Digital Vs. Classical Art: A Thorough Comparison

Digital Art 

Computer graphics have developed, particularly at the end of the last century. Graphics software companies are trying to develop more skills to design and artists with new features that enable them to visualise their ideas. You can easily remember this trend by looking at the latest updates in applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The new mixed brush in Photoshop is made specifically for conversion and creation of works, such as painting art.

The new hair in Illustrator tries to imitate a painting effect with vector graphics, which is resolution-free and easy to modify. The digital art experience has been extended to hardware, using tools that simulate artist’s work on paper, such as Wacom Tablets, hidden nanny cam, and CentiQ. These new tools help artists to use the same effect of a real pencil and paper.

While digital art does not provide the texture and volume that classical art does, at least at the moment, it’s easy to edit and allows artists to use many effects and filters that can offer completely new creative experiences.

Engulfed, 2009 (digital collage), Trygve Skogrand / Private Collection

Classical Art

The term “classical art” refers to areas that use the old art methods for creating artwork, such as pencils, brushes, clay and other tools. Although classical art have various digital art techniques, different art forms are all related to each other by the same concept, which also includes digital art. Art schools such as surrealism can be found not only in fine arts and painting, it is a movement that extends to story writing, poems and music as well.

Classical art is marked by the texture of the colour and painting on the paper or canvas. Moreover, it is marked by the volume that you can touch and feel, such as sculptures. This volume and texture allow the viewers to participate in the artwork in different ways, such as looking at it and feeling the texture with our hands.

Some classical artwork methods are more interesting by offering other experiences to the viewer, such as the use of light and sound during the presentation of the artwork.

: Germany: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), composer. Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler (1781-1858), oil on canvas, 1820 / Pictures from History
: Germany: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), composer. Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler (1781-1858), oil on canvas, 1820 / Pictures from History
Ludwig van Beethoven (digital), Scott J. Davis / Private Collection

Are These Arts Competing For Arts?

Do digital and classical art compete? The simple answer is no. Digital art as its name suggests is a form of art that when used in the graphic design or commercial purposes can be considered as one of the applied arts. No one can claim that oil painting competes with watercolour drawings because they both use brushes. They are a different style of art with different techniques.

Both digital and classical arts use the same artistic concepts which include balance, colour theory, harmony, and contrast. However, digital art is a natural extension of classical art due to digital evolution in human civilization. At a time when everything around us becomes digitalised, the arts are taking these steps towards the digital world as well.

Railway, 2013 (Photo manipulation), Johan Lilja / Private Collection

Do We Need To Know Classical Art To Become A Digital Artist?

Since we concluded that digital art is an extension of classical art, the question that may come to our mind is whether learning classical art is necessary to learn digital art?

As we have already mentioned, digital art is a form of classical art, such as painting, drawing, pen camera and sculpture. However, it is not required to learn the art of painting to become a good sculptor. At the same time, you must have a basic understanding of the concepts in visual arts through colours, shapes, balance, etc.

Even the basic drawing skills are fundamental to help you visualise your ideas and digitally paint them using your favourite tools, such as Wacom tablet or Cintiq.

Coral Reef, 2015 (ink, digital media), Varpu Kronholm / Private Collection


In the end, digital art is not separated from other forms of classical art. It is an extension of these arts that uses computer software and hardware as a tool for creating artworks.

It is very difficult to compare these art forms; if you disagree that they are part of each other and follow the same concepts of art. However, they are not competing with one other and digital arts will end up with classical artistic methods simply because they complement one another.

: Mantel III, 2014, (digital), Pollyanna Illustration / Private Collection
: Mantel III, 2014, (digital), Pollyanna Illustration / Private Collection


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