10 Mistakes Digital Artists Make

A list of the top 10 mistakes made by digital artists. 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 get better at digital art.


Here are some quick tips from my YouTube video. Watch the full tutorial for more details.


#1 Not Using Layers

Layers are your friend. They allow you to separate overlapping elements into individual layers which can be stacked and rearranged. You can easily edit and experiment with your artwork using layers. Layers can be a huge time-saver if 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.


#3 Inadequate Image Resolution

Using a low-resolution limits how much you can enlarge an image before it degrades in quality. 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 save you 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 easy 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. Don't get sucked into 100% zoom.


#7 Not Looking Closely For Mistakes

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


#8 Low Image Contrast

For an image to really stand out, it needs a wide range of contrast. Make sure to use a lot of different midtones in addition to light and dark colors.


#9 Not Shifting The Hue

A lot of people 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 result. Shadows are often shifted cooler towards blue/purple/green and highlights are often shifted warmer towards red/orange/yellow.


#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.

© 2018 Aaron Rutten. All Rights Reserved.

Aaron Rutten, Digital Artist

Seattle, WA