A Beginners Guide to Digital Illustration

By: Bella Bevilacqua

So, you want to learn how to illustrate digitally?

Don’t worry if you don’t know where to begin, I will give you the ins and outs of learning how to improve your digital illustration skills. 

Paula Scher said, “It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good.” I like to think back on this quote often when I am creating a new illustration, and I hope it is inspiring to you as you go into this journey of digital illustration. 


First things first, there are so many different types of software and applications that people use to get better at illustration. The best way to narrow down which software is best for you is to try them all out! One of the best things about living in a “digital age” is that there are so many apps that are completely free or for a fee.  

Best Free Illustration Apps (my favorites)

  • Adobe Illustrator Draw
    • Adobe Illustrator, the vector-based software used by millions, has been reimagined for the iPad. Create logos, icons, illustrations, and graphics with a design toolkit that includes type, gradients, shape-building, and precise vector editing tools. 
  • MediBang Paint
    • MediBang Paint is a free user-friendly digital painting, and comic creation app. The app comes with customizable brushes, tones, fonts, and everything else anyone needs to make comics or illustrations. 
  • Adobe Fresco
    • Adobe Fresco is a free drawing and painting app with the same vector brushes you love and use in Adobe Draw. Your previous projects will automatically transfer to Fresco the first time you sign in so you can start right where you left off with beautiful vector, pixel and Live brushes, and more advanced tools like selections, unlimited layers, masking shapes and livestreaming. While it is free, you can choose to pay for more storage, brushes, and photoshop on iPad access.

Best Paid Illustration Apps & Software

  • Procreate ($9.99)
    • Procreate has everything you need to create expressive sketches, rich paintings, gorgeous illustrations and beautiful animations. Procreate is the complete art studio you can take anywhere packed with unique features and intuitive creative tools. For less than $10 you have the ability to use hundreds of brushes, complete color control, extra special FX and much more. 
  • Adobe Software ($19.99/ month *students*)
    • Save over 60% and make the leap with Adobe Creative Cloud. For only $19.99/month you can get access to 20+ apps for desktop, mobile and web, as well as Acrobat Pro, plus 100GB of cloud storage. 
  • Graphic for iPad ($8.99)
    • Graphic is a full-featured graphic design and illustration application for iPad. True desktop-class editing and illustration tools on the go. Graphic has all the tools you need to create everything from detailed technical illustrations to beautiful works of art. Create complex designs quickly and easily, even on the go. 

All of these apps and software are great for learning how to illustrate digitally and I highly suggest trying all of the free options before purchasing anything.  Below you will see an example of Procreate, my favorite app to use for everything. 


Digital illustration is a lot different than illustrating with pen and paper, and while that may be a no brainer, it takes a little while to get used to the techniques of the iPad. One of the things I find most helpful when learning new techniques and tricks is to watch Youtube and Tik Tok videos. 

Here are some of my favorite channels to follow regarding Procreate Illustration tutorials:

Tik Tok


  • Belinda is a lettering artist. Her tutorials are detailed explanations on how to use different procreate tools to create detailed lettering illustrations. I like to watch her videos for inspiration and techniques to use while illustrating.


  • Procreations is an illustrator who helps with anything from simple design techniques to blending techniques to an elaborate design. I love watching these videos to learn new detailed techniques to use in my own illustrations. 

@procreate (official Tik Tok of procreate)

  • Procreate, the official Tik Tok channel of Procreate, not only gives you detailed descriptions of techniques to use, but also gives a sneak peek on features coming out in the new updates. As soon as the updates are released, they create tutorials on how to adapt to the new updates. 


Art with Flo

  • Flo is one of my favorite tutorial pages to watch because she highlights many different parts of illustrating from beginners to the expert level. One of my favorite things she does is she has many different illustration styles that she can adhere to from portraits, to simple “you can draw this” designs, she really emphasizes on the fact that anyone can learn to draw if you set your mind to it.  

Art by Melody

  • One of the things I love about Art by Melody is she uses very simple designs to teach different techniques, whether it be shading or animating, she has you covered. She also offers step by step “let’s draw this” videos so you can master the skills while having a step by step approach. 

Procreate (official Youtube channel)

  • I like checking on the official Youtube channel for Procreate every once in a while, for tips and tricks during new updates or to learn how to use brushes I don’t normally use. I find it very helpful to at least visit the page once every two weeks because they always are posting new content every 2 weeks or so. 

My Inspiration 

A lot of my inspiration for digital illustrations depends on what is going on around me. I get influenced by things I learn in class, or my friends and family surrounding me, and even the political world we live in now has an effect on my art. Some of my favorite things to draw however, are my friends and pets. 

My first digital illustration was a picture of me and my boyfriend from when we visited my hometown, State College, PA for the Penn State White Out game. From my first illustration, to my most recent illustration of me and my friend Adrienne, I can honestly say I have improved tremendously just by watching tutorials and practicing every day. 

Sometimes life can get in the way and you may think that there is not a lot of time to sit down and create a detailed illustration, but I can assure you that even if you take just 20 minutes to draw something, it can end up being one of your favorite pieces. Over the summer, during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement, I felt compelled as an artist to use my talents to create something that mattered to people. I sat down for 20 minutes and created something that I consider to be one of my favorite pieces. I promise you, when you have the imagination and confidence to take a break and allow your creativity to flow, even for just 20 minutes, you can work wonders! 


Apple App Store (2008). “Best Drawing Software and Apps in 2020 (Free & Paid).” Art Rocket, www.clipstudio.net/how-to-draw/archives/155465

Johnson, Jamahl. “22 Famous Graphic Design Quotes.” 99designs, 99designs, 1 Apr. 2020, 99designs.com/blog/creative-inspiration/10-famous-design-quotes/

Voorhees, J. (2019, December 8). Procreate 5 Review: A Rebuilt Graphics Engine Drives Fantastic Animation, Color, and Brush Tools in an Art App Perfectly Tailored to the iPad. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.macstories.net/reviews/procreate-5-review-a-rebuilt-graphics-engine-drives-fantastic-animation-color-and-brush-tools-in-an-art-app-perfectly-tailored-to-the-ipad/

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