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Digital Art Styles And Types – All Styles Explained

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2D Digital Painting

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The most recognizable form of digital art is 2D digital painting. Using a tablet and stylus, art software seeks to replicate the traditional painting process as much as possible to provide the artist with an authentic experience. In many cases, it isn’t easy to distinguish a digitally painted piece from a hand-painted piece.

The artist selects from various brushes, paint types, and mediums, just as in real life. Watercolor is a popular choice among digital artists, as are oil paint and pastels. The benefit of painting digitally is that an artist can work in layers and undo actions at any point in the piece. There’s also the color picker, which provides an infinite array of colors.

Tools in digital art software come with subsets and settings that the artist can manipulate as they please, including paint thickness, opacity, and brush texture. These features significantly enhance the painting process and have increased the popularity of digital art among artists.

Related article: Digital illustration styles

AI Art

AI art is a term used to describe art created using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms or techniques. These can include pieces entirely generated by AI, as well as those that humans create with AI tools (typing prompts to an AI art generator like Stable Diffusion or Midjourney).

AI art (previously known as dynamic painting) can take many forms, including digital paintings and drawings, music, poetry, and even physical sculptures. Using artificial intelligence and human data, computers, AI algorithms, and AI art generators can create vivid paintings indistinguishable from organic work.

AI art has seen immense popularity, but not everyone is happy about AI art and how it’s using data sets scraped from the internet (artwork of artists) to generate artwork.

3D Digital Painting And 3D Sculpting

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3D painting is another popular technique and extension of 2D painting. It also goes hand in hand with sculpting. This is because the artists will apply paint, texture, and shading over a 3D model. 3D paintings can also be done by directly coloring the 3D model in the 3D art software.

The result is an incredibly lifelike representation of the figure. This technique is also commonly seen in cinema, especially with top-level studios like Pixar and, most recently, Studio Ghibli, who transitioned from 2D to 3D.

3D digital painting can be hyperrealistic or highly stylized/cartoonish. 3D sculpting not only allows an artist to create a figure but pose it and manipulate it at will, unlike in-person sculpture. This makes things like animation highly efficient, allowing a 3D model to be drafted and painted before posing or placing it in a scene.

Sculpting can also be used to create 3D assets, such as objects or clothing, to be loaded into a video game or animation.

Generative Art

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Generative art is created using computer algorithms, often with artificial intelligence. These algorithms can generate various media, including images, music, and animation. The algorithms are typically designed to create unique, original works of art rather than simply replicating existing ones.

Generative art can be created using various techniques, including evolutionary algorithms, fractals, and cellular automata. Some artists use these techniques to create interactive artworks that change and evolve, while others create static artwork. 10,000-piece NFT collections are typically created with generative art methods.

Often, there are layers of original hand-made art that are then compiled through generative methods into one single artwork.

Pixel Art

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Pixel art relies on the most diminutive elements of art (basic shapes) to create drastically intricate pieces. Pixel art is no recent invention. Even Salvador Dali incorporates pixel art into his pieces. Today, pixel art is heavily associated with the gaming industry, as it is used to create sprites and assets in the earliest video games.

Pixel art can be used to create a hyper-realistic piece and one with an overly simplified scheme. Pixel art was used in early video games because it allowed artists to render characters and backgrounds without using too much graphics card memory. This led to the term “8-bit” being associated with pixel art.

Pixel art is used to create 2D gaming assets and brilliant full-color artworks. Pixel art is also particularly easy to animate, which is why many artists make gifs of their work. Pixel art is not exclusively digital; it’s also been incorporated into traditional art. However, it began as one of the first digital art forms in private and commercial settings.

Fractal Art

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Fractal art has its origins in ancient Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Artists would spend hours creating intricate fractal mosaics and patterns that would be used to decorate temples and places of importance.

In the Western world, fractals became more common when it was realized that digital art could produce these same mesmerizing pieces.

Fractal art relies on algorithms and mathematical equations to produce intricate patterns. It was one of the earliest digital art forms and continues to dominate today’s scene. Using fractal-generating software, artists can create fractals in both 2D and 3D. Some of these fractals are created according to particular algorithms, such as the Fibonacci sequence.

Fractal art is integral to digital artistry because it represents one of the earliest forms of artificial intelligence. By inputting several algorithms and specifications into code, artists realized they could teach a computer how to create stunning artwork in a fraction of the time.

Algorithmic Art

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An offshoot of fractal art is algorithmic art. Not all algorithmic art involves the creation of patterns or mosaics. It simply entails the use of some code or equation in the creation of an art piece, and this can be done in both traditional and digital art.

Algorithmic art can be used to create various pieces, from hyper-realistic to abstract pieces. In most cases, algorithmic art relies on the computer to create the entire piece, with no input from the artist at all.

Algorithms are common in digital art because they can be used to make vectors, which avoids issues with pixelization. After all, the piece can be resized according to its algorithmic parameters. Algorithmic art is commonly seen in word art, logos, and computer-generated backgrounds and assets.

Some question whether or not algorithmic art is truly art if it’s done solely by a computer. However, the increasing presence of algorithms in visual art, in addition to other art forms such as music, has increased popularity.

Digital Photography

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Naturally, digital photography is a part of digital art! Digital photography was a huge innovation in photography and revolutionized how we capture the world around us. Digital cameras don’t use film, allowing them to capture images and video without limits.

Digital cameras also can zoom, focus, and filter an image. A digital camera only does half the work when it comes to photography, however. Just as crucial to the artistic process is the photographer (artist) and software like Photoshop and LightRoom. In many cases, the pictures we take aren’t true to life for several reasons.

Art software like Adobe Photoshop helps artists alter a photo to bring out its natural features and, in some cases, add to them! Photography is a huge part of the digital art world, although not many associate it immediately with the label.

VR Painting

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Once virtual reality became widely available, it wasn’t long before artists could incorporate technology into their creative process. VR painting quickly became a thing thanks to the application Tilt Brush.

Google created Tilt Brush as a way to paint in a 3D space. The artist can physically walk around their brush strokes and paint from every angle. It creates an immersive piece that the viewer can view in VR–or as a 3D image.

Tilt Brush is a monumental innovation because it took painting where it’s never gone before. Never has an artist been able to freely paint in the air around them, combining sculpture and paint. Tilt Brush seeks to provide realistic paint mechanics and physics so that the pieces look realistic, and they truly are.

In just a few short years, developers have been able to improve the technology and supply artists with even more features. Tilt Brush is available on all major VR platforms, including Oculus, Vive, PlayStation, and Windows Mixed Reality.

2D Computer Graphics

There are two forms of computer graphics: 2D and 3D. 2D graphics are images rendered solely through a computer. This can entail text, shapes, logos, graphs, and more. 2D graphics can be animated and take the form of a .png or .gif. 2D computer graphics can also be vectors instead of pixelized raster images.

2D computer graphics comprise a massive part of the digital art industry. It encompasses almost all 2D art, including cartoons and animations. It led to the invention of clipart, as well as higher demand for logos and web advertisements.

2D graphics can appear three-dimensional but are represented by 2D shapes on the screen. This is the case with video game assets, which rely on pixel-based art and 2D graphics to produce an image that appears 3D.

2D graphics are still as relevant today as when the internet first surged in popularity and remained one of the easiest forms of digital art to produce.

3D Computer Graphics

The other form of computer graphics is 3D, or three-dimensional. 3D computer graphics are praised for their realism and capability to render entire scenes and movies. “CGI” stands for computer-generated imagery, which relies on little to no help from real-life assets.

3D computer graphics can be rotated, resized, and shaped. Some artists consider it a form of “digital clay or digital sculpting.” 3D computer graphics have a variety of applications, including creating models for use in engineering and architectural programs.

3D computer graphics can create incredible works that mimic real life when coupled with real-life physics. This technology has been applied to movies and video games, where one can view a 3D object and interact with it.

Photobashing

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Even if you haven’t heard of photobashing before, you’ve probably seen it. Photobashing is the art of combining real-life, 2D, and 3D graphics to create a dynamic scene. An artist may paint some portions of the piece while incorporating 3D models and textures for other portions.

Artists who use the photobashing technique can create surrealist depictions of life that are vivid and engaging. These pieces appear to be realistic, but more often than not, the artist will add some sort of whimsical or science-fiction edge. The cyberpunk aesthetic seems popular among photobashing artists, as they can easily blend fantastical elements in with reality.

Photobashing is also a way to correct elements in a digital painting or to speed up the creation process by incorporating already rendered objects. Concept artists often use these techniques, as well as digital painters.

Photo Painting

This form of digital art takes a photograph and applies paint over the existing figures and forms to create a painting. It’s popular to block in the major forms with color and leave out the details of the face (sans the eyebrows) to produce a minimalist painting.

Digital artists also go into further detail in photo painting, as it is popular to create hyperrealist portraits and paintings.

Like photobashing, photo painting can enhance or add to the detail of an existing piece. This piece can be entirely traditional with some added elements or completely digitized. A subfacet of photo painting is rendering a highly detailed photograph into geometrical shapes, often using a more subdued color scheme.

Photo painting is not to be confused with photoshopping, which is the alteration of images using art software. However, in many cases, photoshopping an image might entail replacing an area with a clone stamp from another area. This, in a way, is also photo painting.

Data-Moshing

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Data-moshing is one of the smaller niches of digital art. It involves layering videos, filters, and programmed glitches to create a moshed video. This video is described as being bright, modernist, and even psychedelic.

Data-moshing might appear to be a scrambled mess, but it can be quite ethereal and thought-provoking. Some videos have a slight vapor-wave aesthetic, whereas others juxtapose things like ballerinas with industrial chaos.

Data-moshing applies to 2D and still images as well. Like algorithmic art, it relies on programming and software to splice and layer videos. It’s common to have a video that appears normal, then turns into a data-mosh at some point as a distortion of reality.

Google launched the “Deep Dream” tool recently, enabling users to data-mosh a still image. Users have described these images as equally terrifying and breathtaking. Sometimes, the overlayed data consists of eyeballs or mouths, presenting especially horrifying human figures.

Digital Collage

Digital collages have climbed their way into relevancy through mood boards, aesthetic mash-ups, and scrapbooking. Mood and aesthetic boards have been especially popular in recent years, partly due to social media. Users quickly took to the trend of compiling photos together on Instagram and Facebook, and this increased demand for image splicing and photo editing apps.

Digital collages can be extremely varied in appearance and style. They can combine photography, 3D assets, and painting to create a collage. Like some of the other digital art forms mentioned on this list, many digital collage artists seek to distort reality or create an illusion. This cross-exposure technique actually dates back to the invention of the camera.

Raster Painting

Raster painting is the process of painting in a raster layer. In some cases, it involves painting directly onto a rasterized image, similar to photo painting. Raster painting works exclusively in the raster form or with pixels. It cannot be resized or edited without the risk of becoming blurry.

Raster painting encompasses most forms of digital painting. It can be used to create 2D or 3D graphics that utilize pixels. The higher the definition of a piece is, the more pixels it will have. The convenience of using raster layers and raster painting is that it’s easier to blend and create more organic textures and shapes.

Vector Art

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Vector art is the opposite of raster art. Vector art relies on algorithms and math to create shapes and render an image. Vector art is preferable for many reasons. This vector art can be regenerated and resized as many times as needed without losing details or pixelating the image. It can be easily edited to change color or add and remove details.

Many artists will vectorize their line art, so it’s more efficient to color and shade. Vector artists create various works, from full-scale portraits to simple logos and sprites. They’re prevalent in graphic design, such as in advertisements or on websites.

Integrated Media

Integrated media is present in both traditional and digital mediums. It involves the use of two more media in one piece. This could entail combining photography and painting, 3D models and 2D assets, or fractals and other assets.

Integrated media most commonly resembles a collage, although it’s recently expanded to mediums like virtual reality, which combines real-time environments with rendered assets.

Integrated media is a cornerstone of digital art because it encourages experimentation and the pushing of boundaries. Integrated media incorporates other media and other art forms, including music, theater, and writing. One might even consider entire works, such as films or video games, as a large, integrated media piece.

Mixed Media

Mixed media is an extension of integrated art. It is a type of art that blends and combines multiple mediums. These mediums typically include painting, pottery, music, ceramics, glass, and photography. In digital art, mixed media pieces may combine 3D models and paint.

Adding paint to 3D models helps it create a more realistic piece. Special brushes are available to add textures to a model, as well as shadows and lighting. Mixed media is essential in digital art because, without it, a piece wouldn’t have the same depth or realism. It’s one of the more interesting aspects of digital art, given that it combines both traditional and digital assets.

Computer-Generated Digital Painting

Computer-generated digital paintings are far more common than you think. In addition to more niche genres like AI art, computer-generated digital painting is used to create landscapes, backgrounds, and concept art.

It’s also used to help repair traditional artwork and photographs. Using art software, artists can help create backgrounds and environments as assets to be used in other works. It can also be used to create minor 3D assets or textures such as hair, weather, or surfaces.

In particular, computers are especially adept at generating painted versions of machinery and technology.

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Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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