How to Become a Professional Digital Artist

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With the end of the pandemic almost in sight, many Americans are planning to once again trundle off and go back to their hour-and-a-half commutes into the city at their soul-crushing desk jobs. Others, however, are resisting that trend. And, if you have a creative bent and the desire to do something more fulfilling with your life, why not avoid the office and become a digital artist? If you invest in yourself over the next few months, you, too, could become a digital artist by as early as this fall—and you’ll never again have to sit through another meeting about how your TPS reports weren’t stapled correctly.

Okay, so what’s a digital artist, anyhow? Put simply, a digital artist is a person who makes digital art for a living. Well, duh, right!? However, digital art itself is a medium of artistic expression which utilizes software tools and development techniques to create digital art. Delving a little deeper, a digital artist is the absolutely indispensable central spinning cog in the global marketing and communications systems.

Digital art is such a ubiquitous language that we modern folks don’t even think about how it cossets every facet of our lives. If you bought it, and it didn’t grow on a tree, then it was designed by a person.  And if that product came from a box or a bag, the art on that packaging was created by a designer or a digital artist. For you, this means an opportunity to learn an in-demand skillset and avoid long meetings about proper staple usage. Further, it liberates your creative intellect and allows you to do what humans are great at: creating.

So, how do you become a digital artist? You’ll need to get the skills to pay those bills. LinkedIn Learning, formerly called Lynda, or another similar learning site, will get you up to speed on the various software technologies and design techniques that you’ll need to know. You’ll need to know at least Adobe PhotoshopIllustrator, and InDesign. Naturally, you’ll need a computer: laptop or desktop–it’s your choice. But don’t cheap out! Be sure to get something with a fast processor, a lot of RAM, a large hard drive, and a high screen resolution. Work your way through each of the tutorials, following each step closely.

As you move along, be sure to join a community of fellow designers. Sites like DeviantArtBehance, or Dribbble are essential watering holes for fellow digital artists. Each social site has its own purpose and set of followers. DeviantArt is the oldest and has the lowest entry point for beginners. Behance is an Adobe portfolio platform. Anyone with an Adobe account can join. Dribbble is more selective about who can join. You must be invited to join Dribbble but go ahead and browse the site anyway. At first, just look at the works displayed by digital artists like yourself. Try to imagine how you’d accomplish a similar work. Then go and do it on your own. As you challenge yourself, you’ll grow, gain skills and be able to show those accomplishments off on your own site. 

How much can you make? Well, here’s the big secret: a lot. Like a lot – a lot! No kidding! For example, a very simple layout freelancing job done in InDesign, for an annual report, with text flowing, graphic art supplied by you, and at a length of 50 pages: $1,420 on the low end for a 72-hour turnaround time.  Absolutely not even kidding! An experienced designer or digital artist with a solid reputation and good reviews can command much, much more! You can see how a career path as a digital artist can continue to scale upwards and how making a small investment in yourself can lead to better things.