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Graphic Design VS Digital Art: Understanding the Key Differences

Graphic Design

Graphic Design and Digital Art have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many people using them interchangeably. However, these two creative fields have distinct differences in terms of purpose, skill sets, and career paths. In this article, we will dissect the nuances between Graphic Design and Digital Art, helping you understand which one might be the right fit for you. This article seeks to dive into the world of Graphic Design Vs Digital Art, and explore their distinct characteristics, applications, and career opportunities in these fields.

Table of Contents:

Graphic Design is a creative field that involves the combination of visual elements, such as images, typography, empty space and colours, to communicate ideas, messages, or concepts effectively. It is a form of visual communication that aims to engage, inform, or to persuade a target audience.

What is Graphic Design

What Is Graphic Design

Graphic Designers use their expertise in design principles, colour theory, and typography to create visually appealing and effective designs. They work with various media, both digital and print, to produce a wide range of deliverables, including advertisements, logos, branding materials, packaging, websites, social media content and more.

Professionals in this field need strong technical skills and should be proficient in design software, such as Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign). Graphic Designers often collaborate with marketing teams, clients, or other stakeholders to ensure their designs align with the desired message, brand identity, and target audience.

What is Digital Art

Digital Art example

Digital Art is a form of creative expression that uses digital tools and technology to produce visual artworks. It encompasses a wide range of styles, techniques, and genres, including illustrations, digital paintings, animations, and 3D modelling. Digital artists create their works using various software programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, Procreate, or 3D modelling applications like Blender or Autodesk Maya.

Unlike traditional art forms that rely on physical mediums like canvas or paper, Digital Art exists solely in a digital format. This allows artists to experiment with limitless possibilities, easily modify their work, and share it with a broader audience online.

Digital Art can be purely artistic, focusing on self-expression and personal exploration, or it can be applied to commercial and entertainment industries such as advertising, concept art for movies and video games, or animation.

The skills required for Digital Art often include a strong foundation in traditional art techniques, such as drawing, painting, and composition, as well as proficiency in digital tools and software.

Similarities Between Graphic Design vs Digital Art

Similarities between Graphic Design and Digital Art

While Graphic Design and Digital Art are distinct fields with different purposes, they do share some similarities:

Use of Digital Tools

Both Graphic Designers and Digital Artists use digital tools and software to create their work. Common software programs include Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign) for Graphic Design and Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, or Procreate for digital art.

Visual Communication

Both fields involve the creation of visual content to convey messages, ideas, or emotions. Graphic Design is more focused on communicating specific information to a target audience, while Digital Art can be about personal expression or storytelling.

Creativity and Aesthetics

Both Graphic Designers and Digital Artists rely on their creative skills and a strong sense of aesthetics to produce visually appealing and engaging content.

Design Principles

Both disciplines benefit from an understanding of design principles such as balance, contrast, hierarchy, repetition, and unity. These principles guide the creation of effective and compelling visual compositions.

Overlapping Skills

Certain skills can be transferable between Graphic Design and Digital Art. For instance, Graphic Designers with strong illustration skills can create Digital Art, while Digital Artists with a good understanding of design principles can work on Graphic Design projects.

Digital Portfolio

Professionals in both fields typically showcase their work in a digital portfolio, which serves as a visual resume and helps them attract clients or job opportunities.

Continuous Learning

As technology and software evolve, both Graphic Designers and Digital Artists need to stay up-to-date with industry trends, tools, and techniques to maintain a competitive edge in their respective fields.

Differences Between Graphic Design vs Digital Art

Differences between graphic design and digital art (infographics)
Differences between Graphic Design and Digital Art

Although Graphic Design and Digital Art are similar in more ways than one, both of these skill sets have key differences too. The following are some of the key difference between the two:

Purpose: Visual Communication VS Self-Expression

Graphic Design focuses on using visual elements to communicate ideas, concepts, or messages. It often involves combining typography, images, and colours to create an engaging design that resonates with a target audience. Graphic Designers are responsible for creating advertisements, branding, packaging and website designs, among other things.

On the other hand, Digital Art is a creative medium that prioritises self-expression and artistic exploration. Digital Artists use various digital tools to create illustrations, animations, and other visual works. Unlike Graphic Design, Digital Art is not necessarily meant for commercial purposes and can be purely artistic in nature.

Skills (Techniques): Technical Expertise VS Artistic Flair

In terms of skills and techniques, Graphic Designers need strong technical skills and expertise in design software, such as Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign). They also need to have an understanding of design principles, colour theory, use of empty space, as well as typography to create visually appealing and effective designs.

In the same category, the skills and techniques required by Digital Artists include having a strong foundation in traditional art skills, such as drawing, painting, and composition. They need to have a good grasp of digital tools and software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, or Procreate. Moreover, Digital Artists should possess a keen eye for aesthetics and a distinctive artistic style.


Graphic Design Softwares:

Graphic Design Softwares - by Adobe
Graphic Design Softwares (Courtesy of Adobe)

Adobe Illustrator: This vector-based software is widely used by graphic designers for creating logos, icons, and scalable graphics that can be resized without losing quality.

Adobe InDesign: InDesign is a popular layout and page design software for creating print and digital publications, such as magazines, brochures, and eBooks.

Adobe XD: This user experience (UX) design tool is used by graphic designers for creating wireframes, prototypes, and interactive designs for websites and mobile apps.

Adobe Photoshop: Graphic designers usually require the use of Adobe Photoshop for photo editing and manipulation.

Sketch: This vector-based design tool is mainly used for UI/UX design, creating user interfaces for websites and apps, as well as other digital products.

Canva: Canva is an easy-to-use, web-based graphic design tool for creating social media graphics, presentations, posters, and other visual content.

Digital Art Softwares:

Digital Art Software - procreate
Digital Art Software (Courtesy of Procreate)

Adobe Photoshop: While also used by graphic designers for photo editing and manipulation, digital artists use Photoshop for digital painting, illustration, and concept art creation.

Corel Painter: This software is specifically designed for digital painting, mimicking traditional art techniques such as oil painting, watercolour, or pastels.

Procreate: A popular iPad app for digital artists, Procreate offers a natural drawing and painting experience with a wide range of brushes, layers, and effects.

Clip Studio Paint: This software is widely used by digital artists, particularly for creating comics, manga, and illustrations, offering various drawing tools, brushes, and effects.

Blender, Autodesk Maya, or 3DS Max: These 3D modelling and animation programs are used by digital artists for creating 3D characters, environments, and animations for various applications, such as films, games, or visual effects.

While these lists highlight the differences in softwares used by Graphic Designers and Digital Artists, it’s essential to note that many creative professionals use multiple tools across both fields depending on the project’s requirements.

Cost (To Client):

Graphic Design Cost

The cost and delivery aspects of working with a Graphic Designer or digital artist can vary based on several factors, such as the complexity of the project, the experience of the professional, and the specific industry. Here are some key differences between the two fields:

Project Scope: Graphic Design projects often involve a broader scope, including branding, marketing materials, and web design. In contrast, Graphic Design projects are usually more focused on individual pieces, like illustrations, concept art, or animations. This difference in scope can impact the overall cost of a project.

Commercial Purpose: Graphic Design projects are typically created for commercial purposes, catering to businesses and their marketing needs. Digital Art projects, on the other hand, can be purely artistic or personal, which may lead to differences in pricing.

Industry Rates: The rates for Graphic Design and Digital Art services can vary depending on the industry or niche in which the professional works. For example, a concept artist working in the gaming or film industry might charge differently compared to a digital illustrator catering to book publishers.

Experience and Expertise: The cost of hiring a Graphic Designer or Digital Artist can be influenced by their level of experience and expertise. Professionals with more experience and a strong portfolio may charge higher rates than those who are just starting in their careers.

Delivery (To Client):

Graphic Design File Delivery (to client)
File Delivery

Format: Graphic Design deliverables often include multiple file formats, such as print-ready PDFs, vector files (AI or EPS), or web-optimised images (JPEG or PNG). Digital Art deliverables may come in high-resolution image formats (JPEG, PNG, or TIFF) or specific file formats depending on the project’s requirements, such as layered Photoshop (PSD) files for illustrations or animation files for motion graphics.

Project Timeline: Graphic Design projects may have tighter deadlines due to their commercial nature and the need to align with marketing campaigns or product launches. Digital Art projects, particularly those that are more artistic or personal, may have more flexible timelines.

Revisions and Feedback: Both Graphic Designers and Digital Artists typically work with clients through a series of revisions and feedback loops. However, Graphic Designers may have more back-and-forth with clients to ensure the final design meets the marketing objectives and brand guidelines. Digital Artists may have more creative freedom, but they may still need to incorporate client feedback, particularly when working on commercial projects.

Delivery Channels: Graphic Designers and Digital Artists often deliver their work to clients via online platforms, such as email, cloud storage, or project management tools. The specific delivery method may depend on the project’s size, file formats, and client preferences.

Keep in mind that these differences are generalisations and can vary based on individual professionals, their work styles, and the specific project requirements.

Level of Customisation

Difference in Level of Customisation (Graphic design vs Digital Art)
Level of Customisation

The level of customisation in projects handled by Graphic Designers and Digital Artists can differ based on the nature of their work and the objectives of the projects they undertake. Here are some key differences in the level of customisation between the two fields:

Graphic Design:

Graphic Design Customisation
Graphic Design Customisation

Client-centric: Graphic Design projects are typically tailored to meet the specific needs of clients, their target audience, and their marketing goals. This often requires a high level of customisation, as the designer needs to create a unique visual identity that resonates with the client’s brand and effectively communicates their message.

Constraints: Graphic Designers often have to work within certain constraints, such as brand guidelines, budget limitations, or predefined project specifications. This may limit the level of customisation to some extent but ensures that the design aligns with the client’s requirements and expectations.

Commercial Focus: Given the commercial nature of Graphic Design, designers frequently have to balance their creative vision with the practical considerations of the project, like legibility, usability, or meeting advertising standards. This may impact the level of customisation, as designs need to be both visually appealing and functional.

Digital Art:

Digital Art Customisation

Artistic Freedom: Digital Artists often enjoy a greater degree of creative freedom compared to graphic designers, especially when working on personal projects or creating art for the sake of self-expression. This allows for a higher level of customisation, as artists can explore different styles, techniques, and subjects without being limited by commercial constraints.

Niche Projects: When Digital Artists work on commercial projects, such as concept art, illustrations, or animations, the level of customisation depends on the project’s requirements and the client’s vision. However, since Digital Art often focuses on specific niche projects, the artists may have more leeway to infuse their unique style and creativity into their work.

Experimental Nature: Digital Art can be more experimental than Graphic Design, as artists are free to explore new techniques, software, and unconventional approaches in their work. This experimental nature often results in a higher level of customisation, as artists can push the boundaries of their creative expression.

To sum up, Graphic Design projects are typically more client-centric and commercially focused, which may impact the level of customisation. In contrast, Digital Art projects often allow for greater artistic freedom and experimentation, resulting in a higher degree of customisation. However, it’s essential to note that these differences can vary based on the specific project and the individual professionals involved.


Difference in consistency between graphic design and digital art (infographics by Conquest Creatives)
Consistency of Graphic Design and Digital Art

The level of consistency in the work of Graphic Designers and Digital Artists can differ due to the distinct objectives and nature of their respective fields. The following are some key differences in consistency between Graphic Design and Digital Art:

Graphic Design:

Graphic Design Brand Consistency

Brand consistency: Graphic Designers often need to maintain a high level of consistency across various design elements to create a cohesive brand identity. This involves using consistent typography, colours, imagery, and design elements that align with the brand’s guidelines and evoke the desired emotions and messaging.

Repetition and Patterns: In Graphic Design, consistency is often achieved through the use of repetition and patterns, which create visual harmony and make designs easier to recognise and understand. For example, a designer might use a consistent grid system or layout for a website, ensuring that users can easily navigate and consume the content.

Functional Consistency: Graphic Design projects often prioritise functionality, usability, and accessibility. This requires consistent design elements that meet industry standards or best practices to create user-friendly and effective designs.

Digital Art:

Creature Illustration Concept Design
Creature Illustration Concept Design by Bob Tran

Artistic Exploration: Digital Artists generally have more freedom to explore and experiment with different styles, techniques, and subjects. This can result in a lower level of consistency across their body of work, as they may continuously evolve and grow as artists.

Personal Style: While many Digital Artists develop a distinctive personal style, the level of consistency in their work may vary depending on the project, client requirements, or their artistic vision at a given time. Artists may intentionally deviate from their usual style to challenge themselves or adapt to a specific project’s needs.

Project-based Consistency: When Digital Artists work on commercial projects, such as concept art for a video game or illustrations for a book, they may need to maintain a higher level of consistency within the specific project to create a cohesive visual narrative. However, this consistency may not extend across their entire portfolio, as they may work on diverse projects with varying styles and requirements.

In general, Graphic Design typically requires a higher level of consistency to ensure effective visual communication, brand identity, and functionality. On the other hand, Digital Art allows for more artistic freedom and exploration, which may result in a lower level of consistency across an artist’s body of work. Nonetheless, individual projects or commercial work within digital art may still require a consistent visual style to meet the project’s objectives.

Career Paths: Diverse Opportunities VS Niche Market

Graphic Design and Digital Art Career Opportunities

Graphic Design offers a wide range of career opportunities in various industries, including advertising, marketing, media, and more. Some common job titles include Graphic Designer, Art Director, Brand Manager, and Web Designer. Many companies offer career progression in this space, for instance from a Junior Designer to a Senior Brand Manager, and eventually an Art Director.

Conversely, Digital Art careers are more niche and can be highly competitive. However, Digital Artists can find opportunities in industries such as video games, animation, film, and concept art. Job titles for digital artists may include illustrator, concept artist, character designer, and animator.

In a nutshell, there’s considerably fewer opportunities in the workforce for Digital Artists as compared to Graphic Designers.

Education: Formal Training VS Self-Taught

Graphic Design and Digital Art Education Paths

A formal education in Graphic Design is often recommended, as it provides students with a comprehensive understanding of design principles, software, and industry practices. Many Graphic Designers hold a diploma or bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field.

While formal education is not always required for Digital Artists, it can be helpful for learning specific techniques and software. Many Digital Artists tend to be self-taught or hold degrees in fine arts, animation, or illustration.

Summary Table of Differences between Graphic Designer and Digital Artist (Graphic Design Vs Digital Art)

Table showing Graphic Design vs Digital Art (summed up) by Conquest Creatives
Graphic Design vs Digital Art (summed up)

Frequently Asked Questions:

Frequently Asked Questions about Graphic Design and Digital Art

Is Graphic Design better than Digital Art?

It’s not appropriate to say that Graphic Design is better than Digital Art or vice versa, as both fields have their unique purposes, objectives, and applications. Choosing between Graphic Design and Digital Art depends on an individual’s interests, goals, and the specific requirements of a project.

Graphic Design focuses on visual communication and problem-solving through the use of typography, images, and colours to convey a message effectively. Digital Art, on the other hand, encompasses a wide range of artistic practices that use digital tools and technology to create visual artworks.

What is the advantage of Graphic Design over Digital Art?

One main advantage of graphic design over Digital Art is the Market Demand. Since Graphic Design plays a crucial role in marketing, advertising, and branding, there is often a higher demand for Graphic Design services. Businesses and organisations of all sizes need effective visual communication to promote their products and services, making Graphic Design a valuable skill set in the job market.

What is the advantage of Digital Art over Graphic Design?

One main advantage of Digital Art over Graphic Design is the freedom of artistic expression. Digital Art generally provides greater creative freedom compared to Graphic Design, as artists can explore various styles, techniques, and subjects without being restricted by commercial constraints or specific client requirements.

Which is easier, Graphic Design or Digital Art?

It’s difficult to definitively say whether Graphic Design or Digital Art is easier, as the perceived difficulty of each field depends on an individual’s natural aptitude, interests, and prior experience. Both Graphic Design or Digital Art require a combination of technical skills and creativity, but the focus and objectives of each field are different. Ultimately it depends on the client and project requirements.

The best approach is to explore both areas and determine which one aligns more closely with your interests, goals, and strengths. It’s also worth noting that many creative professionals possess skills in both Graphic Design or Digital Art, which can broaden their creative opportunities and increase their marketability in the job market.

Final Words

Understanding the similarities and differences between Graphic Design or Digital Art is crucial in determining which creative path is best suited for your interests and skills. If you prefer working with a purpose-driven, client-centric approach, Graphic Design might be your calling. On the other hand, if you prefer more freedom of expression, being a Digital Artist will definitely fit your bill.

On the lookout for creative Graphic Designers to elevate your brand to the next level? Contact us or schedule a complimentary 60 min brand audit today!

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