So lets start with a completed digital drawing. This is one of the first ones I ever created and actually got paid for.
This example is made up from a real photograph that I blurred digitally to use as the background, and some digital drawings placed on top of it all. The trophy is also from a real photograph and was Photo-Shopped into place. When I say Photo-Shopped that's just a generic term for digitally manipulating an image. I don't actually use Photo-Shop. I prefer to use Clip Studio Paint/Manga Studio, although this particular drawing was created using Photo-Impact long before I discovered the software I use now.
This next picture was also created using a combination of real photographs and my own hand drawn artwork. I'll go into some of the details of how I go about creating these pictures using this one as an example.
A good quality drawing program will let you draw using different layers, which is like cutting someone out of a picture and then placing it onto a different picture. The two pictures would be called layers, with the bottom layer containing the background information and the top layer containing the foreground information. The beauty of working with digital art is that you can have multiple layers and thus have multiple objects in front of and behind each other. If you move or change a layer, it won't disturb any other layer. So if you have a person on one layer and a background picture on a layer behind it, you can then move the person all around the place and it won't make any changes to the background layer underneath them. This comes in handy if you aren't sure of where to put someone in a picture. You can simply move their layers around and experiment with where they'll be in the scene until you're happy with how it all looks.
Using my preferred drawing program (Clip Studio Paint Pro), I first create a grey scale vector layer that I can draw the outline onto. When you create a layer it can be in full colour, or grey scale or outright black and white with no shading. You can also make it a vector layer or a raster layer. I'll explain these two terms as we continue. Drawing on a vector layer means that once I've finished drawing my lines, I can then resize or move sections of them around until I'm happy with the way it looks. No matter how big or small I make things, the lines will remain as smooth as if they were just freshly drawn onto a piece of paper. My vector layer is mostly blank and only the lines I draw will be visible. In this case all the white bits are the transparent bits, so any layers placed underneath will show through, but the lines will remain visible on top of the other layers.
This is Tim. It was Tim's birthday, so his wife asked me to put him into a Doctor Who picture. This is how I drew his head on a vector layer.
Once I was happy with all the outlines, it was time to add a little colour. To do this I created a new raster layer underneath the vector layer. A raster layer lets you add shading effects and is really good for colouring in with. It's not very good for drawing lines with though because if you enlarge it, your lines will become blocky and pixilated. So once I have my raster layer sitting underneath the vector layer I can began adding some flat colours. Because the raster layer is under the vector layer, any colour I add will go underneath the lines I drew, which means I can colour anywhere I like and the outline will not be disturbed.
Once the base colours are in place it's time to add a little shading. There are a number of ways this can be done. You can use the airbrush tool in the program to spray lighter or darker colours directly onto the raster layer you're already using, or you can create a new raster layer and place it in-between the layers you're already using and apply the airbrush to that instead. In my case, I made the middle layer a grey scale raster layer and set it to show as Soft Light. This means if I spray black on the picture, it will create a shadow version of the colours in the layers below it. If I spray white on the picture, it will create a highlight version of the colours instead. Because I do this in a middle layer, it doesn't change anything on the bottom layer or the top layer and if I need to erase any of the shading or highlighting I can simply erase it from the middle layer that I've put it on and the base colours and outlines will still be the way I originally drew them.
As you can see in the following screenshot, I've now added some shading and highlights on the middle layer. The top layer is the outline, the middle layer contains all the shading and the bottom layer has the base colours. Place them all on top of each other, in the correct order, and you start to get some good looking results.
Now we need to add some props and the background. For this drawing I took a photo of the TARDIS from Doctor Who and used the cutting tool in the drawing program to cut around the edges. I then placed the cut picture behind the other layers so that it would be behind the main characters in the picture. The door was a bit tricky though. I had to cut parts of it out and place it as a top layer so that it would cover up the Doctor and make it look as if he was peeking out from inside his Time Machine. Finally, I had to carefully erase parts of the door so that the doctor's hand looked as if it was on the outside of it all. Because you can have multiple layers, instead of cutting the door to show the hand, I could have easily just drawn the hand in a new top layer with its own base colour and shading layers and it would then sit in front of the door and the Doctor's arm.
I then found a picture to use as the background image and placed it as the very bottom layer, which meant all the other elements would be on top and thus look like they were in front of the background image.
And here's Tim on his birthday, looking very happy with the present his wife just gave him.
Tim liked his picture so much that his wife asked me to draw a new picture for his next birthday one year later. This time I chose to draw the majority of the background instead of using a photograph. This picture is made up of multiple layers on top of each other. The chequered area represents the parts of the picture that don't have any information drawn or painted on them.
Using the three layer method again, I created 3 new layers so that I could draw the outline, add some base colours and then some shading for a character to go on top of all the other layers.
Next I created three more layers and placed them underneath all the other layers so I could create an alien version of Tim standing behind the main view screen. The reason I've made the background purple is so that I can see where I'm colouring in any white bits when I'm working on the base colour layer. I can remove the purple background after I'm happy with how Tim looks.
After I'd finished with Tim's 3 layers, I added an image from a photograph as the background.
The finished product then looked like this. The layers from bottom to top are:
1. The background photo image
2. The three layers that make up alien Tim
3. The multiple layers that make up the main room and computer screens
4. The three layers that make up the two people sitting in the chairs
5. The multiple layers that make up the chairs and the computer console at the bottom of the picture
6. The three layers that make up the Captain character who's pointing at the view screen
7. The layers that make up the word balloons and the words that sit inside them.
When I first started drawing digitally I had to get myself a drawing tablet. This is the first one I ever used and it cost about 90 Australian Dollars. In order to draw on one of these you need to train yourself to look at the computer screen while your hand draws directly onto the tablet with the stylus pen. It takes a bit of practice, but after a while you'll find you don't need to hit the undo button as often as you did when you first started using the thing.
If you ever want to make a living as a graphic artist you'll probably need to upgrade to a drawing tablet that has a screen built in to it so you draw directly onto the screen that you're looking at. I now use one of these. They vary in price from around 1000 to 4000 or more Australian dollars depending on the size of the tablet and if it needs to be plugged into a computer or not.
The one I have is also a tablet computer which doesn't need to be plugged into another computer to work. This makes it more expensive though, so If you don't need to take your work with you in your travels it's cheaper to buy one that just plugs into your home computer and doesn't double as a portable computer tablet.
Finally, if you'd like to try the software I used to draw it all with, you can download a trial version of Clip Studio Paint from here. You can then use it for 30 days befpre you need to pay the purchase price. If you ever do decide to purchase the full program, it quite often goes on sale with very good discounts at various times throughout the year. Keep checking back to see if you can get it for a better bargain than it already is.
I'll finish up now by posting some pictures from a work in progress that I'm currently creating for a Facebook buddy who is an artist on the Autism Spectrum. The picture is made from multiple layers with each character on the page made up of their own 3 individual layers representing the outline, the shading and the base colours. I can then place each completed character anywhere I like on the page and decide if they sit in front of or behind a character that it shares some of the page with.