You’ve wondered, right?
Back then, when you started digital art, you were just a natural artist. You picked a type of digital art that piqued your interest, got all the drawing tools, and proceeded to pour your heart out in digital paintings, certain that you would eventually move your creative journey without putting your life on hold.
But now you’re getting a little worried.
You don’t see your skills improving. You’ve experienced a plateau. You’ve seen the draw-every-day rule doesn’t help you reach your artistic goal faster, and your dream of becoming a professional digital artist is becoming more distant by the day.
Not that you haven’t tried. You’ve done everything professional artists suggest you do, like following great tutorials and choosing the right colours. But no matter how hard you work, no matter how many different techniques you try, none of it is working.
So you wonder:
Could you have messed up in the beginning?
Could you have chosen the wrong type of digital art?
Could you be wasting your time trying to keep your creative passion alive when the only sensible thing to do is junk it and start over?
Well, creating digital art is like prepping for a greater match. You only become a victor when you manage to conquer your opponent—yourself. It calls for intense commitment, strategies, and lots of patience.
Does Drawing Every Day Equal Skill Improvement?
If you draw a stick man for three months straight, do you think by month three you’ll have the skill to take on concept art portraits?
It’s a pitfall to plant the idea that your technique will automatically improve if you draw every day. It’s a misconception. In fact, creating the same art over and over again can limit your skill sets.
The best way to practice drawing effectively is to challenge yourself. If you want to see incredible transformations in your art, you’ll need to train like an athlete.
Step #1. Identify Your Creative Strength and Weakness
Your first step to improve digital illustration skills is to understand where you’re at right now. Probing your strength and weakness will clarify what the best next step is and how you can approach it.
Assess your creatives:
- Are you a slow or a fast painter?
- Do you like creating colourful art or black and white?
- Are you more of a concept artist, or do you prefer a realistic style?
- Is your art always dark or bright?
- Do you struggle with creativity? Must you have a reference image, or are you okay without one?
There are more artistic aspects you can assess. When you understand yourself, you’ll identify habits that hold you back and what steers you forward.
Step #2. Target Your Creative Goals
After identifying what works for you and what holds you back, it’s easier to focus on what you want to work on.
What art precisely do you want to master? Is it concept art you want to accelerate with character creation, or do you want to unleash your creative expression? Is it mastering Adobe Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint, or all you want is to expand your drawing experience?
Whatever your goals are, try not to do everything all at once.
For instance, your main focus might be to improve the line quality in your sketches, accelerate character creation, and improve your digital drawing experience. Tackle this by challenging yourself with a new painting. In that painting, do your best to stay aware of your old habits and try to overcome them one at a time.
Step #3. Learn Strategies from Pros
Chances are, many artists have gone through all the challenges you’re facing right now and have successfully addressed them. You’d want to leverage their experience to strategize better.
In this digital era, professional digital artists share their secrets, strategies, and tips online. All you need is to hang out on the right platform.
However, it’s easy to get lost in the tutorial videos, so focus on picking up specific strategies an artist used to complete their work.
Don’t just watch the videos or photos for inspiration.
Keep a keen eye to learn plenty of tools in Photoshop that artists use other than brushes. Then pick one of the methods you’d want to incorporate into your process.
Since your issues are unique, search for tutorials that specifically address your issue.
When you need serious creative help, join online classes to get the ultimate art education from the world’s top artists. Some of the best on the web include:
From the platforms above, you can learn nearly everything—from getting digital art exercises to learning how to focus on digital art.
Step #4. Develop Complete Ideas for Concept Art
When drawing without a reference image, you’ll need to work out your idea before painting to avoid ending up with files of unfinished work.
The best way to develop complete ideas is to create a list of all the characteristics you want in that painting.
When the composition isn’t in your mind yet, you can cheat the process with photo manipulation. Feel free to gather image references and manipulate them into a concept that you want on Photoshop.
Then, use your new photo manipulation as the guideline for your composition. Photo manipulation makes the drawing process easier because you won’t waste time figuring out the different lighting scenarios, body positions, or details you want to include.
Step #5. Improve Line Art and Sketch Quality
Now that the photo manipulation has done the legwork for you, sketching your art should be easy. Dedicate your time to small details like constructing a perfect line.
It’ll take several passes to end up with clean lines. That means you’ll have to technically experiment—draw or trace some sketches over and over again.
Start with a rough sketch to understand the placement of your details. Then you can lower the opacity of the rough sketch and create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + N) above it for a clearer version.
Make fluid but deliberate strokes. Anytime a stroke seems out of place, start that stroke over until it blends.
Step #6. Improve on Speed
There are plenty of ways artists can improve drawing speed.
One way is to convert your sketch to multiple thumbnails to practice colouring and lighting schemes. Practising the same thing develops muscle memory while allowing you to test drive your sketch before committing to a painting.
While practising colouring and lightning schemes might appear like extra work, it saves you a lot of painting time in the end.
Step #7. Develop a Painting Formula to Crank more Drawings Quickly
Finishing a painting doesn’t mean learning has come to an end.
Any improvement you see in your work is an opportunity to learn how you got there. Therefore, break down the process of a successful improvement into a formula. Remember that you’re a creative athlete who has to exercise the mind.
The formula can be as simple as assessing:
- What you need before starting (self-assessment, concept building)
- What you need to do during the painting (line weight you need, studies you need, thumbnails)
- What you need to finish your art (final tweaks and adjustments)
Once you tune to the rhythm of your formula, you’ll be almost certain to crank paintings out in no time.
Learn More on How to Improve Your Digital Drawing Skills
After reading this guide, some might find the above steps hard to execute. After all, the concept of hard work is subjective. And what might be hard to draw for one artist might be easier for another.
But at the end of it all, all artists have one need in common:
Creating better art.
So trust yourself. However, be honest with your strengths and weaknesses. Experiment with different methods. Master your formula, and it’ll reflect in your art.
If you’re struggling, an ultimate art education might serve you best. Sign up for one of the best drawing classes to explore new skills, deepen your existing passion, and help you reach your artistic goals faster.