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wundayatta's avatar

What are the pros and cons of learning to sketch and draw on computer vs using pencils and charcoal and chalk and pen on paper?

Asked by wundayatta (58625points) February 22nd, 2012

Does it matter any more? Is there any reason to learn to use all the tools if the computer can do exactly the same thing, only more easily?

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16 Answers

sadconfusion's avatar

Personally I find it easier to sketch on paper, instead of my graphics tablet.
But I don’t really think it makes a difference. You’re still applying the same principals. The rules of drawing don’t change when you switch tools. :)

mazingerz88's avatar

One of the pros of being comfortable and knowledgable in computer drawing probably is it helps in getting an animator a job since maybe most animation and/or video game companies require it these days.

sadconfusion's avatar

And yes, I think it is worth it! Definitely.

funkdaddy's avatar

From what I’ve seen, it’s still a lot harder to go from zero experience to an artist with your own style all on a computer. The tools just don’t have as much feedback, so it’s harder to get a feel for what you’re doing.

Most tools for inputting on a computer still have a disconnect between what your hands do and what’s appearing on the screen. And none of them provide feedback via “feel” as of yet. So it’s like trying to learn to sculpt with a couple of joysticks hooked up to a robot arm. It can probably be done, but at some point you just want to walk over to the clay and lay your hands on it.

So people still initially learn using more traditional tools and then transfer that to the computer. A lot of folks even do an initial sketch via traditional means and then scan that to give them a starting point for their digital work.

The pros of the computer would be that nothing is consumed so you can screw up all you want, files are easy to copy and distribute, the magic of undo which beats the hell out of anything in the real world, and opening up a wider market for your work.

Mariah's avatar

“the computer can do exactly the same thing, only more easily?”

Where do you get the impression it’s easier? I found it very hard to draw with a tablet at first. In fact, if you want a laugh, check out the first thing I drew when I got my tablet. Note the horrible writing. I mean, I was 13 and complete shit at drawing, but not completely retarded – I could draw and write a lot better than that on paper. Tablet feels far less intuitive, especially at first.

Then there’s the problem of texturing. Pencil, paints, and other traditional media, can produce interesting, nice textures just by virtue of the nature of the media. Digital artists have to produce textures much more manually….UNLESS they’re the sort of artist who “cheats.” I’ll get to that in a minute.

Similarly, line quality is hard to achieve in digital art. By that I mean, getting your lines to look like this as opposed to this. The first requires a very quick hand, which can be hard. Being too slow and deliberate will make your lines look shaky and pixelly and just generally bad. Not a problem I’ve ever had with a pencil. It’s kind of like drawing with a fountain pen all the time.

I just wanted to point these things out because I think there are a lot of misconceptions about digital art and how easy or hard it is. A lot of people seem to think the computer is doing a lot of work for you that it’s really not doing.

That said, of course there are advantages to digital drawing. You have an undo button. You can easily select the exact color you want to use without any mixing of paints. If the proportions are off on something you’ve drawn, you can enlarge, shrink, heighten or widen it. If your placement is off, say you put an eye a little too low, you can move or rotate it. You have layers. That means you can draw a sketch on one layer, draw your final work on a different layer right on top of it, and then just delete the sketch out from underneath when you’re done with it. These things can become a crutch. I’ll admit, I’m not always so good at getting things right the first time because I am used to being able to hit undo. But you can avoid developing such dependencies by denying yourself those tools. You don’t HAVE to use any tools you might consider “cheating.”

Some things I consider “cheating.” Using stock textures, or stock brushes, or stock anything, really. Lots of digital artists do partake, but I want my work to be 100% my own, and I think this habit serves me well, because it forces me to learn to render my own textures and whatnot. I’ve been trying to become even more strict about what I consider cheating – trying to draw on just one layer, trying to avoid using any kind of resizing or relocating tool – to try and improve some of the weaknesses I have developed. The less “cheating” you do, the fewer crutches you’ll develop. It’s all up to the artist’s discretion.

Paradox25's avatar

I was always a good drawer and I was half decent when it came to painting pictures too. I still encourage my nephew to draw, paint and color with his own hands. There is a difference since you’re using your own reflexes and finger/hand motions to create a shape or design. To me it is a proud accomplishment do create art by hand.

fundevogel's avatar

@Mariah I think you might be limiting yourself by avoiding so many of the advantages offered by computer art programs. The whole point of tools is making a job easier, using them doesn’t make you lazy, it makes you more efficient. Assuming you know how to use them well.

You could dig a hole with your bare hands, but the job would be more effectively accomplished with a shovel. Surely you’re not such a masochist that you avoid tools simply because they could make accomplishing tasks quicker and easier. So long as you don’t sacrifice quality what’s the problem?

@wundaloon Sketching in the computer is a pain and, aside from the issues already mentioned, learning to draw on the computer takes you away from live observation. You can’t learn to draw chained to a desk. You have to be able to go where the subject is, put in your time with still lifes and models. You can not do that from a computer.

jazmina88's avatar

I think art with pencils, paper are organic and show a bit more soul.

Mariah's avatar

@fundevogel The difference in your digging comparison is that you don’t have to dig a bunch of holes with your bare hands in order to get good at digging holes. But it takes quite a bit of skill to be good at any kind of art, and paradoxically, using all the tools available to me when making digital art might hinder me in developing those skills. If I fall back on little “photoshop magic” tricks all the time to cover up my weaknesses rather than making myself practice the things that give me trouble, I’ll never get very good.

fundevogel's avatar

@Mariah Fair enough, so long as your avoidance isn’t dogmatic.

lifeflame's avatar

It feels different.
Aside from the tactile differences, the erasability (“undo”) of a medium will change you on the level of commitment to a decision. You can feel the difference already in the difference between pencil or ink; or in the time difference between acrylic or oils.

I also think that the time the process takes will alter your relationship with it. So if you are able to pull up a background instantly, it’s a different relationship than if you have to create it yourself.

It’s kind of like handwriting versus typing. Different modes…

sydsydrox's avatar

Well, both have their good and bad sides. When using a tablet or computer, you can make multiple layers and the efficiency is greater, except that computers can crash, get viruses, freeze up, run out of battery, or just not work. With paper, on the other hand, all you need is a pencil, pencil sharpener, and light, and you can start creating. It may take a whale of a time longer to make an awesome picture, but the effort and time is worth it. Plus, paper doesn’t crash, or get viruses. It’s tactile and always there.
But that’s just me, hope this helps ;)

Mariah's avatar

@lifeflame, just in defense of digital art, digital artists don’t “pull up a background instantly” – unless they are stealing a background from someone else, in which case it could hardly be called original artwork. Digital artists draw their backgrounds like anyone else…

fundevogel's avatar

Don’t be too hard on sacavenged imagery. So long as you make it your own it’s perfectly fine. It’s been a legit part of art for quite a whie.

Nimis's avatar

@fundevogel Good answers. But extra lurve for wundaloon.

fundevogel's avatar

@Nimis Well you certainly weren’t lurving me for my proofreading. Oy vey.

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