10 Free Online Digital Illustration Classes for Beginners

Up your skills and get inspired by these free digital illustration classes led by Domestika experts

Digital illustration is the art of creating images that tell stories through the use of digital tools. Artists manipulate images using a digital illustration interface, like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, and a pointing device, such as a tablet, a mouse, or a stylus. Digital illustration is used extensively in web design, advertising, animation, video games, social media, and more. It's also often combined with traditional illustration for editorial work.

When an illustrator's drawing skills are transferred to a digital environment, and paired with digital tools (used correctly), the work can take on a different form with unique and spectacular results.

Taking a digital illustration course can help you make the most of these tools, giving you the opportunity to explore different possibilities with your drawing and develop your creativity through experimentation. It's also a way of playing around with and discovering the best software to suit your style.

Digital illustrations by renowned Californian artist Samuel Rodriguez.

Vector-based vs. raster-based software

High-definition digital illustrations, such as those used on the web, in games, and other multimedia require vector graphics tools created by mathematical principles. Vector-based software draws fully scalable paths (i.e., enlarging the image will not decrease its resolution). The most popular software among professionals is Adobe Illustrator.

Bitmap images, created by raster-based software, are based on pixels - tiny squares that make up an image on a screen. Enlarging a raster-based image will decrease its resolution and create a fuzzy effect. Adobe Photoshop is a well-known example of raster-based software.

Drawing software is vector-based, while image manipulation software is raster-based.

Free Class: Volume Techniques and Half-Tones

Illustrator Daniele Caruso specializes in creating captivating and dynamic vector art. In this lesson, he'll show you various techniques for creating volume and some examples of the different looks these methods can achieve. You'll go through the basic processes and then take a look at adding gradients and, from there, how to create half-tone patterns.

Find out all about these principles by following this class, taken from his course Vector Art: Reflecting Your Style with Illustrator, in which you’ll learn to perfect your use of color, shading, and lighting to boost your vector graphics.

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Free Class: Basic Edit in Photoshop

Owen Davey takes inspiration from the natural world to create bright and fun digital illustrations. Animals and other characters often act as the protagonists in his eye-catching creations, bringing together the cute, weird, and beautiful of the world. In his lesson, he will guide you through basic Photoshop edits for creating original visual references to inspire your pieces, making sure you don't copy too closely, but rather create new material to work from.

This informative lesson is taken from his course Stylized Vector Illustration with Color and Character, in which you'll learn to create stunning digital illustrations with geometric shapes and curated color palettes.

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Free Class: Colors and Mood

Artist Karmen Loh, also known as Bearbrickjia, has mastered the art of capturing dream-like hues and halos in her portraits using Photoshop. In this lesson, she talks about how different colors and lighting result in different moods and atmospheres by showing you examples from movie screenshots, photographs, and artworks.

The class is part of her course Lighting and Color for Digital Portraits in Photoshop, in which you'll learn to capture mood and atmosphere in your artwork by experimenting with lighting and color techniques.

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Free Class: A Sunny Day - Part 1

Mastering light is a skill that has fascinated artists and illustrators throughout history for its capacity to infuse an art piece with realism and define its atmosphere. Visual development artist Samuel Smith describes his fascination with light as more of an obsession, constantly analyzing his surroundings to understand how it works and apply it to his art. In this lesson, he'll teach you to paint your first lighting scenario - a bright sunny day. You will go through painting ambient light (skylight), direct light (sunlight), and bounced light.

All these processes are taken from his course Lighting Principles for Digital Painting, in which you can learn how to adapt your digital illustrations to a series of natural and artificial lighting conditions using Photoshop.

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Free Class: Our Workspace and Brushes

Character designer Joel Santana uses a combination of color, light, and texture to bring his characters to life, adding realism and depth to his drawings. In this lesson, he goes over some tips for setting up your workspace and tools so that you can have everything ready for digital painting.

You can also find more useful tips in his course, Digital Painting for Characters: Color and Light, in which he demonstrates how to play with color and light in Adobe Photoshop to breathe life into a character sketch.

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Free Class: How to Create and Use Brushes 1

Jean Fraisse is an illustrator, concept artist, and art director. He knows just how important it is to use the correct brush to suit different conditions and situations. In his lesson, he explains how to create and use various kinds of brushes to yield distinctive results. He will show you a step-by-step breakdown of how to create a brush, then go over the main settings of the brush panels, and finally paint a sphere with three different, homemade brushes.

Get a better understanding of the digital painting process in his full course, Introduction to Digital Painting, in which you can learn digital painting from scratch by learning how to capture lighting, color, and volume with brushes in Photoshop.

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Free Class: Combining Lettering, Portraiture, and Abstract Shapes

Samuel Rodriguez, a renowned artist in the California art community, has leveraged the total capacity of the Procreate app to create stunning digital portraits. He depicts the diverse mix of cultures around him with creative flair, balance, and style. In this lesson, he'll teach you to make multiple thumbnail sketches, combining letters, portraits, and shapes to create a cohesive layout.

Check out the processes in his video lesson, part of the course Creative Portrait Illustration with Procreate, in which you'll learn how to combine lettering and abstract elements in your digital portraits.

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Free Class: The Magic Sprinkles: Adding Textures 1

In the words of illustrator and author Dieter Braun, “What digital drawing has in common with Mother Nature is geometry." In this lesson, he demonstrates how he adds textures to illustrations - or magic sprinkles as he calls them - and adjusts colors with different options for different moods.

Find more essential tips in his full course Wildlife Illustration for Children’s Books, in which you'll learn to create playful illustrations of animals and wildlife by exploring vectors, textures, and gradients in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

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Free Class: Creating the Drawing in Separate Layers 1

The beauty of recreating a photograph through illustration is that you can add your own touch of magic to the real world. Here, illustrator Alex Green will teach you how to add more layers to your drawing and experiment with the different layer properties available in Photoshop, so they can suit your artistic approach.

The lesson is taken from the course Travel Illustration: Recreate Your Favorite Place, in which Alex shares all kinds of top tips for digital illustration techniques, this time to create artwork inspired by a photograph of a place you love.

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Free Class: Time for Photoshop: Colour and Finesse

Illustrator and character designer Nathan Jurevicius has a special approach to creating unique and meaningful illustrated characters and envisioning the worlds they inhabit. In this lesson, he shows you how he adjusts colors - looking at hue, balance, and saturation - to bring his on-screen worlds to life. He discusses tips for creating harmonious color palettes and simple ways to give your work that extra spark.

It's a lesson that comes from Nathan's course, Illustrated Character Design and World Creation, in which he teaches you to create original characters and their environment.

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These classes are free to follow until October 3, 2021. If you’d like to watch the classes after this date, sign up for the relevant Domestika course to get unlimited access to these illustration lessons and many more.

You may also like:

- Everything You Need to Know About Vector File Formats
- Everything You Need to Know About the Google Doodle
- Photoshop Tutorial: Learn How to Add Texture and Gloss to Your Characters
- Procreate Tutorial: How to Create Lettering Textures and Brushes
- Illustrator Tutorial: Essential Tips for Beginners


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