Digital art is a fast-evolving genre, thanks in great part to its connection to and reliance on technology. Since technology keeps evolving from one year to the next, so do it’s digital art styles.
While there are many examples of this evolution, and seemingly countless types of digital art, some stand out more than the others. In this article, we shall cover the most popular types of digital art.
What are the different types of digital art?
Datamoshing, also known as glitch art, is one of the most popular modern types of digital art. Even if you haven’t personally made this type of art, you must have seen it online in the form of glitchy GIFs and videos.
The idea behind Datamoshing is to purposely manipulate the data in video, audio, and sometimes other media types as well to cause an interesting effect on the overall data when it gets decoded.
Most video files, for example, do not contain complete data in every frame. A frame with complete data is known as an I-frame. Another type of frame is a P-frame, or predictive frame. This frame only contains data on what has changed from the previous frame and therefore needs data from a previous I-frame to be complete. B-frames, or bi-predictive frames, can do this in both directions.
To datamosh a video that has been compressed in this way, you can deliberately alter the data in certain I-frames to influence how they interact with future P- and B-frames to bring out a desired effect. You may also repeat P- or B-frames a number of times to create different effects.
An algorithm is a set of instructions, in order, that set out how to achieve a certain goal. Algorithmic art, therefore, involves generating art using computer algorithms. This can lead to some pretty interesting works of art. The digital artist who uses algorithms to create his or her art is known as an algorist, and there are probably as many types of algorithmic art out there as there are algorists.
The algorist’s main job is to create the algorithm that the computer will use to generate art. This algorithm consists of different functions, computations, and mathematical rules. The algorist simply uses whatever is available to make the kind of art they want.
There are two main subtypes of algorithmic art: deterministic and non-deterministic art. A deterministic algorithm follows a clearly defined set of rules and produces perfectly identical art each time. In a non-deterministic algorithm, bits of randomness are introduced here and there so you can’t quite predict what kind of art will be produced beforehand.
Fractal art is technically a subcategory of algorithmic art. It is, however, so vast and rich that it warrants its own section in this list. A fractal is basically a self-similar shape. This means that no matter how far in you zoom, the shape looks the same. In that sense, a fractal is an infinite pattern.
To generate a fractal image, you should write an algorithm that calculates a base fractal image and then iteratively or recursively keeps recreating that image at higher and higher levels.
Fractal art is captivating for most people, as the pattern is preserved, no matter how far you zoom in or out. It’s also got a wide range for variation, as a small change in any of the initial variables will produce an entirely new fractal.
Perhaps the most famous fractal in mathematics and the world of art is the Mandelbrot set, and many variations of it have been created. There are also others, such as the Sierpinski Triangle, the Menger Sponge, and the Von Koch Curve.
The vector format is a technique for storing images. Basically, an image is stored in the form of the geometric formulas that define its constituent parts. These include all the lines and shapes, as well as values for the different colors.
The greatest advantage of vector formats is that they are infinitely scalable. Since the format is nothing but formulas, you can apply it to pixels of any size and you would get a crisp image.
Vector images are quite popular on the web. They are used to create most of the icons you see in websites and applications, as well as much of online art.
Raster painting, also known as bitmap, is yet another format for the storage of images. It is also one of the most popular formats for digital painting, thanks to its ability to mimic actual real-life paintings. Vector art is too sharp. Everything looks crisp and perfect, which is not like what a traditional painting might look like. Raster painting achieves this better.
The big downside with raster painting is that the images cannot be scaled up infinitely as quality loss occurs.
Pixel & voxel art
A picture element, also known as a pixel, is the smallest form of visual output a computer screen is capable of. If you zoom into any computer-generated image far enough, you will eventually stumble upon individual pixels.
Pixel art started with the video games of the ‘80s and ‘90s, where limited resolutions and memory capacities meant artists had to be resourceful and creative about how they produced their images. These would look crude and blocky, but recognizable. Modern pixel art taps into our collective nostalgia for this era and its art.
Voxel art is like pixel art, except the pixels are extruded into 3 dimensions, making them voxels. This makes building voxel art a lot like playing with Lego blocks.
This form of art takes an existing photograph and paints over it, creating a sort of composite painting. This technique is often used to produce minimalistic art, where the major forms are blocked out with simple colors and only the details of prominent parts, such as faces, are left in.
With the advent of programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, photo painting became very famous, allowing artists to either add details or enhance what is already there. That said, it should be noted that ‘photoshopping’ is not strictly the same as photo painting. Photoshopping is the manipulation of images using software. Photo painting is therefore only a subset of photoshopping.
This is among the most widely used types of digital art we have today. Older cameras had reels of film, which would produce negatives of the intended pictures. Photographers would then have to produce the actual picture in a dark room. Today, digital circuits allow for photographs to be captured digitally and stored in a memory card. The digital photographs are high quality and can be transferred to a computer, where image editing techniques are available.
Digital photography is capable of producing some of the most stunning works of art you will see, but it does have a learning curve. Provided you are ready to put in the time and effort, this is a highly rewarding form of art.
Most of us are already aware of the concept of a collage, where we put images and photographs together to form some overarching piece of art. Digital collaging techniques allow you to do this digitally using any standard image editing or painting software.
2D computer graphics
This is one of the major forms of computer graphics. Vector and raster images, for example, are forms of 2D computer graphics. In this case, images are rendered on the 2-dimensional screen of a computer (or created in a computer and rendered elsewhere, such as printing paper). Most art you can think of, from cartoons to fractals, can be represented as 2D art. Sometimes the viewing angle is skewed a bit to give a 3D appearance to the image, such as in isometric images, but this is still categorized as 2D art as it involves no concrete representation of depth.
3D computer graphics
3D computer graphics tries to emulate the human experience of reality, which is 3-dimensional. 3D graphics are often praised for their extreme realism and ability to add a new dimension to how we experience art. This art can be reshaped, resized, and manipulated in many different ways to achieve various results. When real-life physical laws are obeyed in the generation of 3D graphics, incredible works of art can be produced that mimic reality. This type of art is often seen in movies and video games.
Photobashing is a special digital art technique where different images and 2D/3D graphics are combined into a single image so that they look like they were naturally meant to be there. Think of a photograph of a girl walking a dog combined with a picture of a shark swimming in the ocean in such a way that it convincingly looks like the girl is walking the shark in the ocean.
Photobashing allows for surrealist works of art which seem to come to life before the viewer’s eyes. It can also be used as a corrective technique to fix elements while digitally painting.
How do I find my digital art style?
All the digital art styles laid out above are very enticing, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In case you’re wondering how to find the right digital style for you, the best answer is don’t.
- When starting out, copy everything around you. All the best artists admit to stealing many of their best ideas. By copying your favorite artists, you allow yourself to learn different concepts, such as shapes, colors, forms, and lighting.
- Be sure to practice the things you learn as much as possible.
- Step out of your comfort zone every once in a while, and try something new. How about drawing with your non-dominant hand? How about taking a photography class online? Make time to learn new things that make you feel like a newbie again.
- Make plenty of time to play around with the ideas that you’ve learned. Free yourself of all your expectations and do art for the fun of it.
With time, as you do all of the above, you will start to discover your own style organically. You will find yourself returning to some techniques over and over again, and doing some things almost effortlessly. As you start to produce content, others will also note your best works. That’s how you find your digital art style.
As you can see, digital art is vast and rich in examples. This article is just a peek into this infinite world. By following the tips outlined in the previous section, you should be able to find the right style or styles for yourself and truly come into your own as a digital artist. Until next time, happy drawing!