Digital vs Analogue art


Well, this one started off couple of days ago when I realized I wanted to paint and had no canvas, nore any money for one. I started to translate my analogue paintingtools to digital in order to be able to paint more and to understand how I should mix colours in photoshop.

When I posted about it on a swedish forum, I suddenly had “traditional painters” going all rabid saying it was stupid to leave the analogue painting. Yet noone reacts when someone goes all analogue and stop using or never learn how to use the computer when painting.

So I guess my question is, what can we do to make digital art a tool and an artform just like anyone else? What does it have to take to make people think that digital paintings are as valid as any other art?


Well, digital art seems to have a kind of stigma to it. People just think you’re probably “cheating” if it’s digital. Usually this means leveraging photography too much. In general, digital work seems to have this stigma of not requiring the skill of analog work.

There was another thread somewhere in this forum where a couple of digital artists mentioned that they do some work in traditional media, like portraits, and other work (usually commercially based) in digital, primarily because of this stigma.

Showing the process is a great way to get past the stigma. Interestingly, this is actually very cheap to do - it’s just a lot of .jpg snapshots, really. (It’s a lot of fun to do as well, and it’s great to see the decisions made in the latest calamity.)

But ultimately, I don’t think digital work will compete with the same market as “traditional fine art”. If I ever “get good”, I think I’d aim for low-cost reproductions. Keep the margins thin and aim for quantity. This is also much easier to do with digital work. Wharehousing the content is cheap, and the cost of making prints continues to lower (as well as get better).

I’d be curious to see if anyone has actually succeeded at being a low-cost print-maker, or as a “digital fine art gallery artist”. It seems like most digital folk are working for production companies.


I don’t know if this qualifies, but Phillip Williams aka Eyewoo has done a fair number of commissioned portraits in photoshop. From what I remember, he did high-resolution prints on some kind of high-quality archival ink and paper. I think he charged something like 8 grand for a base portrait, plus another couple grand per additional person in the portrait (I think pets cost more).


This is one of the most discussed topics among digital artists, and it happens in every single digital art forum on the planet, and there is never a solution or any real answers. For me personally, I think the following:

  1. Digital won’t be accepted in the fine arts world for a while, so don’t hold your breath. The extremely rare few that have made it are novelties.

  2. Digital art collectively needs to grow up. Just as sci-fi/fantasy illustrations are not accepted in the fine arts world, digital art is mostly sci-fi/fantasy/cartoony, so it won’t be accepted either. But in the illustration field, digital has already been accepted, as some well-known sci-fi/fantasy painters have switched to digital either partially or completely (Todd Lockwood, Jon Foster, Justin Sweet, Jean Pierre Targete, Robh Ruppel, Masamune Shirow…etc).

  3. There is no reason why you have to abandon one for the other. Most professional concept artists/matte painters I know work digitally, but for their personal enjoyment, they still paint traditional.

  4. If you want to be a fine artist who has showing in galleries and attracts collectors, your best chance is to keep on painting traditionally. If you want to be a commercial artist, people don’t really mind what you use, as long as you get it done on time, and it looks great.

  5. Some artists do a hybrid of both–they paint certain effects that can’t be achieved digitally, then scan it in and finish the rest (Rick Berry, Jon Foster…etc)

  6. Craig Mullins is still trying to get people to accept his digital works. He had a one-person art show not too long ago in Hawaii, where his digital paintings were printed out as high quality giclee prints. He’s one of the most talented and respect digital artists on this planet, yet he didn’t sell a single piece during the show. If a master painter like him can’t get accepted, what does that say about the rest of us? I don’t think he’s ready to give up though–we shall see what happens next. Craig can paint very well tradtitionally too, but for his own reasons, he chose to present himself to the world as a digital artist. He could just show his traditional paintings and make a name for himself that way, but he chose digital. So in the end, do what makes you happy.


Phil’s been quite frustrated to the reactions he’s gotten with his digital fine art too. He got a lot of rejections simply because he worked digitally. I think he’s making progress, but it’s been an uphill battle for him as well.


I agreed with every single point that you made. Excellent post.


Ah, I wasn’t aware of that. That’s rather unfortunate. :hmm:


I agree… another point to notice is that practicing traditional will without doubt improve the digital skill also… :wink:


Maybe what they should do is do side by side comparisons of digital and traditional art…though you really can’t show the original piece of the traditional art as the layers and subtle depth would give it away. Just reproductions I suppose. It is a shame that digital art isn’t being accepted, though one thing is for certain, traditional art will never be replaced. I still find it much more satisfying to draw with a pencil and paper than on the computer.


This is sad how most people look at digital art ( painted or 3d ) they just think that it’s the computer not the person working. On the other hand I find digital painting much easier and fun than traditional, but I just started and hope to learn more traditional art techniques ( there are 5 years of studies waiting for me to begin in october so there’s a big chance I will learn something :))

  1. There is no reason why you have to abandon one for the other. Most professional concept artists/matte painters I know work digitally, but for their personal enjoyment, they still paint traditional.

Funny thing here is that some people on that forum where offended almost by the thought of someone abandon analogue painting. For me its easy, I dont have the money or space to paint as much as I want.
Converting all the analogue workmethods to digital have learned me so much.
Also, if I would like to print out my digital art now, and continue to work on it on the canvas, then that should work aswell, since Its the same colours.


Is there any way to reliably equate F numbers to pigments?


Yes, you can probably make a digital palette that matches traditional paints in proximity, but there’s almost no point in doing it because digital colors don’t mix the way traditional colors do. Try this experiment:

  • Take a few different real paint colors and mix them, then paint little swatches with the results. Duplicate the same colors you used for mixing digitally, and mix them in the same combinations–the results will not look anything alike.

  • Use the same paints you used originally and then paint swatches straight out of the tube, then upload it into the computer (either take a photo of it or scan it in). Tweak the scan to look as closely to the actual swatches, then digitally mix those colors in the same combinations. They will still look nothing like the original results.

Traditional painting palettes take a lot of things into considerations–from tinting strength, lightfastness, opacity, drying speed, to whether it’s prone to cracking–and none of them are a concern in digital painting, which is one of the best things about digital painting.


Wow. That really is sad that he did not sell a single painting. As you say Lunatique, he is an artist graced with acres of skill. I was not aware of the exhibition he had, but I imagine and theorize :), that the lack of response has to do with the particular crowd this event was marketed to. Market Craig Mullins to the right crowd, and he will sell paintings like hotcakes. Stick him in a room with hardcore trad. theorists/conservatives and he will have a hard time.

Oh well, he is still an inspiration to me.

Just give it time. Dedicated and heartfelt work from talented artists will turn the masses.:smiley:

Peace out.


Yes its really sad he is such a talented artist. You can read whole discussion about this action here. There are even some photos from the gallery.

Craig Mullins gallery

  • Slux


It’s an art world snob thing really -----


It is possoble to not sell a single work at a gallery and then have another exhibition and sell the lot. This happened to my friends uncle. It takes a lot of determination to carry on though.

I am a painter who has got sucked into digital stuff but I fully intend to get back into painting again. I think that the main thing holding me back from selling many of my paintings is the fact that I don’t show them to anyone. Plus, if you want to sell paintings then you have to have the words “would people want this on thier wall?” going through your head. It is quite different making cool images one the one hand, and expensive wall paper on the other.

There is a real difference between digital and “analogue” which is that painting has a real size. A small painting is a very different thing to a large painting.

What I would give to be able to make a living making huge paintings!!! If you get a chance then try it. I have made a few that were about seven or eight feet wide and it was a great experience. Try finding somewhere to put them though!! And who is going to buy it?

For the mean-time, whilst it is so much faster and cheaper to rattle off digital images, that is what I will do… until I make something and think “I really HAVE to paint this thing”. Real paintings are so much more… real


I’m most likely in the minority, because I will always value a traditional painting over a digital printout. If I was a wealthy patron, why would I want to purchase a printout of a file that could be reproduced numerous times? Sure, they could be numbered, but what are my insurances? A traditional painting is one of a kind and its identity needs no comparison; as opposed to digital art. How many times has one heard the phrase “what kind of brushes do you use?” or “What software?” These types of questions are generally aimed at pieces that have an organic property and bare a striking resemblance to a traditional painting. Many digital artists want to achieve the look and experience a traditional painting evokes. So, why not just paint traditionally? Because it’s a pain in the ass. There’s many more variables to consider, plus the huge investment in time and resources. I could spend days on an oil painting that would take me an hour to render digitally. And, that’s part of the appeal of a traditional painting; patrons appreciate the process, as well as, the final product.


You know, the few times I’ve been in Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, I’ve thought to myself that I could easily see Craig having a show there and it being wildly successful. He just needs to be a little more in his element.


Well I am kinda the opposite to you in that I paint with oils the same way that I paint digitally because I am aiming for realism in both counts.

Actually, I prefer oil painting because I feel I can achieve more realism. With a larger painting, you can paint as if you are making a window into the world. You can paint a full size figure as if they are stood behind a frame (as if the frame of the painting is a frame with no canvas in it). You can also paint things to look like they are stuck on the canvas or poking through the picture plane a little.

Also, you get more control over the colour as you don’t have to worry about other peoples monitors or how it will print out. You do have to worry about the lighting conditions though.

Certainly original paintings will tend to sell for more than printouts but for reasons which are (in my view) not related to art.

I can see how “painterly” can equal “expressive” but I tend to find the painterly style limiting and for my perposes this makes it less expressive.