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27 Rewarding Types of Digital Art Creation to Explore

There are so many different types of digital art creation out there to try! Sometimes changing or trying something new is scary, but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be loads of fun!

During my last 20+ years working as a digital artist, animator, illustrator, and educator, I’ve tried a lot of tools and digital art techniques. These include different types of software and hardware and mediums from drawing and printmaking to digital animation and NFTs. In this article, I’ll share some of what I’ve learned in the hopes that it will help you make some great choices for your own art-making adventures. 

This list covers some of the best and most exciting types of digital art examples out there.

So, what are the different types of digital art creation to explore?

When it comes down to it, I say the best medium for you is the one that fits your style of art-making in a way that just feels right. For me, it always comes down to the project I happen to be working on, and I add tools and techniques as I need them. For you, it might be different. If you like doing 2D work, you might choose to try a software application llike ProCreate, Art Rage, or Photoshop. Do you like animating things? Adobe After Effects, Toon Boom Studio, or maybe a 3D software tool like Blender or Cinema 4D might be a good fit for you. Maybe you’d like to show your work in art galleries. In that case, you might try image projection, projection mapping, or maybe image transfer methods. You have so many choices, but you can just pick one or two to get started, and give yourself a break. Try not to pile on too many new things all at once!

Here are my picks for the types of digital art creation you might consider trying out.  

AI art

AI art is making waves in newsland these days. There are a bunch of different tools out there, but they all use artificial intelligence algorithms to generate or assist in the creation of new artworks. Most tools have the option to start with an existing image or start from scratch with a written prompt. Some example of AI art projects are style transfer, where the style of one artwork is applied to another, generating surreal or dreamlike compositions, or even creating entirely new and unexpected artistic styles that push the boundaries of traditional artistic techniques. AI art showcases the potential of machine intelligence as a creative tool and opens up exciting avenues for artistic expression and experimentation. Software Applications like Dream Studio, DeepArt, DeepDream, DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion provide AI-powered tools for artists to experiment and generate cool and unique artwork.

Be careful: A lot of AI tools use existing images on the internet as reference material without permission from the original artists. It’s important to be clear when you use these tools in your work and understand up front that you can’t copyright work generated by AI tools.

I created the images below in Dream Studio using the following prompt: “A photorealistic illustration of a cyberpunk artist creating AI art on a laptop computer. Make it colorful and include some outdoor or nature elements.” It took about 20 seconds!

Digital collage

Digital collage artists use a collection of digital images, photographs, and other elements to combine and create a new composition. Artists use software tools like Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, Clip Studio Paint, Canva, or GIMP to manipulate and layer different visual elements to create a unique composition on a computer. Artists use digital collage in graphic design, illustration, advertising, social media graphics, book covers, and mixed media artwork, to name a few. The software tools provide artists with the flexibility to cut, resize, and transform digital images, as well as add filters, textures, and typography, enabling them to create visually stunning and imaginative collages that possibly transcend traditional cut-and-paste techniques by allowing iteration and undo to happen easily.

Digital painting

Also known as raster painting or 2D digital painting, digital painting is the creation of an art piece using tools like graphics tablets (iPads or Android tablets) with software applications like Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, Clip Studio Paint, Art Rage Studio, or Corel Photo Paint. The software allows artists to simulate traditional painting techniques like oil painting, acrylics, spray paint, or watercolor and offers a wide selection of brushes, textures, and interesting paint effects. Artists can take advantage of using multiple layers in their work to build and create while having the wonderful power of an undo button when they make mistakes. Digital Painters work in all sorts of aesthetic styles and they sell their work for illustrations, medical illustrations, concept art, character design, and even matte painting for movies.

Vector art

Vector artists create digital artwork using vector graphics (math-based, but you don’t have to do the math) software like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, or CorelDRAW. Vector artwork is easily scaleable to any size small or large. This is the major advantage of this type of artwork. You have precise control over anchor points, curves, and paths, and you can create clean, smooth, and highly scalable artwork that is great for graphic design, branding, advertising, and print media. Some examples of the types of projects you could make with vector art include logo design, typography, infographics, illustrations for books or magazines, web graphics, and scalable artwork for large-format printing or motion graphics. Using vector software, artists create versatile and adaptable designs used across different mediums and sizes, making it a powerful tool for digital artists and graphic designers to have on your tool-belt.

Photomanipulation

Photomanipulation, or photo painting is a digital art form where artists combine and manipulate different photographs or digital images to create an entirely new composition. Software applications like Adobe Photoshop provide powerful tools for adjusting colors, adding or removing elements, and creating surreal or fantasy scenes. Frequently, advertisers, album cover designers, and digital artists utilize photomanipulation in their work.

Pixel art

Pixel art is a form of digital art that uses pixel-level precision to create low-resolution images with a retro aesthetic. Artists work on a grid, placing individual pixels to form characters, environments, and objects. Applications like Aseprite or Pyxel Edit are specifically designed for pixel art creation. Artists who use these tools to create art in this style tend to achieve a retro 80s/90s feel, and their work is commonly visible in video games, pixel animations, and nostalgic artwork.

Digital 2D animation

Digital 2D animators create animations using digital tools and software to generate and manipulate artwork along a timeline using either sequential images or keyframe animation. Animation provides a wide range of possibilities for creating dynamic, visually appealing animations. Artists in this field work on diverse projects, including animated feature films, television shows, web series, advertisements, explainer videos, interactive media, title sequences, and mobile applications.

Some popular software options for digital 2D animation include Adobe Animate (formerly Flash), Toon Boom Studio, Clip Studio Paint, Procreate, and Moho (formerly Anime Studio). These software programs offer features such as drawing tools, timeline-based animation, rigging systems, special effects, and sound integration, providing a comprehensive suite for creating professional-grade animations.

Digital 3D sculpting

Digital 3D sculpting is the digital equivalent of sculpting in clay to create digital 3D models. Artists can sculpt in “digital clay” using a variety of software tools to raise, cut, push, and pull the clay on screen. Most software packages for this creative practice allow you to create incredibly detailed sculptures. Some software tools even allow you to paint the models so they can be used in 3D animation, rendering, or 3D printing of physical models. Unlike traditional sculpting, digital 3D sculpting offers non-destructive editing so artists can make changes easily without compromising the integrity of the model. Artists use software applications like Pixologic ZBrush, Autodesk Mudbox, or Blender, often combined with graphic tablets or specialized input devices, to sculpt virtual objects. These tools provide a range of brushes, textures, and sculpting techniques to simulate real-world sculpting materials and tools.

3D Digital Sculptors work in various industries, including film, video games, animation, product design, and character creation. Artists can create detailed character models for movies or video games, design virtual creatures, sculpt intricate jewelry or product prototypes, or even create concept art for visualization purposes. The flexibility of digital sculpting allows artists to iterate quickly, experiment with different shapes and forms, and refine their creations with ease, which makes this one of the more exciting types of digital art creation. It provides a powerful toolset for artists to bring their imaginations to life in the digital realm, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in sculptural art and design.

Digital 3D modeling

Digital 3D modelers create virtual 3D models of objects using sophisticated 3D software.  It takes alot of time to get really good at 3D modeling, but once you master the tools, you’ll have the ability to create nearly anything you can imagine in virtual 3D space. Digital 3D modeling involves manipulating points (vertices), lines, splines, and polygon faces to shape them into an object. This is the basis for most of what you see in video games and visual fx (VFX).  It involves constructing detailed and realistic 3D representations of various objects, characters, architectural structures, and more. Digital 3D modeling finds applications in industries such as film, video games, product design, architecture, and animation. 

Types of projects Digital modelers might work on include character modeling, environment design, product visualization, VFX, fine art, architectural visualization, and gaming.

Blender, Maya, 3D Studio Max, and Cinema 4D are all great software packages for Digital 3D Modeling artists. These tools provide artists with the capabilities to sculpt, texture, rig, and animate 3D models, enabling them to create stunning and immersive digital content across various industries.

Digital 3D animation

Digital 3D animators create of three-dimensional computer-generated imagery (CGI) that gives the illusion of depth, volume, and realistic movement on a 2D screen or VR headset (in the case of gaming and VR storytelling). They use specialized software and tools to model, texture, rig, animate, and render virtual objects and environments. Digital 3D animation allows artists to create incredibly detailed and immersive virtual spaces, making it a popular choice for various projects in the entertainment, gaming, advertising, and architectural industries. Artists in this field work on projects such as animated films, visual effects for movies, video game cinematics, virtual reality experiences, product visualizations, title sequences, product visualization, 3D motion graphics, medical animation and architectural walkthroughs.

Popular software options include Autodesk Maya, Blender, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, and Unreal Engine. These programs offer features such as modeling tools, rigging systems, animation controls, material and texture editors, and powerful rendering engines, enabling artists to bring their digital creations to life with precision and realism.

Increasingly, AI tools are allowing animators to use things like motion capture, facial capture, and real-time backdrop projection to create stunning visuals for film and gaming.

3D animation is particularly hardware intensive. In terms of hardware tools, artists working in digital 3D animation typically use high-performance computers or workstations with advanced graphics processing units (GPUs) and tons of memory (RAM). Particle simulation, like the kind you can do with Houdini or X-Particles in Cinema 4D, needs a lot of power to run smoothly. These systems are capable of handling the complex calculations and rendering processes required for 3D animation. If you’re thinking about diving into 3D animation, make sure you’re ready to rock a powerful gaming system or PC workstation to make the most of today’s tools.

Datamoshing

Datamoshing is a cool technique where you mess with the compression info in a digital video file to create trippy glitch effects. It’s all about getting those abstract and surreal visuals. You can use software like Avidemux or Adobe After Effects to get your datamosh on. By playing around with video file compression or purposefully messing up the data, you can make some unique visual artifacts that blend frames or cause unexpected shifts in motion and colors. You’ll find datamoshing in experimental music videos, abstract visual art installations, and avant-garde film projects. It’s all about pushing boundaries and creating something unique out of existing video.

Dynamic painting

In dynamic painting, you get to control the art with real-time inputs like motion sensors, touch, or sound. It’s about creating interactive digital artworks that change and evolve as you view them. Digital artists use software like Processing, Unity, or TouchDesigner, along with cool hardware tools like sensors and motion-tracking devices. You can see these types of digital art on screens, projections, in interactive installations, and even in interactive advertising.

Generative art

Generative art uses code, algorithms, or computer programs to generate or influence the creation of computer generated visual media. Artists code or manipulate parameters to produce artwork that evolves over time, creating unique variations. Software applications like Processing, Max/MSP, or openFrameworks can be used to make this type of work.e a wide variety of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, animations, and music.

Fractal art

Fractal artists use fractals (duh) to create mesmerizing digital displays. Fractals are mathematical objects that are self-similar. That means you can break them down into smaller and smaller parts that look just like the whole thing. With fractal art, you can make images of nature’s wonders like mountains, clouds, and trees. But that’s not all! It’s also a playground for making beautiful abstract creations.

Some software tools that can be used to create fractal art include Apophysis, Fractal Explorer, and Mandelbulb3D. There are a few 3D fractal generators and plugins out there that 3D artists can also incorporate into their workflow. These software applications provide artists with the flexibility to explore and experiment with different fractal formulas, colors, and transformations, resulting in unique and captivating artworks that showcase the beauty of mathematical patterns.

Motion graphics

Motion graphics is a dynamic form of digital art that combines graphic design, animation, and visual effects to create engaging and visually captivating moving images. Digital artists use software tools like Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, or Blender to design and animate text, graphics, and images, bringing them to life with motion, transitions, and effects. Motion graphics appear in film and television title sequences, broadcast graphics, explainer videos, advertisements, infographics, music videos, and virtual reality experiences. The software tools provide artists with a range of features to animate objects, apply visual effects, synchronize audio, and create seamless transitions, enabling them to craft visually stunning and immersive motion graphic sequences that effectively communicate information, evoke emotions, and enhance storytelling.

VFX

Visual Effects (VFX) refer to the creation and manipulation of digital imagery to enhance or alter live-action footage in films, television shows, commercials, and other visual media. VFX artists use specialized software tools like Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Maya, or Nuke to create realistic and fantastical visual elements. They employ techniques such as compositing, 3D modeling, animation, and matte painting to seamlessly integrate computer-generated imagery (CGI) with live-action footage. VFX artists create awe-inspiring scenes like explosions, magical effects, virtual environments, and creatures that would be impractical or impossible to film in reality. Examples of VFX projects include blockbuster movies with extensive CGI, TV shows with supernatural elements, commercials featuring animated mascots or product visualizations, and even subtle enhancements like removing wires or adding digital makeup in film productions.

AR/VRXR

AR/VR/XR Artists create digital artworks experienced through augmented reality (AR) virtual reality (VR), or mixed reality (XR) technology. AR/VR artists use software tools such as Unity, Unreal Engine, or Adobe Aero to design immersive and interactive virtual worlds or overlay digital elements onto the real world. AR/VR/XR art can take various forms, including virtual exhibitions, interactive installations, digital sculptures, animated narratives, and immersive experiences. Artists leverage the unique capabilities of AR/VR/XR to create engaging and transformative art that transcends traditional mediums. Examples of this type of art include VR games, virtual art galleries where users can explore and interact with artworks, immersive storytelling experiences where users become active participants in the narrative, and augmented reality installations that blend digital and physical elements to create captivating and interactive environments. These projects often incorporate motion graphics, 3D animations, sound design, and interactivity to provide users with a deeply engaging and immersive art experience.

360° video

360º video artists use specialized cameras like the GoPro Omni, Insta360, to record video footage from all angles simultaneously. Adobe Premiere Pro or Kolor Autopano Video are tools that artists used to stitch and edit the footage into a seamless and interactive 360º video experience. 360º videos are appear in virtual tours, documentaries, live events, and immersive storytelling. Viewers can experience the video using virtual reality (VR) headsets or by interacting with it on platforms like YouTube or Facebook, where they can navigate the scene by simply moving their device or dragging a finger across the screen. Examples of 360º video projects include virtual tours of landmarks, live concert recordings that provide an on-stage perspective, travel documentaries that transport viewers to distant locations, and interactive narratives where viewers can choose their own perspective within the video.

Digital Art installation

Digital installation artists create interactive and/or immersive artworks that utilize digital technology to engage the audience in real life and in real time. Artists that do digital installation work use a combination of software and hardware tools to design and implement their installations. TouchDesigner, Resolume, Processing, or Max/MSP are some of the tools artists use to create interactive elements, project imagery, generate visuals, and control the overall experience. Hardware tools may include projectors, sensors, cameras, LED displays, and sound systems. Digital art installations appear in galleries, museums, public spaces, and events, to provide viewers with unique and immersive physical experiences.

Digital Photography

Digital photography is the art of capturing and manipulating images using digital cameras or mobile devices. Photographers working digitally use a combination of hardware tools, such as DSLR cameras or high-resolution smartphone cameras with specialty lenses, along with software applications like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Capture One, to capture, edit, and enhance their photographs. Digital photography appears in journalism, advertising, fashion, fine art, and documentary films, among others. It offers photographers the flexibility to instantly preview and adjust their images, as well as the ability to manipulate and enhance them digitally. Examples of digital photography projects include portrait photography, landscape photography, still life photography, product photography, and documentary photography. Digital photography is one of the most accessible and easy-to-use types of digital art creation out there as the the software component is minimal. Great photography skills are a must if you want to achieve success.

Here are a few of my own digital photographs using a clip-on macro lens with my iPhone:

Screen printing

Screen printing is a popular traditional printing technique that involves transferring ink onto a surface (such as fabric, paper, or wood) through a mesh screen using a stencil and a hard rubber squeegee. Artists use tools like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to modify designs and transform them into screen-printable stencils. After printing the designs, artists transfer them to a screen with emulsion or film-coating.Artists force ink through through the open areas of the stencil using a squeegee. You’ll see screen printing used in various applications, including apparel printing, poster production, art prints, and promotional items. It allows for vibrant and durable prints with precise color control and texture. Examples of screen printing projects include t-shirt designs, gig posters, art prints, signage, and customized promotional items.

Laser Cutting and Laser Etching/Engraving

Laser cutting and laser etching/engraving are techniques that artists can use to precisely cut or engrave materials with remarkable precision and detail. Digital artists use software like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, or Inkscape to create or modify vector designs, which they then convert into digital files compatible with laser-cutting machines. They etch or engrave raster images, such as digital photos or images created in Adobe Photoshop, onto the surface of materials like wood, acrylic, metal, fabric, or paper.Laser cutting allows for intricate and accurate designs, while laser etching/engraving enables the creation of detailed images. Digital artists can use laser cutters to make custom artwork on wood or paper and create craft projects like personalized signage, jewelry, or home décor items. Each laser cutter/etcher/engraver model has specific properties, laser power, speed, table dimensions, and thickness capability, so you’ll want to do your research before purchasing something like this so you know if fits your needs. Many maker spaces, especially in city areas, have laser cutters available to use for a small fee. This can be a great way to try it out before you buy one. Your local library is also a good place to check as many are beginning to build maker spaces.

CNC Milling

CNC milling is a manufacturing process that utilizes automated machines to remove material from a workpiece using rotary cutters. Digital artists use software like Autodesk Fusion 360, SolidWorks, or RhinoCAM to create or import 3D models, and they subsequently translate them into machine-readable instructions. These instructions guide the CNC milling machine to precisely carve and shape the material into the desired design. CNC milling offers high accuracy, repeatability, and the ability to work with a wide range of materials including wood, metal, foam, and plastics. There are smaller less expensive CNC mills coming on the market that make them more affordable options for artists. Also, try checking with a maker space in your area to see if CNC milling is available to try.

Image Transfer

Digital artists who create still imagery using photography, digital collage, vector art, or any 2D medium can use digital image transfer methods to get their work on a variety of surfaces like fabrics, wood panels, ceramics, aluminum, or art paper. Digital artists use software tools like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP to edit and prepare digital images for transfer. They can use inkjet or laser printers to print the images onto transfer paper or transfer film, and then apply it to the desired surface using heat, pressure, or other chemical transfer methods. This process allows artists to create personalized and custom-made items such as t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and fine art prints that feel more akin to paintings. Some of the more popular types of image transfer methods are acrylic gel medium transfer, xerox transfer, and the InkAid Transferiez system.

3D Printing

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process that constructs three-dimensional objects layer by layer from a digital 3D model. Digital artists use software applications like Autodesk Fusion 360, Blender, Maya, Cinema 4D, or Tinkercad to design or modify 3D models. They then translate these models into instructions that guide the 3D printer, specifying the materials and layering process. The printer deposits successive layers of material (usually plastic) to gradually build the object. Artists can create intricate sculptures, functional prototypes, or custom jewelry pieces. 3D printers have become increasingly available and cost-friendly and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many maker spaces have 3D printers that you can try out for a small fee. 

Digital Printing

One of the most simple and affordable ways to get your work out of the computer and in front of your audience is with digital printing. Artists can purchase small, medium, and large-format inkjet printers for use in the studio, or they can choose to work with any number of digital printing services available online to print their work. High-quality inkjet prints use pigment-based archival inks that, if used with good-quality paper, can last up to 200 years. I personally like to do my own printing, but when you start out, you can use a printing service if you don’t want to deal with the printing itself. There are a ton of printing services out there to choose from!

NFTs

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have been in the news quite a lot in the last couple of years, partly thanks to the groundbreaking 65 million dollar sale of an NFT artwork at Christie’s Auction House by the artist known as Beeple (Mike Winkleman). NFTs are unique digital assets that are stored on a blockchain, providing proof of ownership and authenticity. NFTs can represent various forms of digital art, including images, videos, music, or even virtual real estate. Artists can sell their NFTs through online marketplaces such as OpenSea, Foundation, Rarible, or SuperRare, where collectors can purchase and trade these digital assets. NFTs have sparked a new wave of digital art ownership, enabling artists to monetize their work and collectors to own unique digital creations, and revolutionizing the art market by providing a decentralized and transparent platform for buying, selling, and collecting digital assets. It’s an exciting market, but make sure you do the research and learn about it before you dive in. It can be easier to lose money than gain it if you aren’t careful. 

What Is a Type of Digital Art Creation?

A type of digital art creation is really any type of creative-making outlet where technological tools (vs traditional art tools) like computers, special cameras, digital screens, laser cutters, or 3D printers are used to create the artwork. Most of the time, artists show digital art in a digital medium – either online, on a screen, or projected. Sometimes, digital art is displayed in physical spaces after it has been printed and framed or transferred using an image transfer process.

Things to Avoid When Choosing a Type of Digital Art Creation. 

With so many options available, the number one thing you can avoid is choosing too many too fast. Like most things, it is best to pick one and do it until you are either enjoying it and want to do more of it or hate it and want to do something else (this is called failing to move forward). If you do find yourself not liking it after you have tried it for a while, pick another type and give it a go. Just don’t try to take on too many things at once or you’ll run the risk of feeling overwhelmed. 

Make Your Own Way in this World

When it comes to the types of digital art methods you choose to pursue, it is a very personal choice. It should feel right for you and help you release your creative energy into something you enjoy doing. Also, don’t be afraid to pivot and try something entirely new. There are so many options out there waiting for you!

Disclaimer: Some links that appear in this article allow me to earn money using affiliate advertising programs. I only recommend products I truly believe in. Any advice or instructions given in this article are purely my own and supplied with the very best intentions.

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