As beginners in digital art (or art in general), we all make mistakes that we learn from. I’ve written down 9 common beginner mistakes here, and we’re going to look at a solution for each of them.

Mistakes are important to learn from, but you don’t have to fail over and over again when you can learn from people who’ve done it before and have found ways of dealing with them. It’ll save you frustration.

Keep in mind that I’m looking at this with the intention of creating professional, realistic looking artworks. Highly stylized and abstract art isn’t the game here, so you’d have to go elsewhere to find that.

I’m all about wanting to make things look really cool and real, like you feel you could actually reach out and touch the environment concept you just created. So let’s take a look at these common beginner mistakes.

Starting with no idea

When I was a beginner, and I wanted to start a new painting, the blank white canvas would sometimes appear quite daunting. If I would go at it with no idea in my head or no direction at all of where I wanted the painting to go, it was hard to actually start filling the canvas with something meaningful and I would just get frustrated and shut off Photoshop.

Solution: An important thing to do before starting to paint is to have an idea in your head before starting your painting. You might say that you want to paint a female humanoid sea creature, and that’s great – you don’t have to know exactly how that sea creature would look, but you at least have an idea and direction. This will help tremendously when starting a new painting and brainstorming your ideas when sketching out your concepts.

Another thing you can do is to check some inspiration sources on similar things to the concept you want to create. If it’s a humanoid female sea creature, look at female anatomy, maybe fish scales, dolphin skin and fins, and so on. Perhaps the creature has lobster-like claws. Also make sure to visit websites that offer downloadable digital art files that you can use in your own projects. Dawn’s Digital Designs is one such website – you’ll find fairy and other fun digital artwork perfect for use by any home artist.

All of this will help you sketch out ideas and go on with your painting, and even give some great design ideas.

Too many details

Another thing I would do a lot is to try and add details everywhere and try to refine every single square centimeter of my paintings. I would get obsessed sometimes trying my best to make it as detailed as possible, even in the corners. This was an issue I soon realized.

If your audience sees a painting with an extreme amount of detail everywhere on the painting, you will overwhelm them and it will hurt your painting – even if the details are incredibly beautiful and intricate.

Solution: A painting should sell an idea, a story, a concept, and you do that by using composition, lighting, contrast, story elements, and so on – not by overusing details to try and make your painting look finished and nice. To do that, you need to create focus and not over-focus everything and over-define your entire scene. Your painting loses focus, direction and flow if the eye-catching details are all over the place.

The important focal point areas are the ones that should get your audience’s attention, not the unimportant areas no one has any business of looking too long at.

Too little value dynamics and atmospheric perspective

I rarely have an issue with this, because I come from a background of drawing a lot with graphite pencils. I love to create strong contrasts between light and dark using traditional mediums, and that has translated into my digital art as well.

However, I see many beginners not utilizing the value ranges properly to create dynamic looking realistic artwork. The value dynamics might be there, just not used correctly.

Another thing is atmospheric perspective. It’s highly important to utilize properly to tell the viewer what is big, far away, close, give impression of scale, of atmosphere and so on. Even in close environments and with character concepts, atmospheric perspective is used to ‘trick’ the eye and help the viewer understand what they’re looking at, and create depth.

Overusing pure white

Pure white and pure black is something that you see often used in beginner paintings. These extremes should be carefully used, and that’s especially true for pure white, but less so for pure black.

Pure white is quite rare in nature, and would only occur when you look straight at the sun or the moon, or a bright lamp. The pure whites in your paintings should be reserved for these focused light sources and for an effect.

If you use pure white or black too much, your painting will look what we call ‘blown out’, where there is no more information than that color, and the values are pushed to their limits. Visit for ideas on digital art projects that are perfect for beginners.

Not using cool and warm colors effectively

Color theory is a very important aspect of painting and presenting your ideas. Getting colors to work together and in your favor is something that takes study, practice and time. Even professional artists don’t understand color theory perfectly, and that’s fine – all we’re trying to do is making things look good and natural.

The main point I want to make here is that it’s important to understand that using cool and warm colors will greatly help your paintings look more alive and pop out.