Is Digital Art real Art, or is it Cheating?

Why Digital Art is a legitimate form of art.

Artist: 
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Written: 
October 12, 2020
Last Updated: 
November 25, 2020

This topic is honestly a little funny to me.

If you're reading this article, you probably already know that digital art has distinct advantages over traditional art.

It has some disadvantages as well, for sure, but the advantages are numerous - and some are really big. 

Some of its advantages seem so powerful and shave so much time off of the creative process, that to a traditional artist, they could seem like pure cheating. 

Compared to what we are used to seeing as ‘real’ art - things like oil and watercolour paintings, pencil drawings and marble sculptures - digital art seems to have removed so many parts of the traditional process of making art, so I can understand if some people aren’t sure it should even be classed as art.

But I think those people would be misunderstanding something very important.

The digital art process only simplifies or removes the non-creative parts of making art - mixing together the right colours, fixing errors, waiting for paint to dry, etc.  It keeps the creative parts of making art intact - things like designing the composition, constructing correct perspective and forms, rendering convincing light and shadow. This means digital art is very much real art, and is not cheating.

Like I explained in this article comparing the pros and cons of digital art and traditional art, digital art’s power is in its convenience - in how it can reduce the artist’s time spent on the non-creative parts of making art. 

Digital artists still have to practice the same fundamentals if they want to produce great art, still have to practice anatomy, composition, colour theory, perspective, form, light - the list goes on.

But a digital artist gets to spend less time solving the non-creative problems like mixing paint and fixing mistakes, and spend more of their time solving the creative problems, which is the very ‘art’ the whole discipline is named after.

Digital art allows the artist to concentrate purely on bringing their vision to the canvas, and it’s a great honor to be able to work in such a way.

If some people consider that cheating, then so be it I guess. To me it sounds too good to pass up!

Still not convinced digital art is not cheating?

If you still worry digital art is cheating because it removes and simplifies certain parts of the art-making process, I understand why you might feel that way.

But let’s do a little exercise to see if I can change your mind.

How do you feel about an author that chooses to write their novel on a computer? Are they cheating? Are they a real writer?

Should they instead write their novel with pen and paper to be considered a real writer? 

Most of us realise that yes, they are a real writer, and no, they are not cheating.  They still have to design their characters, plan their narratives, construct sentences, edit their paragraphs to pull the reader through the story, and a multitude of other skills that are required to be a good writer.

We recognize that writing on a computer just simplifies or removes the non-creative parts of the process, like fixing mistakes, reworking paragraphs, or even moving large chunks of text from one part of the novel to another.

The author still has to do all the hard creative work - the computer just helps them do it more conveniently.

Is it cheating for a musician to play electric guitar over acoustic guitar?  Or electric keyboard instead of piano? Are they ‘real musicians’?

Are television and movies cheating, when compared to the traditional art of theatre and plays? Are there ‘real actors’ in movies, or is the power of editing doing so much of the work for them that they can no longer be called actors?

We are used to computers, electric guitars, keyboards, television and movies, because they’ve all been around a while. Most of us find it a silly idea that they could be considered cheating.

These things are all just tools, technology, and progress within the arts. They all became the norm because they were more convenient to use than the old tools and methods.

Some people will continue to hand-write things, to play acoustic guitar, or to act in theatre, but the majority of people will move on to use the newest tools.

And the same will happen for digital art - it will become the norm.

It’s just a little too new to be there yet.


I’ll leave you with these thoughts - when watercolor was invented, oil painters at the time thought it was cheating, because watercolor dries so quickly an artist could make finished paintings in less than half the time.

When acrylic paint was invented, it was also called cheating because of the same reason - it dries quickly, so acrylic artists could also make paintings faster.

And now digital paint has arrived, and you don’t have to wait for it to dry at all.  Is it any wonder they call it cheating? ;)

Hey, I'm Christopher

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

Now, I want to help young artists make the same journey!

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