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4 Ways To Kickstart A Digital Painting

We’ve all been there. Just sitting in front of the computer or tablet, and trying to put something on the digital canvas.

We want to create some nice painting and we’re ready to do it, but then…

… nothing good comes out!

So what should you do when you’re sitting there trying to paint, and you just want to kickstart your digital painting?

Let’s take a look at 4 ways I use to kickstart my own digital paintings!


#1: Sketching!


Now I’m sure most of you know this one. It’s why we have sketchbooks and why it’s even called sketching. It’s an amazing way of getting into shape (figuratively speaking), and getting your ideas going.

Here are some of the benefits from sketching:

  • Your ideas can flow freely without judgment
  • Brainstorming with yourself
  • Explore shapes and shape language
  • Get warmed up
  • Be loose and not rigid
  • Not getting too attached to what you painted or drew

Sketching is great for any type of artist, be they landscape-, prop-, or character artists. You can just be so free with it and it’s really fun.

Now, you can sketch digitally using something that resembles a graphite pencil or a ballpoint ink pen, by going through the brushes you have, and choosing something small and that responds to pen pressure.

In the Evenant Concept Art Brush Pack you will find a few of these brushes (they’re among the first of the brushes), and you can use them to sketch just about anything.


You should try and be loose and just explore some of the ideas that might come up just by drawing.

You can also sketch using a bigger brush, or by using several brushes that just have interesting textures and shapes to them.

charcoal sketching

This is an excellent way of coming a long way establishing your paintings!


#2: Thumbnails!


This is one of my favorite ways of getting some really great ideas going. Thumbnailing (I’m really not sure that’s a word, but whatever) is a superb way of getting many different ideas going at the same time.

This applies to character thumbnails as well as landscape thumbnails, and a whole range of other subjects like vehicles, creatures, props – you name it.

The silhouettes of objects in visual representation is highly important. It tells the viewer what the subject encompasses, the general shape language of the subject and a range of aspects come into consideration – consciously and subconsciously.


By exploring different silhouettes and just brainstorming a bunch of different ones, you can quickly create a lot of thumbnails – of which some might be interesting to spin further on and finalize.

When doing thumbnails for environments, do go with mostly grayscale, to make life easier and get your ideas down quicker, but you can try adding in some colors here and there.

thumbnails frames

And then you can pick one or more that you like and continue working on them!


#3: Custom Shapes!


Here’s another fun one to kickstart your paintings: custom shapes!

I love playing around with custom shapes, and creating my own, because of the fluid way you can work with them.

Custom Shapes

Just look at the painting I created last week by creating an environment using custom shapes.

Custom Shapes 2

Custom shapes are great for building up some great designs quickly that you can’t see from the get-go. You can truly lure out happy accidents using custom shapes, and get your imagination running wild once you’ve started.

I know you will enjoy playing around with custom shapes! Apart from searching the web and finding great custom shapes to use in Photoshop,

I also encourage you to create your own and play around with them. You will be surprised how useful they can be.


#4: Photobashing


To set things straight once-and-for-all: using and manipulating photos for your paintings is NOT cheating. It’s just like any other tool you use. You simply want to inspire yourself and get your creativity going.

And there are fewer ways of sparking your imagination by just bashing a bunch of photos together like a madman!

Photobashing is the process of taking photos that look interesting in terms of color scheme, texture, shapes and atmosphere and just warping them through the abyss and back.

Flip them upside down, invert them, stretch using the transform tools, erase and paint over, and just completely bash the photos together in ways that make sense. The more you know what you’re trying to pull off, the better.

Perhaps you can take a photo of some desert and just stretch it out horizontally, pull the ends so you get some perspective going, and you have yourself a cool base for a ground to start painting on.

You might take 3 or 4 different photos and have different blending modes on them, and maybe blur them, and you’ve suddenly got a great color scheme with some interesting texture going that you can continue painting on and refine a general sense of design and composition.

Photos shouldn’t be viewed as a cheating method, they should be regarded as an aid to your creativity.

Here’s a quick speedie I did with some:



Trust me, once you start using photos as a tool, you will speed up the duration of your artist blocks and start painting awesome stuff that sprouts from random photo-goodness!




These are four ways I typically like to kickstart any painting process. If I’m not entirely sure of what I want to create or if I have just some general direction, any one of these four ways – or often times a mix of them – would serve me well to get me going painting.

Hope you liked this article!

Until next time,

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Walid Feghali

Walid Feghali

Co-founder of Evenant, Walid is a Swedish award-winning digital artist, composer, mechanical engineer, and entrepreneur. Travelling as a digital nomad and exploring new opportunities, Walid has always been dedicated to trying new fields of study, exploring, creating, travelling and collaborating. This has lead him to create artworks for countless clients and compose orchestral film scores for feature films and games, trailer music placements in many Hollywood campaigns such as Independence Day 2, Warcraft, Starcraft 2, Call of Duty, a mechanical engineering degree, and more. The journey does not end here for him!

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