Digital Drawing vs Traditional Drawing: Which is Better for Modern Artists?

Digital drawing and traditional drawing are two forms of art that have been around for quite a while.

Traditional drawing has been around for centuries while digital drawing in one form or another has been around for decades.

While traditional drawing involves using pencils, charcoal, or paint to create art on paper or another physical surface, digital drawing uses software to create art on a computer or tablet, with the output being a digital file.

If we are comparing digital drawing vs traditional drawing, which is better for modern artists?

In my opinion, Traditional drawing is better for modern artists compare to digital drawing, and I will explain why below.

That said, digital drawing is not a wasted skill, but I believe that any artist who knows traditional drawing can quickly learn digital drawing but the same cannot be said the other way around.

Understanding the differences between digital and traditional art is necessary to appreciate the unique qualities of each.

Digital art is often more forgiving than traditional art in terms of mistakes, as artists can easily undo and redo their work.

On the other hand, traditional art provides a tactile experience that cannot be replicated digitally.

The paper’s texture, the paint’s smell, and the brush’s sound all contribute to the creation process in traditional art.

When it comes to the art creation process, digital art offers a range of tools and techniques that traditional art cannot match.

For example, digital artists can easily manipulate colors, add layers, and use special effects to create unique and intricate pieces. However, traditional art allows artists to create one-of-a-kind pieces that cannot be duplicated digitally.

Digital Drawing vs Traditional Drawing – Key Callouts

The choice between digital and traditional art depends on personal preference and artistic goals.

Some artists may find value in combining both approaches to take advantage of their unique benefits and create diverse and innovative artworks. Here are the key callouts from this post.

  • Advantages of Traditional Drawing:
    • Provides a deep understanding of art fundamentals like color theory and composition.
    • More affordable in the long run, as it doesn’t require ongoing software or hardware costs.
  • Disadvantages of Traditional Drawing:
    • Can be time-consuming, taking hours or days to complete a single piece.
    • Requires a lot of supplies, which can be expensive over time.
  • Advantages of Digital Drawing:
    • Saves time with the ability to undo mistakes and make changes quickly.
    • Offers a wide range of digital tools and techniques.
    • Easy to share artwork on social media platforms.
  • Disadvantages of Digital Drawing:
    • Initial cost may be higher due to purchasing a tablet and software.
    • May lack the tactile experience of traditional art.
  • Similarities between Traditional and Digital Art:
    • Both require an understanding of composition and design principles.
    • Both demand creativity and artistic skills.
    • Both involve an understanding of color theory.
    • Both are mediums for expressing emotions and storytelling.
    • Both require skill development and practice.
    • Both require patience and observation skills.
    • Both offer versatility in styles and genres.
    • Both are conduits for an artist’s unique vision and creativity.
  • Combining Traditional and Digital Art:
    • Artists can start with a traditional base and enhance it digitally.
    • Mixed media collages can incorporate traditional elements and be refined digitally.
    • Digital overlays can be added to traditional art to introduce new elements or details.
    • Traditional art can be used as a reference or inspiration for digital artwork.
    • Animation can combine traditional hand-drawn frames with digital editing.
    • Digital art can be used for mockups and planning traditional art projects.

Pros and Cons

Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Drawing

Pros of Traditional Drawing

Traditional drawing also has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. One of the main benefits of traditional art is that it provides a great understanding of the fundamentals of art.

Artists who work with traditional media like paint or charcoal must have a solid grasp of color theory, composition, and other foundational concepts. Additionally, traditional art can be a more affordable option in the long run, as it does not require the ongoing cost of purchasing software or hardware.

And I don’t know about you but I just love having pens and pencils lying around with erasers and paper.

Cons of Traditional Drawing

However, there are also some disadvantages of traditional art to consider. One of the biggest cons is that it can take a long time to create a piece of traditional art.

Artists may need to spend hours or even days working on a single piece, which can be frustrating for those who prefer to work quickly.

Additionally, traditional art can require a lot of supplies, which can add up to be quite expensive over time.

At the end of the day, the choice between digital and traditional art comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of each artist.

While digital art may be a great option for those who want to save time and reach a wider audience, traditional art may be the key for those who prefer a more tactile experience and want to develop a deep understanding of the fundamentals of art.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Art

Pros of Digital Drawing

Digital drawing offers several advantages over traditional art. One of the main benefits is that it saves a lot of time.

With digital drawing, an artist can undo mistakes and make changes quickly and easily. This is especially helpful for artists who are just starting out and need to experiment with different techniques.

Additionally, digital art can be shared on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, allowing artists to reach a wider audience.

Another advantage of digital art is that it requires different skills than traditional art. Digital artists need to be proficient in using software like Clip Studio Paint or Photoshop, which can be learned through free tutorials online.

This means that artists who may not have had access to traditional art supplies in the past can still create beautiful pieces of art with just a tablet and stylus.

Cons of Digital Art

However, you need to be aware of some disadvantages of digital art. While it may save time in the short run, purchasing a tablet and software can require a greater initial cost.

Additionally, digital art may not provide the same tactile experience as traditional art, which can be a disadvantage for some artists who prefer the feel of a paintbrush or pencil in their hand. Here are some more disadvantages of digital art:

Traditional Art vs Digital Art Similarities

While we have discussed the pros and cons of digital drawing vs traditional drawing, there are lots of similarities between the two that all artists should be well versed in and proficient. Let’s have a look at these similarities.

Composition and Design

Both traditional and digital artists need to understand the principles of composition and design to create visually compelling artworks.

Whether it’s a painting on canvas or a digital illustration, the way elements are arranged within the artwork significantly impacts its overall impact and message.

Artists must consider factors such as balance, proportion, unity, contrast, and focal points, regardless of their medium.

Creativity and Skill

Creativity is the heart of all artistic endeavors, whether it’s traditional or digital art. The ability to envision and execute unique ideas is what sets artists apart.

Both traditional and digital artists require honed skills, such as drawing, painting, or digital rendering, to turn their imaginative concepts into tangible art pieces.

Color Theory

Understanding color theory is vital for any artist, regardless of their chosen medium. Traditional artists often mix pigments on a palette to achieve their desired colors, while digital artists use color pickers and palettes in software.

Both need to grasp concepts like complementary colors, analogous colors, and color harmonies to create visually appealing and emotionally evocative artworks.

Expression and Emotion

Art, in any form, is a powerful medium of expression. Traditional artists can use the texture of brush strokes or the physicality of their chosen medium to convey emotions.

Digital artists, on the other hand, have a wide array of digital brushes, layers, and effects to evoke feelings in their audience.

The end goal is the same – to communicate ideas and emotions through visual representation.

Storytelling and Conceptual Art

Both traditional and digital art can be employed for storytelling and conceptual art. Traditional artists can create intricate narrative-driven artworks through detailed scenes and symbolism.

Digital artists, on the other hand, might use digital painting techniques or even animation to tell stories or explore complex concepts.

Skill Development

While the specific techniques and tools may differ, the path to becoming a skilled artist shares many similarities.

Both traditional and digital artists must dedicate time to practice and continuously improve their craft. Whether it’s mastering shading with charcoal or learning to use layers in digital software, skill development is an ongoing process.

Time and Patience

Both traditional and digital art requires patience and dedication.

Traditional artists may need to wait for layers of paint to dry before adding more detail, while digital artists might spend hours working on intricate digital illustrations or animations.

In both cases, patience is essential to achieve the desired results.

Observational Skills

Observational skills are critical for artists in both traditional and digital art.

Whether drawing from life or using a reference image, artists need to keenly observe details, proportions, and lighting to create accurate representations.


Artists can explore a wide range of styles and genres in both traditional and digital art. Traditional artists might use watercolors for a delicate, transparent effect or acrylics for bold, textured paintings.

Digital artists can experiment with various brushes, layer blending modes, and effects to achieve different looks.

The versatility in both mediums allows artists to adapt their style to suit the concept or mood they wish to convey.

Artistic Vision

At the core of any artwork lies the artist’s unique vision. Both traditional and digital art offer a means for artists to bring their creative ideas to life. Whether it’s the organic feel of traditional art or the digital precision of digital art, the medium serves as a conduit for the artist’s imagination and expression.

While traditional art and digital art have their own sets of tools and techniques, the essence of artistry remains constant in both. Whether working on canvas or a digital tablet, artists tap into their creativity, skills, and emotions to create meaningful and impactful artworks. The choice between traditional and digital art often boils down to personal preference, workflow, and the specific artistic goals of the individual artist.

Combining Traditional and Digital Art

One thing that always annoys me when reading articles such as this is that writers and many inexperienced artists believe that art styles and mediums can only exist in a mutually exclusive world.

More experienced artists know that there is value in combining traditional and digital art.

I for one, have combined the two artforms to edit, pivot, and expand on my traditional art.

I have also printed digital art and then enhanced it with traditional art methods. 

As artists are becoming more tech-savvy, they know that combining traditional and digital art can be a fascinating approach that allows them to leverage the strengths of both mediums.

This fusion of techniques offers unique possibilities and opens up new creative avenues. Here are some ways artists can combine traditional and digital art:

Traditional Base, Digital Enhancement

One common approach is to start with a traditional art piece as the foundation. For example, an artist might create a traditional sketch, painting, or even a sculpture.

Afterwards, they can scan or photograph the artwork and use digital software to enhance, colorize, or add special effects, bringing a new dimension to the piece.

Mixed Media Collage

Artists can create mixed media collages by incorporating various traditional elements like cutouts, textured papers, fabrics, or even real objects into their artwork. They can then digitize the collage and further manipulate and refine it using digital techniques, like adding digital brushes or adjusting colors and contrast.

Digital Overlays on Traditional Art

After creating a traditional artwork, an artist might use a digital tablet to add additional elements or details. This can be particularly useful when adding intricate patterns, intricate linework, or digital texturing to the traditional piece.

Photo Manipulation and Painting

Artists can take photos of their traditional art pieces and incorporate them into digital compositions. For example, they can create a digital landscape and blend in elements from a traditional painting to add depth and complexity.

Digitally Augmented Sketches

Artists can use traditional sketching techniques and then scan the sketches to continue working on them digitally. This allows for experimentation, easy editing, and the possibility of creating multiple variations from the same initial sketch.

Combining Traditional and Digital Brushes

Some digital art software allows artists to use custom brushes that emulate traditional art tools like pencils, charcoal, or watercolors. Artists can create unique textures and effects by combining these digital brushes with traditional ones.

Prints and Mixed Media Finishing

Artists can create prints of their digital art and then apply traditional media on top of them. For example, they can add hand-painted accents, gold leaf, or other embellishments to enhance the printed artwork.

Traditional Art as a Reference

Traditional art can serve as a reference or inspiration for digital artwork. An artist might create a realistic traditional portrait and then use it as a reference to paint a more imaginative or stylistic digital portrait.

Animation and Traditional Art Integration

Traditional animations, such as hand-drawn frames, can be scanned and digitized for further editing and compiling in animation software. This blending of traditional and digital techniques can create captivating and unique animations.

Digital Art for Mockups and Planning

Digital art can be utilized to plan and mock up traditional art projects. Artists can experiment with composition, color schemes, and lighting digitally before committing to the physical canvas or paper.

The combination of traditional and digital art provides artists with greater flexibility and the ability to experiment with various styles and techniques. It encourages a dynamic creative process and allows for a deeper exploration of ideas.

The key is to find a balance that suits the artist’s vision and workflow, using each medium’s strengths to enhance the other.

The Art Debate: Digital vs Traditional

When it comes to the traditional art debate, the main difference between digital and traditional art lies in the medium used to create the artwork. Digital art is created using a computer or a graphic tablet, while traditional art is created using traditional media such as pencils, paint, and paper.

While both art forms have unique benefits, there is still a common misconception that traditional art is the only “real art.” Over the years, I have come to accept digital art as a legitimate art form and that is only because I’ve tried it out and seen first hand how difficult it can be.

Is Digital Art Real Art?

Digital art has been gaining popularity in recent years and has become an accepted art style in the fine arts world but how is it received or perceived by the traditionally snobbish art world, is digital art real art?

Digital art encompasses not only drawing (digital illustration) but digital painting, works created using a digital tablet or graphics tablet or some other form of computer technology and then exporting the digital image into digital files which can then be printed to produce copies of original artwork.

Professional artists are now using digital media to create their art, and digital works are being displayed in galleries and museums alongside traditional artwork.

One of the benefits of digital art is that it allows for endless possibilities in terms of color, texture, and style. It also allows for easier editing and manipulation of the artwork.

Traditional Art in the Art World

Traditional art has been around since the beginning of times and has been a key part of the art world for centuries. It includes a variety of different forms, such as painting, drawing, and sculpture.

The most important thing to note about traditional art is that it requires a lot of practice and dedication to master. It is a necessary skill for any artist, especially those who want to become a concept artist or a traditional painter.

When it comes to the traditional art debate, it is important to be careful not to dismiss digital art as “not real art.” Both art forms require skill and dedication, and both have unique benefits.

The main difference lies in the medium used to create the artwork. Whether an artist works with traditional or digital media, the key is finding the medium that works best for them and their artistic vision.

Tools and Techniques

Digital Tools

Digital drawing is a modern technique that has become increasingly popular among artists. It involves using a digital medium to create art, which can be done with a variety of different tools.

One of the most common tools used in digital drawing is a drawing tablet, which is essentially a digital version of a traditional drawing pad. A drawing tablet allows the artist to draw directly onto a screen, which can be more intuitive than using a mouse or trackpad.

Another important tool in digital drawing is drawing software. Many different types of drawing software are available, each with unique features and capabilities.

Some popular drawing software programs include Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, and Procreate.

These programs allow artists to create digital art using a variety of different materials, such as brushes, pencils, and markers.

Traditional Tools

Traditional drawing, on the other hand, involves using different mediums and tools to create art. Some of the most common traditional mediums include graphite, charcoal, ink, and paint. Different materials can be used to create different effects, such as the pencil stroke’s texture or the brush stroke’s flow.

Art supplies are also important in traditional drawing. Different tools, such as pencils, erasers, and brushes, can be used to create different effects. For example, a hard pencil will create a lighter line than a soft pencil.

Different types of paper can also be used to create different effects, such as the texture of watercolor paper or the smoothness of Bristol board.

And many artists just love the feeling of brush strokes on a surface, which you just cannot replicate with digital art (just yet!).

Both digital and traditional drawing have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. It’s important for artists to carefully consider which tools and techniques they want to use based on their individual needs and preferences.

Art Creation Process

When creating art, there are two main approaches: traditional and digital. Each has its unique process, techniques, and tools. In this section, we will explore the art creation process in both traditional and digital art.

Digital Art Creation

The world of digital art has opened up new possibilities for artists. With the help of digital technologies, artists can create artwork using different software and digital media.

The process of creating digital artwork involves creating a new layer on the computer screen, where the artist can draw, paint, or use other digital techniques to create the final product.

One of the benefits of digital art creation is the undo button, which allows artists to correct mistakes easily.

Digital artists can also experiment with different color theory and techniques without worrying about wasting materials or ruining the original piece.

Once the digital artwork is complete, it can be saved as a digital file on a hard drive or other digital device. This allows for easy sharing and printing of the artwork.

Traditional Art Creation

Traditional art creation involves the use of physical materials such as paint, pencils, and paper. The process of creating traditional artwork requires good hand-eye coordination and mastery of different techniques.

Unlike digital artwork, traditional artwork is an original piece that cannot be duplicated easily. This makes traditional artwork more valuable and unique.

The process of creating traditional artwork involves sketching the initial idea on paper, refining the sketch, and then adding color and texture to the piece. This process can be time-consuming, and mistakes cannot be easily corrected.

One of the benefits of traditional art creation is the tactile experience of working with physical materials. The artist can feel the paper’s texture, the paint’s flow, and the pencil’s pressure on the paper. This can be a satisfying experience for artists who enjoy artistic work.

Both digital and traditional art creation have their unique processes, techniques, and tools. It is necessary to be careful when choosing the right approach for a piece of art. New artists can benefit from exploring digital and traditional art creation to find what works best.

My preference these days is to merge both methods, I start with a digital sketch as part of my planning and thought process.

I then create some digital samples and use them as references for my traditional art methods.

And another thing I like to do is create prints from original art to sell, so I am always digitally enhancing traditional art prior to making art prints.

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