The beauty of computers is that you can undo and redo whenever you want.

You don’t have to be afraid when experimenting and trying something new. This resource looks at how computers can help students doing practical work like illustration, painting and other specialisms.When painting or drawing, it can be really hard to move forward and take a risk. You don’t want to destroy everything you have done so far, but you want to experiment and try something new. Because of this, students can be really precious with their work and resist change or committing. This resource is about using digital processes to make the process of producing outcomes easier.


Why draft work like painting in a digital form

Traditionally, art and design students use sketching a drawing to visualize ideas for final outcomes. There is very little way of improving on this process as it doubles as a way of developing observation, drawing and mark making skills. But there are some points in a project that students find very difficult to progress through. These are like key creative decision stages.

This point in the production process is highly emotional as it is intrinsically linked to students’ fear of ruining their work. This is especially charged if they are within an exam period or close to the deadline for a project.

It might be less emotional for students that haven’t quite started on their final work, but the process of digital drafting can still benefit them. The main way it can help students that haven’t committed to a specific piece of work is in helping them quickly visualize different ideas they have, without going through an extremely lengthy process of trial and error.

The idea is to use the different image manipulation processes available in Photoshop to combine or manipulate images in a way that resembles something close to what they want their final image or object to look like. This could be for almost any specialism such as photography, collage, print, sculpture, but is particularly useful for painting.

The reason it is great for painting is that students can often spend hours on a piece of work and then feel scared of adding any more detail or elements. Almost like they have reached the point of no return and are afraid to cross the threshold. The emotional fear and effect can be as difficult for the most able students in the class as for the least able


Digital Drafts Case Studies – example 1 – digital drafts before starting

The two examples presented here used the digital drafting process for very different reasons, but both used it to effectively develop their ideas and final outcomes.

The first student used the digital drafting process even before starting an outcome. She was doing a painting project that had a very short deadline. While she was able to research widely within this time frame and find different directions that she was interested in. She felt that there wasn’t enough time to try all the different variants available. She had a photograph that she wanted to paint from, scanned this in and tried simple Photoshop processes. This was done in a very experimental manner and with a very open mind. Only once the images were printed off did she evaluate and decide on the kind of painting she wanted to create.

Testing Painting Ideas Using Computers

Testing Painting Ideas Using Computers



Digital Drafts Case Studies – example 2 – digital final touches

The second example presented is from a student in a very different position. This student again had very little time left in the project, but had already completed what she thought was her final outcome. However, after a tutorial she admitted that while the painting she had produced was strong, there was room for improvement. The main obstacle was the fear of destroying all the work she had put into the painting.

The main difference between this and the previous example is that the digital drafts have much subtler changes to them, but these can still have a significant impact on an outcome, especially a painting.

Testing Painting Ideas Using Computers

Testing Painting Ideas Using Computers

Testing Painting Ideas Using Computers

Photoshop tools for digital drafts

Students don’t have to have massive amounts of experience with Photoshop to explore variants in their images. However, having a basic knowledge of some key tools can bring big rewards, as will a basic understanding of layers. Here are some key tools that can be used:

  • The Magic Eraser tool is fantastic for cutting out large chunks of colour.
  • The Paint Bucket is useful for filling areas with solid colours to see what a painting or other art form would look like.
  • The Eraser can be used to take areas away before committing to actually physically removing them from the painting.
  • The Paint Brush can add new marks in all sorts of colours and sizes very quickly.
  • The Magic Wand allows the selection of a large area of similar colours. These can either be copied and pasted or deleted to allow layers underneath to shine through.

File organisation is also key. One tip is to address the fact that students often fail to remember to save all the different variants that they have tried. Ideally these would be titled something like “version1”, “version2”, etc, and all be collected in the same folder.

Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer