Pros and cons of paper and digital drawing

Although it is possible to create 3D visualizations which are practically identical to actual photographs, nowadays the demand for hand-drawn pictures is as great as ever. 3DMAX, Lumion and Sketchup models

maybe convenient but they are unable to fully replace hand-drawn pictures that convey the character, mood and the designer’s concept vision. So, what can we use as tools other than the difficult watercolour, slow pencils, or fast, but unforgiving markers?
Touch-screen tablets have replaced digital graphic tablets as the number of digital artists has risen. Tablets are becoming more affordable and easy to use. Styluses are getting better at mimicking the authenticity of a real painting, while graphic software is producing more realistic effects of “analog materials” such as pencils, paints and markers. We draw with virtual pencils, see the result right where we are drawing, and it mimics per- fectly a physical paper-and-pencil work.

Anyway it is peculiar that many of my acquaintances who mostly use paper are dreaming about buying a tablet, and those who use a tablet want to use paper once in a while. Although the latter occurs less often than the former. So, what are the pluses and minuses of a digital drawing?

Author of the article sitting on an armchair drawing on an iPad with a cup of coffee
Photography: Maria Dokshina

Price: An iPad, as well as any other tablet advanced enough to make your art dreams come true, is not a cheap thing. However, if you add up all your yearly material costs (such as markers, paper, etc) the final number might surprise you. Buying a tablet is a more economic option in the long- term, given that it will last for more than one year of course.

Convenience: Both a tablet and a stylus are very compact and can be taken anywhere. You don’t even need a table or an armchair to use them. But if for some reason you left your tablet at home, you can use anything around you to sketch your ideas, from a napkin, to the sand on the beach!

Sharing: A sand picture is a little complicated to share with other people. Sharing digital work is much faster than sharing paper sketches, as the former doesn’t require extra editing and scanning. A digital sketch is always just one click away from being shared, in any format, even as a time-lapse video of its creation. There is just one downside to it: your work can be stolen faster and somewhat easier as well. At least with a physical drawing you can always prove that you’re the author.
Artistic boundaries: When using modern graphic software, you can utilize a variety of tools to create nightscapes or lighting plans among other things. Also, every colour in the world is at your disposal, you can even copy it from any photo or picture that you liked. As long as you don’t copy your colleagues techniques and colour selection, you will develop your unique style and palette.

Markers drawing in the scanner and the hands holding them
Photography: Maria Dokshina

Time Efficiency: Using a tablet makes the drawing process substantially easier and faster. This is particularly important for architectural sketches, which require rulers, compasses, hatch fills, proportion scales etc. Those modern pieces of software that specialize in architecture and design combine handy AutoCAD features with a possibility to use photos and other images to achieve an artistic presentation. The magical “undo” button can literally save your project. Too bad there is no such button for the occasions when your cat contributes to your sketch by spilling ink over it. So try, improve, delete partially or fully, revolve, zoom in, scale up, copy, mirror, save many versions and choose the best one.

Digital perspective sketch of family garden
llustration: Barbara Dokshina

Psychology: It is sometimes argued that you are more concentrated when using a paper medium for drawing, and therefore you don’t have to make as many corrections tousing a tablet. In my opinion, anything that makes a designer’s job easier is a good thing. Nothing can match the pace of a creative thought, but we can achieve great results by trying to keep up! At the same time, we humans are physical creatures, and drawing on paper for us is a grounding experience. It takes time, but it is a therapeutic and immersive artistic process. In the world of technologies, paper drawing is becoming a greater and greater luxury, but this luxury is needed. After all, the actual goal of our work is to physically manifest the beauty of our ideas in reality.

Sketchbook with a hand drawing with the green pencil
Photography: Barbara Dokshina