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Digital Painting Tutorial

Updated on November 15, 2014

Learning Digital Painting

This digital painting tutorial is designed to help you keep up with expanding technology in producing digital media art. The resulting digital art is comparable to traditional art media when you are interested in prints rather than original traditional paintings.

I will help you explore methods of producing digital art which you can be proud of.

The Advantages of Digital Painting

  • No inventory of tubes of paints, brushes and canvases or other painting surfaces.
  • No fumes from paints which create problems for people with allergies
  • No cleanup polluting our water supply and sewer systems
  • No problem correcting a stroke of the paint brush that you are not satisfied with
  • The ability to paint in layers which can be changed, deleted or experimented with for the best effect.
  • The freedom to save the work and turn off the computer at anytime knowing that the next time you turn it on, you can start working right drying time to worry about.
  • Freedom to explore new techniques, colors, and different media.

Before we start, I want you to understand that all of these paintings are mine and are copyrighted under my name. I am presenting them here strictly for demonstration and they are not to be duplicated or sold without my specific approval.

Bougainvillea | Source

Mixed Media - Chalk and Liquid Ink

This is an example of how I mixed chalk and liquid ink using the brushes in Corel Painter 12.

There are many steps I go through to get to the finished painting.

To start with, I take a lot of photos for reference so that is where I begin. In this case I started with a closeup of the bougainvillea blooms in my backyard.

Auto Paint with Chalk
Auto Paint with Chalk | Source

Auto Paint with Chalk

The second step was to eliminate detail so it was not so "photographic." In this case. I used the "Auto paint" feature in Painter to accomplish it.

I applied a chalk medium over the photo in a "clone mode" so it would pick up the underlying colors but not the detail.

Liquid Inks
Liquid Inks | Source

Liquid Inks

Next I started experimenting with several different "liquid ink" brushes to start giving structure to the flowers.

I also dabbed in a few splashes of blue just to add interest.

I created several new layers to work on additional ink dabs until I was satisfied.

If I wasn't happy with a brush stroke, I could delete it easily without disturbing any other stroke on that layer or anything in the layers below.

Selected Areas
Selected Areas | Source
Masked Layer with Gradient Fill
Masked Layer with Gradient Fill | Source

The Selection Tool

Once I was satisfied, I isolated the background from the flowers using several "select" tools, including masking, which is too involved to explain here, but is a very useful tool.

Masking and Gradient Tools

I then filled in the background with a gradient tool choosing two colors that would complement the flowers without detracting from them,

Bougainvillea Painting
Bougainvillea Painting | Source

and that finalized the painting.

I was really excited with how this came out, because I have been trying to free up my style more to produce a painting that is considered a realistic abstract. I think I accomplished it here.

Having the freedom of working on layers so that you don't mess up what you have painting below and are satisfied with makes all the difference in feeling the freedom of experimentation. It still requires your skill as an artist, but it is a lot less threatening. Bougainvillae Painting

Corel Painter 2015

Corel has just upgraded Painter X3 to this new version. It is an easy transition from Painter 12 and X3 if you have those versions.

They have made it even more user friendly and have added a new variety of exciting brushes called particle brushes.

All three of these versions are so flexible that they suits people with extensive skill at traditional painting as well as those who have only just begun to test their creativity.

Waterfall Wonderland


Mixed Media

Chalks and Acrylics

This is an example of a painting I did using digital chalks as the base for establishing shapes and colors and then used acrylic brushes from Painter 12 to complete the painting.

This began from a photograph by Johannes Vloothuis which we used during one of his many, very informative, free painting classes.

Adding Color

The photo had very little color with the rocks the usual colors of black and multiple levels of gray. The greens were very dark and lifeless. I decided to add color and vibrancy to a wonderful, majestic waterfalls.

Chalk Auto Painting


Digital Acrylic Brushes


I took the photo and made a clone painting using digital chalk and "Auto-painting." I then experimented with different underpainting effects and decided to apply the "chalk drawing scheme." This brought up all the beautiful colors.Then I further enhanced the colors with "chalk saturation" and increased contrast.

What this did was give me a sketchy outline of the composition and placement of objects. It also gave me the starting point for colors I would be using in the painting.

You can select a color with an eye dropper and use it, and also place it on a mixer palette to create the variations of color you want just as if you were mixing on a real palette.

Now it was time to start working with the digital acrylic brushes. This picture is a summary of five different layers I produced as I added detail into the painting.


More Layers

I did 4 more layers as detailing continued.

When all the layers were to my liking, they were dropped to the canvas to produce the finished painting.

Waterfall Wonderland
Waterfall Wonderland | Source
Water-Soluble Oils Painting
Water-Soluble Oils Painting | Source

Water-Soluble Oils Version

When I finished it, I liked it so much, I decided to paint it using water-soluble oils on a 24 x 30 inch stretched canvas. I made a few changes and also lost some of the softness of the digital painting but I was happy with it.

It have it hanging in a special place in my home.

Sedona Red Rock Waterfalls

Pomegranate Blossoms
Pomegranate Blossoms | Source

Digital Oil Painting

This third example was produced mainly with the oil brushes from Painter 12. I combined three different photos to come up with the composition of the finished painting.

I photographed my newly planted pomegranate tree that survived the winter, flowered and even started bearing fruit.

This is the same process I use when doing traditional paintings, but it is much easier because, using the digital program, you can cut out unnecessary clutter and position components much more readily.

It started out with a photo of two pomegranate flowers hanging down from some branches.

Composite Photo
Composite Photo | Source

Composite Photo

I added another flower above them to improve the composition. I placed it on a layer above the first one so it would appear to be in front of the other two.

Pomegranate Digital Oil Painting
Pomegranate Digital Oil Painting | Source

Next I took the photograph of the fruit and added it to the composition in the top right.

I made a copy of the first fruit, flipped it horizontally and then rotated it before placing to the left.

Again, each of these things were done on separate layers so I could move them around and angle them as needed for best effect.

Once I was happy with the composition, I combined all the layers and used it as a reference for the painting.

I used mostly the Painter 12 Oil brushes for painting. I did the flowers and buds on one layer. I put a second layer under the flowers and painted the leaves. I started painting the background on a third layer behind the leaf layer. I make adjustments to color and value until I felt the background was dark enough to enhance the flowers and leaves to bring them forward.

Once completed, I signed it and dropped all the layers to the canvas.

Abstract Windmill
Abstract Windmill | Source

Abstract Windmill Demonstration - Flow Maps and Selections

I put together this short video to show you some of the steps I used to produce an abstract windmill painting. There are two corrections in it that need to be pointed out.

Early in the video when I was trying to change the composite method of the first layer to demonstrate it, it didn't work. This is because I was on the wrong layer.(note the green highlighted layer higher up on the layers chart.)

I made the same mistake when I wanted to demonstrate effects on the canvas layer. Effects do work on the canvas layer. I was on the signature layer by mistake.(see the green highlight)

This mistake is easy to make and something you want to be sure to keep track of. You can always apply a lock to any layer so you don't mistakenly change one that you don't want changed.

Please excuse all the sniffing. It was allergy time here in the desert.

Abstract Windmill Painting

First Version


Floral Art Oil Painting

I just recently finished an oil painting of desert willow flowers using Painter 12. When I was finished, however, I felt that the background was too photographic and I decided to make some changes.

The one to the right is the first version.

The one below is the revised version.

Revised Version


To make the changes, I loaded the background selection I had saved earlier and repainted the background using the Painter 12 feathered oil brush and used an oil blending brush to come up with the new version.

Which Desert Willow Painting Do You Prefer

I would like to know which painting you like the best and why. It always helps to get feedback from other people and with digital painting, it is so easy to make changes if needed. Help me to finalize the choice.


Field of Flowers


Landscape Painting

Video Tutorial

This is a 25 minute video in two parts, showing you how I made some modifications to a digital landscape I had painted.

I was not satisfied with:

  • the flowers in the foreground,
  • the green shrubs in the center left,
  • and I also added some pinks to the sky and blues in the foreground to help harmonize the completed painting.

You will see the original painting before the modifications in the video.

Part One

Part Two


Just for Fun

Out of the Box

Here is a fun project to try to combine the information you are learning to come up with a completed project.

It started with a picture I had composed form a photograph of three roses.

I duplicate the roses and then pasted them on several layers. I moved them around and stacked them so some were in front of the others.


Free Transfer Tool

Using the "Free Transform" tool, I rotated the picture using the perspective choice. Then I duplicated the layer.


Rectangular Select Tool

On the duplicate layer, I made the frame using the rectangular select tool to fit over just outside the picture and make a second smaller rectangle with (-) rectangle tool.


Matching Perspective

I painted in the selected area with my choice of color and then transformed the rectangle to match the perspective of the picture.


Creating a Mask Layer

To get the roses to appear outside the frame, I created a mask frame on the same layer, chose the Opaque Acrylic Brush and the color black (0,0,0,).


I clicked on the mask layer and painted the black just over the frame covering the rose.

Because there was a duplicate rose in the layer below, it appeared anyplace I applied the black.


Gradient Background

I added a background using the gradient fill tool after choosing two colors that would complement the rest of the composition.


Cropping and Stroke Selection

Next, I cropped the image to the size I wanted and chose a brush variant and color that I would like the border to be.

Then, I selected the whole image and then clicked on the "Select" menu and chose "Stroke Selection". The border automatically drew around the finished picture.

Finally, I added my digital signature in the right-hand corner.

Happy Holidays Card
Happy Holidays Card | Source

Digital Calligrapy

When you want to add text to a painting, it is so easy to just click the "Text" button and select a font you would like to use. I've been learning how to write my own text using a calligraphy pen on my Wacom Tablet.

It is a lot of fun and makes you feel like you have accomplished a major feat. It also makes you proud that you have actually done it.

Happy Holidays Card

The advantage of doing digital calligraphy over traditional calligraphy is that if you make a mistake, you just click the "undo" button and try again until you get it right.

Doing it on paper in the traditional way, you throw the paper away and start all over. It is really depressing if the mistake is the last letter on the page and you have to throw it all away.

This holiday card is my first attempt.

The Wacom Tablet

A pressure sensitive tablet is a must for digital painting. My choice is the Wacom Tablet.

I have my original medium-sized Intuos 4 which I use on my older laptop. You use the stylus as your brush on the pressure-sensitive tablet and see the painting on your computer scene.

This past year I got the Cinteq 13HD which I really love. Here you are using your stylus on the tablet which is also the visual of the painting as you work on it. It is just like actually painting on the canvas directly.


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    • Judy Filarecki profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Filarecki 

      4 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Thanks Stacie. Right now I'm taking a digital course in writing your own calligraphy. It is challenging but fun. The best part is that you don't have to throw the paper away because you made a mistake. You just press the undo button and try again.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      4 years ago

      Its always a pleasure to meet other artists who have good tips to share.

      I too have problems with oils and acrylics, not to mention the messiness.

      This hub has piqued my interest in digital painting once more.

      Keep up the good work! ;-)

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Nice article and images. I use a variety of photo editing software and sites to create digital paintings from my photos.

    • Judy Filarecki profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Filarecki 

      5 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      @flycatcherrr: I'm so glad you found this page and enjoyed so much. I do almost all my paintings digitally now because of the no clean-up factor and freedom you have to experiment. If you haven't seen it yet, check out my "Painting Clouds" Lens. It gives a video presentation of one of my paintings.

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      5 years ago

      I'm delighted to have discovered your pages, as I've just started to transition from traditional to digital painting. I still like the old ways, but it's fun to learn how to achieve various effects with software - and there's no clean-up to do, so I can pick up and paint whenever the mood strikes, even when I can't carve out a good block of time. But there's a lot to learn, so I'll be reading your articles avidly! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What a cool idea! I am going to try this. I have lots of flower photos I've taken It would really make great background for some of my websites.

    • Judy Filarecki profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Filarecki 

      7 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      @ItayaLightbourne: Thanks. I have always been a traditional artist and am finding myself doing more and more digital paintings. Technology has improved so much that it feels just like you have the actual paint brush in your hand and are applying to the canvas. It did take so practice to make the transition but the more I do it, the more I like it.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      7 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful article! Makes me want to give digital painting more focus. What beautiful paintings you have created! Thank you for putting this all together so that I can refer back to it in the future. :)


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