No other tool, besides the pencil maybe, had the same impact on the process of illustration as the computer. So it’s no surprise a lot of younger illustrators are well versed in digital illustration production.
What is digital illustration
Digital illustration is by definition illustration that is produced using computer software. There is a huge range of software that is being used to produce illustration but by far the most popular ones are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, simply because of their range of tools, easy to understand user interface and, what I consider a big plus, great graphic tablet support and customization. With the huge explosion of digital art I’ve come to ask myself the questions of it’s advantages and disadvantages.
The pros and a studio in your pocket
Most anyone has a computer nowadays and that’s really all you need to produce digital art. A computer and mouse or tablet can substitute a whole room full of paint, brushes, canvases, paper, etc. You can even produce digital illustration on mobile phones. Heck, some apps are centered around that concept.
With a computer or phone instant publication of your art is just a click away. Social media plays a huge role in this part. There’s no more need for huge rooms to showcase your art and people can see it in the comfort of their home. You can sell your art on some of these social platforms like, photostock or devianart and they can reach people all around the world not just the patrons of your local gallery.
It’s easier to make fixes and edits to an already existing illustration. With analogue illustrations, that’s a hassle to do. You either have to put in a whole lot of time or scrap the thing all together and start from scratch. With digital illustration you just need to open the original file and because most software supports layers it’s easier to perform these edits and fixes. The “undo” option is also pretty handy :P. Today in the age of media and world wide connections illustrators are producing work on a daily basis. So using software that lets you use shortcuts and recycling older work is a huge plus.
The software is mostly easy to use. Even people that don’t know how to draw can now produce some awesome stuff. The filters and easy to use tools make it possible for those people to produce quality work.
There’s no denying that digital illustration has A LOT of advantages over analogue techniques. I’ve only scratched the surface but already with all these advantages I find that every pro has it’s con.
A computer is not cheap. Paper and pencils will cost you a couple of bucks but a computer can go in to the thousands if you include all the copyrighted software and peripherals like a graphic tablet. Not everyone can afford all that. The software comes in a variety of languages but some languages are not included (like Slovenian for instance). So if you don’t know a foreign language and want to use the software you are screwed.
Everyone can be an artist
Because the software is so easy to use and because there are a lot of tutorials on the subject on the internet most anyone can call himself an illustrator nowadays. Tutorials when used incorrectly result in artwork that is created using a template instead of creative work. Using digital galleries also means there is no filter to point out bad artwork. That results in a flood of bad work on the web.
Selling illustrations on web platforms devalues illustration. Usually prices on those sites are very cheap compared to commissions. That’s because these sites sell the same illustration by volume so people tend to think being an illustrator is an easy job because they can buy these works for cheap and expect same prices for commissions. Most of these illustrations are also very generic because they have to be. Everyone that buys them will use them in his own specific way.
The easy to edit and recycle aspect can also turn in to a huge disadvantage. When recycling the same head of a character over and over again your work becomes stale and uninteresting. Moderation is the key.
No digital tool can fully replace a real brush or pencil. The texture a brush produces on paint also has an effect on how you perceive the illustration and no amount of digital emulation can fully replace that.
In conclusion I think that most of these disadvantages can be avoided but it’s just something that everyone has to decide for himself. Digital illustration is a huge part of the world today and it’s not going anywhere fast so it’s up to us to keep the quality up.