Nowadays, almost all of my illustration work is digital. This has been a conscious decision on my part because I it is easier for me, and I think my work comes out better. However, I’ve recently been re-visiting a lot of traditional media, and I thought I would do a little experiment.
I made one sketch and finished it multiple times, using a different medium for each painting. I thought it would be a good way to see the unique qualities of the mediums, and help me get a sense of the advantages/disadvantages of each.
For more info about the paint and supplies that I use, check out my previous post Paint, Paper, and Pencils.
For the experiment, I made a random sketch of some animal characters.
Each painting is 5″x7″. Note that as I worked with each medium, I was not trying to duplicate the look or style other than the basic colors. I worked with each medium on its own terms.
When it comes to painting, I am most comfortable on the computer. It is easier to experiment and edit colors and composition, and I’ve developed a method of painting that works well for me.
I try to create a “real” paint feel when I work digitally, so I tend to use a lot of textures and have fun with my brush strokes. Nevertheless, even when I keep this in mind, my digital paintings always come out a bit “cleaner” than my traditional stuff. This can be both a good and bad thing; the painting will look nice and sharp, but sometimes that is a bit boring. I’m always struggling to find ways to “mess up” the painting when I’m working digitally.
Gouache is my favorite medium to work with traditionally. It is a form of watercolor, but it is opaque.
You can create some good texture by drybrushing the paint, but the effect is more visual than physical. The colors dry very flat with a matte finish. In fact, when my sister saw the painting sitting on my desk, she thought it was a computer printout.
Oil paint, because it is based on oil and not water, takes forever to dry. This makes it very easy to blend. This is why I think this painting ended up looking more soft than the other paintings.
The paint is also more dimensional when it dries. You can actually see the brushstrokes and the paint sticking up on the physical painting, especially around the highlights. This is why I love seeing original oil paintings; the experience is so much different than what you see printed in a book or on the internet.
Watercolor was the biggest departure from my usual painting style and methods in this experiment. The paint is transparent, which means that you must paint from light to dark by glazing the colors on top of each other. This means you have to be aware of where you want your lights to go, because once you paint over them you can’t get them back.
Watercolor also works really well when you have a line drawing to start with, so I inked my sketch using a crow quill pen before I started the painting.
Some Final Thoughts and Conclusions
- Each painting took me about two hours to finish, regardless of the medium. Although, the time saved from scanning, adjusting, and editing probably makes Digital the most efficient.
- Biggest mess: Oil
- Fastest cleanup: Digital
- The oil painting took over a week to dry before I could scan it.
- Gouache was the most difficult to get the colors and values just right.
- I forgot how much I hate it when peeling the tape ruins my paper.
- My favorite tool is the Undo button.
- Most fun for me: Watercolor (but probably only because it was the biggest departure from my illustration work)
- Least fun for me: Oil (because I don’t like cleaning up messes or waiting for paint to dry, not to mention the smelliness)
- Easiest to paint with: Watercolor
- The best painting: I have no idea – do you have a favorite?