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Digital illustration is big business these days. A quick look at roadside billboards, club flyers or
magazine covers should be enough to convince anyone that the art of the digital designer has
never been in higher demand, and its popularity just keeps on growing.
But defining exactly what digital illustration is proves tricky. We all know what the words mean,
yet the myriad of ways in which illustration can be applied makes it one of the most versatile of
the creative arts and as such, it's pretty difficult to pin down.
With a strong creative vision and the right software, concepts can be articulated in limitless
ways; each style opening new doors for expression. The one crucial skill that ties it all together
is the need for some innate artistic ability. You don't need to be a virtuoso with a pencil to be
good at computer art, but there's no doubt that most professional illustrators are proficient with
traditional art techniques.
The basics of image structure are the same across mediums, after all, and with software
increasingly able to mimic traditional drawing methods, the transition to digital has become
almost seamless. Let's take a closer look at the main branches of digital illustration and discover
a little more about how the experts put them together.
It's no great accident that vector illustration is currently one of the trendiest and easily
recognizable of the digital art disciplines. The signature flat colors and clean lines are easy to
spot and quick to grab attention, which of course makes the style hugely popular with
advertisers looking to catch the eye of potential consumers. In addition, their reduced color
palettes and scalable technology means they are perfect when it comes to artwork for the Web.
Created with precision by manipulating Bezier paths, the mechanics of vectors are based on
mathematical principles that make them infinitely scalable without suffering degradation. This
trait is extremely attractive to illustrators because it means images can be shrunk to a stamp or
stretched to a billboard, without having to be redone. Paths are also easy to edit at a later stage,
making vector images quick to tweak and rearrange if need be.
Vector shapes are often produced with photographs or hand drawn scans as templates, digitally
tracing as much of the outline and detail as needed. Programs such as Flash can even create
vectors automatically by tracing over photographic or pre sketched material, allowing picture
elements to be created quickly and with little effort. However, the real artistry comes when
choosing which elements to take to the digital image, and knowing how to color and arrange the
Keeping up to date is crucial and, since digital artists typically spend hours in front of a screen
involved in their masterpieces, it's all too easy to become isolated from what's going on around
you. Styles are constantly changing and trends can come and go at great speed, so keeping
your finger on the industry pulse is vital. Not only does it make good commercial sense, but it
can also act as a rich muse from which to draw ideas
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