From Analog to Digital: How to Bring Traditional Art Techniques to Your Digital Work

From Analog to Digital: How to Bring Traditional Art Techniques to Your Digital Work

We process digital and analog information differently.

When we look at an image on a screen, our brains process them as flat and uniform.

But when we see the imperfections of a cheapy printed comic, the yellowing of old pages, or the slight ink bleed of type on food packaging it creates a more immersive experience.

When we see these analog elements in digital art, it creates a sense of familiarity and comfort, reminding us of the physical world we inhabit.

Here are five tips for bringing analog elements to your digital work.

1. Think Lo-Fi

Consider the limitations of old printing techniques. When designing digitally, it's easy to forget the limitations of traditional printing techniques.

Consider the illustration below. The cat on the left hand side is made in three hits of color (dark blue, orange, and light orange). This is acceptable but look at the example on the right using DupliTone halftone brushes — the halftones eliminate the need for the third color, emulate traditional printing, and give a tasty vintage vibe to the work.

By utilizing halftone effects in this illustration of a cat, a sense of texture and depth is added, giving the artwork a lo-fi, nostalgic feel that's reminiscent of vintage printing methods. Illustration by Robin Banks.

By thinking about how your design would have been printed in the past, you can create a more authentic, vintage feel in your digital art.

Consider the limitations of things like color registration, dot gain, and ink saturation, and try to replicate these limitations in your design.

2. Use your eye

Don't rely solely on the computer to align everything perfectly. Instead, use your own judgement and visual senses to make sure everything looks balanced and natural.

Example of grunge typography from David Carson

David Carson's innovative approach to typography challenged traditional design grids, and his work is a prime example of the power of handcrafted designs.  

David Carson once said, “Never snap to guides! We want your mind; we don't want your software!” So trust your instincts and use your eye to make design decisions that feel right, rather than relying solely on digital tools.

3. Invest in your craft

Use high-quality brushes, textures, and other digital resources to ensure that your analog touches look authentic and convincing.

Investing in your craft means honing your skills, cultivating your creativity, and equipping yourself with the tools and resources you need to bring your vision to life.

Sure, it feels good to get free downloads or a cheaper version of what you need but low-quality digital resources can make your work appear amateure and destroy all your hard work. So invest in the best tools available to you.

Remember that the devil is in the details, and the small touches can make a big difference in the final result. Don't let poor quality resources detract from your otherwise great work and risk looking unprofessional.

4. Kill Time Sucks

Too many projects are started with excitment but die slow deaths due to wasted time. Be mindful of your project as a whole and regularly ask yourself if you've gone down a rabbit hole.

RetroSupply products come with well-written instructions that save time and let you focus on what matters most — bringing your vision to life. A page from the ColorLab instruction guide shown here.

Investing in high-quality brushes and digital tools like RetroSupply's products can save you time and help you achieve the desired look quickly and efficiently.

RetroSupply's products come with clear instructions, tutorials, and customer support from real artists, ensuring that you stay on track and don't waste time on unnecessary roadblocks.

5. Tiny Projects, Big Results

Creating small projects can be a valuable way to experiment with new techniques and styles.

By limiting the scope of your project to something small and manageable you can focus on learning and practicing specific techniques without being demoralized by uncomplete projects.

For example, during our Fright-Fall Drawing Challenge artists made one drawing each day. Below is an example of 31 illustrations made by Robin Banks for the challenge — each individual drawing wasn't time-consuming. But the results add up to new skills (and a killer poster).

Work created during Fright-Fall drawing challenge

This piece showcases the power of consistent daily practice, resulting in a hauntingly beautiful final product composed of 31 illustrations. Illustration by Robin Banks.

Think of small projects as a way to refine skills. and develop your style. And remember, even small projects can be shared on social media — share the story and knowledge you gained and watch your audience grow.

Final Thoughts

Bringing analog elements into your digital work creates authenticity and connection to the real world that is often lacking in digital work.

Invest time and effort into creating authentic, vintage design and illustration by remembering the following:

  • Consider the limitations of old printing techniques when working
  • Trusting your instincts when it comes to creative decisions (no snap guides)
  • Investing in quality resources to get the look you're after and save time.
  • Use small projects to refine your skills and develop your style.

The best time to start is now — with the right tools and mindset, you can bring traditional art techniques to your digital work and create something truly special.

Article photo by Dillon Wanner on Unsplash