Getting started with digital painting

Compared with other categories, this isn’t exactly a popular one. If someone were interested in this, how would one get started? Any recommendations to a total newbie? Point us in the right direction digital painting experts and enthusiasts!

Well, I’m biased but I would recommend a simple and dedicated “painting” tool like MyPaint to get started. It doesn’t have anywhere near all the features of GIMP and Krita, so it can keep you focused on painting and drawing. That spin sounded pretty good, didn’t it? If you really need to transform or resize something, you can right click on a layer and edit it in GIMP and it’ll automatically updated with your changes.

You can do quite a bit of painting without even messing around with layers and layer modes. Generally I use one layer unless I’m doing something that has a definite foreground, middle-ground and background, at which point I’ll use a layer for each. Start of by just picking ONE hue and only adjust your lightness and saturation. Some of the great painters used very “limited palettes” or almost monochromatic color schemes. Also, stay away from 100% purely saturated colors. This is just my opinion, but if you are trying to mimic most traditional physical painting styles you’ll want to severely mute your colors or they will literally scream out of the screen. In this regard I’m not really sure how useful Wide Gamut displays are, which is somewhat ironic.

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When @afre asked “if someone were interested . . . how would one get started . . .”, @briend 's answer considered what software to use and provided some nice guidelines on selecting colors.

My first thought was about “What to draw or paint to get started”, which covers a completely different aspect of getting started. So with the caveat that I’m perhaps an enthusiast, but many, many miles away from being an expert, I’d suggest starting out by sketching, shading, and coloring a sphere, perhaps using this approach:

  • Set up a round sphere (maybe a tennis ball or baseball) on a plain background, the plainer the better. Make the surface a neutral color, or better yet give it a color that will reflect off the sphere. The sphere shouldn’t be reflective like a mirror - trying to sketch and color a shiny Christmas ornament would be introducing too many tasks that are extraneous to the goal of drawing, shading, and coloring a simple sphere.

  • Add a light source off to one side, out of the proposed framing of the image but shining directly on the sphere. The light source can be whatever you want as long as it causes a fairly noticeable shadow.

  • If it’s convenient, sketch directly from this simple “still life”. Otherwise take a photograph and use it as a reference photograph. Sketching directly from the “still life” is better.

  • After sketching the outlines, add shading and color. This can be done at one go, or else by using LCH lightness or luminance blend to add the shading, and then LCH color blend on a separate layer to add the color. Using LCH blend modes will require using GIMP-2.9.

Any good watercolor or general “artist’s how to” book from the library will have a section on sketching and shading different shapes, and there are many tutorials on the web. But looking at the real thing and trying to make the image on the screen match the real thing seems to me to be a good way to get started. Too many people get stuck reading tutorials and never seem to pick up a brush and try actually making marks that can turn into a picture.


So, very interesting the tips of Elle Stone. I suggest as a good guide a classical book IMO:
Draw: How to Master the Art by Jeffery Camp
This is an old book, but is full of insights how to grow your own style copying the masters.

This book is always on my desk since 1982 :slight_smile:

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