Every artist has different goals, and different preferences.
Some artists prefer drawing with pencils, some prefer painting with watercolours, and some prefer sculpting with clay.
Some artists prefer digital art, because of all the amazing opportunities and freedom that comes with it.
Learning digital art has completely changed my life, and put me on a highly rewarding path. Digital art is convenient, flexible, fulfilling and as a bonus, affordable. If you're the type of person who values freedom, creativity and self-expression, then you'll enjoy digital art - especially if you like making fantasy and science fiction art.
I want to start by telling you about my journey as a digital artist - it'll help me explain the opportunities that digital art has given me, and how it’s transformed my life
Why I started making Digital Art
When I was a lot younger I would draw a lot - drawings of warriors, dragons and imposing castles - and I loved doing it.
But as I got older, I concentrated more on getting good grades at school, and I was drawing less and less.
I wasn’t trying to get good grades because I thought they would give me a good life - I was doing it because I was the ‘smart kid’ and I enjoyed that other people were impressed.
I was trying to live up to other people's expectations of me, and in doing so had given up something I loved.
Of course, I got very good grades at school, even in subjects I wasn't interested in. I went on to university to study Computer Science, just because it was impressive - I had no aspirations of actually becoming a software engineer.
I was spending all of my time stressed out over exams, and studying subjects I didn't like.
It was making me miserable, and I felt trapped in an unsatisfying life of my own making.
Eventually, after nearly a decade of focusing on academic achievement, I hit the end of the road - I just couldn't take it anymore, and needed to make a change to my life.
I decided to try out reconnecting with the things that used to make me happy - and bought a bunch of pencils and paper.
I drew some of my favourite characters from video games - Link from the Zelda franchise, Kratos from God of War, Dante from Devil May Cry.
It felt amazing to be drawing warriors and heroes again, even if I was in my 20s.
Then I discovered all of the amazing artists on Deviantart, making similar art but on a way higher level than me, and I was hooked.
I found so much incredible art being made for board games, videogames, films, comics, you name it - thousands of artists online were drawing warriors and dragons for a living!
And nearly all of them were digital painters.
That's when I knew what I had to do - I got a cheap graphics tablet for my 22nd birthday, academics took a back seat, and I jumped into learning digital painting head first.
Over a decade later, I'm glad to say it all worked out - now I'm a full time digital artist.
How Digital Art can transform your life
1. You get paid to work on cool projects!
I've worked on Books, Videogames, board games, card games, pen and paper games ….. some of them big commercial products, some of them small indie projects. I’ve painted peoples Dungeons & Dragons and Warcraft characters - I’ve even made my own products.
And I’ve been paid for all of it.
It feels like a cheat code to life, that I get to paint fantasy art for a living, and I have to regularly remind myself that 99.9% of people don't get to live like I do.
If you want to make art for videogames, or sell your own fantasy or science fiction art, learning digital art is a great first step.
2. You don't need to buy anything expensive to do it
Digital art is really cheap to get into. Unless you're making pencil drawings (and perhaps even then!), traditional art is almost certainly more expensive.
You can get free software that's good enough to do professional work in (Krita for 2D art, blender for 3D)
A basic, small non-screen tablet and the computer you have at home is enough to create solid, finished artwork.
My expensive screen tablet broke at the end of 2019, so I dug out my backup tablet - the first tablet I got for my 22nd birthday, way back in 2009.
And then I did my work with it, and it was completely fine.
You simply don't need the expensive stuff with all the bells and whistles, a cheap tablet and free software will do just fine.
3. You have more control over how much you work, and how much you earn
Once you hit a certain skill level as a digital artist and market yourself properly, the amount of work available to you increases exponentially, as well as the amount you can charge.
And if you're smart, you can keep your expenses low, and not have to do much work to pay all your bills.
I'm very conscious of keeping my expenses low, so I don't have to spend too much of my time working.
That means I have the freedom to put the bulk of my time into projects I care about, like this website.
And if I ever want to or need to earn a bit extra, I just crank up the amount of work I take on.
4. You can work from home
If you don't want to work in an office and instead work remotely from home, this is possible with digital art.
I've mentioned it in every article that I can, because I really think it's overlooked just how much freedom you get from being able to work remotely.
It's the beginning of taking control of your time and life.
5. You can travel while working
This goes hand in hand with my previous point - digital art is highly portable, so working from home isn't your only option
You can work from anywhere, as long as it has the internet.
Digital art is so convenient when it comes to moving or travelling, or even just changing workspace from time to time - digital art allows you to work in a cafe one day and a co-working space the next.
I lived in Thailand for 3 years, enjoying the great food, great weather and cheap cost of living, while making digital art from cafes and co-working spaces.
It was a fantastic experience, and I plan to continue living the same lifestyle.
6. You can control your schedule
If I want to cram all my work into Monday through Wednesday, and then take the rest of the week off, I can.
If I want to get up early and get everything done before lunch time I can.
Or if I feel like going out for the day, and catching up with my work in the evening, I can.
If I want to work hard this month, and then take the whole next month off to work on my own projects, I can.
Having this amount of control over my time is priceless, and I wouldn't trade this freedom for anything.
7. Digital Art will challenge you (in a good way)
Making digital art is a deep rabbit hole.
Getting good at it will teach you to analyse your own work critically, it'll force you to build a lot of self discipline, and you'll have to learn to overcome a lot of obstacles.
It's been a difficult road, but in learning how to make good digital art, it also taught me the skills I need to get good at anything I set my mind to.
From building websites, to writing, to weightlifting and healthy eating, I now know how to build new skills.
8. Learning Digital Art will give you confidence and help you make better decisions
Most of all skills, learning digital art has given me confidence.
It's taught me that I can improve at things - if I'm bad at something, I can just decide to get better at it, put the effort in, and I will improve.
I've learned a lot about myself - what I like, and what I don't like, and along with all the mistakes I've made I've learnt what not to do.
On top of this, I can give advice with confidence, and I know my opinion regarding art is legitimate, because I've put the time in to learn, practice and live it.
Nowadays, I find it easy to jump into new things, because of the confidence I've built up.
9. You can make a big difference to other people
I've created art for multiple projects, that were people's dreams to bring to life - that's an amazing feeling, to help someone get closer to their dreams.
And I'm unsure how exactly it's happened, but as I got better at art and spoke to more and more young artists, I've realised that my advice is actually useful, and is actually making a difference.
It's a side effect of getting better at art that I never expected to experience, but helping out those who are earlier on their journey than I am is incredibly rewarding.
10. Digital art will create opportunities for other businesses and projects
Digital art is a crucial component in so many kinds of business and product, and is often the most expensive and time sensitive part of making that product.
You'll be in high demand.
When you're able to make good digital art yourself, it also means the barriers to making your own products and starting your own business are so much lower.
Books, card games, role play games, video games even - I have many ideas for projects and products of my own, that would have been completely unrealistic if I wasn't able to do all the art myself.
And I'm going to slowly-but-surely make the art I need to make, and learn the skills I need to learn, to make them happen.
11. Ultimately, you have more control over your life
This is what it all comes down to. For me, digital art was the first step toward taking control over what I do with my time, and what I do with my life.
Taking control over what I work on, who I work with, and where I work.
That's my reality now, thanks to digital art.
Are you already making traditional art?
Perhaps you're reading this because you already draw in pencil, or paint with a brush, and you're wondering if digital art might be a better opportunity.
There is sadly still a stigma around digital art, from people who assume that digital art is easy, that it's "not real art", or that it's "cheating".
I think if they just tried to make a single digital drawing or painting, they would realise that it's a legitimate form of art, it's just different.
You still have to learn how to draw, and how to paint. You have to learn anatomy and perspective and how light works, to depict it properly.
Digital arts biggest advantage over traditional art is in its convenience.
The tools and equipment are convenient, portability is convenient, correcting mistakes is convenient - the list goes on.
If you like to read more on my opinion about digital art vs traditional art, this article details the pros and cons of digital art against traditional.
You may find that if you try out digital art, you're able to make art more often, simply because it'll be more convenient to.
It's important to mention that you don't have to pick between them - you can do both!
There is no rule that says you must be a digital artist or a traditional artist. There are plenty of artists who get amazing results by combining both.
A lot of artists make sketches in pencil, scan or photograph the pencil drawing and then do a digital painting on top.
Other artists will make a whole painting traditionally, with oil or acrylic paints for example, and then apply the finishing touches digitally.
There are many ways to combine or do digital art and traditional art together, and often you'll get the best of both worlds.
If you're already making traditional art and want to try digital art, you should know that it'll take a while to get used to drawing on a tablet.
You don't get the same amount of physical feedback from digital art, and there is a disconnect between your hand and the digital brushstrokes that you make.
But if you give it time, and try out different art software and brushes, eventually you won't even think about it anymore.
I'm so used to digital painting with my favourite brush that it's become second nature to me.
Are you completely new to making art?
Perhaps you aren't thinking about doing digital art for a living, but just considering making art as a hobby.
As a hobby, digital art is fantastic. I love digital painting. I love being able to make art that looks like the art I was so into as a child, and being able to do it wherever and whenever I want.
But it took me many years to be satisfied with my artwork.
Learning to use digital art tools and software was quite easy and didn't take very long - but learning to make good art is a huge time-eater.
If you're just starting out with aspirations of making amazing art, you should know that it's going to take hundreds or thousands of hours to get good at it, and you'll still not be fully satisfied.
That's true with most skills, but even more so with digital art. There's a reason all the great artists talk about the importance of studying.
If there are artists that you look up to, try to find out how they got so good. Try to figure out what it is about their art that resonates with you, and why it excites you.
Dave Rapoza and Dan Luvisi were huge inspirations of mine when I was starting to learn, and without seeing their work I wouldn't have realised that I should try digital art.
Digital art has a bright future
Despite the fact that many of you reading this will have grown up with digital art in your life, it’s actually a fairly new industry.
But digital art is already huge and diverse, with many disciplines, styles and career paths.
And it’s going to continue growing in the future - more and more interesting opportunities will arise.
While it's very hard to accurately predict exactly what will happen with the medium and the field, I’m confident that as the development of computational power advances, as AI becomes a bigger part of our lives, as virtual reality and augmented reality are in more and more peoples hands - the digital art industry will be pushed forward at an incredible pace.
And with the equipment you need to do digital art being so affordable, and great software available for free, right now is a prime time to get into it.
You've got nothing to lose, but the potential transformation your life will go through is huge.
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.