The never-ending war of the internet: Is digital art cheating?

We have seen it, we lived it. The internet has two camps fighting all the time about the same topic. Ones are saying that digital art is easy and cheating, the other ones that digital art is harder and fair.

Jan 26, 2022
7 min read

So where is the truth? Let’s play a little game, true or fake. We will see who is the winner. Count your points if you agree or disagree, you can find results at the end of the article.

Definition of art

Let’s start by answering a “simple” question. What is art? There are many sources on the internet and many texts in the books, where we can find multiple definitions of art. Some are short, some long. But the below one from Oxford languages should be sufficient.

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. - Oxford Languages

Reading the definition, it’s pretty clear we can easily classify digital art as art. Digital artist is someone who is expressing feelings, transforming imagination and producing and sharing visual works to be appreciated for their beauty and emotional power.

Plus, there is the word art in digital art. You see?

True: 1 point, Fake: 0 points

Digital art vs traditional art

To compare digital art with traditional art, we need to look at some pros and cons of both.

Digital art

Drawing with Procreate
Photo by Rober González / Unsplash
Digital art pros
  • portable (tablets, laptops, you can work basically everywhere)
  • fast error correction (we all know the famous "undo" button)
  • infinite collection of tools (you will never run out of colors, plus you don't have to trim your pencil)
  • less space required (you can easily get the small table in the corner and you will be happy)
  • durable (digital art doesn't care about rain, dust, sun; unless you throw your tablet into the bath)
  • collaboration and sharing (since everything is digital, it is easy to share or even work on the same project virtually)
  • market possibilities (easy to share and sell on the market, plus price tag)
  • xx amount of copies (printing as many copies? you got it, not an issue)
  • no mess (well, apart from buying "overpriced" Apple's Polishing Cloth and cleaning your display
  • time saver (you don't have to wait for the colors to dry)
Digital art cons
  • lagging (did you ever see your brush to lag on the cotton canvas?)
  • dependent on the device (hardware, software; you cannot make a big theater show if you are performing in the subway)
  • laziness (yep, the "undo" button is cursed)
  • brushes, stamps trap (infinite possibilities to get lost in choices)
  • thieves' paradise (the pirates! 🏴‍☠️ almost everyone can steal your artwork online)
  • ongoing costs (we know, Adobe, you are the leader in that)
  • missing on some superb skills (hallo? mixing colors, blending, textures)
  • health issues (your back can file a complaint later on; warning before rivers of cry, the physiotherapist bill can be high)
  • no time outside (we, digital artists, are losing connection with the outside world sometimes)
  • no smell (unless you used a cloth dedicated to dishes to clean your display, you can just smell a piece of plastic)

Traditional art

"Draw me like one of your French girls"
Photo by Daniel K Cheung / Unsplash

Traditional art pros
  • feel and smell (who doesn't like to be whole from colors, touching brushes bristles and sniffing all the mediums)
  • easier to start with (you just take a brush and paint, no need to be software guru)
  • very hard to copy (yaaay, no pirates here for you)
  • it's unique and more valuable (you cannot just re-print it whenever you want to, therefore more 💰)
  • training patience and control (I feel you, you do not have the "undo" button)
  • unintentional beauty (your mistake can make it even better than before)
  • Buddhistic monk (you have all the time in the world for the painting and somehow the time just stops)
  • the artist's world (your workspace or studio is an open invitation to create every time - very powerful connection)
  • the effect (well, let's admit it, we - digital artists- are no gods, we cannot mimic everything)
  • forced problem-solving (it encourages an artist to no longer make mistakes and ultimately improves their skills, celebrate it, you are not lazy)
Traditional art cons
  • requires more planning (physical space, chosen medium, time, etc.)
  • permanence (unique but fragile; sunlight, air and time are enemies)
  • no consistent look (texture, nuance and lighting will play with your eyes)
  • waiting list (you can blow but it will not help much with drying and nobody wants a spitted artwork)
  • running out of tools (the tiny scream, I'm out of red!)
  • errors (either you just used a magical spell and ended up with unintentional beauty or you will use some *nice words from your extensive vocabulary)
  • messy (yep, and cleaning it that's one hell of the job)
  • expensive (you don't have all colors, you have too little tools and your canvases are small, it's adding month after month; eventually in a long run much more expensive than digital art)
  • difficult reproduction process (you need to become a better photographer or buy a scanner)
  • not portable (I can just see you dragging a 150 cm canvas on your back in the 🚆)


life is a succession of choices, what is yours?
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros / Unsplash

Digital art and traditional art have their own pros and cons. We need to understand that digital art is not only a new medium, it's a new way of thinking. It comes with its own mountains to climb and rivers to cross.

Seeing all the advantages and disadvantages, it is clear that digital art will stay. Even though the user base is growing exponentially, it will never replace the traditional art.

We just need to learn to accept new things and that's a big problem for many of us who are more conservative.

True: 2 points, Fake: 0 points

The skill set

Digital art and traditional art have a huge list of skills in common, either similar or totally same. No one would dare to say that traditional art is easy. So if we look at the similarities between the two disciplines, we can easily see that digital art is far away from cheating.

Traditional art skills

  • hand painting with pencil, pen
  • precision movement across a canvas or a page
  • correct intended pressure that varies to achieve different shades, stroke
  • control of lines and overall strokes
  • understanding lightning and shadows
  • knowledge of color theory
  • understanding of anatomy and/or machines and technology
  • knowledge of the mediums and tools

Digital art skills

  • hand painting with stylus or Apple pencil (sometimes even with a 👆)
  • precision movement across a graphic tablet or a screen
  • intended pressure on the screen that varies to achieve different shades, stroke thickness, etc.
  • control of lines and overall strokes
  • understanding lightning and shadows
  • knowledge of color theory
  • understanding of anatomy and/or machines and technology
  • knowledge of the software and tools
True: 3 points, Fake: 0 points

The speed

Lights in the night
Photo by Marc Sendra Martorell / Unsplash

That all depends. It really matters on your skill set. If you are a master in traditional painting and someone will come and give you a tablet and a random software to draw in, you will have a very hard time.

It's also harder to start with digital art over traditional art, it's simple more smoother to transit from a canvas painting to a tablet. And that's all thanks to the knowledge you will gain, the connection, enthusiasm and love for the art.

But digital art can be very often faster and more efficient. We need to be fair here. It's much easier to adjust or remove basically anything. We don't have this choice with a canvas and brush. So in this respect digital art is more flexible, you need less preparation and you can use techniques only possible in digital art.

But eventually, that doesn't mean you will become a faster artist. The temptation to experiment will set your goals higher and higher. The deadlines are usually easier to hit and large-scale projects are more achievable.

But once again, efficiency and flexibility don't mean cheating.

True: 4 points, Fake: 0 points

Easier or harder?

Many people think that digital art is some kind of automation. Yep, you can just say to the computer or tablet:

"Draw me a lion cuddling the cubs. More realistic, please. And add zebras, please."

Then you can just sit and relax by Netflix, and you have finished drawing exactly how you imagined. Well, nice, maybe some people would appreciate it, but this is not how it works in reality. Computers and tablets can't think, they are just machines, for now. They calculate quick and process commands and tasks.

As mentioned above, already the skill set plays a big role. Without a skill, you will not win on either of these mediums.

Another point to make is that digital artist are usually required by the market and the industry to know multiple softwares and techniques. One, two, even three is not enough. Mastering one program is already a hard work.

Digital art is not easier. It can be faster, more convenient, but definitely not easier.

True: 5 points, Fake: 0 points

Last words

Vintage typewriter for typing. Styled desk with dried flowers & a wax seal stamp.
Photo by Luke Lung / Unsplash

Let's take a writer as an example. One author is using old school paper and pen, the other one a typewriter or a notebook. Both finish work, books are at the store. Are you asking at the bookstore how did the author accomplished to write the book, which medium did he/she use?

Does it mean that one of them is putting in more or less effort? Or that one has imagination and the other one not? Is the second book worse because it was written on the keyboard? Should be the one using digital medium be called a cheater?

In the end, what really matters is the word ART.

Is digital art cheating?

(click on the box to reveal the answer)

More true points

You are on the good side and you will go to artistic heaven. Keep your mind open and embrace all artist in the world. They need it! Share the words, support them and be creative. Just do not get too arogant, if you got all 5 points. The ladder up is always shaky

More fake points

You are lost and damned in the hell of fallen artists. Look for a helping hand out there and try to save yourself. Take a pen and write like Bart Simpson 200x digital art is not cheating. That should secure your spot in the middle land of nowhere.


Well, did you cheat? There are just 5 questions. Did you give yourself more or less points? You are in the middle land of nowhere. You kinda get it but kinda not. You should learn how to make choices. In the land of nowhere there live just muggles. You don't want to stay there, right?

And now you can "fight" me below in the comments.

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