10 Digital Art Mistakes

A list of the top 10 digital art mistakes. Learn about these common mistakes and discover solutions to correct them. Whether you are a beginner or a professional artist, these tips will help you improve your digital art skills.

These are some quick tips from my YouTube video. Watch the full tutorial for more details on each topic.

#1 Not Using Layers

Many artists do not use layers. Layers are your friend. They allow you to separate overlapping objects into individual elements which can be stacked and rearranged.

digital art layers

You can easily edit and experiment with your artwork using layers. Layers can be a huge time-saver when used properly.   

#2 Destructive Editing

The most common example of Destructive Editing is using the eraser. The eraser permanently removes pixels which is a destructive edit.

A Non-Destructive alternative would be to use a Layer Mask to conceal pixels rather than remove them. The advantage to masking is that you can make the concealed pixels visible again. Many filters are also destructive, so be careful when applying them.

#3 Inadequate Image Resolution

Many artists start with a small or low-resolution canvas which causes the artwork to look blurry or jagged when enlarged or zoomed into. That’s because a low image resolution limits how much you can enlarge an image before it degrades in quality.

digital art image resolution example

I recommend using a resolution of 300 dpi/ppi for small/medium canvases and 150 dpi/ppi for large canvases.

#4 Not Saving Often

Not saving often enough can result in time lost because your application can crash, your computer could suddenly restart, or a file could get corrupted.

Saving often and saving iterations will spare you from more than a few headaches.

#5 Saving As JPEG

JPEG is one of the most well known image formats, but it is also one of the worst for digital painting. JPEG compresses your image with lossy compression which can degrade the detail and color in your artwork. Saving as JPEG multiple times compounds the problem.

Always save your master copy of your work as PSD, RIFF or your software’s native format. When saving copies for web, use PNG instead because it uses lossless compression.

#6 Zooming In Too Far

It’s natural to want to zoom in really close while painting on your computer, but a lot of the detail you add at close range often gets lost when people view your work zoomed out.

Do the bulk of your painting at less than 100% zoom, and be sure to view your work at different sizes while you work.

#7 Not Looking Closely For Mistakes

Accidental marks, messy edges, gradient banding and incorrect proportions are all easily avoidable digital art mistakes if you simply take some time to closely evaluate your work.

Artwork with Levels filter applied

In this example. you can see that there are some areas I did not blend very well in the shadows. By brightening the image temporarily, I can more easily see mistakes that will show up on displays that are brighter than what I use in my studio.

You can either blend or paint to soften these edges to smooth out the transitions in color.

#8 Low Image Contrast

A flat-looking image always falls flat. For an image to stand out, it needs a wide range of contrast.

Be sure to use a lot of different midtones in addition to light and dark colors.

#9 Not Shifting The Hue

A lot of artists believe shading is as easy as making a color lighter or darker, but you also need to shift the Hue of your color for a natural-looking result.

digital art color - shifting the hue

Shadows are often shifted cooler towards blue/purple/green and highlights are often shifted warmer towards red/orange/yellow. Cooler and warmer are relative to your current color selection.

Download my Digital Art Color Guide PDF

#10 Incorrect Tablet Use

Proper positioning of your tablet is the key to building hand-eye-coordination and working comfortably. Keep the edge of your tablet parallel to the edge of your screen and place your tablet in front of you if possible. Do not turn your tablet at an angle or that will make it harder to draw accurately.

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