Using Digital Painting Apps to Develop Fine Art Paintings

Sometimes you stumble upon something completely by accident. This happened to me recently, when I took a mental health break from writing marketing content and clicked the "Paint" app on my Windows desktop.

I had some reference photos and was trying to develop some ideas for a new oil painting. Normally, I do this in my sketch book, which I carry with me almost everywhere I go. But I started playing around with the MS Paint program. I didn't expect much, because I've always heard what a lousy program it is. But my experience was surprising to me. Maybe I just have good hand-eye coordination, but I found the program allowed me to quickly and easily sketch out my painting, about as quickly as I would have done with graphite on paper. But the added benefit was color. Here's the result, which took me maybe only 15 or 20 minutes.


Now, I'm not a huge fan of digital artwork, generally speaking. But I was excited about the result. Part of the reason is that this is closer to what I "see" in my mind when I look at my subject matter. But when I put brush to canvas, I sometimes struggle to allow myself to keep my technique as loose and free as I feel, and tend to paint the details I see.

When it came time to put oil on canvas, I printed out my digital painting and used it as one of my reference photos. It served as a constant reminder to let go of the rigidity I self-impose and allow myself some freedom to be creative. 

Here's the result, "A Mile of Blue." 


I've since installed a couple of other digital painting apps that I'll be experimenting with. Both were recommended by fans on my Facebook page. One is a freeware program, Gimp, which is available in Windows and Mac desktop versions. Since I also wanted the freedom to create when I roam, I also installed the Procreate app on my iPad. It cost $6, plus I also picked up a stylus at an office supply store for about $25. 

For those of you who are artists, I'm curious whether you've tried using digital in this way? Or whether you play with digital painting at all. I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts.