How to cut your digital painting time in half (For when you are short on time)

Inside this blog post, I am going to show you how you can create digital art fast, by cutting your digital painting time in half, for when you are short on time, or when you don’t have time to draw. This blog post also comes with a free interactive checklist. Click through to read the blog post, and to download the checklist. #Digitalart #Digitaldrawing #Digitalpainting #drawingtutorial #howtodraw #drawingtips

Sometimes, as an artist, it can be hard to keep up with creating digital paintings. We have so much on our plate; Work/School, an extra job, maybe even kids, household, our social media to keep up with other artists, you name it. Sometimes, we also forget to work on the most essential part; Creating digital paintings.

I get you; It is tough to create a digital painting when you have so much to do. A digital painting roughly takes me 1-6 hours, and I know first hand that sometimes, you just don’t have time to create one, while we need to create digital paintings to grow our career as an artist #TheIrony.


But what if there was a method to create digital art FAST, without rushing it and delivering low-quality. That’s right! You can create high-quality digital paintings fast.

I am not saying you should always just rush your art. It is more than okay to take your time when you are creating a digital painting. But when you don’t have much time in a day, it can be a lifesaver if you know how you can cut your digital painting time in half with some really cool art hacks.

I have listed down 10 strategies you can use to create digital art fast, so you can produce more digital paintings, while still delivering high-quality art. I also summarized them for you in an interactive checklist, so you kan keep it on hand when you are short on time.

Some of the links mentioned in this blog post are affiliate links. This means that when you use that link to purchase a product/service, I receive a small commission. Don’t worry! I only recommend products I swear by! Thank you for supporting my art business.

1. Have a sketch before you create your actual digital painting

Sketching is the base of your digital painting, and I can’t tell you how important it is. This sets the foundation of your digital art, and it is a massive part in deciding the outcome. A lot of people think sketching is time-wasting, but actually, it is TIME-SAVING!

Imagine you can start with your digital art, and you already know what to do? Sketching is basically visual planning in my opinion. You can position everything how you want it, and when it is time to start lining and coloring, you already know what you want.

Pokemon Let's Go Eevee Sketch | Join The Creative Side

2. Create a color palette in advance

Now we are in the second part of visual planning; Deciding on the colors you want to use. Colors can impact your digital paintings big time. Choosing the right colors for your digital art will help you add a specific dimension, emotion, or vibe to your artwork.

I always decide on my colors beforehand. Since I am working on getting a consistent style, I have a lot of colors I am using that is repeating itself. Once you have found your own style, it will be a lot easier to plan your colors.

Now you have chosen your color palette, it is time to create a variation of the colors you have chosen. For each color you have chosen, you need to create a highlight and shadow version. Now, don’t just color pick your way from light to dark. This will result in your digital painting having a lack of dimension.

Instead, watch this video tutorial I have created to set up a color palette in the right way for your digital painting.

3. Study how colors behave on different objects

This one is a must for your digital paintings. You need to know how colors, highlights, and shadows will act on various objects. This will save you tons of time when you are shading shapes. If you need to shade a lot of sphere-shaped objects, it is crucial to know how to shade that.

Rather than spending time shading, CTRL+Z, shading, CTRL+Z, etc., you can shade a shape in one time if you know what shading technique you need to use.

Shading a sphere is way different than shading a pyramid or a cube.

Watch the video below to learn how to shade different shapes.

4. Use the right brushes with pre-made settings

Now we are at the actual painting part. This is my favorite part since now we have completed all the studying. Now, we can continue to the actual digital painting. It is finally time to express your creativity.


When you are creating your digital art, it is essential that you use the right brushes. Using the right brushes will help you add a particular texture to your digital art, it will help you save time, and it will also add more dimension.

For example, I have created a glitter brush pack that contains 21 glitter brushes for Adobe Photoshop. I created this brush pack, so you and I don’t have to draw every individual glitter ourselves. When you use one of my glitter brushes, you can just draw a stroke, and the glitters appear on your digital painting. Below are some example digital paintings I have created where I add glitter:

I also have a free brush pack available called 8 Basic Brushes for Adobe Photoshop. This brush pack contains all the essential brushes you need for digital painting. From sketching to lining to coloring, this brush pack includes them all.

Download it for free on my Gumroad page. Or, you could also choose to leave a small tip. If you do that; Thank you so much for supporting Join The Creative Side. You really help me grow as a digital artist.

To see my favorite Photoshop brushes, make sure to visit this blog post; 10 Photoshop brushes to improve your digital paintings.

Here are some of my favorite Procreate brushes

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5. Use shortcuts

Using shortcuts are a big time-saver for me, both in Photoshop and Procreate. Shortcuts allow you to press a single key, and it will create a whole action. For example, when you want to select everything in Photoshop, just press CTRL+A, rather than grabbing the magic wand tool, and selecting the pixels you want to select, etc. Why do all those steps when you can simply press CTRL+A?

You see, shortcuts are made to save you time, and they will when you know the right shortcuts.

Here are some of my favorite shortcuts:

For Photoshop:

  • Undo - CTRL+ALT+Z

  • Brush - B

  • Eraser - E

  • Select everything in a layer - CTRL+LEFT MOUSE CLICK (Click on the layer itself)

For Procreate:

  • Undo - Tap with 2 fingers

  • Copy + Paste - Slide with 3 fingers down

  • Flip horizontal - Tap with 4 fingers

  • Select layer - Tap your layer and press select

6. Experiment with layer modes

Now it is time to experiment with layer modes. If you haven’t been familiar with layer blending modes, you probably have wasted a lot of time.

You are probably thinking; ‘’Layer modes?’’ Well, if I say ‘’Multiply, Color Dodge, Overlay’’, does it sound familiar? If not, keep on reading.

Layer modes are certain ways you can blend one layer into another. This will help you save so much time when you want to add a specific effect to your digital art.

For example, for adding glitters to my layers, I use the mode ‘’Color Dodge (Add)’’ to give it a sparkling look. Without using that mode, it just looks like I threw confetti on my digital painting.

Layer mode on ‘‘Normal’’

Layer mode on ‘‘Normal’’

Layer mode on Linear Dodge (Add)

Layer mode on Linear Dodge (Add)

For shading, I create another layer on top of my base color, and I use the layer mode Multiply. This creates a vibrant shading, that really goes well with your digital painting. See the painting of the Gameboy above to see how I implement multiply mode.

To set your layer mode in Photoshop, go to the dropdown above your layers, and choose your layer mode. Tip: Use the up & down arrow to switch between layer modes once you have selected one from the dropdown. This will help you switch between the layer modes fast, so you can see which one works out the best for you.

Layer Mode in Adobe Photoshop.jpg

To set your layer mode in Procreate, tap your layer on the right side, where it says the letter ‘N’ (stands for Normal), and you can experiment with your layer modes from there. In this case you will see the letter ‘‘O’’ because I already set my layer mode to overlay.

Layer modes in Procreate

7. Name your layers

Naming your layers is more important than you think. I know I am still guilty of skipping this step now and then but believe me; it will save you tons of time.

Imagine there is something you need to adjust in a specific layer, and your layers are called ‘’Layer 54, Layer 55’’ and so on and so on. Well, good luck with that.

But, if you want to change the color of a leaf, and you have named your layer ‘’Leaves’’, It will be way easier to locate that layer, am I right?

How to change the name of your layer:

In Photoshop: Just double click on the title, and then type a new layer name.

In Procreate: Tap the thumbnail of the layer, and then select ‘’Rename’’, and then type a new layer name.

8. Use a ''paint bucket tool'' to fill in your layers

I saw this last time when I was working on a project at my part-time job. My colleagues made a digital drawing in Procreate, and they colored everything part manually. Imagine how much time you would save if there was a ‘’paint bucket tool’’ for both in Photoshop and Procreate, so you don’t have to color in everything manually?

Well, the good news is; There is! Both Photoshop and Procreate have a paint bucket tool! And no, with Photoshop I am not talking about the standard paint bucket tool that forgets a lot of pixels to color. I am talking about a way better solution to color your digital art.

Using the paint bucket tool in Procreate:

Go to the layer you would like to fill. At the top right, you will see the color you are currently using. Now, tap and hold that color, and drag it to the area you would like to fill, and poof; Now that area is filled with the color.

What I love about Procreate is that when you fill an area with this technique, it really does its best to fill every pixel. In Photoshop, when you just use the regular paint bucket tool, you will be left with a lot of pixels that aren’t filled, which causes that you have to fill them in manually.

Using the paint bucket tool in Photoshop.

The ironic part of this is that we are going to use a lot of tools, but not the paint bucket tool. First, grab the magic wand tool. Then, go to the area you would like to fill, and click on it. Now, it will create a selection automatically. After this, go to the toolbar at the top > Select > Modify > Expand, and expand it by 3pixels (Depending on your canvas, you should see if you need more or fewer pixels. The selection area should overlap your lines.

Then, choose the rectangle selection, go to your selection > Right mouse click > Fill > Foreground Color.

If you would like to know how you can correctly do this, I have a whole video dedicated to it inside my Skillshare class: How to color your digital paintings like a pro in Adobe Photoshop.

Inside this course, I am going to show you how you can use color techniques that make you look like a professional, but are easy to implement. Sign up for the class below, and you will get 2 free premium months. This means you can watch the course for free for the upcoming 60 days.

9. Work in stages

This is one of the strategies that keep me sane and focused when I am drawing digitally: Working in stages. A while ago, I was at my other part-time job (A graphic design boutique), and we were supposed to plan our day because we had to touch up a presentation. Every time, we got distracted because one person was browsing on Pinterest, another was trying to assign the tasks to another individual, and another one was continually talking about ideas for the first slide, while we had like 10 slides to go.

This meeting took us 1.5 hours. And it just could be done in 30 minutes if we worked in stages. For example:

  • Briefing

  • Task assignment

  • Brainstorming

  • Writing down our ideas

And now, imagine all those stages are mixed into each other. That would be really confusing right? The same with digital painting. When you are working in stages, you are practically batching your process, which results in a faster workflow.

Rather than sketching, lining, coloring and shading one shape of your artwork, and then moving to the other, you should work in stages. Why? Because it saves you more time to do all the sketching in once, then the lining, etc., than when you have to switch from technique and phase every time.

Here you can see my stages:

Here are the stages I recommend:

  • Choosing your color palette

  • Sketch

  • Line Art

  • Color

  • Shading and highlighting

  • Hard Edges

  • Textures

  • Polishing

All these stages are divided into detailed videos in my Skillshare class. This class will teach you how you can color your digital paintings like a pro in Adobe Photoshop.

What you'll learn:

  • The importance of color - Why colors really matter in your digital painting, and how to create your own color palette in a way you probably haven't heard of

  • Identifying objects - You will learn how colors behave on different objects, and how you can locate those objects yourself. By knowing this, you can make a massive jumpstart in your digital paintings.

  • Adding the colors to your art - You will learn how to color your digital art. From adding the base colors to adding the color build up (highlights and shadows), you will discover it all in this part!

  • Adding the final details + polishing - This is my favorite part of all my digital paintings. Here, you are really going to see your character to life. You will learn how to clean up your line art, how to add texture, how to add rough edges, etc.

Sign up for the class below, and you will get 2 free premium months. This means you can watch the course for free for the upcoming 60 days.

10. Decide where to spend your time on your drawing and where not

I saved this one for the last because I am still struggling with this one, and if you are a perfectionist like me, you are probably struggling with it too.

Sometimes, you need to look at your work critically and decide where you should spend your time on and where you shouldn’t. By that, I mean; Don’t go all in and spend 30 minutes to shade a small object that does not matter that much in your digital art.

I see a lot of talented artists out there creating beautiful masterpieces, and when I am looking at the time-lapse, I see them working on shading a small object (That covers about 1-2% of the digital painting), that I wouldn’t even notice in the first place. I am not saying you should rush your work and deliver low-quality content.

What I am saying is that us artists, we get caught up in our work so quickly, trying to polish every single thing to make everything perfect. But if I added up all that time I have to spend on shading a small object in a single digital painting that doesn’t even matter that much, I could create a whole new digital painting.

Be honest to yourself, and wonder if you really need to spend time on a part that covers only 1-2% of your digital painting when your main subject is already good enough to stand out.

Those were all the digital painting strategies I use to cut my digital painting time in half. I really hope this will help you to create a digital drawing fast, for when you are short on time. Don’t forget to download your ‘‘Cut Your Digital Painting Time In Half’’ checklist, to keep all the steps summarized by hand.

If you enjoyed this post, it goes a long way if you could take 30 seconds, and share it on your favorite social media platform + Pinterest. It is a small effort for you, but it has a significant impact on me. This allows Join The Creative Side to grow so I can produce more content. And I am confident your audience will love this blog post too ;)

Inside this blog post, I am going to show you how you can create digital art fast, by cutting your digital painting time in half, for when you are short on time, or when you don’t have time to draw. This blog post also comes with a free interactive checklist. Click through to read the blog post, and to download the checklist. #Digitalart #Digitaldrawing #Digitalpainting #drawingtutorial #howtodraw #drawingtips

What is one strategy you are definitely going to use to create digital paintings fast?

Lots of love,