How to Digitize a Drawing 🎨🖌️

  • Design & Creative
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

Unlock your artistic potential with our guide on how to digitize a drawing. Transition from paper to pixels to enhance your creative reach.

Independent artists: Ready to transform your paper and canvas creations into something dynamic and digital? Discover the beauty of merging traditional mediums like drawing and painting with more modern approaches in our helpful guide. 

Below, we’ll explain how to digitize a drawing and offer a roadmap for catapulting your talent into the digital sphere. Whether you’re a beginner illustrator or a more seasoned graphic designer, this is your ticket to mastering the art of digital sketching. 

We’ll also take you through the considerations, steps, and ways to transform your work, including how to digitize a drawing in Photoshop, Illustrator, and other platforms. 

What does it mean to digitize a drawing? 🖥️

Digitizing a drawing involves converting a physical, hand-drawn sketch into a digital format. It requires specific tools and techniques that capture the fine details of your artwork, transforming them into a digital, editable file. 

This practice empowers artists to orchestrate their work more flexibly, precisely, and quickly than traditional mediums. It also opens up new possibilities for showcasing artwork online (like graphic design or illustration portfolios) and reaching wider audiences, including selling digital prints or even licensing designs. 

6 critical considerations before digitizing a drawing 📝

Before you begin digitizing your drawings, check out the following considerations. These will help you maintain your original artwork’s integrity while capitalizing on the advantages of turning them into graphic designs

  1. Start off on the right foot: Use a clean, white piece of paper for your initial sketch. This minimizes background noise and color distortions that may impact the digital copy’s quality. 
  2. Get a high-resolution scan: When transitioning from physical to digital, using a high-resolution image of your drawing, typefaces, or shapes is essential. Try a flatbed scanner, or take a well-lit photo with a high-quality camera.
  3. Choose suitable software: Consider your needs and proficiency before selecting digital art software. Many options are available, from Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for advanced users to more straightforward tools like Procreate or SketchBook for beginners.
  4. Experiment with tracing and cleaning techniques: You must import, trace, and clean your image to create a neat digital version. Different software offers a range of tools –– work with them to determine which suits your style.
  5. Understand file types: Different digital file types serve varying purposes. For example, JPEG is a standard file type for images on the web due to its small size, PNGs offer transparency, and TIFFs are excellent for print due to their high quality.
  6. Utilize a consistent workflow: Establish a well-defined plan to streamline your process. From scanning your sketch to adding the final touches via your software, a solid workflow saves you time. 

3 ways to digitize your drawing 🖼️

Thanks to the wealth of tools at your disposal, digitizing your drawing is an exciting and flexible process. Each of these platforms brings unique advantages to the table, and understanding them can help you decide which fulfills your needs: 

Adobe Illustrator ✍️

One of the most popular vector image-based software for illustrators, this Adobe program is excellent for line art like doodles, fonts, and calligraphy. It facilitates easy editing and scaling of your drawings without quality loss. Its powerful Pen tool is applauded for its precise tracing abilities, while its range of brushes adds texture and depth to the artwork. 

Adobe Photoshop ✒️

Photoshop is a wonderfully versatile platform that’s skilled at handling detailed work. It has a better color palette for editing than Adobe Illustrator and offers a broad range of filters and effects. Photoshop is also a great platform for creating detailed, textured, and layered digital drawings.

Procreate for iPad ✅

Procreate’s intuitive interface isn’t the only reason it’s popular among digital artists, especially those who prefer sketching directly onto a screen. This powerful digital illustration app offers a wide variety of brushes, an easy-to-use layers system, and a drawing experience similar to traditional sketching. Hungry for Procreate tips? Hold your pen down to straighten lines!

Whether you’re wondering how to vectorize an image in Illustrator, how to use Procreate, or how to clean up a Photoshop sketch, you’re in luck because learning has never been more accessible. Each of these platforms offers unique capabilities for digitizing your drawings, and depending on your work’s complexity, comfort level with the software, and hardware, you might prefer one over the others. The good news is there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. 

How to digitize a drawing 🪜

Bringing your hand-drawn sketches into the digital realm might seem complex, but breaking it down into manageable steps makes it quite straightforward. Remember, practice makes perfect, and the more you explore the process and software, the quicker and easier digitizing will become. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to transforming your traditional sketches into digital art:

  • Prepare properly: As noted, create your sketch on white paper. The neater the original version, the easier digitizing it will be.
  • Capture your sketch: Use a scanner to create a high-quality digital copy of your drawing. Alternatively, take a high-resolution photograph in good lighting — prioritize getting a clear, detailed image.  
  • Import into the software: Import the scan or photograph into your chosen software, like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or Procreate. 
  • Trace your drawing: Use the software’s tools, like Illustrator’s Pen tool or one of Procreate’s Brush tools, to trace your imported sketch. Don’t forget to do this in a new layer.
  • Clean it up: Remove the original scanned layer once you’ve traced your sketch to reveal a clean, digital version of your drawing. Refine this new version using the editing tools in your software.
  • Finalize your artwork: Save your digitized drawing in the appropriate file format once you’re satisfied with it. A JPEG or PNG might be best if you plan to share it online. If you intend to print it, consider a high-resolution format like TIFF.

Why you should digitize your drawings 🫶

Whether you’re an illustrator looking to broaden your skill set, a graphic designer seeking a new way to work, or a hobbyist wanting to explore a new medium, digitizing your drawings offers numerous benefits. 

Here are six compelling reasons to consider turning your hand-drawn sketches into digital masterpieces:

  1. They act as backups: Digital files allow you to maintain a backup of your artwork, safeguarding it against physical damage, loss, and deterioration. It’s also easy and convenient to store and organize your work on your computer or in cloud storage.
  2. They’re great for sharing: You can send your digital drawings to anyone across the globe, opening up opportunities for feedback and collaboration and showcasing your talent on a broader scale. You can also post them to social media, online galleries, and personal websites, making expanding your reach a no-brainer. 
  3. They make revisions and iterations simpler: Digitizing your artwork allows you to make modifications and try different iterations quickly without altering your original drawing. Tools like layers, undo buttons, and history panels make the revision process quicker and more efficient.
  4. They’re versatile: You can use digital images across various mediums –– from digital platforms like websites to print formats like posters, books, and merchandise.
  5. They expand creative horizons: Digital tools offer incredible opportunities for pushing the envelope in terms of creativity, from color adjustments and filters to textures and effects. 
  6. They may lead to commercial opportunities: There’s a growing digital art and design market. Digitized drawings can be used to create digital prints, logos, animations, graphic novels, and more, offering numerous avenues for monetization.

Promote your illustration services on Contra 💫

The journey from sketchbook to screen can be rewarding and inspiring, opening doors to new avenues of creativity, expression, and opportunity. But what good is your newly minted digital skill if it doesn’t reach the right audience? That’s where Contra comes in. 

The Contra platform is designed for independent illustrators and graphic designers. We’ll connect you with clients worldwide and promote your services commission-free. And if you upgrade to Contra Pro, you'll gain access to a customized portfolio, analytics to boost your business and appear at the top of discover where clients are searching for independents.

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