I recently bought a new Surface Go and got back to enjoying digital painting. I’ve always preferred digital art that simulates traditional oil-on-canvas painting styles like impressionism. Lately, I have been putting some effort into specifically practicing my brushwork and overlaying colors without abusing opacity.
“Flowers” by me, 2022 Jan.
The easiest way to achieve a traditionist look with any digital painting application is to, well, paint like how you would with traditional media. As artist/YouTuber Proko put it, trying to follow a traditional process by limiting the layers you use, and painting over imperfections rather than hitting “undo” can help a lot. I also found out that using different brush textures with high opacity facilitates the natural look of my practices. In a way, this forces me to be more precise with my color choices, and rely less on color transparency as a safety net. I still use multiple layers, but try my best to limit it down to one layer for “pencil sketch”, one layer for “rough outline”, and maybe two to three layers for the actual painting process. Additionally, I limit the painting time of each piece to at most three hours, in order to avoid over-engineering the work. Some of my digital art practices are even done in a speed-painting fashion in under an hour.
“Chubby Batman” by me, 2022 Jan.
I do most of my painting in Krita, a free and open-source digital painting alternative to Adobe Photoshop, which is the industry standard. Its interface may seem complex and daunting at first, but with time one will get used to it. After familiarizing myself with the keyboard shortcuts and the user interface, I find myself rather comfortable and efficient with Krita. My favorite brush is the built-in “Dry Bristles”, followed by “Dry Brushing”, “Bristles-2 Flat Rough”, and “Bristles-3 Large Smooth”. I use “Pencil 2b” for the initial sketches, and “Ink pen” for sharper outlining and the final signature. In the future, I might explore more brush options so my preferences are open to change.
“Glass Vase” by me, 2022 Jan.
When it comes to the hardware, I find my Surface Go 2 with Intel Core m3 and 8GB of memory rather sufficient to run digital painting apps smoothly. There will still be a slight lag after each stroke, but that is to be expected with a heavy application like Krita, and doesn’t really affect my practices. The 10.5-inch form factor is a perfect balance for portability, “geeky cuteness”, and enough screen real estate to utilize its potential. I am using the Microsoft Surface Pen Platinum Model 1776 as my stylus, and I enjoy the premium heft of it. I haven’t yet tried the latest Slim Pen 2, but I’ve also heard amazing things about it.
“Christine and the Phantom” by me, 2022 Jan.
The last but most important hardware detail is the matte screen protector on my Surface Go 2. I picked up a paper-like scratching feeling anti-glare protector on Amazon and it significantly elevates the experience of sketching/painting digitally. It provides just enough friction to simulate sketches on natural paper sheets and reduces glare at the same time. I truly cannot recommend this enough – even for tablet users who just use their devices for digital note-taking.