed, and this is spoken of extensively under the "Develop Ideas Efficiently" point.

  • What to be done during the painting exercise

During the painting, some things need to be in place as well as the line arts, the painting thumbnails for effective navigation and the whole painting studies.

  • The final activities to round the painting session off.

In rounding off, however, there are those things to be done to perfect the art, and these might include the complete study of the painting to see the need for final tweaks and also to see the need for any adjustments whatsoever.

So, if this formula is mastered very well, it will make painting more comfortable and faster in any way and at such makes the artist better.

Best Tools to Improve Your Digital Illustrations

Before concluding, it will be expedient to look through the gadgets used in achieving a great and fantastic illustration.

Devices used Evaluation of the devices Price
Mice For an illustrator, this is an inferior device to use, considering its non-precision in painting. $14.99
Graphic Tablet This is the significant device made for digital illustrator, and it makes the painting significantly more comfortable with the presence of a stylus which gives you the feeling of drawing on pen and paper. Ranges from $50 - $300 depending on size, quality and brand.
Hybrid Graphic Tablet
  1. Over time, the graphics tablet has been made with the screen on its own, which makes it handier because you are less dependent on your computer system even though the tablet is connected to it.
  2. It is just like having an external monitor that allows you to control your computer system and also gives you the feeling of using a graphic tablet.
$500 upward depending on brand and size.


These steps or devices might look hard and expensive, but they are essential to becoming a very great illustrator. The investment of a right gadget is worth it as the while tips expounded up there will not worth it if there is no right gadget to practice.

About Anthony Clark

Anthony Clark always had a passion for digital drawing and printing ever since he was young. He would wander around his parents' house in Phoenix, Arizona drawing various things with his older digital tablet. Be it just a memory collection or a portrayal of anything: objects, parents, school, events, etc. He received his BA in Graphic Design at San Jose State University - the heart of Silicon Valley. Now Mr. Clark is excited to present his experience coupled with some colorful dips to help shape the future of printing.

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