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Showcase of step-by-step digital paintings

Updated on May 14, 2012

Behind the scenes: Digital paintings from sketch to finish

Take a look at this collection of digital art tutorials and walkthroughs that show the painting process from start to finish, and learn more about digital painting techniques.

Digital art has become more and more popular these days, and commercial illustration has almost completely transferred to the digital medium. Graphic tablets have made the transition from traditional to digital drawing almost seamless, and digital painting software has enabled emulating traditional look and textures.

If you're beginner at digital art and considering learning it, I hope you will find the content featured on this lens helpful.

Walkthrough is not necessarily a tutorial

Some process shots are detailed enough and well explained, but not all walkthroughs aspire to be tutorials. They are just documenting the process of creating the artwork. Some are presented as tutorials, but assume you're already familiar with the basic techniques. In any case, do not expect detailed "how to" tutorials for beginners on this page.

Most artists use the tool Adobe Photoshop so this is the majority of feature here, but you don't require Adobe Photoshop - there are other options available, some even free. But you do need a tablet, because freehand painting doesn't work well with a mouse.

On this lens I will feature both my own, and other artist's processes. Feel free to suggest more good resources I can add.

This is a sister to my other lens Showcase of step-by-step traditional paintings

Most images are links

Click on the preview images to see either the larger version of the image, or complete process. On most modules only the initial sketch and finished result are shown.

Marta Dahlig: Making of Judith

One of the most perspective digital artists today shares her entire process in painting a very detailed female portrait.

Making of The Challenger - Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom Intuos4 tablet

digital dragon painting
digital dragon painting

Steppe Warrior walkthrough - Adobe Photoshop

digital painting woman
digital painting woman

Feeding the crows walkthough - Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop walkthough
Photoshop walkthough

Red Assassin painting tutorial - Adobe Photoshop

digital painting tutorial
digital painting tutorial

Making Of Seheiah - Adobe Photoshop

photoshop painting
photoshop painting

Nosebleed process - Adobe Photoshop

photoshop painting
photoshop painting

Emporea 2 cover

Michal Ivan Emporea 2 cover
Michal Ivan Emporea 2 cover

The Swamp process - Adobe Photoshop and Wacom Intuos3 tablet

swamp digital painting process
swamp digital painting process

1. Pencil sketch

2. Painting over the sketch with rough strokes, blocking in shades and painting Moon and fog

3. Shading everything, adding detailed swamp vegetation

4. Added more highlights to the front creature, refined the tree, added a branch in the foreground and a bit more vegetation. Clouds were painted over again (not very good either), added a few stars.

Finished work: The Swamp

More video processes

Introduction to graphics tablets

Wacom intuos4
Wacom intuos4

Photo from Wacom

When one says "tablet", most people imagine iPad, or a hybrid tablet PC like HP and Lenovo... but before they became popular, a tablet was synonymous with a graphics tablet - a board with stylus input, usually without a built in screen (only the most expensive high-end tablets have a screen) and the most important feature of the tablet is pressure sensitivity.

With a pressure sensitive tablet, drawing and painting digitally can feel like traditional drawing and painting. The pressure determines how much "paint" you put on the canvas, by varying either the line width, or opacity.

Using a tablet without a screen is a bit awkward at first. It's comparable to playing a musical instrument without looking at your fingers - but believe me when I say that it takes a week or at most two weeks of intensive use to get accustomed to it. And by intensive use, I mean: unplug the mouse and use the tablet for everything. After a few days, you won't ever want to use a mouse anyway (except maybe for gaming, but I don't play computer games so I don't know).

Tablet PC or a graphic tablet?

If digital painting is the only reason why you'd consider getting one, here are some pointers:

- Tablet PC has a less steep learning curve because you're painting directly on the screen

- On the other hand, tablet PCs yet have to achieve the level of accuracy and sensitivity graphics tablets have

- Graphics tablet is just an input device - it has to be attached to a computer - which makes it unsuitable for portable sketching

- Graphics tablet is an investment that can last for years and remains with your as you change computers, unlike tablet PCs that get outdated quickly

- Graphics tablets are generally cheaper since they're only input devices

What's all the fuss about Wacom? Are they truly so much better than other brands?

I have used both a cheap brand (Genius) and I've been a happy Wacom Intuos3 user for over 4 years. Yes, I do think that Wacom truly is worth the money.

The most important feature in my opinion is that Wacom tablet styluses don't have batteries which makes the stylus lighter and more comfortable to use.

Their specs are better, but you may not be so concerned with that as a beginner.

Since it's a very popular brand, you can still find most spare parts online even for models over 7 years old - if not at an official store, there are other stores that specialize in tablet spare parts.

If you really can't afford one now, by all means get a cheap one - it's still infinitely better than using a mouse. When you have decided that you like digital painting and want to invest in a better tool, you will be able to save up for the best one you can get. Don't hurry and get a small Bamboo - save for a medium size at least, and large if you're able to.

Recommended reading

Talkin' pen tablet talk on Viget

Getting comfortable with using a tablet on CG Society

Intuos5 Touch Large Pen Tablet

Wacom Intuos5 Touch Large Pen Tablet (PTH850)
Wacom Intuos5 Touch Large Pen Tablet (PTH850)

I am the owner of an older model, Wacom Intuos3 Large pen tablet, since 2007. It has served me well on multiple computer systems and various software, and is still as good as new so I don't plan to upgrade anytime soon.

Having a piece of Wacom hardware for so long, I am confident in their products and can recommend any of their Bamboo and Intuos line tablets to people who wish to invest in a high-end tablet.

Intuos5 has some improved features such as multi-touch surface, 2048 of pressure sensitivity levels, and the Touch Ring (Intuos3 and older models had strips instead of wheels).

I work on a 2-monitor set up so having a large tablet is a must to make the best out of it. However if you don't plan to use a 2-monitor set up, a medium size may be more comfortable to use and it takes up less desk space. A large tablet does require some time to adjust to. But once you do, you'll enjoy it!


Do you own a graphics tablet?

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Wacom tablet - the tool of hobbysts and professionals

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    • nelchee profile image

      nelchee 5 years ago

      @J-Shephard: Thanks :) Yes you should, I'm glad you feel a bit motivated by this ;)

    • J-Shephard profile image

      J-Shephard 5 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for sharing those artistic processes. Makes me want to pick up my tablet again!