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How to Collaborate With Amazing Digital Artists

The hallmark of every great artist is the determination to grow. So if you need more inspiration in your life, take on a new challenge. Collaborate with another artist to see your work in a whole different light.

But why collaborate? And how? In this article, I tackled the importance of collaboration by interviewing several artists and illustrators about their own experiences.

Let's take a look and learn from their advice below.

Why Is Collaboration Important?

You aren't meant to learn alone. As much time as you spend developing your craft, what if someone else had the answers to all your biggest questions?

That's where collaboration comes in. By pairing yourself with another designer or artist, you can experience exponential growth by developing your skills, techniques, or even your social media presence.

Here's a breakdown of why it's important to share ideas with your fellow creatives.

Learn Organizational Skills

Could you use a little more organization in your life? Sometimes the best way to break a bad habit is to look into someone else's workflow.

Digital artist and photo manipulator extraordinaire, Daniela Owergoor, shared her experience of learning essential organizational skills from her creative comrade. She said:

"By doing a collab with the great artist Daniel Berard, I learned how to organize my psd file and to be more capricious when working with masks. Not only is he a wonderful person and artist, but he keeps his psd file super organized!"
Photo Manipulation by Daniela Owergoor and Daniel Berard
Digital art by Daniela Owergoor and Daniel Berard.

Learn New Techniques

We all work differently. I bet my favorite Photoshop keyboard shortcuts are different from yours. And no matter your level of expertise, we can all certainly learn from one another.

Collaborating opens your eyes to new processes. And don't just take it from me—here are more stories from these incredible artists. Stephanie Lee, also known as GreyRadian on DeviantArt, mentions an interesting point about learning something new. She said:

"One of the things I found that really impacted me was the problem-solving. It helped me to also train my adaptability in style and working with different kinds of people. Because I'm an artist who would hopefully one day work at a game/film studio, I think this kind of practice is important to me."

Elsa Fan Art by Stephanie Lee and Anokazue
Fan art by Stephanie Lee and Anokazue.

Get the Feedback You Need

When we work by ourselves, we're looking at the world from one point of view. Get the constructive criticism you need by working with an artist from a different style or medium.

Illustrator Nana from NakanoArt explains this better with her unique experience:

"Personally, my greatest collaboration was creating a comic book with a writer. Even non-illustrative types can share valuable insight from a different point of view. We brainstormed a lot together and I received plenty of good feedback that helped me to convey the story better through imagery. Especially in regards to my composition and facial expressions!"
KeyHole Digital Painting by NakanoArt
Digital art by Nakanoart.

Where to Find Other Artists

Artists are like Pokemon. If you venture out enough, you'll eventually run into one. Here's where to find them.

Collaborate With Friends

There is no friend like an artist. And since we usually travel in packs, you can definitely count on your close friends to work on new projects. Always extend an invitation to someone you know and support the local art community.

Illustrator Mitch Frey, who works mostly with art directors and other artists, is familiar with this kind of teamwork. In his experience, he told us:

"Working with my (now) longtime friend Cindy Classen has been a key experience for me. She hired me back in '94, and designs publications while I do the illustrations and her husband, Michael Durham, does the photography.  My art informs her design and layout choices and vice versa. In '97 Enron took over and asked us to go more corporate, so I came up with a new style that fit and Cindy did the same on her end. Amazingly, they allowed me to pitch a new style direction in each of their different phases. Because Cindy and I have figured these things out together, it has been a fruitful collab."
Digital Art by Mitch Frey
Digital art by Mitch Frey.

The beauty of collaborating with friends is that great sense of familiarity. All that nervousness goes out the door and you're able to concentrate on the pure creation of your work.

Social Media, Art Sites, and Art Collectives

Now don't be a hermit! Every once in a while, try to make a new connection. The internet is a vast wonderland of incredible inspiration with artists from all different styles at your fingertips.

Here's a list of sites to get started:

Art collectives are also a great way to become a part of some amazing collaborations. By bringing artists from around the world together, these international and regional groups create regular collections dedicated to specific themes. Join an art collective and discover the potential of your work matched with another style.

How to Approach an Artist

So how do you approach an artist for a collaboration? Here are some general rules and etiquette tips to follow:

  1. Consider their time and energy. Before you contact anyone, take some time to follow their work and updates online. Collaboration doesn't always equate a financial return, so some professional artists may just be too busy. Consider contacting self-proclaimed "hobbyists" instead. These artists may be more open and willing to work with you if they have a little more room in their schedules.
  2. Introduce yourself and build rapport.  The foundation of every great relationship is commonality. Introduce yourself and build a casual relationship before jumping right into the big question. This shouldn't be just about gaining new followers or draining every artist you know of their best-kept secrets. Artists are very protective of their work and process, so make sure you build enough trust so that the other knows you won't flake out.
  3. Suggest an idea. Our minds are constantly working overtime. So it helps if you already have an idea in mind for the other artist to latch onto.
  4. Don't pester them with questions. Collaboration = teamwork. If you use this as an opportunity to pester someone with questions, the energy will feel very one-sided. Again, engage them in an effort to create a real, long-lasting bond, with lots of collaborative effort.
  5. Be polite if you're turned down. Always maintain class. This is a hard industry for everyone to be in. You never know what another person is going through or how much is on their plate. Besides, if you maintain politeness, the person you contacted may reach out in the future when their schedule opens up.

Tips for Creating a Project Together

So you have someone to collaborate with—now what's next? Collaborations can end as easily as they start. A great way to make sure everything falls into place is to have a basic plan.

Create a Theme

Would you like to create art based on a specific color, word, or movie? Starting a theme for your project is a surefire way to ensure its completion. Themes allow us to visualize the necessary details for our compositions. So pick a theme and stick to it as best as you can.

Assign Tasks

Once you have a theme in place, how do you figure out who does what? Discuss your strengths and weaknesses and assign tasks for more organization. Have one person do the line art while the other paints, or assign whichever task works best.

Allow Freedom for Expression

Even if you have a plan in place, it's important to let your art breathe. Here, digital artist Falk describes their experience of creating with freedom in mind:

"In the collaborations I did, we always agreed on having as little rules as possible, and that everything was allowed. We were sending steps back and forth, and for each step you were free to change whatever you want, no matter what the person did in the previous step. How much respect you have for the work of the other person is up to you in that process, and also the way you handle the feeling if something you liked got destroyed in the previous step.

With collaboration, the different abilities and strengths of each partner complement each other and form together to create something beautiful."

Digital Art by Falk and Gerwell
Digital art by Falk and Gerwell.

Envato Tuts+ Collaborations

Here at Envato Tuts+, we are also no stranger to collaborations. From vector to digital paintings and more, take a look at these collaborations to get inspired from our lovely instructors below!

Thank You to the Artists...

I'd like to say thank you to all the wonderful artists who lent their advice and wisdom for you all to read. Feel free to follow their work below:

Let's Collaborate!

Have a story of collaboration? Share it with us, along with your work!

You are one step closer to long-lasting bonds, improved technique, and a transformed workflow. So why not start today? Introduce yourself in the comments below and link up with other artists right here on Envato Tuts+.

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