You can draw, but your pencil and paper is feeling increasingly archaic. You’ve realized that your ink illustrations would benefit from digital enhancement and you might even be losing work because of an inability to transfer your talent from paper to screen.
Alternatively, you might be starting out as a digital artist but are finding it tough, unable to learn the software shortcuts that save time and improve the piece you’re working on.
Fortunately, there is an answer: Lynda.com, the online training center that offers a free trial and a range of subscription options. Lynda.com’s wide range of video tutorials span many topics including digital painting and illustration.
With over 100 courses to choose from in the illustration category alone, we’ve taken a look at what’s on offer and compiled this course list to help you get started as a digital artist.
Preparing to Study
Lynda.com provides educational courses. Like Udemy, it’s often considered to be an integral part of the future of education, and its place in your future personal development (from art and design to animation and photography) is clear. You cannot ignore it.
So, before you get started, put yourself in the right frame of mind for study. Switch off the TV, turn off your smartphone (or put it on vibrate) and exit your computer or tablet’s email app. Log out of social networks – basically, kill all distractions.
Next, prepare yourself. Equip a pen and notebook for taking notes on the video you’re going to watch, although Lynda.com does provide a dedicated note-taking tab for each video that you watch, so feel free to use that if you prefer.
Also, if you have a suitable second device (or display) for watching these tutorials, load up any relevant apps so that you can follow along and gain practical experience of whatever it is you’re about to learn.
Getting to Grips with Your Tools
Before you look into how to transfer your existing skills to the digital plane, it’s worth spending some time deciding on which digital art equipment and applications you’re going to use and learning how to get the most from them.
For example, will you be using a digital tablet? If so, the Wacom Essential Training video with John Derry is a good place to start.
If the Wacom device isn’t your preferred interface, you might be using an iPad. Drawing on the iPad with Adobe Sketch and Drawing on the iPad with Adobe Illustrator Line, each with Tony Harmer, are both good places to start.
On the whole you’ll find that the majority of the courses below (and those we haven’t selected in our curated course list) will rely on Adobe Illustrator, so Deke McClelland’s Draw Better and Faster with Illustrator CC should be your first stop if you have little or no experience with it. Even if you know it well, it’s worth spending some time watching this one.
Beginners in the Digital Arts
Once you’ve gotten familiar with the digital tools you’ll be using, it’s time to check out John Derry’s Digital Painting Fundamentals. Here you’ll get a grounding in concepts such as using a mouse or a digital pen, working with brushes and layers, cloning, and using different apps like Painter or Photoshop.
With your apps and basics sorted, that’s when you should take a look at the 5-Day Drawing Challenge: Drawing Your Own Reality with Von Glitschka. These drawing challenges, and others like them, can be used as a means of brainstorming and developing an idea that can then be used as your course project.
After all, there’s no point in watching these videos if you aren’t going to do something with what you’ve learned, is there?
Stepping Up: Intermediate Digital Art Study
You’ve got the basics out of the way, and you’ve spent some time with pen and tablet (or using the mouse, very patiently rocking it “old school”) and got to grips with the apps you’re using. It’s time to step up to intermediate level.
If you’re aiming to draw on paper before moving it digital, then you’ll need to scan it. You can check Tracing Artwork with Illustrator with Justin Seeley for more information on this and the steps you can take to develop your work.
How can your digital art be developed even further? In Artist at Work: Native American Tribal Illustration, Von Glitschka creates a vector graphic of a Native American headdress and explains even more about this topic in Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration.
On a similar note, John Derry’s Digital Painting: Transforming a Portrait explains how to rework a photograph as a piece of digital art using custom brushes and removing distracting elements. He demonstrates the techniques by working on a real family portrait.
Furthermore, Sharon Steuer explains more about brushes in Artistic Painting with Illustrator: Object-Creation Brushes.
Understanding just what is possible with digital art is a good way of expanding your own ideas. Spend some time with Deke McClelland as he demonstrates how to create the “impossible” Penrose triangle in Designing and Animating a Mind-Bending Illusion to see what I mean.
Moving Onto Advanced Digital Art
To really prepare yourself for a more advanced level of digital art, the videos above should be watched at least twice. After all, you don’t want to miss anything.
Developing your ability to an advanced level takes a lot of work, and while you might already have the necessary talent, transferring it to digital media can be a challenge, albeit one that you can eventually overcome.
Artistic Concepts with Bert Monroy: Volume 2 is a useful course that consolidates your learning to date and looks at how the skills you’ve developed can be turned into striking results.
Once you’re done here, it’s time to spend more time with Deke McClelland, whose Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced and Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Mastery courses can elevate your Adobe Illustrator skills to a professional level.
A Few Interviews & Profiles
Online learning can be as varied and layered as offline study, if not more. Lynda.com’s collection of digital art courses go beyond just tutorials — you can gain an insight into how professional artists have progressed their careers using a computer, mouse, or stylus.
Start off with Creativity and Learning: A Conversation with Lynda Barry in which the artist discusses her career with friend and Lynda.com founder, Lynda Weinman. From here, take a look at the Creative Inspirations series where you will find illustrators at the top of their field discussing how they found success and which tools they used to get there.
Among this series is Ron Crabb, Digital Illustrator who’s regularly contracted as a matte painter to create amazing, otherworldly scenes for Hollywood. Follow this up with Bert Monroy, Digital Painter and Illustrator and discover more about his work with Photoshop and watch as he talks us through a current project from planning to printing.
Prolific artist and designer Stefan G. Bucher, Designer, Illustrator, and Writer is our next recommendation, whose work spans TV, album covers, and also writing about art. Meanwhile, if you’re still looking for further creative inspiration, Ed Emberley, Children’s Book Illustrator has had a fascinating career spanning nearly 100 books.
Learning Online Isn’t All Video
Are you looking for an online learning plan to develop your artistic skills? Have you considered Lynda.com already or have you signed up with another service? Tell us about it in the comments.