Media & Techniques

8 Ways to Use Digital Drawing in the Art Room

Image of a digital drawing done with perspective

According to the 2019 State of Art Education Survey, 52.2% of art teachers would like to incorporate digital arts into their curriculum, but don’t know where to start. However, 90% of art teachers said drawing is the area they feel most comfortable teaching. So why not start with digital drawing? As an art teacher, you already know the foundational skills of drawing, let’s enhance them in a digital realm. Here’s how you can get started:

Apps to Use

All drawing apps are not created equal. There are many applications out there that cost money, but there are also some great free options. Here are four apps that provide quality options while still being user-friendly. Full disclosure, I have used each of these apps with my students on Apple devices, so I cannot speak to their productivity on Android devices.

Procreate ($9.99 – Available on iOS)
Tayausi Sketches (Free – Available on iOS and Android)
Autodesk Sketchbook (Free – Available on iOS and Android)
Adobe Photoshop Sketch (Free – Available on iOS)

Procreate is the cream of the crop when it comes to drawing apps, but it comes with a cost. This program is like Photoshop on an iPad, which is why it seems to be a popular choice. However, this cost doesn’t always fit in our budgets to add to an entire class set of devices. From experience, the next best option for student use is the Tayausi Sketches app. There are some unique features to the app that allow you to monitor and share work by using Apple Classroom easily.

Let’s Talk Styluses

images of stylus pens

In a dream world, all of our students would have an Apple Pencil, but with a $99 price tag, this isn’t realistic. While there are some excellent alternative styluses for student use, as long as your students have one, they’ll be able to create amazing work. If you’re new to the world of digital drawing, start by trying out some cheap, simple styluses in your classroom.  You will get what you pay for, but it’s a cost-effective way to get your students creating digitally.

8 Digital Drawing Activities to Try in Your Art Room

As you look through this list of digital drawing activities, you might be thinking, “Well, I could do this with traditional drawing methods.” While, that’s mostly true, using a digital tool to help introduce new drawing concepts alongside traditional methods can be more efficient with class time. It also allows students to create without any inhibitors.

1. Merge Traditional Artmaking with Digital Drawing

When it’s time to explore new techniques, students are often fascinated with the results. For example, exploring watercolor techniques is a rewarding experience, but sometimes we don’t know how to take those process explorations a step further. A perfect solution is to take a photo of a traditional artmaking process and enhance it with digital drawing.

2. Teach Depth and Space

Image of a digital drawing

Understanding foreground, middle ground, and background is essential for understanding how to create depth in an artwork. It can also be the weakest part of a composition when students don’t truly understand how to create space. Using a digital drawing app to teach this concept is a game-changer! Since students can work in layers, they can visually see how overlapping and changing the size of objects can create a difference in their artwork.

3. Bring Everyday Objects to Life

Every once in a while, our students need something to refuel their creativity. This personification activity is perfect for that. Start by taking a photo of an everyday object and bring it to life with digital drawing. This is an excellent opportunity for students to explore mark-marking and familiarize themselves with the drawing application they are using.

4. Monitor Your Students’ Work

If you are using iPads with your students, you should be using Apple Classroom. Apple Classroom is similar to Google Classroom but is much more compatible with iOS devices. When using the Tayausi Sketches drawing app connected to Apple Classroom, you can see what students are creating from your device. This not only allows you to monitor what your students are doing, but it also allows for quick, easy sharing of artwork. You can easily project a student’s in-progress piece for discussion with just a simple tap.

5. Teach Perspective

Image of a digital drawing done with perspective

Teaching students to draw in perspective isn’t always the most delightful part of being an art teacher. No matter how hard we try, understanding how to use a ruler is a lost art! Choosing to introduce your students to perspective by using digital drawing will save your sanity, and the process will seem so much easier for your students. Since many of the apps have functions to turn drawn lines into straight lines, you can still get the beauty of a perspective drawing with the help of some digital aid.

6. Create Digital Sketchnotes

Image of sketchnotes

We know that creating sketchnotes is beneficial in the retention of student learning. So, why not try digital sketchnoting? Not only will students be able to swap out colors easily, but they can also quickly pull in images. This will help them to retain even more!

See how use sketchnotes in your art classroom with Implementing Sketchnotes PRO Learning Pack. 

7. Create Bubble Letters

Image of bubble letters

Creating block or bubble letters is always tricky for students. Some of our students long to learn how to do it but get frustrated after erasing for the hundredth time. The great thing about digital drawing is the simple tap can make that modification of the undo button. Teaching your students how to do this with directed instruction will build confidence, while then allowing them to take their designs to the next level.

8. 3-D Forms & Value

Image of 3D forms

One of the fundamentals of drawing is identifying value and using it to create 3-D forms. The great thing about teaching value is that it can be taught with any medium. However, having your students create 3-D forms with pencil the very first time they’re introduced to the concept can be tough. For some students, this can take forever! Before, letting them loose with pencil, try introducing the concept of creating 3-D shaded forms through digital drawing first. This way if students do not understand the concept, they can immediately make changes. From here, challenge your students to apply what they’ve learned by using traditional art materials.

Teaching digital drawing shouldn’t replace traditional drawing methods. However, it can be a tool to teach the same concepts in a more time-efficient way. We want our students to create. As our students get older, they will most likely have a phone or tablet on them at all times. If we teach them to use these tools for artmaking now, they’ll continue their creative ventures for a lifetime.

Do you teach digital drawing?

What is your favorite digital drawing application?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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