Digital Painting. Digital Drawing.
Same thing, aren't they?

No. Digital painting and digital drawing
are two quite different experiences

In the non digital world, drawing is generally making a single line with a pen or pencil. Painting is laying down areas of colour with a brush.

In the world of digital graphics, 'drawing' and 'painting' can mean different processes.

So what's the difference between digital painting and drawing?

When you are vector drawing, you click and drag with mouse, finger or stylus to make lines, shapes and fills which are recorded mathematically.

When you are painting, you lay down the pixels on a grid, like stitches on a tapestry.

Because they are dependent on the number of pixels, digital paintings can make hefty files, and do not enlarge gracefully. Vector drawings are re-created from formula at any size. This means they stay sharp, though it does tend to give them a plasticky look.



With vector drawing, instead of tracing a fine line, you are dotting down points and pushing and pulling at small handles to alter angles. That's why vector drawing was never all that difficult to do with a flat-footed mouse. It may even have evolved with that blunt instrument in mind.

Vector drawing feels more like sculpture than painting.

...but what was worrying the owl?

Vector processing is good for office tasks like handwriting recognition. You'll often find vector drawing facilities in word processors. It can however be unpredictable.

pocket word drawing

I drew this owl garbed head to foot in glorious purple provided by the Fill bucket in Pocket Word.

...Then he was synchronised from my mobile to the desktop and back, along with everything else. He acquired an off-the-shoulder look in the process.

vector drawing synchronised

On making the round trip again, the bird acquired an even more trendy costume - and exchanged his contact lenses for a pair of designer sunglasses.

Admittedly this was a while ago. Phone-to-desktop dialogue has doubtless improved. If you prefer a predictable life, making a screen grab of this kind of vector drawing will convert it to a bitmap and preserve it as intended.

If you want to stay with vector, mobile apps like Adobe Ideas allow you to draw vector smoothed lines and curves in a more familiar way. (Adobe are no longer updating Ideas, but it remains a very handy and easy to use drawing app for your tablet or phone.)


Major desktop paint and photo apps like Photoshop and Painter are bitmap editors. So too are many major mobile apps for iPads, Android tablets and smartphones. These painting apps handle photos and provide inspiring simulations of art materials. However, most also allow you to do some vector drawing. Even if you have a steady hand, this is still handy for making circles that don't look like potatoes, squares that are square, and fancy type.

Photoshop as a gif optimiser

Photoshop as an icon maker

Vector images are sharp at any size

History note. It's easier than it used to be to draw on a tiny screen!

© Valerie Beeby 2015