One means of creating digital art is to combine traditional drawing techniques and/or materials with computer imaging software to create digital drawings. These works may recreate the look of traditional drawings produced with pencil or ink. Conversely, the digital artist may choose effects unique to the computer-aided medium such as creating complex patterns with absolute mathematical precision.
Though there may be some disagreement as to exact origin of digital drawings, modern day digital drawing and painting software, specifically utilizing a graphic tablet and stylus, can be traced back to 1963. It was this year that MIT grad student Ivan Sutherland created Sketchpad, the very first drawing program with an entirely graphical user interface and a light pen used with a computer’s cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor. The first computer tablet the RAND (Research and Development) Tablet followed in in 1968, and the first commercially-available software drawing program, MacPaint, was launched by Apple Computer in 1984. In 1986, Adobe Systems released Adobe Illustrator for the Apple Macintosh, followed by Photoshop in 1991. Though there is now an abundance of graphic programs and tablet/smartphone applications geared toward digital drawing and image manipulation, the original Adobe programs remain the most widely-used by digital artists and illustrators today.
When creating digital drawings, artists may choose to use a combination of other mediums (for example, starting with a traditional painting, ink drawing, or a photograph) plus digital tools to achieve their desired effect, or they may create their artwork within an entirely digital environment from start to finish. Unlike traditional painting or drawing techniques that require an artist to work in a linear fashion (adding one layer on top of another with limited ability to “redo” earlier layers), digital drawing allows an artist to work on layers independently, in any order, adding and removing layers as desired. Many digital art artists use a stylus and pressure-sensitive graphic tablet which simulates the use of a pen, pencil, or brush upon paper or canvas. Programs such as Photoshop allows the artist to select their drawing tool (e.g. pencil, brush, airbrush, etc), and properties (e.g. thickness, opacity, etc.) and provides them with a digital palette of millions of colors. Also part of the creative process is the selection of ink and printing materials (the “carrier”) to produce a physical artwork that may be signed and certified by the artist.