Is Digital Art a Real Art? My Perspective

As a digital artist, I often hear debates about whether digital art is truly art or not. Many artists wonder if digital art is not real and is just cheating.

This question isn’t new, but it does show a bias about what “real” art is. I think moving from traditional to digital art is just a natural evolution.

The main argument is about the skill, hard work, and creativity needed to make digital art, and it’s undeniable digital art and traditional art are different skills.

In this article, I’ll discuss why digital art is indeed a real art.

What is Art?

What is art

There are many ways to explain and define what art is. I believe art is the result of creativity. 

Classic art forms like painting capture scenes, emotions, and stories with brushstrokes on canvas. Despite changes over time, the essence of painting as a way to communicate with the viewer remains the same.

Traditional art uses physical materials like oils and watercolors, giving each piece a distinct texture and presence. 

Digital art, on the other hand, harnesses software and hardware to stimulate pencil, charcoal, oil and watercolor brushes. Even though they’re different, both traditional and digital art demand tool mastery, an understanding of form, and a grasp of color theory, composition, and light.

The Emergence of Digital Art

Digital artists started creating digital art the moment Adobe Photoshop was created.

Even though the application is designed for photo editing, it doesn’t prevent artists from learning and customizing a way to create art using the application. 

But still, there are better mediums to create art than a mouse and keyboard. The introduction of devices like the iPad and graphics tablets equipped with a stylus gave digital artists a level of precision and control comparable to physical tools. 

I’ve observed that as digital tools have improved, so has the accessibility and appeal of digital art creation. Even children can create digital art with the help of an iPad.

Rise of Online Art Platforms

The rise of online art platforms has coincided with the broader expansion of digital media. 

Websites like DeviantArt, Newsground, YouTube, Digg, MySpace and Facebook increase the spread of digital art. 

Unlike traditional art, where you need to have a place to store the canvas, you only need to have a computer and internet connection to access digital art. 

Traditional vs. Digital Art

Process Comparison

In traditional art, you need to use tangible materials like paint, pencils, paper, water brushes, oil brushes, and canvas, which require a direct hand-to-materials connection. 

Every stroke is irreversible. Even using an eraser will leave a trace on the paper. 

The absence of an ‘undo’ function means that each action is final, heightening the need for precision. 

layer feature in Procreate

In digital art, software like Krita allows you to work with layers and edit and undo actions. 

Mistakes are not final in digital art and can easily be removed, which fosters experimentation.

Skillsets for Both Mediums

While the tools differ, both art forms rely on fundamental skills such as an understanding of anatomy and composition.

Skill, knowledge and talent in drawing are important, and persistent practice and training are necessary to develop these skills. 

As I learn both traditional and digital art at the same time, my proficiency in either medium grows with time and experience.

Perceived Value and Respect

The value of art, be it traditional or digital, should be judged on the originality and the effort invested, not the medium. 

However, there can be a stigma attached to digital art, with some viewing it as less real or more accessible due to the convenience of tools like undoing, masking, layering, etc. This bias overlooks the reality that creating meaningful digital art still requires fundamental artistic skills and intense effort. 

The Debate: Is Digital Art Cheating?

Arguments for Authenticity

Digital drawing and painting are art forms that require as much thought and skill as traditional mediums. 

My stance is that the originality of a piece is not determined solely by the tools used to create it but by the artist’s vision and execution. 

When I employ a digital tablet or software, the fact that I use my creativity through technology doesn’t undermine the authenticity of the art. Digital tools merely offer different avenues for expression, and it’s the artist’s motivation and talent that bestow credit to the artwork.

Arguments Against Digital Art

Critics often assert that digital art allows for an easy reverse of mistakes or relies too heavily on manipulation and filters, which can detract from the artist’s actual ability. 

From my perspective, these features don’t necessarily equate to cheating but rather provide different challenges and opportunities for artists to explore.

However, the ease with which one can replicate or alter works in digital form can sometimes cloud perceptions of credit and originality, leading to contentious debates about the nature of digital art.

Advantages of Digital Art

Creative Freedom and Flexibility

I find that digital art offers unparalleled creative freedom and flexibility. 

Software tools provide me with an extensive palette of colors and effects that I can experiment with, which would require extensive physical materials in traditional art. 

Layers and the ‘undo’ feature make it possible to try new ideas without the fear of ruining my work. This encourages a more exploratory approach to creation.

Cheaper than Traditional art

The upfront cost of digital art is higher than traditional art. 

First, you need to buy a drawing tablet, and you can buy one from many drawing tablet brands available. You also need a computer or laptop with a drawing app installed.

But with software like CSP or Krita, you can use many kinds of brushes and effects that are expensive to do in traditional art. 

You don’t need to buy an extra watercolor brush and canvas to create digital art with a watercolor painting style.

Access and Inclusivity

Digital art reduces barriers to entry for many beginner artists. With the right app or software, you can start creating on a modest computer or tablet, significantly lowering the cost and space required compared to traditional art studios packed with supplies. 

Furthermore, online art communities offer inclusive spaces where you can share work, gain inspiration, and receive feedback quickly.

Economic and Ecological Benefits

Digital art is economically advantageous, with minimal ongoing costs for materials. This is because the software can be used indefinitely without replenishment once purchased or subscribed. 

There are also ecological advantages. Digital art generates no physical waste from traditional materials, such as paper or paint, which is cost-effective and better for the environment. 

At most, you only need to pay for the electricity and clean the drawing tablet after using it.

Moreover, the execution speed can result in a faster turnaround for commercial projects, making digital art a convenient choice for clients and artists alike.

Open a New Job for Artist

Digital art offers plentiful opportunities in fields such as animation, graphic design, and video game production. It’s also a viable way for artists to monetize their creativity in the digital age.

It’s undeniable that many freelance artists earn money from digital art. Because traditional art is expensive to send and store, many people would rather commission artists to create digital art.

Since digital art earns more money than traditional art, it’s an advantage, right?

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Kenny HD
Hi, I’m Kenny. I’m a digital artist who began learning art at the age of 21. I enjoy drawing cartoons and fan art.

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