Digital Oil Painting: Transforming Photos into Masterpieces

For most people, art is something you do to relax, to create something, and to express yourself. For many, painting starts as a hobby, but this can turn into a profession. But regardless of your motivation or budget, let’s learn about things you should know before diving into the beautiful world of digital oil painting and find out how to make your own masterpiece.

digital painting

10 things to know about digital oil paintings

1. When it comes to digital oil painting, the software you use is important. In general, both in digital painting vs. traditional, the tools you use will affect the outcome of your masterpiece. In traditional painting, you have your brushes, erasers, and paint, of course, while in digital oil painting, you have the type of software you use and your input device, the drawing tablet itself.

Let’s talk about the software first. Many offer more or less the same capabilities, just packaged differently. In my opinion, if you master any of these programs, you are good to go. You don’t have to worry about one being inferior to another. 

Here are a few examples: Photoshop, Corel Painter, or Krita, but you can find more; just choose the one you fancy the most. In any case, mastering the first program will be one of the harder steps, while switching from one to another will be relatively easy since you learned many of the basics that carry over across all other programs.

2. The physical tools you’ll need to do digital oil painting. First, you will need a Laptop, a PC, or a tablet that supports painting software, but more on this last one later. If you are using a laptop or a PC, you will also need to buy a digital drawing tablet. These come in many flavors. Some are big, some are small; some have a screen, while others have no display. There is a huge price gap between the cheap and expensive ones, and you can buy a graphic tablet starting from $40 up to tens of thousands of dollars for the most expensive ones.

As a beginner, I suggest you buy one that is on the cheaper side. Buying fancy tools won’t make you a good artist. Many buy a tablet, and after a few weeks, they never use it again. Test the waters first with a cheap tablet to see if this digital oil painting art style is for you, and only after you really like it think about upgrading to expensive tools.


3. In traditional art, the choices of brushes that you have are fairly limited; this is when compared to digital art. In the digital world of painting, the number of settings you have to customize your brush will give you a near-endless number of choices, you can find hundreds, even thousands of premade brushes online already, and you can customize these even further to suit you even better.

But just as with the tools, getting the deluxe brush set from a premium won’t make you a better artist. I suggest first to learn using very simple brushes, and if you got those and have a basic understanding of how they work, you can get into more advanced brushes. Jumping right in the middle of it will overwhelm you, and you might just give up since it could feel like too much at once.

Brushes are important, though when mimicking real oil painting brush strokes, you most likely won’t be able to do that with just a simple basic brush.

4. Know the tools offered by the software of your choice. Use these features, as these are the things which are the pros of digital painting, to be able to edit your strokes on the fly without the worry of making mistakes. You can change proportions, transform, flip, rotate, edit colors, undo, redo, scale, stretch, and the list goes on. Take advantage of these features to make the most out of the medium.

5. No matter what medium you choose, when it comes to color theory, there are no differences between digital painting and traditional. Color theory refers to how you mix and match colors, which color pairs look good with each other, and what kind of emotion they evoke from the viewer. As an example, blue and orange are very popular pairs of colors used not only in paintings but in movies as well. These are complimentary colors on the opposite sides of the color wheel. Knowing color theory will help you create more stunning and harmonious digital oil paintings.


6. Regular practice is king. This goes above all else, and it’s that important. Someone who does paintings regularly will inevitably improve, but the opposite is true as well. People who already mastered painting but stopped for whatever reason for an extended period of time will notice a significant decline in their craft. Just keep at it, don’t give up, and good results are sure to follow.

7. Use Ctrl+Z! This is one of the greatest things offered by the digital medium. It’s great but often overlooked and deserves its own segment. With the help of the undo button, you no longer have to be afraid to make mistakes since, with just a touch, you can undo your latest strokes. This frees you; you can be bolder, more daring, and freer. Many beginners want to make their painting perfect, so they paint slowly and tend to overthink each stroke. Painting slower will lead to fewer paintings done overall, slowing your progression in general.

8. Perfection is your enemy! Don’t try to make each stroke perfect; imperfections give character to your painting, those “happy little mistakes” And if you ever come across a situation where your mistakes are too big, you can always just undo them. We learn from our mistakes; by this logic, the more we make, the more we learn, so don’t be afraid of making mistakes; welcome them instead. Trying to make each painting perfect will stunt your growth.

9. Use the finishing touches when you are done with your digital oil painting. Sometimes you can breathe more life into your masterpiece by tweaking the colors a bit, or if you tweak your image, enough might end up with a piece that has a completely different mood.

10. Take advantage of the unlimited color palette inside digital painting programs. You can mix and match colors to create any effect you want. Traditional paints can often be difficult to blend, resulting in an uneven finish.

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How to make a digital oil painting?

Learning digital oil painting is super easy! Barely an inconvenience. However, this is one of those things that is easy to learn and hard to master. You can get started even if you have zero experience in traditional painting. There are a lot of sources where you can learn; I suggest starting simple, don’t try to jump right into painting photorealistic paintings.

Digital Pet Painting

Once you have chosen a program, familiarize yourself with the interface and tools. Then, start exploring! Experiment with different brush types and colors to create unique effects. You can also try out different backgrounds and textures to create different looks.

Digital painting is a great way to express your creativity. So have fun, and don’t be afraid to experiment! It takes time, patience, and a lot of practice to learn and master digital oil painting techniques.

Read more >> Cartoon avatar logo 101: How to Create a memorable brand identity

Steps of a painting in Photoshop or Illustrator

In general, these are the steps for creating a digital painting: 

  • Sketch your idea out on paper first. This will assist you in organizing the arrangement of elements in your painting and determining the desired colors to be used. Output Language
  • Choose the colors you wish to use for your digital character painting. You have the option to use either a limited range of colors or a complete palette of colors.
  • Create your painting with the colors you have selected. You can use a variety of brushes to create different effects.
  • Add shading and highlights to give your painting depth and dimension.
  • Export your painting as a JPEG or PNG file so you can share it with others.

The benefits of digital oil paintings vs. traditional paintings

It is easier to carry around digital tools and offers more flexibility than carrying paint, brushes, and other stuff. Just grab your pocket-sized digital tools, and feel free to create a magical artwork anywhere in the world. When painting in a digital format, your hand and clothes will remain clean. Meaning that paint will not cover you. It is much harder to bring something new to the table in traditional paintings, whereas, in a digital format, there is plenty of room for innovation.

traditional painting tool

Nonetheless, there are benefits to physical paintings as well. To mention a few, using a paintbrush in a physical format gives you a different feeling that can be a calming experience. Also, using graphite when creating an image versus a digital version will have an alternative result and offer a different experience. Some people prefer an image made with graphite because a digital image typically looks like a clean finished product, whereas using graphite or other art materials does not.

What’s digital oil painting?

Digital oil paintings are used by professional artists and also by ambitious hobbyists. Commercial production studios often use these paintings to create games and films. Professional illustrators have the freedom to experiment with different techniques and colors to create incredible artwork. The undo function and the option to save files are great advantages over traditional paintings.

digital painting nature

Digital oil paintings fall into the digital art category. As an interesting fact, in the year 2020, the craze for NFTs (non-fungible tokens) began. They have been associated with digital art. These NFTs’ prices can be through the roof. As you can see, there are great benefits to getting involved in the digital art world.


Doing artwork in digital formats is getting more popular for a reason. The world is more digitalized than ever before. This means that in the future, there will be even more people wanting a piece of art in digital format. We hope you enjoyed reading about digital oil paintings and that you now have a better understanding of what it is and how to get started. With practice, you’ll be creating beautiful works of art in no time!

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