How to Make Digital Paintings Look Traditional

How to Make Digital Paintings Look Traditional

painting apps and graphics tablets, like those made by Wacom, come together to form an art
medium that can do pretty much anything. Any look or style can be achieved with the
right tools and knowledge. Hey! I’m Court Jones. And today, we’re going to learn how to use digital
tools to get the look of a traditional painting on canvas. Stan: Hey. Sorry to interrupt, but legally we have to
tell you guys that this episode is sponsored by Wacom. So, thank you Wacom for making this lesson
possible. If you’re in the market for a new tablet,
Wacom’s tablets have always been a favorite of mine. Ok, continue! Court: Now, there’s nothing wrong with a
digital painting that has clear signs of being created on a computer. Some of my favorite artists are those who
make really slick digital illustrations like Craig Mullins, Loish and Sergey Kolesov, to
name a few. But if you want to achieve the look of a traditional
painting on a canvas there are a few things you can do and core concepts you should be
aware of. I love digital painting and oil painting. At the Watts Atelier, I taught both traditional
and digital art classes for years. But the vast majority of my caricature illustration
work is painted digitally. Because it’s faster, cleaner and easier
to edit when clients ask for revisions. Whichever medium I use, I try to make my paintings
look realistic. But I also like to see bold brushwork and
textures – what some people call a “painterly” look. For this lesson, I’ll be sharing 7 practices
and habits I’ve used over the years to create digital paintings that emulate the look of
an oil painting on canvas. And to demonstrate these concepts, I’ll
be painting in Photoshop on the huge new Wacom 32” Cintiq Pro. TIP 1: Follow a Traditional Process The first thing you can do – and this is a
major thing – is to follow the same steps and procedures as you do when working with real
paints on a canvas. Especially in the beginning stages. When working with oil paints, I’ll usually
start by staining the whole canvas a neutral or warm color. Then, I do a quick gesture line drawing before
I scrub in additional washes of local color to block in the big forms or to act as contrast
to the colors I’ll use later in the painting. Doing similar layers of undertone in a digital
painting can help set you up for success later on because those colors often show through
in the final painting, adding unique interplays of the colors and giving an illusion of more
texture or color vibration than would be there otherwise. Now, your traditional process might be different
from mine. Maybe you don’t have a linear stage and
you go directly into blocking in the forms after the stain. And that’s fine. But just remember that when you work with
traditional paints you learn a lot about the craft of painting in general and eventually
develop a distinctive personal style. That’s why I always recommend students play
with real paints first before going to digital. TIP 2: Textures! One of the things that helps make a digital
painting look like it was made with real materials is when there is visible canvas weave or paper
grain. When painting with real brushes on a rough
surface, the paint will catch and stick to the surface in inconsistent ways. These imperfections in the strokes are part
of what give a painting character and a feeling of being made by physical interactions. And that’s really easy to replicate in programs
like Photoshop, where you can apply a canvas texture to any brush in your toolbox. Photoshop now includes a lot of great natural-looking
brush sets designed by Kyle Webster. And other painting apps like Corel or Procreate
also have some really good brush options. But you can, and should, learn how to make
and customize your own brushes so that you can have more control over the look of your
paintings. Here’s a quick tutorial on how I created
one of my personal favorite brushes: a streaky textured brush. First, draw a circular selection and
feather the edges of the selection. Then, with black selected as your foreground color use the paint bucket or click
Alt + Backspace to fill the selection. With the eraser tool, erase a few horizontal lines. Keep the selection active this whole time. Under the Edit menu, click on Define
Brush Preset. Anything that’s inside a selection will
now be a new brush stamp that will appear at the bottom of your brush menu. But you’ll need to change a few settings to get it to work right. First, resize the brush using the bracket
keys. In the Brush Settings Palette, click
on Shape Dynamics and under Angle Jitter, choose Direction. This will make sure that the horizontal lines
stay parallel to the direction of your stroke, giving you the streaky effect. Next, click on the Transfer tab and
set Opacity Jitter to Pen Pressure. So the stroke will fade out with less stylus
pressure. Now to apply a texture: Earlier, I
scanned my favorite belgian linen and made it into a Photoshop texture. To create a texture from a photo, open the
image and then click on Edit, then Define Pattern. The image will now appear as a pattern
in the Texture tab. Click on the Texture Tab, select the desired texture and play around with the Mode
for different texture effects. Overlay mode, Darken and Linear Burn
are my favorites. You can also use the Brightness slider
to change the influence that the texture has on the stroke. Once you’ve got brush settings you
like, be sure to save it as a New Brush Preset and give it a descriptive name. Just a warning though. If you use the same texture everywhere on
every brush stroke everywhere, it can become monotonous and repetitive, which will give it away as
digital. So experiment with different brushes and different
textures throughout the same painting. TIP 3: Limit your layers Ideally, paint in as few layers as possible. Or even one layer, if you can. When you’re working on a real canvas, you
only have one physical surface, or layer, to paint on. Using a bunch of layers throughout a painting
is kind of a safety net. Artist often do it because they’re unsure
about their process and want to be able to change or delete something. But I think it can hold some artists back
from being more adventurous and expressive with their brush work. When you do all or the majority of your painting
on one layer, you’ll be thinking and solving problems more like a traditional painter. And when you work more like a traditional
painter your paintings tend to look more like traditional mediums. Now, multiple layers can sometimes be helpful
and are often practical necessities of the job, like when you’re working for an art
director who may want you to move things around or make revisions later. But try to keep layers to a minimum and
solve visual problems with your brushes. Which leads us to the next tip… TIP 4: Avoid special effects One thing that digital painting allows for
is creating special effects, like a soft glow around a light source where the colors become
oversaturated using a layer effect like Overlay. Also, mathematically perfect gradients and
totally flat fill colors are super easy to do with a single click. But done this way, there is a really artificial
digital look. Also, this painting was done with a basic
round brush, which can be a great tool. But you can do so much more with digital brushes
that mimic real brushes. So I start this painting again, beginning
with the stains of color under the line drawing. And for this whole piece, instead of a simple
round brush, I use a variety of streaky and textured brushes. From start to finish, I don’t do anything
with a menu command or shortcuts. I don’t use selections, fills, gradients,
multiple layers or automated actions. And when I paint a glow around this flame,
I do it with colors selected from the on-screen color picker and different brushes. I keep manipulating the digital paint with
careful drawing and edge control. The luminous effect of the flame is also created
through control of my values. By keeping all the surrounding values relatively
dark, the candle flame will look much brighter by comparison. And the highlights on the metal will really pop. The difference between these two styles of
digital painting should be obvious. When problems are solved with brushes, expressive
brushwork and smart color choices, it has a much more traditional look. Also, when you make a mistake, try not to
use the “Undo” command. Just paint over it. You may start to think more carefully about
each brush stroke and each value when you treat it more like a real physical painting. TIP 5: Use a controlled color palette Color is a huge subject which I can’t properly
cover here. A good way to practice seeing color is to
study the works of past masters. Many of my favorite artists used very limited
palettes and achieved great color harmonies. You can read about what colors they used for
some of the more famous ones or just analyze what you can see in their work and make your
best guess. But when looking at your own subject or reference
photo, you need to decide first what the color temperature of light is. Like, is it warm or cool. And then what range of colors should you use
in the painting. I suggest you try working with a
limited digital color palette in order to achieve color harmony. A great way to do that is to pre-select a
limited range of colors in advance and to put them on your palette before starting. Try to set up all of the major halftone, transition
and shadow colors. When working digitally, you can just put the
dabs of palette colors right on the canvas you’re working on. Just keep them off to the side and as you
paint, use the eyedropper tool to pick a color from your palette when needed. You can lighten or darken the palette colors
too. But try not to add new colors as you go along. And most importantly, don’t sample colors
directly from the photo. That’s cheating and you won’t learn as
much. The more you engage your brain in this process,
the better you’ll eventually get at choosing colors intuitively. Remember, to be a realistic painter, you don’t
have to reproduce the colors in the photo with perfect accuracy. You should just try to make a compelling painting
that’s a reflection of your own artistic sensibilities. You have a lot of leeway with colors in a
painting, as long as your values of light and dark are convincing. TIP 6: Stay back! When painting on a canvas, good oil painters
tend to stand as far back as possible. And great oil painters stand even farther
back! This isn’t something you can really do when
painting digitally. But what you can do is stay zoomed out on
your work as much as possible. Try to keep the whole painting in view while
working on it, as much as you can. That will simulate what oil painters do when
standing at their easels. You’ll probably need to zoom in sometimes
of course, depending on the subject matter. But if you zoom in on small areas too much,
it will tempt you to overwork the details increasing the chances that you’ll sacrifice
the unity of the composition. The farther away you are from the painting
while working, the more impressionistic and painterly your work will be. And seeing the whole painting while working
helps you see how the values and colors relate to each other throughout the composition which
helps with the color harmony. TIP 7: Forget the lines. It’s all about edges. When you start painting on top of a detailed
line drawing, you may be hesitant to cover up those lines with paint and lose the drawing. But when working with real wet and juicy paint
on a canvas, the reality is that you eventually have to cover up the lines and work shapes
back and forth into each other in order to manipulate the edges in interesting ways. In fact, edge variation is one of the most
overlooked and underused techniques in digital painting. And it’s probably the single most important
trait of an artist’s style, other than color, which distinguishes you from other artists. You’ll get a variety of edges by painting
back and forth over the line drawing, pushing, pulling and smudging the digital paint. Real oil and acrylic paints mix on the surface,
colors overlap and cross contaminate with each other. The more variety you add to your edges in
your digital work, the more “artsy” and “painterly” your work can look. To soften and blend edges, look for brushes
that have broken or streaky footprints and then use a light touch. There are even some great digital smudging
tools in Photoshop that create broken edges. But you should use smudging tools sparingly. And don’t forget, for visual contrast, there
should be plenty of hard crisp edges in a painting as well if you want a realistic look. As a general rule, a good place to soften
or even lose an edge entirely is when the values of two adjacent shapes are really similar. So you may have noticed a pattern. The recurring theme here is to try to mimic
the procedures of traditional artists, and to limit your digital tools so that they reflect
more accurately the limitations of traditional materials. If you do that, your digital work will be
more a reflection of you and your skills, rather than the software. Stan: Thanks Court! And thank you to our sponsor, Wacom. This is in my opinion the best digital tablet
on the market. If you want to get one for yourself, my favorite
is of course the biggest and the baddest, 32” Cintiq Pro… But they also have 13”,16” and 24” options
and the MobileStudio line which doesn’t require a computer to plug in to. Check out my links in the description. See you next time! …and get the look of a traditional painting on canvas. Hey! Technically, we have to tell you guys- I totally forgot my line. …to get the look of a traditional painting on a canvas. Oh *beep*! You were totally enraptured by my performance. You don’t think just a casual
douchy push would be better? Hey! Sorry to interrupt! That might be better!


  • Proko says:

    Make sure to check out the other video on digital painting "sins" –

  • Hemmy says:

    Absolutely amazing and helpful video! Thank you.

  • Rathknight0 says:

    Can anyone suggest me a site to look at drawings for inspiration?

  • Alexander Divino says:

    You forgot karl kopinski! That dude can make digital art look like oil paintings .

  • The Art says:

    Hello my friend how are you? I want to ask you about the price of the oil colors you buy

  • Carly Simmons says:

    When you say dont use the sample tool, do you mean just not use it at all? even if its to select the colors from the palette? or do you mean using it on the painting to get a new color out of the mix

  • hariprashath rackson says:

    Which app is best for digital painting

  • Taba Chir says:

    i draw by mouse

  • Panda Man says:

    My god this video inspired me so much

  • KittyG says:

    Do the Cintiq screens still heat up during extended use?

  • Alexander Divino says:

    2:49 the most majestic goodboi to ever be painted.

  • Patrick McDonald says:

    Thank you, this was thought provoking …

  • scw55 says:

    Awesome. Thank you. I've been trying to get into digital for a while, and I've always assumed my approach had to be different from traditional. It's refreshing to learn that I don't have to do that. I just need to get more brushes.

  • Star Mars says:

    Still have my old Wacom intuos :’^)

  • Ianuarius says:

    I didn't know Ed Helms was into digital painting…

  • lakpa dorjee sherpa says:

    thanks thanks Proko! that is really helpful

  • Bhupendra Vaghela says:

    sir please trnslat to hindi languege this video

  • Daniel Garelik says:

    making an advertisement for the biggest Wacom is like making an advertisement for a Ferrari: "Check this out! A really nice car – I recommend it to everybody! (The most expensive one is my personal favourite!)"

  • :p says:

    Someone: *has Photoshop or some other fancy/expensive app, fancy/expensive tablet thingy and fancy pen *
    Me: *has an iPad and Tayasui Sketches (not the Pro version- RIP eye dropper/other tools) and uses finger. *

    F I T E M E I D A R E Y O U

  • Plane Yogurt says:

    I have been looking to upgrade my 13 inch cintiq to something bigger for awhile, the smaller one has worked great for about 5 years but I am feeling very cramped on it lately. So after watching this video, I bought a new 24 incher. Feel free to pass this info onto your wacom overlords.

  • Chiky Scares You says:

    So far I only use the circular brush, I might try my own brushes to see how they go 🙂

  • Alpha Dragon Queen says:

    I'm Interested In Updating To A Cintiq For My Work. It Will Make My Job Easier

  • Dora Taggett says:

    I tried the suggestions you had stated on the video, like limiting the layers and try to paint as if you were painting. Is there any way, we can get critiques on still paintings. I tried posting it online but not having any luck people responding? Is there a website one can get help with digital paintings?

  • TheJiamy says:

    This man's caricature work makes me want to crawl out of my skin and never see again TBH it makes me so uncomfortable

  • Andrej says:

    I feel like this guy could draw a perfect circle using the sponge bob technique

  • Stanley SM says:

    Great tips! Thank u!!

  • Sammysapphire says:

    6:48 you stole her butt you monster!!

  • Nuei Art says:

    oh hi hello, I have a piece of advice about those Cintiqs:
    The touch function is horrible, you simply cannot use the shortcut keys anymore, forcing you to spend an aditional 100 bucks on a shortcut command and they have really bad stands that you cannot regulate. You can only draw at 30º, which is stupid because you should draw almost vertically on Cintiqs. You have to pay some more 100 bucks to get the costumizable stand. It's ridiculous and it's NOT how previous Cintiq models worked, and NOT what I expect of a damn 1.000+€ tablet.
    Have some decency next time, wacom!
    Also my screen is flickery sometimes, whaaat? My 8 year old Cintiq 12wx works fine but the 13 pro doesn't at all??

    But yeh they have a nice screen i guess.

    Also nice video, thank you very much for the tips on drawing more painterly! <3

  • Danity Lockhart says:

    Thank you, senseis!! ♥

  • MizukiUkitake says:

    Awesome video, thanks! I can only follow a few of the steps though, because I use FireAlpaca lol

    Though I must admit: impulsively, I wanted to angrily correct you guys and say it's "WAH-com". But then I remembered when I called Wacom support last month. Correct pronunciation is indeed "Woh-com", and this fact bothers me.

  • adel616 says:

    Awesome. Court should upload more videos

  • Si Stimpy says:

    OMG! this has helped me so much! Just what I've been looking for. Thank you

  • Shane Fakkon says:


  • B. Chuchlucious says:

    Overworked is usually how most digital art appears (to my eye, anyway).

  • Joep Bosma says:

    Oke so basically, my art is bad because I suck?

  • Satirre Driade says:

    I absolutely love the video, but how is picking a color from the reference image "cheating"? Sorry, that makes no sense, if you're using digital and you can easily pick the perfect skin color wouldn't you?? I think you're wrong about that.

  • T Ao says:

    Thank you sir, for free education.. i really love how your team explain the content.. i have no money for Art school but i have proko !

  • Brandon Conner says:

    Random pokeball, haha~! I wondered why I had missed this video upon looking at the date of release, and realized I'd derped out and forgotten to hit the Bell~! D:

  • Nick Doe says:

    One of the best digital art vids I've seen

  • Nick Doe says:

    Those wacoms are crazy expensive

  • Nick Doe says:

    I was looking for the spot where you said "Go to the link below for a 50% discount off your wacom tablet by using this code"

  • Maranatha says:

    Tip 7 is pure gold!

  • Ollie P. says:

    Thank you for sharing a different method of digital painting, I felt like learning digital was becoming boring because all of my work looked very computerized however I was looking for a more natural style. This definitely helped think about digital painting in different methods which is very interesting. I feel a lot of people encourage the same format of learning digital painting that does result in a non traditional style which is okay but it's just nice to hear about a different way to get good results.

  • Skitamine says:

    But what if you don't have a space for oil painting. I'm dreaming of painting with, but in an appartment, it's complicated.

  • galacsinhajto says:

    Court Jones is a really practiced and good artist, but there is something about this very fleshy semi-realistic caricature style ,that just activates my flight or fight response

  • underfire987 says:

    at 12:05 you make this point, and yes for thicker painting you need to do this, but I think it may be good to point out for those who love to do line work, some of the best fantasy artist both traditional and digital do leave some of their line work showing, this is however through a glazing style and method which is quite different from going on thick on thick. I love both styles actually and its currently my greatest struggle to balance them out in my own work XD.

  • Camila Fernandes says:

    I can't seem to stop watching this video. It has taught me so much in only a few minutes. Thank you guys so much for sharing your knowledge with us!

  • Storm Engineer says:

    You practically presented the exact same approach I arrived to in my attempt to get a trad feel in digital. The only difference is that nowadays I don't make palettes, just figure things as I go. But want to experiment with palettes again in the future – especially with extremely limited ones. Some artists I love achieved great results using only two very small color ranges, or just one, and using grays for the rest. Eg. Sargent has some great examples of this.

  • Symon Oliveira says:

    I would prefer to make a traditional painting than waste my time with digital.

  • Ariel Trochez says:

    The fact that stan is more meme centric now makes me so happy

  • František Švaral says:

    Great Video!

  • Jonny C says:

    I'm a decent illustrator but I graduated over 4 years ago and i've freelanced ever since and all I get is dribs and drabs of work. Still working on an old 12wx. How do you get anywhere? I'm tired of trying to promote myself.

  • Chan SiuMan says:

    Thanks a lot~ this video is very useful~!

  • anon - says:

    A very instructional and informative video

  • Melanie Wallace says:

    Thank you so much!!!
    That was so overdue. I'm a colored pencil artist but from years of doing so my wrist is pretty worn out. So my hubby got me a Wacom for Christmas but it's so different. While I could create nice pieces they all seemed 'flat' and 'uniform' and so not traditional looking. It was just too digital. This video is to the point and makes total sense of course but if one hasn't done digital then one doesn't think of it. Thanks for making this video. This will help me loads.

  • Laokaam says:

    Feng Zhu has entered the chat

  • Felix Felicis says:

    When I just heard ”try not to use undo command” I almost had a heart attack.

  • MOStein says:

    But how to make traditional paintings look digital?

  • Kuhoo Not Kuhu says:


    I never liked digital paintings truly because of the results and i am too impatient for oil colours . But now i really wanna start digital again to do some of natural lookin paintings

  • Gladoholic says:

    Please take diction classes. Your pauses are very annoying.

  • sthom4bad says:

    This is probably a dumb question but how does he keep those dabs of reference colors on the painting itself yet work on the background which is underneath them?

  • dark night says:

  • Lacriella says:

    Thanks Proko team! You are the best. 💛💙

  • Angel Franco says:

    Buen video proko!

  • Natalie Mathews Fine Art says:

    Absolutely fantastic video. Thank you for sharing these tips, the caricature examples were pretty cool too!

  • newcosmos says:

    I have a Wacom tablet for 10 years and it still works very well. For beginners it is a safe purchase!

  • Kizzy Bits says:

    dont tell people color picking from a photo is cheating. thats awful and wrong. you should know better

  • toOnybrain says:

    I enjoyed this. Great advice and tips.

  • jetsonjoe says:

    Really really good presentation. Thanks.
    All of this can be applied to procreate as well.

  • أسد الصحراء says:

    نشكرك على جهل الحلقة باللغة العربية ❤

  • أسد الصحراء says:

    هل العرب موجودون هنا ؟؟

  • staybalanced says:

    this was great any in depth training… you can recommend

  • Ewen Heaton says:

    You know, this is nice, and there are a lot of helpful tips in here. My only problem with this is that digital art is created to take art further, and to go beyond what traditional art can do. Limiting yourself in this way sort of defeats the purpose of traditional art. To each his own I guess.

  • dark night says:

  • Colin Breslin says:

    it's gunna be YUGE

  • Catherine Walling says:

    Omg thanks! This was exactly the tutorial I needed!

  • EYECRED says:

    Yea, no.I wouldn't recommend the new Cintiqs to anyone.The price is the same, the quality control is up Wacom quality control employees arses.Most of them are simply put, garbage.

  • Audrey the cat nerd says:

    Just a statement for beginners, this is for a traditional look, if you’re just doing digital painting, go ham with those layers an effects

  • Norsen Bino says:

    Thanks to you for Arabic ❤️ really very thanks

  • Abbacchio Deitado says:

    How did you made the color square so big?

  • mohamed abdallah koktel says:

    i am looking for this lesson for to many months thanx a lot.

  • KingFluffs says:

    1:25 "I try to make my paintings look realistic".

  • Garbage Truck says:

    its good to know i already do a lot of these things but like, this was really helpful and im gonna learn a lot from it, the biggest things for me that im gonna try doing more often now are using undo tool less and picking colors from an image just to palette them

  • Nina says:

    This was a great video!

  • SiriusBusiness says:

    Super useful tips. Can you have him back?

  • Mark F says:

    Love the "Kilroy" shot of your face behind the monitor!1

  • SuperT says:


    These people: “Walk-em”

  • TheSwalk3r says:

    your brushes are the best ive seen, any chance of you making them available to download or purchase. Or maybe showing us how you made them in a video please. Thank you

  • Arsoy Geboy says:

    That's super cool!

  • vvave lord says:

    Now, how to make it in Procreate?

  • Top REViEW says:

    кароче ты хер поймешь, но блин я занимался класической живописью, и довольно успешно. Но произошла такая штука как взрослая жизнь и я выпал из этого ремесла на лет 10. Недавно купил планшет ибо краски мальберты это все занимает место и т.д. крч нефига немогу привыкнуть к планшету и особеностям CG живописи. Просмотрел кучу уроков вроде как разобрался в особеностях и тем не менее как дело доходит до уплатнения рисунка прорисовки текстур прямо ступор какой то……..

  • AirFox says:

    very cool. thanks! Do you have an illustrator brush from scratch you created? i like to work there too.

  • andarted says:

    1:50 – Tip 1: Follow a Traditional Process
    3:03 – Tip 2: Textures!
    5:47 – Tip 3: Limit your layers
    7:07 – Tip 4: Avoid special effects
    8:59 – Tip 5: Use a controlled color palette
    10:43 – Tip 6: Stay back!
    11:43 – Tip 7: Forget the lines. It's all about the edges.

    13:14 – Conclusion

  • andarted says:

    The whole video in one sentence:

    To make your digital paintings look traditional, do not use any tool, that has no traditional equivalent.

  • Phillip says:

    I want a video that comes with a brush pack, and walks you through exercises and the process using all the brushes….because adapting beyond just my basic brush I struggle with.

  • Suhandra says:

    Useful lessons

  • Badshroom says:

    thanks for the tip

  • MewSakura12 says:

    I aspire to have a lot of styles under my belt and painting convincingly this way is one of my goals! Thank you for this video!

  • Fatimah Az-Zahrah says:

    i still confuse about photoshop since i start learning digitaly with autodesk sketchbook, can u suggest some brush that is good to draw in more realistic way?

  • Natsu Dragnil says:


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