Ever since the beginning of time, painting has been a popular form of art. Paintings have always been a medium to find answers about our existence. The development of civilizations and cultures is studied through paintings. With the rise of technology, digital art has gained popularity in recent years. Numerous forms of digital art forms have come into existence, and new forms are ceaselessly being created. 

Digital artists are very likely to gain recognition as the most valuable artists of the new generation. However, traditional art is irreplaceable in the fine art world. Unique, original artworks handmade by artists will always hold great value.

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Traditional vs. Digital Painting_©Irrmago https://www.twenty20.com/photos/22ebf190-66ed-431c-9eb0-d2c78ba73de0

The Origin of Painting

The first-ever paintings humans can trace back to are the ground-up earth, charcoal, and minerals on cave walls from over 20,000 years ago. These paintings imitated nature and complex scenes with varying degrees of realism, based on observations. Ever since the Medieval period, paints have been getting brighter and more colorful. The development of new painting techniques depicts the changes in the pallets and signatures spanning many historical periods. 

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Prehistoric hand paintings at the Cave of Hands in Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. The art in the cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago_Photograph by R.M. Runes_© https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/prehistoric-hand-paintings-cave-hands-spanish-1634481835

Painting styles in different parts of the world influenced each other. Initially limited to imperial, religious, and civic purposes, the art form later found audiences in the middle class. Commercial art galleries were popularized in the 19tht century which provided patronage in the 20th century. Several artists resorted to other art forms while experimenting with painting such as photographs, colors, and prints. New movements such as Dada and Pop Art were hence born, to create a new form of representation and visual expression. 

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Harold Cohen, a Pioneer of Computer-Generated Art_©https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/07/arts/design/harold-cohen-a-pioneer-of-computer-generated-art-dies-at-87.html

The Origin of Digital Art

Computer engineers developed a paint program that was put into use by the digital artist Harold Cohen in the early 1980s. This was the first use of the term ‘digital art’. The robotic machine was designed to create large drawings on sheets of paper kept on the floor, and this came to be known as AARON. The machine was then fine-tuned multiple times as the technology became more advanced.

Digital art can be forged using a tablet or a mouse, scanned or computer-generated. The technological improvements in the 1990s gave artists the creative freedom to manipulate images, download media, and create artistic visuals. Digital art has become more interactive through the years, giving the patrons a huge amount of control over the final image.

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Traditional vs. Digital Painting_©Photo by Ksenia Chernaya https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-faceless-artist-sopping-paintbrush-in-yellow-paint-5716309/

Comparison of the Process 

Creating art with either medium is quite similar. Many artists still prefer the traditional style while the artists of the new generation are switching to digital art. A variety of factors can be taken into consideration while trying to determine what’s best for you. The two mediums can be compared by various parameters:

  • Access

Nearly all students have access to a digital device like a smartphone, computer, or tablet. Although these devices are expensive, they conveniently replace the numerous consumable tubes of paints and canvases. Traditional painting supplies on the other hand can prove to be expensive in the long run and are sometimes difficult to procure. Although electronic devices break or become obsolete over time, their initial cost is less than that of repeated purchase of art supplies in most cases. 

  • Convenience

Carrying around traditional art supplies can be a hassle. Digital painting is a relatively convenient process. The devices are portable and can be carried around almost everywhere without a hassle and it’s always handy. 

  • Productivity

The facility to edit mistakes and make quick changes is the ultimate pro when it comes to digital art, and this saves a lot of time. Traditional art on the other hand is extremely limiting in this regard. Corrections or changes on tangible works demand tangible tools and a lot of time.

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Traditional vs. Digital Painting_©Michael Burrows https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-unrecognizable-female-illustrator-drawing-on-digital-tablet-with-stylus-7147664/
  • Originality

A traditional painting is considered more valuable than digital as there is no possibility of duplication or mass production. It is a physical creation; hence, every piece is original, different, and unique. 

  • Connection with the Medium

A traditional painting provides a completely tactile experience. The sounds, the texture, and the space have an impact on the artist. A physical connection is formed between the artist and the artwork. This is absent in the case of a digital painting where one is merely working with a touch screen or a mouse.

  • Versatility

A wide variety of different combinations of artwork can be adopted to achieve the final product. Changes, combinations, subtractions can be carried out using all kinds of mediums. Whereas it is not possible to differentiate between the various layers in a digital painting. The depth and texture and variations between different brushes or pens that create drama are not noticeable to the eye.

The comparison between digital art and traditional painting is not black and white. The two mediums can also be combined, to modernize art, expand your mediums and increase your artistic experience. Digital art will continue to evolve and grow; it will be incorporated into various other fields as a supplement, but it will never entirely replace traditional art.

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The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer_©https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Painting

Significance of Traditional Art

Traditional art is physical, and it truly communicates with your senses: it can be seen, smelled, touched, and felt both during the process and later after it is completed. It not only serves your eye but also acts as a physical carrier. It is certainly more fulfilling as it feels more real and complete. The traditional painting consists of multiple mediums which are not easy to master. While the process of traditional painting is expensive, challenging, and time-consuming, the result is always remarkable and priceless. 

The process of traditional painting starts from scratch and requires high precision, skills, patience, and time. It includes various tools and materials that an artist must master and know how to use it just perfectly. An artist’s style also lies in the texture of a painting. Traditional paintings cannot be duplicated, the value of the artwork completely depends on ideas and approach. Art enthusiasts collect traditional paintings for their uniqueness

Traditional vs. Digital Painting_©EddyPainting https://www.artstation.com/artwork/Aqg1PV

The Ascent of Digital Art

Digital painting is relatively easy. It is highly efficient, fast, and convenient and comprises commands and effects absent in traditional painting. If you possess a device such as a computer or a tablet, you can pretty much work anywhere. The variety of brushes, palettes, and resources are unlimited. One can easily work without hoarding stationery, in a neat and clean workspace. 

While the idea of digital painting seems convenient, easy, and ideal, an artist must still possess a deep understanding of art to create something valuable and comparable to traditional art. The exponential growth of technology has caused a stark decline in the cost of digital art software. They are affordable and easily accessible to artists and people who are interested in learning digital painting. 

Digital art encompasses a wide range of artistic expressions, which is way beyond just being proficient with software and graphic editors such as Photoshop and Illustrator.  Even though digital art is gaining popularity among the new generation, it is not necessarily overshadowing traditional art that will always hold its sentimental value.

Getting Started

Painting can be learned with or without electronic devices. It can help increase your experience when done right. Traditional methods can be combined and enhanced with digital art. You can develop your artistic skills in traditional or digital painting, although stepping into the digital world will help you learn color manipulation and lighting better. 

Mentioned below are a few online courses you can take up to kickstart your journey in digital painting:


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An undergrad architecture student and a conservationist who is super enthusiastic and tries to learn from every opportunity that crosses her path. She comprehends her areas of interest through research and journalism. She aspires to tap into human behaviorism and bridge the gap between Architecture and community psychology.