Should You Learn to Draw Traditionally or Digitally?

Disney cartoon character in traditional pencil sketch and digital art illustration

As a beginner, it can be challenging to get into drawing. There are two primary mediums of drawing – digital art and traditional art. You might be confused about which one to start with and whether one medium is better than the other.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be able to draw traditionally to become a good digital artist. The main difference between traditional and digital art is the medium on which you draw. Both have their pros and cons which can influence your decision to learn how to draw.

If you plan on becoming a professional artist you would eventually have to learn how to draw digitally. Most companies require artists to be productive and produce artwork quicker. Since this is easier to do digitally, drawing tablets and programs become the preferred medium for professionals.

Drawing Traditionally

traditional art supplies with open sketchbook

Learning to draw traditionally is the first thing that comes to mind when the topic of drawing is mentioned. Traditional art seems a lot more natural than digital art. It also doesn’t cost much to start. All you need is a paper and pencil and you’re good to go.

Most young artists start drawing traditionally. It’s easier to explain and learn the basic fundamentals of art – concepts such as shading, perspective, anatomy, etc.

Drawing traditionally also gives you a better idea of general art concepts. When you make a mistake on paper you can’t just “undo” it. This will give you a better idea of fixing mistakes and lead to breakthroughs in getting a better understanding of art fundamentals.

However, in the long term and in your professional career; it can be difficult to maintain your traditional art skills. Drawing traditionally can become costly which could limit the opportunity to explore different techniques and experiment with various materials.

There’s always the risk of wasting too much paper, spending too much on art materials, and potentially ruining a painting with a splash of water. Also, it’s difficult to quickly create multiple art pieces. Having the ability to use a drawing tablet with drawing programs such as Photoshop can make the drawing process a whole lot faster.

Drawing Digitally

person drawing on xp pen display drawing tablet

You might like drawing traditionally better than digitally but digital art is faster to create.

When it comes to simple pencil drawings a pen and paper might be the first thing to get your hands on. But as your drawings get more complex, you might find yourself constantly looking for watercolors, paintbrushes, and canvases.

This makes drawing digitally much more favorable as you have everything you need in one convenient drawing program. This will save you from constant trips to the supermarket when you run out of paint for your painting or your markers die out.

It is also possible to experiment with different digital drawing and painting techniques. Thanks to custom brushes you can replicate the same effects you would get from drawing with traditional materials such as charcoal or ink.

By now, choosing to learn digital art might seem like the obvious choice but there are some obstacles that hold beginners back.

When you’re first starting out, there’s a huge learning curve on how to draw digitally. Most of the drawing you’re going to do is with a digital drawing tablet and unless you have the money to buy a display tablet, you need to practice hand-eye coordination.

Drawing on a drawing tablet is different from traditional pencil and paper. Traditionally you will draw on the paper and the line would appear where you placed it – making it natural and intuitive. But, with a drawing tablet, you’ll be drawing on the tab placed in front of you and the lines would appear on the screen of your device – which forces you to draw without knowing exactly where the line will appear.

An illustration from Manga Clip Studio showing the proper way of using a drawing tablet
An illustration from Manga Clip Studio showing the proper way of using a drawing tablet

This can lead to frustration and eventually giving up before you get the hang of it. Regardless of the medium, you would have to practice a lot to get it right.

But, when it comes to digital art you don’t only have to practice the technique but also learn about different shortcut keys (or hotkeys), pen pressure, sensitivity, opacity, blend modes, etc. You’ll also have to learn popular digital drawing software like Photoshop which alone has over 70 different tools.

All of this can be overwhelming especially for a beginner which might make learning how to draw digitally after drawing traditionally the better choice. Once you have the general foundation down you can progress to digital art.

Selecting a Good Beginner’s Drawing Tablet

When starting out it doesn’t matter too much what drawing tablet you buy. Without practicing enough you won’t know which is the best drawing tablet for you. Try not to spend too much on a beginner drawing tablet. Buying a good-quality budget drawing tablet that comes with drawing software is a great start for learning digital art.

The best drawing tablets for beginners include the Wacom Intuos and Huion H610. These two tablets are made by well-known brands in the digital art industry and used by professionals. They are affordable, durable, and include advanced features that are perfect for beginners to start.

For first-timers, drawing on a digital tablet might be tricky. You can check out Wacom’s post on 7 tips to use a Wacom pen and tablet to get a better understanding of what to do.

Think it’s not worth it to get a drawing tablet? Check out my post, Is a Drawing Tablet Worth it for Beginners? To clear up any questions you may have.

Should I Learn Traditional Art Before Digital Art?

Till now, you should have a clear understanding of the pros and cons of drawing traditionally and digitally. But, you may ask yourself, is it better to learn traditional art before diving into digital art?

Although it doesn’t matter too much which medium you start with, learning traditional art before digital is going to equip you with the right skillset to start drawing digitally. But, no matter which medium you choose, the most important thing is to practice.

By practicing your technique and mastering the basics you’ll eventually start drawing like a pro. You should also consider which medium interests you more. If you feel you have to draw traditionally and aren’t really excited to learn, it won’t be worth it. It’s much better to start with something you’re going to stick with, practice, and be willing to get better at.

Digital Art VS Traditional Art: Which is Better to Learn as a Beginner?

To conclude, traditional art might be better to learn the basics of art and the fundamentals of drawing. However, as a professional artist, you may eventually have to learn digital art as it is faster and more efficient in drawing. Of course, This only applies to fields that can be done digitally like animation, comics, and graphic design.

But, no matter which field you choose, the main element to your success would be practice. By consistently practicing your drawing regardless of the medium you choose, you would enable yourself to become a master at drawing – digitally or traditionally.

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