How I Create a Digital Painting

Many people ask me how I produce my works. I wrote this so that when someone asks I can link them to this article. Because I’m lazy efficient. I’ll make separate articles about what makes a good painting. This article will serve to show the process on a basic level without going into the detail of painting theory.

The Tools

I use a Huion 1060 Plus graphics tablet. It has no screen so it’s essentially a giant pressure pad that detects when you press the pen to it and can track very subtle changes in the amount of pressure you apply. Since there is no screen you draw on the tablet whilst looking at your PC screen.1060plus

The software I use is Clip Studio Paint. It used to be called Manga Studio because it was originally made for the Japanese comic book industry. Earlier versions only allowed black and white art but the current version allows colour and has brushes that mimic oil and watercolour paint.


I also recently brought a $5 brush set for Clip Studio Paint. They’re better imitations of real life acrylic, oil, and watercolour paints. Available here:

The Process

Firstly you need to find something to paint. is a good place to find models, both clothed and nude. Here’s a picture from the gallery “016 Female Red Head: Deep Shadows” that looks interesting. I can practice value (i.e. light and darkness) and a unique body position: — ©2005 Hong Ly — All rights reserved. — ©2005 Hong Ly — All rights reserved.

I divide the screen to around 1/3 the picture and 2/3 my canvas.


I then do a gesture sketch out of basic shapes that make up the body – mostly spheres and cylinders. The purpose of this is to quickly (5-10 mins) capture the pose without worrying about detail. The focus is on how the body flows.


After the gesture sketch I add a new layer. On this new layer I draw over the gesture sketch this time going into full detail using the gesture sketch as a general guide. Be sure to correct anatomical mistakes as you go along. E.g. I made the head bigger.


Then I lay down the base colour on a new layer. In this case a generic medium skin tone.

with undersketch

ohne undersketch
How it looks with drawing layer hidden

I then go to a darker skin tone to suggest shape through shadows. Since this is a painting you cannot use lines! Instead you have to show things by using light and dark. After adding basic shadows I add some basic highlights.

little dark
Added shadow
little light
Added highlight

I build up the shadow and highlight by gradually adding lighter and darker values, going from general to detail. I.e. first add big sections of shadow with a little darkness, then within that add the darker part of the shadow, then darker bits etc. With skin it’s generally a good idea to mix in the edges of the shadow with the surrounding area. With other things it depends on the material. Never use the blend tool. I just use the oil brush and drag the colours into each other. Those who wear makeup can think of the process like contouring – darken, highlight, then blend with the brush.

I repeat the process until I’m happy with how it looks.

more shadow
Darken and lighten
Then blend
New canvas
And repeat

And that’s all there really is to it. At the end you would add the fine details and sort out the edges. There’s a lot more to painting such as composition and colour theory (and before you delve into those you should already know how to draw) but on the most basic level my way of digital painting is just putting down colour over a drawing and then adding light and dark values until it looks right.

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