Digital Art Terms: a Glossary of Words and Definitions

Terminology and Vocabulary for words related to Digital Art
Date Updated: 
December 1, 2023
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Check out this giant glossary of Digital Art words and their definitions - stay informed and at the cutting edge of Digital Art!
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For the new Digital Artist, and even one with a few years under their belt, there are a lot of strange words to learn - it can be a bit overwhelming.

Not to mention how some common words that mean one thing in everyday life might mean something totally different in digital art (value, anyone?!)

It can be a little difficult to understand some of the artist conversations out there - that's why we're maintaining this 'living document' of digital art words and terminology here, to help you stay in the loop.

We'll keep updating and expanding this resource for you!

Some of the included words might seem very broad at first, but in their explanations and definitions we've tackled them specifically for digital artists.



A term given to forms created by the artist that usually don't resemble the original object at all. Usually forms are simplified or rearranged to suit the needs of artistic expression.

Additive color

Property of a color model that predicts the appearance of colors made by coincident component lights, i.e. the perceived color can be predicted by summing up the component colors. Additive color predicts perception and not any sort of change in the light. These predictions work only when viewers match small patches of uniform color isolated against a grey or black background.

Additive color models are applied in the design and testing of electronic displays that render images containing diverse sets of color using phosphors that emit light of a limited set of primary colors. Examination with a sufficiently powerful magnifying lens will reveal that each pixel in CRT, LCD, and most other types of color video displays is composed of red, green, and blue light emitting phosphors which appear as a variety of single colors when viewed from a normal distance.

Additive color, alone, does not predict the appearance of mixtures of printed color inks, dye layers in color photographs on film, or paint mixtures. Instead, subtractive color (definition further down) is used to model the appearance of pigments or dyes, such as those in paints, inks.

Airbrush tool

Tool available in most digital painting software. It attempts to imitate the actual airbrush tool (a tool that sprays various media, most often paint but also ink and dye). In digital art airbrush tool is mostly used for shading and creating smooth gradients.

Analogous colors

Analogous colours are sets of three colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel. Usually they match really really well with each other, creating very pleasing, harmonious palettes. You can often find examples of analogous color sets in nature.


Animation is used to create movement with digital imagery. Animators manipulate figures so they would appear as moving images.

Traditionally animation was created by drawing or painting images on transparent paper and then photographed and exhibited on film. Nowadays the technological advances allow for amazing computer-generated imagery (CGI). Both 3D and 2D computer animation is widely used in the creative fields, depending on the project and it's goal.

Appropriation art

Art in which the artist uses pre-existing images in their art, with very little alteration. The goal of this is so the viewer can recognize the original imagery, in hopes that it will evoke specific associations.

Arbitrary color

Color in an artwork, that is completely different from how the same thing would be in real life (neon pink people, black oak trees, etc)

Artist statement

The creator's comment about what is their craft and why they do it.

Artist trading cards.

Conceptual art project, started by M. Vänçi Stirnemann. Self-made unique works or small series, signed and dated by the artist. (2.5'' x 3.5'' - same format as modern sports trading cards).

Asymmetrical composition

A form of balance in artwork, when the components balance on either side of a vertical axis and are not identical, but are placed in positions within the picture plane to create a feeling of balance of the total form concept.



Abbreviation of black and white (also seen as B&W) - black and white images combine black and white colour in a continuous spectrum, producing a range of shades of gray.


In an image, area that appears furthest away from the viewer. Everything else is on top. In digital art usually referencing the background layers,(layers that are under the rest) as the rest of the layers contain other objects in the painting that are in front of the background.

Balanced composition

Composition type when the components in the artwork are set up in a way that gives a feeling of equal weight and/or attraction.


The merging of colors and / or values. There are few main methods that digital artists use to blend when rendering.

Blend tool

The name is quite self explanatory - it's a digital software tool that has few different settings you can use for blending colours or values in your painting (usually blend, blur, variations of those, some others). There's a right way and wrong way to use this.

BMP - bitmap file.

Bitmap image file (sometimes also known as device independent bitmap (DIB) - raster graphics image file format used to store bitmap digital images, without the display device. It's capable of storing two dimensional digital images.


The edge or frame of a painting or digital workspace (canvas).

Brush tool / pencil tool

Both of these are one of the main tools of digital painting software.
Both of these are exactly what the name implies - brush tool imitates real life brushstrokes, and pencil tool imitates real life pencils.
The main difference between these is that the pencil tool is limited to only hard brush tips, albeit any size or shape. It's only able to create hard-edged line. However the brush tool provides way more variety, as you can have brushes that create very soft edges, or even blending brushes.

Brush tip

The image used for creating specific digital brushes. You can think of it as the ink that's flowing out of a pen / brush. When creating a digital brush, you start with creating the brush tip image, and only then you're able to adjust the rest of the settings of the particular brush you're trying to make.



Method of using strong light and dark contrast, affecting all of the composition. Also a term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrast to achieve a sense of volume when modelling.

Clip art

Illustrations or designs; very simplified pre-made images used to illustrate. Most of clip art today is created, distributed, and used digitally.

Closed composition

Art composition where all the elements are inside the frame, not crossing the border. The used elements do not guide the viewer's eye to any other object in the image, or anywhere else for that matter.


Command key or Control key. Keys used in a lot of painting digital software shortcuts. Cmd in MAC; Ctrl in PC.


Subtractive color model, based on the CMY color model, used in printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four ink plates used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colors on a lighter, usually white, background. The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected. Such a model is called subtractive because inks "subtract" the colors red, green and blue from white light. White light minus red leaves cyan, white light minus green leaves magenta, and white light minus blue leaves yellow.

In additive color models, such as RGB, white is the "additive" combination of all primary colored lights, while black is the absence of light. In the CMYK model, it is the opposite: white is the natural color of the paper or other background, while black results from a full combination of colored inks. To save cost on ink, and to produce deeper black tones, unsaturated and dark colors are produced by using black ink instead of the combination of cyan, magenta, and yellow.

(Source: Wikipedia)


Produced by light waves striking an object and reflecting back to the eyes. It's qualities include hue, intensity (purity and strength of the color), and value (darkness of color). The things we know as "colour names" like red, orange, etc are colour categories. Color categories and physical specifications of color are associated with objects through the wavelengths of the light that is reflected from them and their intensities. This reflection is governed by the object's physical properties such as light absorption, emission spectra, etc.

Colour emotion (colour psychology)

Whether the individual person realises it or not - colours subconsciously evoke associations and emotions in us. Some of it is subjective, but there are some overarching elements that can be seen almost as a fact. Also what needs to be kept in mind that different cultures can perceive the emotion and the language of colours differently.

Overall, especially when it comes to art pieces and relaying a mood and/or emotion in the piece, these are the following emotions that colours relay:

Red tones: passion, aggression, importance, domination, energy

Orange tones: playfulness, enthusiasm, energy, youthfulness, invitation, vitality

Yellow tones: happiness, friendliness, energy, spontaneity

Blue tones: serenity, balance, trustworthiness, invitation, spirituality, openness, calmness, professionalism

Green tones: nature, stability, freshness, prosperity, health, calm, optimism

Purple tones: luxury, mystery, creativity, romance, nobility, wealth

Pink tones: youthfulness, charm, naivety, playfulness, innocence, femininity, romance

Brown tones: groundedness, sturdiness, age, stability, support, practicality, experience

Gray tones: formalness, seriousness, professionalism, neutrality, gloominess, lack of emotion, pessimism

Black: power, boldness, sofisticatedness, edginess (need a better word?), class, seriousness,

White: cleanliness, minimalism, purity, calmness, health, simplicity, virginity,

Keep in mind that these are mostly overall suggestions and talks about these colours in their more neutral range of value and intensity. Any neon colour will always convey energy, even if it's one of the colours that would express calm. Any dark tones will always be more filled with mistique or grim feeling. Not to mention when you're using certain colours together to try to convey more complicated moods and designs. Context matters a lot.

Color wheel

Radial diagram where primary, secondary, and tertiary colors are displayed. It is arranged specifically to show the relationships between all the displayed colors - red , yellow and blue, which are considered primaries in this case, are put in three equally spaced points, and the rest of the colors are determined accordingly - mixtures of the primary colors in betweent them, mixtures between the primaries and secondaries between those, etc,etc.

Complementary colors

Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are considered to be complementary colors (like orange and blue). The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look especially when used at full saturation.


Organization or arrangement of the visual elements in an attempt to develop a unity in the total work of art. There are different classic composition types, like rule of thirds, centre composition, symmetrical composition, frame within a frame, rule of odds, etc.

Compositional movement

Compositional movement is the movement of the viewer’s eye through a given composition. Compositional movement can be either static or dynamic. Static movement jumps between isolated parts of a composition. Dynamic movement flows smoothly from one part of the composition to another.


The value of what's displayed in the artwork - sensory, psychological and emotional properties that the significance and aesthetic value conveys to the perceiver.


The circumstances in which a work of art is produced and interpreted. 3 areas are addressed: the artist; the setting in which it was produced; the interpretive mode of the audience

Contour lines

Lines that surround and define the edges of a subject, giving volume and shape,separate from the objects outline.


The difference between two things: light/dark, inside/outside, colors, warm/cool, curvy/angular, differing subject matter.


The visual illusion of apparent parallel lines meeting at a central point in infinite space.

Cool color

Greens, blues, and violets, associated with water, sky, spring, foliage. Calming.

Cool colors are usually described by blues, greens, purples. They can calm and soothe. Where warm colors remind you of heat and sunshine, cool colors remind you of water and sky, even ice and snow. Unlike warm colors, cool colors look as though they recede, letting you use them as a tool that conveys a feeling of bigger space.


Law. The legal right granted to creator, publisher, or distributor to exclusively publish, produce, sell, or distribute an artistic, literary, theatrical, or musical work. Fair Use and Public Domain are issues that are important in the copyright discussion. The © symbol along with the year declared, and the name of the owner (artist) signify Copyright.

It is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of any creative work, usually for a limited time. Copyright is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself. A copyright is subject to limitations based on public interest considerations, such as the fair use doctrine in the United States.

Some jurisdictions require "fixing" copyrighted works in a tangible form. It is often shared among multiple authors, each of whom holds a set of rights to use or license the work, and who are commonly referred to as rights holders. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and moral rights such as attribution.

Copyrights can be granted by public law and are in that case considered "territorial rights". This means that copyrights granted by the law of a certain state, do not extend beyond the territory of that specific jurisdiction. Copyrights of this type vary by country; many countries, and sometimes a large group of countries, have made agreements with other countries on procedures applicable when works "cross" national borders or national rights are inconsistent.

Typically, the public law duration of a copyright expires 50 to 100 years after the creator dies, depending on the jurisdiction. Some countries require certain copyright formalities to establish copyright, others recognize copyright in any completed work, without a formal registration.

(Source: Wikipedia)


The quality of what a person does as they create with technical skill, manual dexterity, by hand, with or without tools.


Review / statement / that is given by an individual or a group of people (that are hopefully, in most cases, more experienced) about the work that's done by someone who requires critique for that specific work, in some cases all of their work combined in general. Critique is given in order to help the person grow and tackle their issues faster, so ultimately they would improve that specific piece, and also, gain experience that will inevitably be applied to their further work.  


Refer to hatching.


A person in charge of a project where a collection of art pieces come at play, or a person who organizes and arranges a presentation of art pieces.


contained by or consisting of a curved line or lines. Common in Gothic and Art Nouveau ornament


Deadline (or due date)

The time or date by which something must be completed - due dates for art projects. In business world, can result in damaged reputation, loss of income or career.


A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or any other object before it is made. Organization or skilled arrangement of the elements of art into a unified composition or work of art.

Digital art

Electronic artistic work or practice; images composed of bits and bytes of computer memory, created on a computer using software and in some cases hardware. Digital sources come from scans, photos, downloads, or drawing tablets. With software, images are manipulated and / or created, and then used either digitally, or there's physical copies made, depending on the purpose of the piece.

Digital artist

An artist who creates artwork fully or at least partly digitally (refer to digital art)

Digital print

The hard-copy of your digital artwork


Painting on two associated artworks which may be closed like a book. Digitally - collection of two images that are supposed to be viewed together, not separately. Sometimes done on the same digital canvas.

DPI - dots per inch

Measure of resolution of printers or scanners. Number of dots that fit a linear inch, not per square inch. Computer monitor resolution is either 72 or 96 pixels per inch.


The early drawings or sketches of a design. Sometimes called a rough draft. An unfinished work. To draft is the act of making that initial design. ]drawing-depiction of imagery achieved by means of lines. The basis of all pictorial representation.Where most artists begin.


Depiction of imagery achieved by means of lines. The basis of all pictorial representation.Where most artists begin.

Drawing tablet

(Refer to - graphics tablet)


Expressive line

Quality of line that appears to relate to emotions. Curvilinear, angular, thinness or thickness, lightness or darkness, direction, formality, implied lines are related to emotions.


Fair Use

From the Fair Use Provision of the Copyright Act:

Fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include -1. the purpose & character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;2 . the nature of the copyrighted work;3 . the amount & substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;4 . the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors. From the Fair Use Provision of the Copyright Act.

Because the above definition is a little hard to digest - for our purposes as artists, copyright infringement is when a piece of art uses someone elese's copyrighted material and is too similar to the original material; fair use is when copyrighted material has been used, but the art has altered it enough for it to not be considered infringement. When something is altered in this way, it is often referred to as 'transformative', as in the original material has been 'transformed' enough to be considered new material.

What is a “transformative” use? The lawmakers who created fair use did not want to limit its definition, so it has an expansive meaning that is fairly open to interpretation.  This means that things like fan-art walk a very fine line, and the laws around it may change in the future as the definition of fair use evolves.

Fill function

In the Edit drop-down menu in Photoshop, one can find the Fill function which will allow the artist to change colors, put new colors in selected areas. There are numerous ways to fill selections in Photoshop.

Fill Tool is used to pour large areas of paint on to the Canvas that expand until they find a border they cannot flow over. If you want to create large areas of solid color, gradients, or patterns the Fill Tool is the tool to use.


Digitally, filters are layers that alter the look of an image.


Photoshop images are built in layers. When a work of digital art is completed, the artist saves the document & flattens layers together. When the document is reopened, it cannot revert to layers.

Focal point

Portion of a composition which draws the viewer's attention. Structural lines of the drawing may direct the eye to that point. Emphasis.


A way of depicting an object to create an illusion of depth. That which is closer is larger — but exaggerated.


Structure of something. Art elements are part of form & formal structure, also referring to 3D shapes.


Drawn by hand without the use of mechanical devices like straight edges, compass, protractor, computer equipment, etc. Also without tracing. Opposite of mechanical drawing.



Room building, or digital site where artworks are exhibited and often sold.


Any shape or volume having more mathematic than organic design. Typically made of straight lines from geometry: circle, oval, triangle, rectangle, square, quadrilateral, polygon, sphere,cone, cylinder, tetrahedron, pyramid, cube, and other polyhedrons.

Giclée print

French for “sprayed ink” printing process. A continuous tone process called an iris print. High quality, permanent image with deep saturated color. Should be printed on fabric or archival paper with water soluble ink finished with a transparent coating for permanence.

Golden Mean or Golden Section

Ratio obtained by dividing a line so the short part : long part :: longpart : whole. Produces eurhythmy found in nature and in a variety of works of art and design. The dimensions of the Golden Mean have been determined to be aesthetically appealing.


In art - transition between colours and values.

Graphic art

A format in visual art that is linear in character (drawing, engraving, lithography, silkscreen, photography and even digital design). Arts of reproduction.

Graphic design

Art for commercial purposes like logos, letterheads, packaging, ads, posters, books,signs, web pages, and other publications. Arts for printing and online reproduction.

Graphic novel

A novel or story in comic-strip format.

Graphics tablet

Also known as drawing tablet, drawing pad, pen tablet - digital input device that joined with a personal computer enables a user to hand-draw images, animations and graphics, with a special pen-like stylus, similar to the way a person draws images with a pencil and paper. The device consists of a flat surface upon which the user may "draw" on using the attached stylus, a pen-like drawing apparatus. The image is displayed on the computer monitor, or on the graphic tablet itself, if it is a display graphic tablet.

These tablets may also be used to trace an image from a piece of paper which is taped or otherwise secured to the tablet surface. Capturing data in this way, by tracing or entering the corners of linear poly-lines or shapes, is called digitising.

Gray scale

A range of neutral values or shades of gray in an image.



A printed version on physical paper of data held in a computer. A print of a digital image.


A principle of design uniting compatible components. A way of combining elements of art to emphasize similarities & blend the parts into a whole through repetition & simplicity.


An artistic technique that creates value gradation by use of closely spaced lines, closer for darker, wider spacing for lighter. The different types of hatching are parallel hatching, contour hatching, cross-hatching and basket (or woven) hatching.

Parallel hatching - the simplest hatching technique that uses only parallel lines.

Contour hatching - In contour hatching lines follow the contour of the subject, instead of being only parallel. Using this allows the artist to enhance the sense of volume.

Crosshatching - hatching using criss cross lines, used to effectively convey very dark values.

Basket hatching - small sets of parallel lines that stand adjacent to another set of parallel lines, but facing in almost perpendicular direction, used to give more graphic feel.


The area of an object represented in art that receives the greatest amount of direct light.


The name of a color.



The signs and symbols in a work of art, that usually has history and / or deeper meaning behind it. Literally - picture (icon) writing (grafos). Sometimes refers to iconology, the study of iconography.


A design, decoration, interpretation, visual explanation of a text, concept or a process, a story, created by an illustrator. Something that's providing an example in visual form.

Image tools

In Photoshop, a drop down menu of tools to manipulate the digital image which includes color modes, adjustments, sizing, and other options

Implied line

A line that is suggested or inferred rather than directly drawn. Arrows, dotted lines, are examples of implied lines

Implied shape

A compositional device where figures or objects are arranged in invisible shapes triangle, pyramid, s-curve, c-curve.


How an artistic composition of individual fragments of a piece is organized and interwoven to make a harmonious whole.


Brightness or dullness of a hue or color.


A point where two systems meet and interact


How an artist manipulates the elements and principles into a harmonious composition where layers and lines seem to interlace or intertwine.


In the selection menu, converting or deselecting a selected area to select the unselected area.


Under Image Adjustments, changing an image to its color complement. Positive to negative. In some programs, flipping an image upside down / rotating it 180 degrees.



Joint Photographics Experts Group. Graphic file format for compressing digital images.




Type of art piece that displays a view of scenery in nature. Seascape or city-scales are some of the examples of landscapes.

Lasso tool

One of the tools in most digital painting software. Most common types of lasso tool are Lasso, Polygonal Lasso and Magnetic Lasso. Lasso tool essentially allows you to mark a particular bit of your layer as a selection, isolating it from the rest of the painting, so you can do the adjustments planned only in that part of the piece.


Digital work areas that are stacked on one another. They can be individually manipulated through raster or vector functions in Photoshop. One can hide or move the layers to allow other layers to be revealed.

There are different layer types that each serve a specific function: 

Main layers / layer masks Layer mask lets you edit / hide part of the layer.

Image layers Very straightforward - when importing

Adjustment layers A layer that allows you to apply changes on the original layer, without actually changing it.

Fill layers Lets you fill a layer with a solid color / gradient, etc.

Type layers Very straightforward - just layers where you can use typing tool to use different pre-installed fonts to add text to your image.


The arrangements of elements of art using the principles of design. Organizing or setting out images and/or text on a page. It is a plan

Light value

An element of art dealing with the lightness or darkness of an image area.

Line character / line quality

Refers to expressive character of a line.

Linear perspective

System where an artist creates an illusion of 3D space on a flat surface. Uses vanishing point(s), orthogonals, & horizon line.


The liquify filter lets you push, pull, rotate, reflect, pucker, and bloat any area of an image.

Local color

The true or natural color of an object or subject in a work of art seen in daylight.

Lossless compression

Process to reduce storage space for image files without losing pixel information.When decompressed, a lossless file will revert to its original size and quality. .tiff, psd are lossless.

Lossy compression

A process of reducing the size of image files. If decompressed, information will be lost, though it may not initially be readable to the naked eye. .jpg is a lossy format.


Magic wand

One of the digital software tools who's function allows artists to select defined adjacent areas related by color for copying, pasting, deleting, or manipulating within a digital composition.


Japanese comics / graphic novels that have a distinct style. In most cases they are black and white for various reasons, one of them being that the style has developed in a way that color can actually distract from the linework impact. While manga originates in Japan, lately the term has been blurred, as there's many mangakas (artists creating manga) that are not Japanese but are widely accepted.


Using hands-on or computer skills, changing or altering shapes, color, and other elements to make new imagery.


A border or edge of an area. Could be paper, wood, digital document. Wide or narrow.


Tool in most digital software that allows the artist to define and select a rectangular, elliptical,or circular area to be copied, inserted, moved, or deleted within a digital work area.

Matte painting

Painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that is not present at the filming location. Usually this technique uses cutouts of actual imagery and then the artist manipulates them and paints over them till the finished landscape looks realistic.


Material, sometimes technique, used to make a work of art. Digital art is seen as a medium of art.


Use of a single hue or color with all its tints or shades in a composition.


A repetitions figure or design in decorative pattern, used a central focus or thematic variations in a work of art.

Move tool

in Photoshop, a Toolbox choice of crossed arrows that, when active, allows a digital artist to move images around the computer screen with the mouse


Principle of design where implied lines or shape, or repetitious elements cause the eye to move around the surface of the work creating visual movement. In kinetic art, the object actually moved though wind action, manual or motor action.



The approach to art in which the forms used by the artist are essentially descriptive of things that the artist sees.

Negative space

In 2D or 3D work of art, a void or empty space.

Neutral (talking about colour)

Color not associated with a hue on the color wheel, includes browns, blacks, grays, & whites.

Noise (filter)

Filter that applies random pixels to an image, giving it a speckled, grainy look.



In art, the study and analysis of works of art for subject, style, content, and media. Observation skills are a very vital part for artists, to be able to study the different aspects in the reference, like proportions, scale, values and other.

One point perspective

Point-of-view in a work of art where all lines move from the foreground to a single vanishing point on the horizon line in what appears to be the distance in the picture plane.

Opaque (Opacity)

Impenetrable to the passage of light.

Open composition

Image where the lines or shapes appear to go off the edges of the picture plane.


An irregular or regular shape without angles. Very prominent in nature, plants, animals, etc.


First of its kind. An authentic work by the artist‟s own hand.


A single line that defines the perimeter of a flat, 2D shape.


Stacking or placing things on top of each other. In art, overlapping different subjects of the painting gives it a more natural and realistic feeling.



Portable Document Format


Portable Network Graphic. Bitmapped graphics file format endorsed by WWW Consortium.


Extension for a Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation.


PhotoShop Document


The application of pigment in binder to a surface. In digital art in most cases referring to using the brush tools that allow you to replicate traditional painting as close as possible.


Traditionally - a piece of flat material on which paints and their colors may be mixed to achieve color for painting. In digital art, usually referring to the artist's choice of the colors in the art piece. Most digital painting software have tools that let you save a set of colours, a.k.a. a palette, imitating the traditional approach.


A design where subjects of art, e.g. lines, colours, shapes, etc, are repeated.

Principle of design

Repeated colors, shapes, lines, or motifs in a design. 10 classes of patterns include both natural and human made: spirals, mosaics, lattices, symmetry, waves, fractals,meanders, polyhedral, branching, and spheres.

Primary colors

The sets of colors that, when mixed, create a new range of colours, and that cannot be created by mixing any other colour. There's two sets of primary colours, depending on the colour mixing type. In subtractive colour mixing the primary colours are Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. In additive colour mixing the primary colours are Red, Green and Blue. (Refer to subtractive and additive colour mixing to learn more)

Pen pressure

In a lot of styluses (and this also needs to be compatible with the digital painting software you're using) they have the option of using pen pressure. Pen pressure can be used to control how the brush tool behaves and applies settings like size, opacity, angle, jitter, etc.

Pen tool

In digital painting software, a much more precise selection tool. Allows the artist to create paths and shapes in order to manipulate them and duplicate them, creating very complex selections, etc.


A system of lines, horizon line, and vanishing point to achieve a 3D look on a flat surface.

Perspective tool

A digital painting software tool that allows you to set up the perspective of your painting very quickly, without you needing to create a perspective grid on your own.


A software program made by Adobe that allows for image manipulation and art making.


Short for picture element. The dot of color on a monitor. Color is depicted in pixels digitally.

(picture element) is the smallest item of information in an image


A multi-panel work of art. A collection of art pieces consisting of more than three artworks that are supposed to be viewed together.


A hard-copy folder of artworks or a digital collection in artists personal website or art social media websites, that contain representative examples of an artist's work.


Likeness of a specific person, drawn, painted, photographed in full face frontal / three quarter view / profile, full length / half-length / shoulders. Not a self-portrait.

Positive space

All the space in artwork that has any of the subjects in it.


A high contrast treatment of light and shadow. It renders very detailed gradients to only a few blocks of color.

PPI-pixels per inch

Affects the quality and size of an image.

Principles of design

Ideas applied to the organization of the elements of art in a composition. Can include unity, variety, repetition, rhythm, scale, proportion, pattern, balance, harmony, contrast,emphasis, movement, time, anomaly, focal point.

Primary color

The three colors in additive color mixing model that cannot be achieved by mixing any other color - red, green and blue. There is also a second colour mixing model called subtractive colour mixing model where the primary colours are cyan, magenta and yellow. Refer to color / RGB / CMYK for further details.


The relation of two things in size, number, amount, or degree. It is the relationship in scale between one element and another, or between a whole object and one of its parts. Differing proportions within a composition can relate to different kinds of balance or symmetry, and can help establish visual weight and depth.

Puppet warp

An option in some of the digital painting software, that works similarly to Liquify (see here). It lets you put pins anywhere on the mesh on your chosen field, and then lets you adjust it to how you see fit.



(to) Rasterize

Image or bitmap is a data structure representing a generally rectangular grid of pixels, or points of color, viewable via a monitor, paper, or other display medium. Raster is a rectangular pattern of parallel scanning lines followed by the electron beam on a television screen or computer monitor. To rasterise - to convert into pixels for screen output; convert into a raster image.

In digital art rasterising is used to convert vector layers into normal layers.


Natural representation of people, places, or things in a work of art. Not idealized.


An object or image of an object that the artist uses to be able to more successfully replicate the said object in their artwork.


The process of drawing / painting in order to convey 3D shapes on a 2D surface, finishing the artwork.


A copy. Used more often in traditional than digital art.


An artist‟s depiction of what is seen. May be abstracted. Word "representational" describes work depicting what is seen realistically or abstractly.

This is also used in context of a specific artwork being a representation of the artist's overall style.


Reference to scaling the dimensions of a digital image for reproduction, projection, or sending via email.


The visual quality of a digital image expressed in ppi (pixels per inch) on screen or dpi (dots per inch) in printing. PPI and DPI however are often used interchangeably, although they technically are different.


Principle of art that refers to regular placement or repetition of elements of art to create a sense of movement in a work of art. A continuance, a flow, or a feeling of movement achieved by the repetition of regulated visual information.

Rotate / turn around an axis.

An option in most of the digital painting software that allows you to change the orientation of your canvas or selected object.

Rough/rough draft

The early drawings or sketches of a design. Sometimes called a rough draft. An unfinished work. To draft means making that initial design.

Rule of thirds

One of the more popular composition types, that follow the rule of primary elements needing to be off center to make the composition more interesting. You can apply the rule of thirds to canvas of any shape, just splitting it into equal parts of three vertically and horizontally, and then placing the objects of interest on the lines and especially on the points where vertical and horizontal split crosses.



Saturation describes the intensity of the color - the amount / proportion of the hue in the color. A vivid color is of high intensity, a dull color - of low intensity. You reduce saturation of the color by adding grey to it.


Principle of art or design having to do with size. The actual size of something is full-scale

Secondary color

Color made by mixing together 2 primary colors. In the additive color mixing model where red, yellow and blue are the primary colors, the secondary colours are violet, yellow and green.

Selection tools

In most digital painting software, (for example in Photoshop - the Marquee, Magic Wand, Lasso, Move, and Crop Tools) selection tools allow the artist to choose what area of an image to isolate in order to edit.


A likeness that an artist creates using themselves as subject. Self-portraits are very individual for obvious reasons, and can be done in a very literal way, or as abstract as the artist wants.

Serial imagery

Sequential works of art in which one specific object / color / specific characteristic of the image etc. repeats throughout all of the artworks involved.


A collection of multiple artworks that are all connected in a specific way that artist intended. It can range from a specific character to just overlapping theme.


Art technique that uses very very soft and cloudy edges of shapes and colours, creating light smoky / cloudy effect, sometimes used to make things appear out of focus.

Shade (color)

In color theory, a variety of a colour achieved by mixing the colour of your choice and black.

Shade (volume)

Value gradation on a 2D shape that gives the effect of a 3D volume on a 2D surface.


The darker value on the portion of a form’s surface that is turned away from the light source. When shading a form when it comes to shadow specifically you would think about form shadow, cast shadow, occlusion shadow and halftones.


Element of art that refers to geometric or organic forms in 2D and 3D. Circle, sphere, square,cube. 3D shapes are sometimes referred to as volumes or forms.


Keystrokes or key combinations that allow an artist to quickly complete repeated digital painting software functions that are built in the software by default or the artist has set up themselves.


A quick drawing that captures the appearance or action of a place or situation. Preparation drawings for a potentially larger scale work.


Function in some of the digital painting software that allows you to apply horizontal or vertical slant to the image or selection.


Related to stasis. Lack of movement. Complete stillness. In art talking about compositions with vertical lines or figures.

Stabilization (setting)

An optional setting that you can apply to your brush tools that make the movement of the brush, therefore, the brushstroke way more steady and smooth.


Drawn method of shading (similar to hatching) that uses dots rather than lines.


Collection of visual images that show the planned visual narrative of an animation.


A mark an artist makes with a drawing tool, brush, knife, stylus, etc.


An artist's manner and character of their visual expression. While there are very known art styles like impressionism, surrealism, rococo etc., this can also mean the art style of the individual artist and the specific nuances and character in their work, that makes their work very representative of itself and lets everyone know who's the artist upon seeing the piece.


To alter shapes, forms, colors, or textures to make an image in a preset style or manner.


The tool used on a digital drawing tablet, that imitates the traditional pen / pencil. It functions like the computer mouse, and artists use them in junction with digital software programs to replicate different types of pencils, brushes, pens, etc.

Subject matter

This term, in a descriptive style of art, refers to the persons or things represented in a work. In abstract and nonobjective forms of art, it refers to the basic character of all the visual signs employed by the artist. In this case, it has little to do with anything as experienced in the natural environment.

Subtractive color

Color mixing model in which instead of adding up perceived colors (like in the additive colour mixing model) you illuminate "color filters" (partially light absorbing media) with white light, instead of mixing. Commonly used subtractive primary colors are cyan, magenta and yellow (read CMYK for more), and overlapping them equally, the subtracted light creates black. This is mostly used in practice when we talk about color printing and photography.

Symmetrical composition

A form of composition achieved by the use of identically balanced compositional units on either side of an axis within the picture plane.



Tagged Image / Interchange File Format. Flexible file storage format for handling images and data in and between files. Considered an industry standard. Good for saving original images. A lossless format.


The manner and skill in which the artist uses tools and materials to achieve a specific expressive effect.


Art in real time, that has a temporary lifespan (the lifespan of the medium it's made in).

Tenebrism (tenebroso)

Tenebroso is the Italian word for dark, gloomy, mysterious. Tenebrism is also called dramatic illumination - it's a painting style that uses more extreme contrasts between light and dark than chiaroscuro, but the dark parts dominate the painting.

Tertiary colors

Also called intermediate colour, they stand between the primary and the secondary colours in the colour circle - they are mixes of the adjacent primary and secondary colours, and just like primary and secondary colours, they differ in each of the colour models. Taking additive color model as an example , because it's used in traditional painting - the primary colours being red, blue and yellow; secondary colours being violet, green and orange - an example of a tertiary colour would be red-orange (vermillion) or yellow-orange (amber)


An element of art referring to surface quality or the feel of an object (smooth, rough, soft, etc.) In painting conveying different textures on a 2D surface lets the painting be more realistic, as the distinction between materials isn't left only to context, etc.


Having or appearing to have height, width and depth. Achieved through shading,perspective, value gradation.thumbnail-small, loose drawing. Digitally, a small image derived from a larger one for a browsing icon.

Three point perspective

A type of perspective that uses 3 vanishing points (2 on horizon, third one above or below). In art used frequently to convey very extreme landscapes.


In color theory, a variety of a colour achieved by mixing the colour of your choice and white.


In color theory, a variety of a colour that is achieved by mixing the colour of your choice and gray (or tinting and shading the color, meaning, adding white and black).

Tonal correction

Tonal correction is a tool in most digital painting software that allows you to edit brightness, hue, saturation, luminosity, and gradient of your selection / layer, etc.


Copying already existing artwork / image focusing on the lines and contours.

Transformation tool

Tool in most digital painting software that allows you to edit your specific selection's shape by rotating, skewing, flipping, and others.


A property of an object - how much light can travel through the object (it's material). Translucent objects let through only a limited amount of light, therefore making it different from transparent. You describe the material as translucent, when you can still see the material itself.


A property of an object - how much light can travel through the object (it's material). Object that doesn't let through any light is called not-transparent (opaque). If the transparency of the object is higher, that means more light is able to travel through it, so looking through something transparent, you would be able to see through it (the more transparent the object - the clearer you can see). Not an equivalent to translucent, as transparent objects can be completely transparent (glass), meaning that 100% transparent material will let 100% of the light pass through.

Triadic color scheme

A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Triadic color harmonies tend to be quite vibrant, even if you use pale or unsaturated versions of your hues.


A set of three associated paintings intended to be appreciated together. Digitally - collection of three images that are supposed to be viewed together, not separately. Sometimes done on the same digital canvas.

Trompe l’oeil

A technique involving the copying of real three-dimensional forms with such exactitude that the subject depicted can be mistaken for natural forms.


Flat, having height and width but no depth.

Two-point perspective

Application of linear perspective in which all lines meet at either of two points on the horizon line, creating an illusion of deep space.




An element of art. Refers to the lightness or darkness of a color, monochromatic, or gray scale image. In drawing is often achieved by hatching, cross-hatching, or stippling, patterns, texture, or value scale. Value variation helps the artist achieve a three-dimensional visual effect.

Value scale/gradation

A series of spaces or a scale, starting with white or lightest color tint on one end and ending with black or the darkest color shade on the other end.

Vanishing point

In linear perspective, the point on the horizon line where lines appear to converge.


A type of still-life. A collection of objects symbolizing death to show the shortness of life and the temporary nature of earthly pleasures and achievement (use of skulls, mirrors, broken pottery,glass, wine, maps, etc.)


The use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygons, which are all based on mathematical equations, to represent images in computer graphics

Vector layer

In a digital painting software - a layer that uses vectors instead of pixels. Vector layers are usually very great for line art, as changing the resolution of the vector layer will not be detrimental to the quality of the image, because the vectors are going to adjust with the help of mathematical equations.


The space within a form. In 2D, the use of shading to create the optical illusion of a 3D appearance.


Warm color

Warm colors are usually described by reds, oranges and yellows. Often reminds you of fire, warmth, sunlight, heat. Warm colours (just like dark) usually make you feel like they are closer to you, therefore they convey the feeling of coziness, an enveloping feeling.


One of the transformation tools in most digital painting software. Allows an image or selection to be distorted using a grid.




Hey, I’m Christopher

I started making digital art in 2009, became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, and now I’m able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.

I created this blog to help other artists make the same journey. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program,  an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We also participate in similar affiliate advertising progams for Skillshare, Squarespace and others.