I was deciding what gift to get my Mother for her Birthday, I wanted to make this year special, she is mad about art so a painting of her favorite Horse from a quality photograph was the best idea and the choice for me was: Do I go all in for traditional a hand-painted piece or do I decide to get a digital version?

I really don’t know anything about painting digitally so I needed to do my research to find out how a digital version would fare now days with the traditional method I know so well. And here is what I found:

You can find companies on the internet that act as an intermediary with selected artists whom work from their own studios often from home that will paint my photo by hand. Professional university graduate artists with degrees in fine art will paint from your digital photo, which I found can be quite pricey to commission your own artist. Then there is the alternative to have the outline printed first and filled in digitally by using software to do so like illustrator coral painter or Photoshop. This can be referred to as a ‘realistic mixed-media’ painting – but there is a difference I found between certain techniques that can be applied using a computer.

Distinctions from a Digital paint system to a Digital paint program

Until I did this research I wasn’t aware that there was any kind of difference in painting using a computer program BUT there is in fact a distinct difference between a ‘digital paint system and a digital paint program and a the paint program is incorporated into the paint system. The following I am going to convey to you in the most simplistic language possible as this is all new to me too! So I will be explaining in my own basic dialect.

When an artist uses his screen to draw or painting from photo an outline by hand with a digital pen and then fill in all the colors this is what is called using a ‘digital paint program’ – then either printed out on a very high quality laser or ink-jet printer or robotics are used to actually paint on traditional materials like linen or cotton once the artist has finished on the screen using a digital program as mentioned above. The companies out there that offer mixed-media portraits and paintings will not be so advanced as to be using robotics I don’t think but for the sake of this being a comprehensive detailed article it has to be mentioned. You can see a much more detailed explanation on Wikipedia at the bottom of this article for your reference.

This is as close to the real thing as you can get in principle the artist is using the same process in a digital format as paints on an actual linen or cotton material canvas. The principle is the same and requires a degree of artistic skill to produce, essentially by hand on the computer screen.

Then there is the ‘digital paint system’ which is so much more technical in scope of what you can do and makes the above system relative child’s play frankly not to denigrate the skill of digital artists of course. But incorporates the digital paint program within the application.

The digital paint system is what you see on the screen in blockbuster movies like Jurassic park for example which is the use of pixels.

So there I have my choices, I don’t need to go as elaborate as a ‘digital paint system’. My two choices are now clearly defined by my research, either:

A digital painting using a program or a realistic bricks and mortar artist painting on canvas with either oil paints or watercolor paints.

The pros and cons

The pros for a digital painting are quite simply a very fast turnaround, look great, and lower costs.

The cons are although look very authentic, for the true artisan they would pick up on the fact that it was computer generated or at least mixed-media.

For the hand-painted artwork the pros are:

The real deal painted by hand by an authentic master artist on quality canvas, a true bona fide oil painting or watercolor painting by first free-handing the outline in pencil then by a process of layering adding color and realism in the traditional way.

The cons are a longer turnaround time and a more expensive proposition.


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