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Tips for Turning your Traditional Art into Editable Digital Art on Your iPad

You all know that I love drawing on my iPad, but did you know that I started out my love affair with art on paper and canvas?  There is something special about the look and feel of traditional materials on paper that is hard to replicate in a digital medium, so I’ve never fully left traditional art behind.  The good news is, we don’t have to choose between traditional or digital art!

I’ve been combining traditional and digital elements in my work for years, and have to admit that no matter how much I love my iPad, I always bring some traditional elements into my work to put that real feeling into every piece.  Sometimes that means a simple texture, other times it means an entire painted series in gouache like the one I’m working on below.

In this post I want to share with you some of my tips for creating artwork for digitizing, so you can start incorporating some traditional materials into your digital art!

Why Digitize?

A lot of artists who started in traditional mediums may wonder, “Why in the world would I digitize my traditional art?”.

First of all you can clean up and recolor art once it’s digitized, which is not just helpful for reselling the art in various formats but also takes the pressure off of the artist when choosing paint colors.

Secondly, it’s much easier to sell (and make profit from) digitized art because you can sell it multiple times over to different companies on nearly any product you can imagine!

Once your art is in digital form you can sell it as single images on products like these thank you notes, or mix and match your elements together to create a repeat pattern.

Hopefully I’ve thoroughly convinced you that you should digitize your traditional art at this point.  Let’s dive right into the tips for creating and digitizing traditional art!

1. Start in Black and White

The easiest thing to digitize is a black and white painting, so if you’re just getting started with digitizing your art, pulling out the blackest ink you can find is a great way to start.

The pattern on this fabric is one of my best sellers of all time, and it was made with these simple black and white ink paintings I created on some scrap paper.

See My Whole Process for Creating This Pattern

2. Try Some Texture

Textures are one of the most simple yet powerful things you can add to your art, and creating your textures on paper is not only fun, but it gives your art a unique feel that literally no one can replicate!

When you buy a texture or texture brush, you’re always using someone else’s texture, and your art simply doesn’t have that 100% unique feel that companies and buyers love.

I create handmade textures for nearly all of the artwork I produce, and I often get comments from art directors about how much they love my textures!  I share my process for creating and using textures in my patterns in this class.

My Viral Reel!

This is one of my most-shared Reels ever, likely because I’m not the only one out there who loves REAL texture and gets tired of seeing the same old re-used textures out there!

3. Scanning vs Photographing

I’ve heard a lot of people say that scanning is hard and photographing is easier.  I think the opposite is true!  Scanning is literally the touch of a button once you get your scanner settings right, AND you can use a scanner at a shipping or print store like Fedex, UPS, Staples, or a local shop if you don’t have one at home.

Let’s compare the “burden” of driving to a nearby scanner to the process of photographing art for digitizing….

Photographing Traditional Art

Step 1: Find the perfect lighting situation (I mean perfect!  No shadows, no highlights, just perfectly even light.)

Step 2: Try to avoid getting color casts from the surroundings (like how your photos turn out green when you photograph around a lot of green leaves!)

Step 3: Take lots of pictures (I mean a ton because most of them will be unusable).

Step 4: Make final edits in a photo editing program to be sure the lighting is even and there aren’t any shadows or color casts.

Step 5: Check that your image is large enough and high resolution enough to create a good quality image.

As you can see by my overly dramatic writing in this section, I would rather just use a home scanner or go somewhere that has one, but of course the photography option is there for you if you simply don’t have access to a scanner!

4. Beware Light Colors

Light or transparent colors are the most difficult to digitize, so try to avoid using your brightest yellows and lightest pinks!  You can always alter colors after digitizing, so it would be better to get perfectly digitized images that you have to alter later, than to try to spend hours selecting that perfect shade of bright yellow.

Tip: Start with a test page to see which of your paint colors are hard to capture in digital form!

So Which App Should You Use?

The app I choose is one that has lots of detailed selection capability and a simple interface: Affinity Designer for iPads.  I love Procreate, but when it comes to selecting backgrounds and removing them, I’d rather use the advanced tools that come with Affinity Designer.

I show my whole process for digitizing traditional art and manipulating it on your iPad in my class on Traditional to Digital art:

Traditional to Digital

  • Learn how to create artwork that is perfect for digitizing
  • Learn how to digitize and clean up your art
  • Learn how to create color versions of your traditional art

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