If you're in need of inspiration, looking to the work of other digital artists is a brilliant place to start. There is incredible work being created every day in the industry, with boundaries pushed and new forms of art being experimented with all the time. From marvellous colour palettes, to stunning line work, there's always something to learn from the community.
So, we've created this list of the mega-talented digital artists you need to know about. The following artists prove that nothing is off limits with a humble tablet and some decent software. Don't miss our best digital art software roundup and best drawing apps for iPad roundup to improve your own digital and core art skills.
01. Mandy Jurgens
Mandy Jurgens is fascinated by how colour and texture can influence our emotions: “I aim to create a little magic through portraits of people both real and imagined," she says.
In her art, created in Photoshop and Procreate, Jurgens looks for the excuse to use some of her favourite colours and tones, including yellows and purples. She plays with the viewer's gaze, focusing on how materials reflect the sunlight in her paintings.
In her painting simply titled 'Study' (above) Jurgens demonstrates the her technical ability as she renders lace. Saying: “My focus here was studying textures – how to simplify the lace and the shadows it would cast on the face, without rendering out every detail.”
02. Irina French
Freelance artist Irina French is constantly developing her skills. “One day I hope to produce illustrations for a board game.” She’s inspired by D&D and all things fantasy.
03. Heraldo Ortega
Heraldo Ortega is an illustrator, graphic designer and musician. The Chilean artist uses Photoshop, Procreate, and Clip Studio Paint to create his art. From a young age he has painted using traditional media, but now works digitally, too. “I’m inspired by fantasy and try to create little stories,” he says.
“I created this warrior, who’s capable of creating fire with the single movement of his sword, for my personal portfolio," says Ortega about his painting The Lord of Fire (above). The juxtaposition of the rain and fire is a nice way to highlight the conflict teased in the painting.
04. Rachel Walpole
"I’ve had a passion for art since I was a child," says digital artist and illustrator Rachel Walpole. "I whisk myself away to huge floating desert islands, angels with a questionable amount of wings, and creatures larger than countries."
05. Jeszika Le Vye
Jeszika Le Vye describes herself as an “imaginative realist painter”, combining her loves of Classical Realism with a passion for sci-fi and fantasy. Her digital artwork explores themes of psychology and philosophy. “In my art, I explore what gives a thing its substance, its soul,” she explains.
The above painting appeared to Le Vye almost fully realised in her mind, and she began working on it before planning a concept or narrative. “As I painted it, the piercing eyes of the boy kept bringing to mind Peter Pan,” she says. “I imagined this ageless child living away from reality in his own world, kept company by natural wonders and his own shadow.”
06. Dan Volbert
As a lead artist at Cooperativa Creativa, Dan Volbert has been driven to reach a harmony of colours and shapes ever since he entered the industry. “It’s a spectacular ride,” he exclaims.
There's more ancient monsters in the work 'Dragon Rock'. He says: “This is a piece of unused marketing art for a Viking tabletop game, which was illustrated in Photoshop.”
07. Barret Frymire
Barret Frymire is a freelance illustrator and concept artist who works on indie video games and fantasy art commissions. Base in the US he primarily uses Photoshop to create his art. He hasn’t let growing up on a farm with moonshine-powered internet stop him from creating.
The artist finds inspiration all around him, often using his wife as a reference or including her in his art. But for the painting Taid'r (above) he finds inspiration from a more common source, one that pays homage to one of fantasy art's greats: “This character piece is just me trying to do my best emulation of Frazetta’s killer shapes and shadows.”
08. David Villegas
David Villegas – better known by his alias Deiv Calviz – is a digital concept artist based in the Philippines. He specialises in hyper-realistic, stylised illustrations.
Villegas initially studied multimedia arts with a focus on graphic design, but decided to start taking illustration more seriously after being awarded second place in a contest by Blizzard Entertainment. Villegas’ ultimate plan is to create his own worlds and stories.
Dragon Watchers (above) was inspired by Dark Souls and Game of Thrones, and mixes 3D, photobashing and a lot of painting. “I really pushed myself with this – it was a rare chance for me to make something personal at this level of detail,” he says.
09. Lim Chuan Shin
Lim Chuan Shin is now a successful freelance illustrator and concept artist, and regularly creates fantasy and sci-fi book covers and concept artwork for game companies. However, growing up in Malaysia in the '90s meant art initially wasn’t a career option him. After several years as a pharmaceutical rep, he decided to take the plunge and chase his digital art dreams. “It’s been a tough fight but it’s all been worth it,” he says.
Mech Bay (above) was created using interesting silhouettes in a flat black. Shin changed the tone of the shapes to create the illusion of depth of field.
10. Małgorzata Kmiec
Małgorzata Kmiec is a freelance artist based in Berlin, who specialises in stylised and colourful portraits. She believes anyone who thinks magic doesn’t exist has never heard of art, and aims to put a bit of magic into all her work.
“I’m often inspired by seasons and nature, and this painting is a tribute to early spring,” she says of Spring Spirit (above). “I wanted to surround my character with warm colours that reflect the spirit of the season.”
11. Alyn Spiller
Alyn Spiller is a concept artist and illustrator who specialises in environment art. He’s been in the digital art industry for over six years, during which time he has worked with clients such as Cryptozoic Entertainment and Fantasy Flight Games.
He took inspiration from the Northern Lights when creating the colour scheme for his Northern Kingdom painting (above). "The sky lanterns were a late addition – I think they create a nice contrast of warm and cool colours,” he says.
12. Dang My Linh
Dang My Linh is a Vietnamese concept artist based in the USA. Recently, she has been refining her portrait style. “I focus on observing people around me, the way light hits their face and changes colour,” she says.
She painted the two figures above at the same time, with the aim of creating a series of portraits. "I was keen to use a new style that was different from what I’d done before," she says.
13. Finnian MacManus
Finnian MacManus' explorations of – among other things – architecture, history, art, design and science fiction all inform his work, and he has worked on many top films including the remake of The Lion King.
His tips for working as a concept artist in the film industry? "No matter how skilled you are, be humble about your work, always respond well to critique, learn from those around you, and be generous in helping others. Your attitude will go a very long way in this small industry, where you regularly reunite with past colleagues."
14. Alayna Danner
Alayna Danner (formerly Alayna Lemmer) is a digital artist based in Seattle, Washington, who works mainly on video games, board games and CCGs.
"My favourite thing to paint is environments," she says. "I love to draw people and characters too, but there is just something about painting wispy clouds and mountains. I am lucky enough to live in the Seattle area, which is surrounded by gorgeous mountains and the Puget Sound, so there is inspiration all around me."
15. Simon Cowell
No, not that one. Originally hailing from Sydney, Australia, Simon Cowell first explored fantasy art in the original Half-Life’s world editor. Since then he’s tinkered in 3D and traditional art, and is now a freelance concept artist.
"From an early age I was fascinated with creating. As I grew I experimented with many means of creativity, ranging from sculpting and drawing to digital animation and graphic design," Cowell says.
"I’d wanted to make a forest-style monster for a long time," he says of Swamp Thing (above). "I imagined something perhaps created from the woods and foliage, and held together by magic."
16. Ricardo Ow
Having begun his career as a 3D artist, Ricardo Ow later started to focus on illustration. “It’s the perfect marriage between software and artistry,” he reveals. He is currently based in Vancouver, Canada and has worked on AAA video games, mobile games, concept art, T-shirt designs and illustrations for tabletop game publications.
Ow's Drake painting (above) is a ‘David vs Goliath’ dragon story. "To spice things up and suggest scale, I decided to include a human rider. I imagined a world where humans had tamed a smaller species of dragons to stand a chance against the bigger and more menacing drakes," he explains.
17. Tom Cross
Previously an artist for a major Formula One team, Tom Cross decided to hang up his airbrush in pursuit of his real passion; fairies, goblins, swamp monsters and giant alien mechs!
The painting 'Sprite' (above), a fantastical forest creature concept was inspired his love of real world creatures. “I like the idea of a being who can blend in with their surroundings. Moments after this painting was completed, he turned green to match the foliage.”
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