Digital Art: why use Photoshop as part of your creative process

When I started painting I was doing everything on Photoshop. It was so easy, I immediately found the colour I wanted, and erased my mistakes again and again. When I moved to paper I rejected using Photoshop thinking of it as ‘not real painting’. If I had difficulties that Photoshop could help solving, I would refuse to try it. I thought that if I were good enough, I would figure it out without any technology.

I touched a tablet to paint again over the last two weekends at Margaux Carpentier’s workshop, Narrative Illustration, at the V&A. Margaux creates playful and imaginative illustrations. Her work is surreal and colourful with tons of exotic plants and pink skinned people.

Taking inspiration from the V&A’s collections (always a good starting point if you’re stuck) we drew various elements on paper using a variety of materials. As a big tools geek, I was really excited to use mediums I never tried before, like ink and watercolour pens. Paper and paint give effects that Photoshop can’t imitate, like texture or bleeding.

We added all elements in Photoshop, creating different layers, resizing and moving everything around or adding and correcting details. I was really amazed to see everyone’s work in the end. All works were so different, showcasing so much creativity and talent.

I really think that the freedom Margaux gave really helped. I find that formal education, with its rules and restrictions, takes the whole joy out of it and kills creativity. It was a really lovely course that both taught us new things and let our imagination run wild. Even though it was two full days from 10.30-5, I was amazed at how quickly the hours passed.

Even though I do prefer painting on paper, using Photoshop as part of your creative process can really save you time and allow you to experiment without ruining your painting. For instance:

1) You can move things around and resize them without needing to make lots of drawings like poor Rafael in Renaissance (image below).
2) You can try different colours to find the right combination
3) You can use different effects to see what mediums would fit your work better (charcoal, oil, pastel etc.)
4) You can finalise your drawing and edit imperfections

Raphael, Studies for a Virgin and Child in her arms Pen and brown ink, over traces of red chalk, 1506-1507 (circa) © The Trustees of the British Museum
Raphael, Studies for a Virgin and Child in her arms Pen and brown ink, over traces of red chalk, 1506-1507 (circa) © The Trustees of the British Museum

Finally, there is nothing wrong with sticking to digital art entirely. Digital art is a recognised artform and plenty of artists paint solely digitally. The most famous example is probably David Hockney. Here is a video of him painting on an iPad.

Margaux’s Instagram
V&A Courses


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