Digital Illustration Online Art Course (D11)

Tutored by Spencer Hill  and  Monique Piscaer Bailey

The Digital Illustration Course is a Diploma Course

Digital Illustration Course

Student Artwork  (Detail) by Monique Piscaer Bailey - Me

Open the door to a new world of artistic exploration. Unleash your creativity with a new set of tools and techniques from the digital realm with the Digital Illustration Course from the London Art College.

With simple, clear tuition you will learn everything from making your first digital marks on a digital canvas to layers, effects, transformations and vectors. All of this with your experienced tutor by your side to guide you throughout and teach you shortcuts learned from years of working digitally.

The course includes:

  • Guidance on choosing your Hardware and Software
  • Bitmaps & Vectors
  • Using digital brushes, pencils and pens
  • Using colour, highlights, shadow and blending
  • Adding text
  • Layers, filters and transformations
  • Combining your real world art with digital techniques

And much more!

Whether you are looking for another medium to explore, or you are a professional artist seeking the digital advantage, this course provides all the detail you need to get started.

Student Artwork by Nicola Senior

Student Artwork by Nicola Senior

Check out examples by our students for 'The Cottage Project'

Course Prices

Please visit our 'Prices and Buy Now' page to view the course prices and to purchase your course. UK residents can purchase courses on this page via instalments, please scroll down to the relevant section to pay a deposit.


Critiques online or via Regular Mail

Students are able to upload their artwork to the 'The Art Room' on our website. Each student is given a unique username and password on enrolment for their own private section in The Art Room. Students can upload their artwork for the tutor to collect and critique. The tutor will then upload feedback for the student to download. If you do not have facilities to upload your artwork, you can mail your artwork to the tutors centre and receive your artwork back with your critique. It is essential you label all packages/artwork with your student number.

Digital Illustration Course

Student Artwork  (Detail) by Quayz Hippolyte - Mortal kombat

Tutor Support

All our courses are written to be complete in themselves. However we realise that students may appreciate being able to get clarification about various things as they work through their programme as well wanting reassurance that they are putting techniques into practice effectively. The tutors provide the technical support to deal with relevant queries.

Most courses have their own dedicated Tutor. The tutor keeps the course up to date and relevant to today's students. They are available to the individual student for advice and encouragement. Each course has regular exercises and assignments that are constructed in such a way as to give the student the opportunity to practice the techniques learnt on the course and to test themselves as they go along. The student is encouraged to submit the assignment work to the college for the tutor to critique. The student's work will be returned together with the tutor's personal critique. On many courses the assignment work may be suitable for inclusion in a student's Portfolio of Work that could be very useful later. The college will use the assignments submitted as the basis for any award of a letter, certificate or diploma.

Digital Illustration Course

Student Artwork (detail) by Debbie Norton - Button with the Bamboo

Duration and Experience

The expected duration of this course is approximately 1 year although the college allows students up to two years to complete their studies.This course is suitable for all students.

Course Content

The following is an overview of some of the areas that are covered in the course.

Media: Equiment used

Subject: Areas covered

Techniques: Skills developed

PC / Mac Computer
Photo editing software
Flatbed scanner
Graphics tablet (if possible)

Using drawing and painting tools
Working with colour
Manipulating your images
Using layers
Shapes and lines
Word and pictures

Transition from traditional to digital
Full understanding of digital illustration
Developing your technical abilities
Drawing and painting digitally

Course Content

Some knowledge of computers

This is not a computing course, so if the terminology I have used so far terrifies you or has left you confused I recommend brushing up your technology skills before continuing. For example; I will ensure I give you all the information you need to scan your line art in to your computer so we can colour it, but I won’t be teaching you how to connect up the scanner and get it working first!

Some form of a computer

It doesn’t matter if this is a personal computer or a laptop running Windows or an Apple Mac as long as it can run the software you need and you can attach the hardware you will be using. These images tend to get quite large so something less than five years old is preferable but not essential.

You will also need space to store your files so you can save them for later. External or portable storage is fine, but CDs are not ideal for working on and be careful you don’t lose your files by storing them onto a teeny tiny memory stick and dropping it in the centre of Liverpool during Chinese New Year celebrations…yes I did that. Finally your computer will need enough brainpower to think about lots and lots of colours and lines and detail! The better it is the faster you will be able to work, but if this is your first purchase then be cautious and borrow before buying, buy secondhand before new and low specification before state of the art. You know your art, your budget and you will be choosing software packages, so let these dictate your hardware needs.

To produce this course I am working on this setup:


This is a DELL Inspiron 1501 which is seven (!) years old and has a 1.8Ghz processor in it, no real memory to speak of and a hard drive which is now dwarfed by most smartphones. Alongside it is a WACOM Volito which is ten (!!) years old. I hope this proves that to get started you really don’t have to splash out a lot of cash as I reckon you could pick up the two of these second hand for the cost of a meal somewhere

Something to turn traditional work into digital

It is useful to learn how to bring traditional art into a computer, so you will initially need some form of hardware to enable that. There are lots and lots of ways to do this in the 21st Century, but our needs are quite modest so I recommend a flatbed scanner connected to your computer. Whichever one you choose, don’t spend too much (if anything). In the UK I suspect you could pick up a suitable A4 sized flatbed scanner for less than £50. As long as you can produce an image at print quality (typically 300 dots per inch) you are fine.

Something to control your on screen pencils etc.

Using a mouse to manipulate your digital work is cumbersome and irritating in my opinion, although your budget may force you to start this way as I did. For this reason I recommend you buy yourself a graphics tablet. Graphic tablets give you the feel of a pencil or pen in your hand, are pressure sensitive (which means the line you produce is darker if you press hard like a real pencil) and are much more precise. Again, these range in price from around £50 GBP or less for a low end Wacom tablet up to £650 GBP for the gorgeous Wacom Cintiq at the time of typing this, and are available widely. Unless money is not a consideration for you then I recommend aiming down at the low end for now whilst you are finding your feet.

If money is truly not an issue, or (like me) you find that disconnect between the screen and the graphics tablet disconcerting (with a graphics tablet the screen is in front of you but you are drawing on the table top) then splash out on a tablet PC. These are MUCH more expensive if bought new, and at this point I will stick my neck out and recommend a brand. I am still using a Motion Computing LE1600. Rosie (that’s what I called her) is reliable, robust, responsive and portable and although she was not cheap (approximately £2000 in 2004) she has paid for herself in contracts since. The only problem here is that to my knowledge there is still not a decent MAC based tablet PC available, so if that is your preference you may have to shop around. I do draw occasionally on my iPad, but I don’t find it responsive enough to produce good quality work so I only use it for sketching ideas rather than finished art. You may have a different opinion.

An internet connection

I will need to see your work digitally as I need to examine how you have grasped the concepts we will discuss, so you will need to be emailing assignments to me every now and then. You will find that the internet is a great source of software and reference material so it is essential that you have access to it regularly. It is also a superb space in which to share your masterpieces with like-minded folk and (if this is your interest) paying clients.

Software to manipulate the artwork once it is in the computer

This is really important as it is the interface through which you will be manipulating your artwork. As we will be working with both Bitmaps and Vectors you are unfortunately going to need a software package for each, as I am not aware of any software on the market at the moment which successfully handles both formats. Once you have explored both formats you may choose to stick with one, which will then dictate which software package you need for the future. For the course though you will need a bitmap and a vector based drawing package. There are a number on the market including Adobe Photoshop and Paintshop Pro on the bitmap side, and Adobe Illustrator for those of you who prefer vectors.

There is a much more comprehensive list on Wikipedia if you search for ‘Comparison of raster graphics editors’ and ‘Comparison of vector graphics editors’ respectively. Once again, your choice of operating system and your budget will dictate your choices, but I recommend the following as they are what I use and the first two will not cost you anything:

GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)

This Adobe Photoshop clone has considerable power considering it is a piece of freeware. I use it to prepare my images for print or prior to distribution to clients and whilst I confess it is not as easy to master as its expensive counterparts, it makes up for that by being free! It is widely available across the internet. Just be careful how you search for it as the word gimp has other meanings and may attract a lot of unwelcome junk mail This course will make considerable use of GIMP, so you will need to download it and by the end you will be very familiar with it.


Another piece of freeware which provides similar capabilities to leading vector based software such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Perfectly adequate for my needs as a primarily bitmap based artist, but if this was to become your specialism you may outgrow it. Perfectly adequate for the needs of this course though! Again, you will need to download Inkscape for the final section on vectors.
Since I started drawing digitally I have used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro as my drawing software, and I suppose I have stuck with it as it works for me and has been designed specifically to be used with tablet PCs. This is what I use to produce the majority of my bitmap work. Working with my tablet PC, GIMP and Inkscape this software produces the closest feel I have found to working on real paper and it retails for around $59 USD (which is a bargain considering the amount I have earned with it over the years). This isn’t something which is essential for this course, but I thought it was worth mentioning. If anyone from Autodesk is reading this…yes…I would love some freebies as a thank you.

Samples pages from this course

Click the download icon below to view a pdf sample course page which will open in a new tab. Alternatively right click and save the file. Please be patient for it to load.


Sample Images from the course

Below are a few images from the course itself illustrated by tutor and artist Spencr Hill.

Original Bitmap IllustrationTraced in Inkscape Using ColorCourse Image

Testimonials from students

Hi Spencer Here is the final assignment, I can't believe i've got to the end of the course so quickly. It's been alot of fun and part of me wishes it wasn't over. I fully intend to carry on doing this kind of work and would really like to thank you for your wonderful encouragement, which not only push me to get through the course but also gave me the confidence I needed. Many thanks

Liana Dear

Hi Spencer. My assignments for part 6. I have really enjoyed the lessons & have learnt heaps. I am sad that this is the end, but only of lessons not of learning.

Elaine Richter

I feel like I have learned a lot from this assignment, so thanks very much. And thank you for your feedback, I really appreciate it. Cheers

Jenny Drew

Thanks so much for your brilliant friendly and helpful tutoring.

Eleanor Patrick.

Thank god for kind tutors, google and teenage sons. All three have come to my rescue today but you most of all. Greatly appreciated, hope you are enjoying your evening, I'm off to be a mum now and cook for my starving family! Thanks a million,

Nicola Senior

Doing the course at the London Art College just made me love it more. My tutor Spencer Hill is one of my heroes. He has been so encouraging, even after the course. He made the course so enjoyable. He is a great guy.

Tracey Thomas

Thanks for your comments on my first assignment - feeling very positive after them and excited about the second one.

Jamie Sanders

Purchase Your Digital Illustration Online Art Course

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Purchase Your Digital Illustration Online Art Course