The current range of artistic mediums available to the average person is undoubtedly the broadest it has ever been. At the forefront of all of these stands digital art.

As a child I tried many forms of art-making, from simple pencil and paper, to paint on canvas, to Copic markers, I realised that the wonders achieved by many of the artists I saw on social media were products of a previously unknown medium: digital art. Fortunate enough to get my hands on my dad’s old Wacom Bamboo tablet, and ready to scour the internet for some free drawing software, I embarked on a journey with a medium that I have loved ever since.

In this day and age, digital art is one of the easiest ways to get started with art creation. It is perhaps the most forgiving medium, with the ‘undo’ function always only a couple of keystrokes away. Alongside the quick and easy customizability of every aspect (including brush size, shape, texture and colour), it provides a path for every beginner artist to experiment and discover their individual style.

However, unless your father also has an old Wacom tablet lying around, there will almost definitely be some upfront costs. Assuming you already have access to some form of laptop or computer, one of the two general requirements is a drawing tablet of some kind. Though the Wacom Bamboo is no longer on the market, Wacom still offers a huge range of products, from beginner-level tablets to huge, full-display tablets for professional artists and illustrators. For beginners (and those who would prefer not to spend hundreds of pounds), a small non-display Wacom One tablet is available on Amazon for £29.99, and the slightly more upmarket Wacom Intuos can be bought from a price of just below £70, depending on budget. Later upgrades are a matter of personal need and taste. I myself have been submerged in the medium of digital art for roughly seven years now, and a Wacom Intuos remains my tablet of choice.

The good news is that if you already have an Android tablet or an iPad, these devices can also function as drawing tablets, though they will require a digital pen (the bad news being that the Apple Pencil is sold at the steep price of £89).

The second of the two requirements is art or design software, of which there is also great variation in terms of accessibility. One example of a free piece of software available on both Android tablets and PC is Krita, an open-source art program that contains all the functionality that a beginner artist might need. I used it for quite a few years when I was new to the medium. Also available are, of course, various Adobe apps—Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign etc.—though they are each subscription based at approximately £20 per month, taking away much of their accessibility for non-professionals. If you have an iPad, Procreate is available on the App Store for a fairly cheap £8.99 one-time purchase (though of course, to get to this point, you need an Apple Pencil and the iPad itself, neither of which are particularly affordable). Finally, another popular piece of software for PC (which I currently use) is Clip Studio Paint Pro, a slightly more complex step-up from Krita for a one-time purchase of £36—although this software is unfortunately switching to a monthly (£3.49)/yearly(£19.49) subscription fee in 2023, much to the dismay of its community.

Evidently, depending on your desired software and platform, the price of getting into digital art can vary massively. Nevertheless, with the lowest-price programs and equipment, the cost can be reduced to a fairly cheap one-time purchase, with no requirement to continue buying materials or risking wastage (two of the cons of traditional art-making).

Many argue that this accessibility will only make the art industry more competitive, despite it having always been an extremely competitive environment. Whether this is true or not, it seems digital art is already here to stay. According to one study in the US, 66% of artist jobs with an annual salary over 60k are related to digital art, and such jobs can be found all across the nation.

Despite worries over competitiveness within the industry, is it not better that through digital tools, more and more people have the chance to develop their artistic skills and find their creative passion? The accessibility of digital art may result in a more competitive art industry, yes, but it is also true that a large proportion of beginners will simply want to explore the medium, rather than suddenly jump into professional art creation. Digital art is both accessible to beginners and a highly effective medium in a professional setting, with a range of software and hardware available, depending on budget and need.

Even within itself, digital art is evolving. Some pieces are now created by painting in virtual reality, 3D models are digitally sculpted as helpful aids or as art in themselves, and AI art is a base for digital artists to use as a foundation for their creativity. The future of creative tools is bright, and hopefully barriers to art will continue to fall as time moves forward, allowing everyone to explore their intrinsic creativity.