Get your start in digital painting with the Magma Classroom live stream series

2023-05-05T15:23:18+0000 · 8min read
Ryan Allan author image
Ryan Allan Artist and content writer | Reviews digital art tech | Paints under the name Eyekoo | Dreams of torii gates with his morning coffee
Get your start in digital painting with the Magma Classroom live stream series cover image

Our Classroom live stream series, hosted by Magma artist, Ryan “Eyekoo” Allan, is intended for digital painting beginners. Illustrators who want to get a more painterly look to their work might want to jump on to the canvas too for a few studies while revisiting the fundamentals.

The full Classroom playlist, starting with our most recent stream.

In our first sessions we start with one of the core elements of making good paintings:


Value is can be described as how light or dark something is. It’s one of the first things our eyes read and absolutely essential to understand for creating strong, believable images.

And value relationships, how dark or light a shape is relative to another shape, can tell us a lot about our scene, especially when it comes to lighting, depth, and where the artist wants us to look.

Our exercise for this stream focuses on painting out basic shapes (a sphere and a cube) using only value, or different shades of grey, to give them form and make them stand out.

This screenshot is of our first lesson with basic cubes and spheres painted on the canvas in grayscale.

Value study of a still life

Our second lesson builds on the first by doing a value study of a simple still life. The humble apple makes for an an easy subject to focus on with a more interesting shape than just a sphere.

We spend some time finding different shapes of value first that make up the image. A great practice at this early stage is to squint your eyes to see the shapes better and to not get distracted by the finer details yet.

Once you feel comfortable with working in greyscale, and find yourself thinking in terms of light and dark, it’s time to start adding color to the mix.

This screenshot from the Magma Classroom canvas has painted apples by different people who were painting together.

Color basics

Lesson 3 starts to unpack the basics of color which is often quite an intimidating element of painting. There are many things that can influence color in a scene so it can seem like a daunting thing to get stuck into. We keep things simple by looking again at our humble apple still life with a simple lighting scheme.

A screenshot from the Magma Classroom where we introduce the basic of color theory and paint more apples.

Reflected light and color

We moved onto a more interesting still life in our fourth lesson. We looked at some simple white forms but with some strong color included in the scene.

We know that light bounces. When light hits color, that color can bounce onto objects around it. It can be a really subtle thing sometimes but it adds so much more interest and believability to your painting.

Screenshot of our Magma Classroom live stream on the topic of reflected light and color. The reference image was of two simple forms, a sphere and a cube, resting on a bright orange tablecloth.

Complex objects

When it comes more complex objects, its important not to get caught up in the details and everything that makes it so. Our next lesson covered a crumpled paper bag with its many plane changes.

Here it’s important to stay zoomed out for a large part of the process. This way you can keep your focus on overall shapes and value structure, working from big shapes down to the details in stages.

Of course perspective is another core element of producing believable paintings, but we’ll get into that a little later.

Simplifying a crumpled paper bag was the subject of our next Magma Classroom session. The screenshot of the canvas shows the different participants paper bag paintings.

Rapid painting exercises

If you want to improve your painting skills, it’s going to take the time, and do a lot of exercises. It can be a bit tedious early on if you are trying to cover everything at once. Instead, it’s worth doing a series of more focused studies that deal with a specific skill or subject.

Timed exercises are great for this and force you to make decisions faster, and also step back and assess or get feedback more frequently.

For the stream, we did a few different durations and focuses of the same set of images:

  • 30 second value study
  • 180 second value study
  • 10 strokes value study
  • Repeat the above but in color
  • 60sec and 5minutes of same subject
  • Then a quick value study, quick color study, a 3 min painting and then full 30minutes of the same subject.

This shows an example of the the rapid painting exercises we did during this episode of the Magma Classroom. Different subjects were painted with different time limits and parameters.

The idea here, especially with the shorter sketches, is definitely not to make perfect paintings. In fact, they will probably be embarrassingly bad. What it is meant to do though, is to warm up and speed up your thinking. It also puts into perspective the time you have to make meaningful decisions in your work. Five minutes can feel really long when you’ve just done a one-minute study.

The other benefit is getting more feedback in less time. If you have to stop at the end of 60 seconds and ask what you could have done better, that is going to help a lot when you put the time into more detailed paintings that have a tight deadline.

Here’s the exercise template if you want to give it a try:

This is the template of the rapid painting exercises for others to try in their free time.

Still Life Studies

Whether you’re into epic fantasy landscapes or character portraits, still life painting is a good way to focus on capturing light, material, and interesting shape combinations. You could even tell an intriguing story with the right collection of objects. Overall, they are a training ground to refine the skills you need for grander paintings

As a digital painting beginner, you’ll want to keep these really simple to start. Single objects, like the humble apple, with a straightforward lighting setup will do well so that you can focus on those fundamentals or experiments with different color schemes, lighting scenarios, or brush techniques.

Moving on to more complex still lives, with more objects and different materials, you can dive deep into capturing texture and the subtleties of light bouncing around in the scene.

We’ve started doing some of these longer studies in our Classroom stream with enough time to do break down the scene, do quicker sketches, and then go into the main painting. These are intended to be relaxed but focused sessions for participants to learn together, applying what we’ve learned in the past streams.

Screenshot from our still life painting Classroom stream.

Rocks and landscapes

Rocks are a really interesting subject to study. There are so many possibilities with shapes, color and texture, and are often the foundation of painting awesome landscapes. A mountain is just a big rock, right?

As with our previous lessons, shape and value are particularly important, and that’s where we spent most of our time focusing during this set of Classroom streams. After blocking in the main shapes, we gradually move down to smaller shapes with some tighter brush work.

Of course, there’s texture to consider too, and there are different ways to bring that in. The brush you’re using, and how you use it, could create texture, but if you only have a solid round brush, you could incorporate photo-textures over your rock forms.

This screenshot is of various rock and landscape paintings done during our Classroom live streams.

Join us in the Classroom

Having covered the various fundamentals, our Classroom streams will now be more of a study session. We’ll have reference set up for each stream where you’ll spend the next hour putting those core skills to use. Ryan will guide you through his process of tackling the subject, so even if you’re new and missed our passed sessions, you’ll still be able to dive right in.

Each week, there will be two 1-hour long study session with different subjects. You can stay tuned with all the details and be notified about the sessions by subscribing to our YouTube channel and hitting the notification bell.

Ryan Allan author image
Ryan Allan Artist and content writer | Reviews digital art tech | Paints under the name Eyekoo | Dreams of torii gates with his morning coffee
Related articles
Ryan Allan · 2023-05-31T04:56:35+0000
Magma Classroom Recap - Clouds - 22 & 25 May
A quick summery of our last set of Magma Classroom live streams where we chose clouds as the subject of our study. It was a challenge to paint them well within the time, but our artists produced great results.
Magma · 2023-02-10T10:12:59+0000
Learn and level up in the Magma Classroom Live
We're launching the Magma Classroom live streams dedicated to creative education! These streams will be conducted by industry professionals & talented folks inside and outside of the Magma team who want to share their knowledge, at no cost to you.
Ryan Allan · 2022-10-25T13:50:57+0000
Tips and tricks to level up your Magma game
We have some little tricks and useful features to step up your experience of drawing and painting in Magma.
Magma · 2022-09-15T09:50:07+0000
Finch – robot Jeff creation process - case study 🤖
If you're interested in the making of the film Finch, want to learn which everyday life objects influenced the appearance of the robot Jeff, or hear some other interesting insights from the movie pre-production phase, be sure to check out an interview conducted by Solomon Blair and managed by Yariv Newman.
Magma · 2022-09-15T09:43:14+0000
Rogue Rascals: A Magma© ComicBook
Are you interested in learning how to draw comic books with your remote team? Watch this talk by Pitch Dev Studios, which presents the use of predefined shapes – a co-developed feature in Magma.
Magma · 2022-09-15T07:54:56+0000
Inventing and rendering environments
The environment design process is entirely different from drawing portraits, designing vehicles, weapons, working on characters, or designing costumes. This significant element of art constitutes an integral part of any video game or animation project. Find example of an environmental art collaboration created jointly in Magma.
Magma · 2022-09-15T07:46:55+0000
The Importance of Learning How to Draw Textures
Learning how to draw from a mentor, art supervisor, or colleague is an excellent way to master your craft. Once you know the basics, it can be difficult to level up without feedback from someone experienced in the field. Find great example of periodic workshops conducted at Magma.
Magma · 2022-09-15T06:47:57+0000
Magma talks Webcomics – Laurel Pursuit, Brandon Chen, Dylan Telano (CEO of
Do you wonder what the impact of Magma in the Webcomics industry is? Find out by watching our first interview with the incredibly creative people who are the founders of Laurel Pursuit Studios.
Ryan Allan · 2022-09-14T10:39:34+0000
10 creative things to do with artists in Magma
Do more than just draw with friends in Magma. Here are ten creative things you can do with fellow artists to engage your audiences and start your next awesome project.
Ryan Allan · 2022-09-13T02:08:57+0000
Building a daily drawing habit
Setting out to draw every day can be an exciting New Year resolution, but it can be hard to stick with. Where do you find the time? What do you draw? What if you miss a day? What if I fail? These are questions you might face regularly on your journey. This post has some answers and tips to help you succeed if you are wondering how to build a daily drawing habit to level up your skills.
Ryan Allan · 2022-09-09T05:04:18+0000
Practical tips to grow your social media following with digital art
With so much content out there it can be difficult to get noticed. We have some practical tips to grow your social media following with digital art.
Witold Rosiak · 2022-09-06T09:00:00+0000
Magma Talks with illustrator Shauna Lynn
Inspiring interview with Shauna Lynn. Learn what a typical workday for a book illustrator looks like, how to deal with deadline pressure, where to look for inspiration and how to develop your own unique artist style to increase your chances of working in the digital art industry.
Karolina Murawska · 2022-04-25T09:00:00+0000
The Superhero Project
Have you ever wondered if your art can have a huge impact on someone’s life? Well, it CAN! We invite YOU to join our campaign and draw a superhero character for a deserving child. Learn more about The Superhero Project
Magma · 2021-09-07T09:00:00+0000
Collaborative Drawing Contest
Grab your team of 3, and unleash imagination with the Magma Challenge. Show off your creativity and win 3 Wacom One Pen Displays for your crew + 1 year of Magma Pro
× Sign up Log in Home Features overview AI Assistant Pricing Enterprise Artists' Guild Help Center Join Magma Discord Contact us Status Press Kit