• Swarnavo Datta

Moving into Digital Art



Let me guess. You saw someone on Instagram with an iPad and Apple Pencil making some amazing, ultra-realistic artwork and immediately took a look at your savings.

You saw doodles and illustrations all over the internet and figured that was going to be your way of life.

But then when it came to the How part, things got confusing. Where do I start? Which app do I use? Which bank do I raid? Will I be good at it?

This is my humble way to help you out with the first few steps. I receive hundreds of messages on Instagram each week from people who want to begin digital illustration, but find the whole process too confusing. Let me break it down for you.

I went digital 3 years ago. Made a hyper realistic 3-D lemon on my smartphone which took me 3 days straight. (Too many ‘3’s in this paragraph). And yeah! Lemon! Life gave me some, so I illustrated it.

After that I got frustrated with the process, and went back to my (then) favourite medium, ink. You see, I have been sketching forever. Over the decades, I have had multiple phases of mediums:

  • Crayon

  • Watercolor

  • Graphite and Charcoal

  • Acrylic

  • Ink

  • Ink!

  • Ink!!

  • And then I got slapped in the face by digital and it became a way of life.

The frustration came in because of the confusion around the topic. Here’s what I learned through trial and error over the years.

Should I try digital?

Of course! You never know, it may be the calling!

Is it better than traditional mediums?

Not really (personal opinion). I still find joy in getting messy with paint. My process in most cases, still starts off with doodles on paper. Digital helps me take it to a different level, since it matches more with my personality and taste.

How much money do I need to save?

If you have a smartphone with you, then you can start right away.



Let’s talk tools:


When I dabbled with digital, I started off with my android smartphone. I figured out an app (which I still use at times) called Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. It’s free and really powerful. The only problem was, I was not too comfortable with sketching with my finger.

We are so used to writing/drawing with a pen or a pencil, finger becomes irritating.

That’s when I ordered off a really cheap stylus from Amazon (Rs 200.). It had a transparent plastic disc at the nib, which allowed me to see the strokes on the screen. SO MUCH BETTER THAN TRYING TO DRAW WITH YOUR FINGER. (Google Smartphone Stylus)

Side note: you can also make your own stylus at home using earbuds. I have tried it, it works! But it’s not the best tool to sketch! Duh.

After a few months, I saved some money and got myself a graphic tablet (Wacom Intuos). That was a huge step up!

It came with a stylus that had pressure sensitivity!!! That’s the real deal! Think of using a watercolor brush, or a brushpen. The thickness of the line changes with pressure. That really allows you to do some good line work.

The problem was the orientation. Graphic tablets need to be connected to a computer. Imagine a larger mouse pad with a digital pen. You sketch on the tablet like pen+paper, but you don’t look at it. Instead you look in front at the laptop screen where the strokes are coming up!

That hand-eye coordination takes quite some time!

I continued with Sketchbook Pro on my laptop and Photoshop. Spent hours getting used to it.

A year and a few clients later, I had enough money to step up even further. I went for the iPad 2018 and an Apple Pencil (1st Gen). I immediately purchased Procreate. Procreate is by far the best application I have ever used. Worth every single penny I paid for it. I don’t even want to use anything else in life!

I will end this blog here for now.

In the next few blogs, we will talk more on this. Apps, theories, tools and more. Stay tuned.

Happy Sketching.

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