Sometimes it is the tiniest mistake that will make the difference between perfection and failure. It’s not always possible to avoid mistakes but there are some things you can watch out for so they don’t happen as often or at all. Here are some of the most common mistakes I’ve noticed digital artists make.
1. Bad Textures
It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at painting or rendering if the Photoshop textures you use look bad or are too obvious. A part of a painting can look good but the texture may kill your piece, leaving it feeling unfinished. Textures should look as if they belong with everything else in your work.
If you’re looking for illustrator textures for your digital art, check out CreativeMarket.
2. Vague Composition
It is very important that your composition tells the viewer exactly what you are trying to say or teach them in your work. The composition can be vague if it leaves too much up for interpretation, thus distracting the viewer from the intended message. If there is something unclear about your work it will lead to either confusion or negative criticism.
3. No Story
People are drawn to paintings that have a story behind them, especially if the painting is good enough to evoke emotions. Having no story means there really isn’t anything for people to connect with and it makes your work feel incomplete. Don’t assume the audience knows what the story is because they often don’t.
4. No Concept
This means you have no idea where your painting is going when you begin it which leads to the final piece looking sloppy and not well thought out, even if it looks good in a thumbnail. It is important that there is a constant theme throughout your work or else it will appear random and will not stand out. If you only have a vague idea of what you’re making, you should try to figure it out before starting because your work will appear more professional if there is some kind of concept behind the project.
5. No Light Source
If there is no light source present then all the elements within a painting will end up competing for dominance and nothing will be clear, even the wall textures. You need to figure out where the light is coming from if you want your work to feel complete and cohesive.
6. Poor Composition
This mistake is a bit different from vague composition because here it has nothing to do with storytelling, rather the viewer may not know what is going on in the picture or there may be too many things going on at once and it overwhelms the piece. If you want to tell a story then go for it, but if not then keep the composition and textures overlay simple and easy to understand with minimal distractions.
7. Too Much Negative Space
Negative space is one of my favorite things in paintings because it allows for breathing space and lets the viewer’s eyes dance around the painting without getting tired. It is important not to use too much negative space because it will appear unfinished and unprofessional.
8. Poor Lighting
This comes back to having a light source for your painting, but lighting is also very important on its own as well because it dictates the mood and tone of the piece. If you want your work to feel dark and brooding then using a lot of dark colors and shadows, as well as the right textures and tones, will help you achieve that, but if you want the lighting to be bright and happy then it has to look like there is a light source present even if there isn’t one in real life.
9. Unnecessary Details
Adding unnecessary details just for the sake of it is a very common mistake that digital artists make and can get really distracting. It’s best to keep your work simple and easy to understand than add random things here and there because it makes it look like you weren’t sure what you wanted to make, thus leaving everything feeling incomplete.
10. Recycled Reference
No one likes to see reused references and it leaves your work looking unprofessional and lazy. It is important to take the time out of your day to find unique references that you can use for your work, but if you run out then ask friends or family members because it’s a lot better than recycling your old reference sheets.
11. Poor Color Choice
Too much contrast between colors is a mistake that digital artists make and it looks very unprofessional because it doesn’t look like they tried at all (and most likely they didn’t). For example, using light textures and overly dark objects are a bad thing.
It’s best to stick with either cool or warm colors, but you should avoid using too many warm colors in one painting because it will look too orange and if you use too many cool colors then it will end up looking very blue.
There are some common mistakes that new artists make when they start out in the industry, and if you avoid them then you will find yourself making progress much more quickly than otherwise would be possible.