How to do digital design? 9 tips to get started


From digital design software and applications, paid and free, to online platforms that can be accessed by anyone in the world, digital design is a wide universe that you need to know step by step before starting to design.

What are the advantages of designing digitally? What equipment or devices do I need to have? Or what are the most recommended programs for digital design? If you are asking yourself all these questions (and others), don’t stop reading this article until the end.

1. what is digital design?

Digital design is considered an artistic technique that has its origin in traditional design. While the latter is made with specific materials, such as pencil, eraser or brush, digital design uses digital tools and programs.

In other words, digital design uses software that emulates the traditional techniques of conventional design, such as charcoal, pastel, watercolor, ink, oil, etc.

If, in essence, the design is a linear representation made with a pencil or brush, the digital design is a vectorial linear representation, such as cliparts or infographics.

Digital design usually uses vector programs, such as Illustrator, but it can also be done in bitmap editing programs, such as Photoshop.

If you want to get started in the vast world of digital design, you will need to have the right design device and software. But we will see this later.

What is vector design?

Vetorial design, also known as vetorial illustration, is a digital design technique that consists of drawing geometric objects (lines, curves, circles, etc.) to create a graphic image from them. For example: drawings, logos or fonts.



Historical images

Consequently, the resolution of video images is practically infinite. That is, they can be maximized or reduced without affecting their color and shape.

For example: to create a vetorial illustration of an esteemed animal, you can use a photograph as a base. The photo is “traced” by lines and other geometric elements. These elements together are what will form a vetorial image.



Images in bitmaps

Contrary to vector images, these types of images are formed by a series of pixels or dots. This means that the higher the number of pixels, the higher the quality of the image. This is known as a resolution. Therefore, bitmap images depend on a permanent number of points.


Image: freepik

2. the advantages of digital design

Ease to turn off, correct and deface

One of the main advantages of this technique is that it allows you to correct errors easily and quickly. By simply selecting “Undo”, that line that you have just drawn and did not look very good will automatically disappear. Something impossible to do in the traditional design, because even the slightest slippage can force the artist to start from zero. Thus, we could say that for digital design there are no errors that cannot be corrected.

Economy of time

Designing digitally means that you no longer need to physically digitize your design; scan it, edit it and retouch it. Designing directly on digital canvas will save your time and allow you to make adjustments during the job.

However, this does not mean that digitizing is no longer used. Today, it is still a process widely used by many artists.

For example, some prefer to make sketches by hand and digitize them for vectorization. Others, on the other hand, draw or illustrate in a traditional way and use programs such as Photoshop only to retouch or adjust their illustrations.

Multiple effects and styles

Design softwares are characterized by offering tools with multiple effects and artistic techniques. Some offer more than 100 types of brushes. Yes, as many as you can imagine. What does this mean? That the combinations you can make with them are endless.

it is inexhaustible

Materials and tools are inexhaustible in digital support. In addition, your projects will only occupy space on the cloud or on the device you use to design. The effects or colors will always be intact and will maintain their quality. There are also no specific sizes. You will be able to make drawings in medium and large sizes.

3. tips to get started in digital art

Remember that most of the digital design softwares are paid. And you don’t necessarily need to start using the most expensive and popular. Therefore, before buying, we recommend that you experiment. Most of them have free trial periods. Decide calmly.

If you already have a desktop PC, make sure the RAM memory is at least 8G. Otherwise, find out if it can be expanded.

Another aspect that you should take into consideration before starting digital art is the monitor. Monitors below 20 inches are not the most recommended. However, if this is the case of your current monitor, don’t worry too much, you can replace it later.

Designing with a digitizing table is much better than designing with a mouse. If you are thinking of buying one, we say that there are several tablets that are ideal for beginners. For example, the Wacon brand, one of the most recognized in the sector, has devices with differentiated prices.

If you design by hand, don’t stop doing that. Starting in digital art does not mean abandoning your traditional design skills. Instead, they will help you understand digital design more easily.


Photo: freepik

4. what is necessary to make a digital design?

First of all, you will have to define which devices you will use to design. There are up to five alternatives.

pC / laptop and mouse: these devices are widely used by artists who make vintage illustrations. The mouse will work as a pencil or brush.

pC, digitizing table and digital pencil: drawing on a digitizing table is the closest thing to drawing with a real pencil. This device is connected to the PC or laptop and includes a stylus.

graphic table and digital pencil: but there are also graphic tablets that do not need to be connected to a PC. They have touch-sensitive screens and allow you to draw directly on them with a digital pen.

tablet and digital pencil: tablets are not like graphic tablets, made for digital design. However, due to the size of their canvases, they are also a good option for drawing. To do this, you will need to download a design application and buy a stylus.

cell phone / Smartphone and digital pencil: today, there are cell phones that allow you to make elaborate drawings, thanks to the various design applications that are on Google Play or Apple store. However, the size of the screen of these devices can be limiting during the design. In addition, please note that you will need a digital pencil.


Photo: freepik

5. programs for digital design

After analyzing what equipment you have to start designing, it’s time to choose the digital design program that you will use to make your creations. The offer is quite wide.

And if you are wondering “which one is the best?”, the answer really depends on your goals as a designer or illustrator, your budget and the condition and performance of your devices. As Antonella Morelli, xr professor, says: “There is only ‘the best’ for you. And you will discover this when you experience more than one software. Here, we tell you which ones are the most popular.

illustrator:if you prefer vector design

If you decide for a vector style, Illustrator is considered by many professionals and artists as the best vector program. Besides, it has good typographic functions. it is a paid software, although it offers a 7-day free trial period.

Photoshop:if you want to do more than just drawing or illustrating

it is the most popular graphic design software in the world. But it’s not just for illustrating, it also has editing, 3D, digital painting and even animation functions. Photoshop is compatible with all devices.

Paint Tool SAI: the friendly program for beginners and professionals

it is a light, fast and user-friendly design program. One of its strong points are the tools of color and blending. If you are just starting to draw or illustrate digitally, Paint Tool SAI is a good choice, although it works only on PC. Its free trial period is 30 days.

GIMP:the best alternative to Photoshop

Although it is a graphics editing and retouching program, GIMP also allows you to draw and paint digitally. The best part? it’s free and free. it is compatible with JPG, GIF, PNG and TIFF formats and also with Photoshop. Maybe that’s why, over time, it has become the best free alternative to Photoshop.

GIMP has a catalog of effects and selection tools, such as brushes, textures, sizing, cloning, etc. In fact, its interface is very similar to Adobe’s program. Besides, it is possible to install plugins.


Photo: freepik

6. apps for digital design

Fresco:the app that wants you to draw while designing

this is Adobe’s design application that invites you to “discover (or rediscover) the joy of design and painting”. Fresco is available for Windows tablets and iPad. It has historical tools, brushes similar to traditional tools, a dropper that allows you to obtain samples of several colors simultaneously, etc.

In fact, Adobe announced new updates for Fresco in May. Its free trial period is 7 days.

Procreate:if you are a fan of portability

If you have an iPad and prefer portability, Procreate is a good alternative for you. Although it is an application, it is very complete in functions. With it you can create professional sketches, paintings and illustrations. It will be like having a portable design studio. To get the best results, the use of Apple Pencil will be essential. Do you want to become a professional of this app? Take a look at our Procreate course, from zero to professional.

Autodesk SketchBook: a powerful app for drawings and illustrations

it is a design application available for free on Google Play, iTunes Store or Mac App Store. It also has desktop versions for Mac and Windows. Autodesk StetchBook is a powerful tool for sketching and illustration. In addition, it has an interface designed to maximize design space on all devices.

Other applications that you can find on Google Play are Ibis Paint X, Medibang Paint and Artflow.

7. how to make designs on-line?

There are several programs and applications to draw online. Although many of them also have a download version for desktop. These applications work in a web browser, without the need to install them on your computer or device.

SumoPaint:free web-based design

it is an application easy to learn and teach. Of course, to use it in your browser, you will need to install a Flash plugin. Otherwise, you have the option to go to its renewed site and use the app in its free version. SumoPaint offers more than 300 different paints and many exclusive tools and effects.


Sketchpad:an on-line application for all ages

it is a design application that you can use for free online. It also has its desktop version, which can be downloaded and costs US $ 4.95. With Sketchpad you can draw, sketch, edit photos or project. It offers 18 paintbrushes and more than 5,000 cliparts.

In addition, it is compatible with JPEG, PNG, PDF and SVG formats.


DeviantArt Wall:the online platform created by artists for artists

it is a free digital design program created by the DeviantArt community, on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. This platform has 21 paintbrushes, basic and professional modes, an intuitive layout and supports all HTML5-enabled browsers, including the iPad.


8. tips to get started in digital design

Many illustrators and digital artists agree that, before starting to design digitally, it is necessary to have designed by hand (and a lot). The experience and knowledge that traditional design offers are the basis that you need to go digital. If you know how to design by hand, entering the digital world will not be a problem for you.

Familiarize yourself with the design program or application you decide to use. it is essential that you know its functions and tools.

Be clear about how digital design works and what is its workflow (it works in layers).

Learn the terms of digital design. For example: color models (RGB, CMYK) and formats (PSD, JPG, BMP, AI, etc.)

Configure the design program/application for better performance.

9. how to make a digital design in 10 steps

Now it is time to make your first digital design. Are you already thinking about what to design? Follow these steps:

1. Open your design program or application and create a new file. Choose the size and length of your page.

2. Create a transparent layer and name it “sketch”.

3. Make the sketch of your design. It does not need to be perfect.

4. Now, reduce the opacity of your sketch, to serve as a guide when designing.

5. Divide your design into parts and create a layer for each of them. For example: if your design is a character, create a new layer called “hair”, to design only that part. Do not forget to name the layers.

6. Define the size of the pencil tool and start drawing in the new layer. Make sure that the “head” layer is above the “outline” layer.

7. Delineate the parts of your character, guided by the sketch.

8. After you have finished outlining all the parts of your character, hide the sketch. This way, you will visualize your design better.

9. To color your design, make sure that it is closed. That is, that it does not have any open line.

10. Finally, paint the parts of your design with the tool “Magic wand” or “Ink bucket”.

10. what is digital illustration?

Passing from digital design to digital illustration is something that usually happens with many graphic artists. We could say that if you master digital design, becoming a digital illustrator will not be complicated. If this is your case and you are interested in digital illustration, you need to know some concepts.

If digital design is “a vectorial linear representation”, although “it can also be done in bitmap editing programs”, in its most basic sense, digital illustration is about the creation of images using digital tools and software. These images can have several functions: from telling a story to selling a product.

Therefore, as digital design

What is illustration?

To better understand what digital illustration is, let’s learn what illustration is. Felo Lira, professor of the course From Paper to Screen: Introduction to Digital Illustration, defines it as follows:

“Illustration comes from ‘giving light’, it is to illuminate a concept so that it can be understood with clarity and precision”.

Many times, art can be confused with illustration. Are they the same? No. Although art can have several interpretations, illustration, as Felo says, “is direct, it must have only one possible interpretation”.

And what is illustration?

According to Felo Lira, to illustrate “is to be able to communicate something directly, ensuring that the receiver clearly understands the message”.

11. digital vector illustration

The images created in vectorial programs are called vectorial digital illustration. It should be noted that vector programs do not work with pixels, but with lines, shapes and patterns.

Vetorial digital illustration programs

Adobe Illustrator
Illustrator Draw
GIMP (has tools for vector design)
Affinity Designer
Krita (includes current features)
Adobe Fresco (includes current tools)

12. digital illustration and traditional illustration

Although digital illustration uses different types of software to create images and traditional illustration consists of drawing and coloring by hand, the former is often mixed with the latter to obtain more authentic and personal illustrations.

However, it should be kept in mind that digital illustration “does not consist in correcting an image or digitalizing and editing drawings previously created with analog graphic techniques, but in directly creating an image, perhaps taking a sketch as a starting point, in a digital environment”.

13. types of digital illustration

Editorial: this is the type of illustration found in books and stories. it is very popular in children’s books.
Conceptual: found in series, films and animations.
Advertising: its function is to sell a product or service. It uses synthetic forms and bright colors.

14. digital illustration techniques

Digital illustration techniques are nothing more than traditional illustration techniques brought to the digital world. Thanks to graphic programs and tablets, digital illustrators can emulate traditional techniques (drawing, ink, watercolor, etc.) in their illustrations.

Markers or markers
Pencils of color

If in traditional illustration these techniques are done with a brush or pencil, in digital illustration they are applied with the help of an optical pencil and a variety of brushes thanks to the Brush tool.or applied with the help of an optical pencil and a variety of brushes thanks to the Brush tool.

15. digital illustration styles

flat illustration: this illustration style synthesizes reality. It consists in the creation of infographics that provide information in an intelligent and friendly way.

This illustration course may interest you:

Flat illustration: narrative infographics in Photoshop

pixel art illustration: is a digital art technique created by means of raster graphics editing programs, such as Aseprite.

This illustration course may interest you:

Create your first portrait in Pixel Art

vetorial illustration: this is the name for illustrations made only with vectors.

This illustration course may interest you:

Character Illustration: from sketch to vectors

kawaii illustration: this style of digital illustration is characterized by being “cute and cute” and using soft colors and pastels. Kawaii is a word of Japanese origin, which can be translated to Portuguese as “cute, cute or adorable”.

This illustration course may interest you:

Character Illustration: from sketch to vetor

children’s illustration: is a style of illustration widely used in didactic books, illustrated albums and illustrated books.

This illustration course may interest you:

Introduction to children’s illustration

3D illustration: is the type of three-dimensional illustration that is done in 3D animation programs such as Cinema 4D.

children’s illustration: it is characterized for being a simple, silly and fun illustration style, because it emulates the way children develop.

photorealistic illustration: creates realistic illustrations from photos using design and illustration programs.

16. digital illustration tutorials

How to apply textures in Adobe Illustrator?

If you want your digital illustrations to have more character, give them volume. In this xr tutorial, we explain how to do it by creating your own textures.

Types of brushes for Procreate with Valinsky

Do you use Procreate for illustration? Don’t miss this tutorial with our teacher Valinsky, who will show you which brushes you can use in Procreate to enhance your digital illustrations.

How to edit illustrations in Photoshop?

This is not a digital illustration tutorial, but it will help you a lot if you illustrate in a traditional way. Learn how to edit illustrations in Photoshop and “clean them up” to upload them to social networks.

The world of digital design is full of terms, tips and tricks that, with time and practice, you will learn and master. Don’t worry if you don’t learn them all at first. it is always better to have something to learn. We hope this article has cleared up your doubts about digital design and illustration so that, soon, you can join the community of illustrators and artists. Good luck!

Leave a Comment