#1 Posted by dkessler175 (103 posts) -

All of you make some of the coolest art I have seen and I am always so excited to click through the pages of new logos, drawings and other random topic drawings. I have never considered myself to be artistic but I have never really challenged myself to be either so I want to try. My question to you is what are the most common tools you guys/girls use to create your excellent work? What is the ideal software/hardware combination? I know the cheapest route might be paper and pen or pencil but I really want to do it on a computer for the ease of editing.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

#2 Edited by SgtSphynx (1801 posts) -

Photoshop is probably the best, but cost money. I use Paint.net, it's free but not quite as versatile as PS. GIMP is another good free program but has a bit of a learning curve.

#3 Posted by super2j (2064 posts) -

If you feel like you suck at drawing, I HIGHLY recommend you start with a bamboo tablet. Being able to constantly undo a line you keep messing up, or using different layers so you are not messing up anything you have done already or zoom in 400% to be able to make delicate lines easier; Its a very useful tool. If you can get a bamboo with the pack in software (art rage and autocad sketchbook 2011 came with mine) , that should be good enough to get going in a great way.

To clarify, I have little experience, I generally suck at drawing, and i started "photoshopping" with paint.net. The bamboo I got was on sale for something like 50$ with tax . So maybe keep an eye out on your local/online stores for a good deal and jump on it.

#4 Edited by Aetheldod (3914 posts) -

Heck you can even use paint duder.... it all boils down to practice , practice and practice and oh yeah more practice.

#5 Posted by BRNK (320 posts) -

If you're interested in digital art, awesome! I do a lot of work digitally and love working on the computer. Just know going in that it's a medium with pros and cons like any other. I actually teach art at the collegiate level. Here are some things I've learned over the past 10 years digital painting/year teaching:

Digital is great for its flexibility, speed, and value -the upfront investment in equipment and software might seem big at first, but compared to maintaining a supply of paints, brushes, canvases/panels, mediums, etc it becomes a real value very quickly. No other medium allows you such a fluid workflow. You can flip back and forth between painting opaquely and glazing instantly, which makes getting color harmony and wrangling value a breeze. In addition, blending modes and masks can be extremely powerful, once you're at the level to make sense/use of them. Digital is also the fastest way to make complete pictures, as far as I'm concerned. There's a reason all the artist in the game industry that have insanely short deadlines paint digitally.

Digital is weak in final presentation. While you can get very nice quality prints relatively cheaply these days, there's just nothing like real physical media on a surface. Digital is also a really hard medium to start your art journey with for a number of reasons. First, getting a digital painting to a reasonable level of finish takes longer and is a far more deliberately conscious process than with natural media (For beginners, at least.) Second, color functions differently on a back-lit screen than it does in paint. That means if you want learn to paint traditionally at any point, you'll have to relearn/rethink your color theory and learn to mix paint (On the flip side, although all traditional painting mediums behave differently, the general rules of color theory and mixing apply almost across the board.) Third, there is a lot extraneous stuff happening in Photoshop/Painter/Gimp that really just gets in the way of learning how to make art.

So ultimately, what I'm trying to say is do both! At very least, get a sketchbook and draw in it with pencils and pens. Drawing from life is the best way to get good at drawing fast.

#6 Posted by Humanity (11589 posts) -

It's all practice and whatever you feel most comfortable with but I'd say that Photoshop is your go-to tool. Alternatively maybe you could get into Painter but I have little experience with that program.

As for tablets or no tablets, obviously if you want a ton of fidelity you will want to get a tablet. The caveat here is that you want at least a half decent tablet and those tend to get seriously expensive. I didn't use tablets for a long time and still feel a bit awkward when using them. In fact a lot of my drawings were conceived from scratch to finish in Photoshop with a really cheap two button wired mouse. That is obviously not some ideal setup and you shouldn't spend time trying to get good at drawing with a mouse because thats just ridiculous, but what I'm trying to say is that with enough practice you can get good at anything. Drawing is a very flexible medium and you can quite literally use a stick and some mud to make anything.

For just starting out I'd suggest going the traditional route. Use some pencils and sketch. Learn some basic muscle composition for drawing people. Get comfortable with body proportions. Learn some very basic fundamentals of perspective - 1 point/2 point.

I've been drawing all my life. At a very young age I was tracing Spider-Man comics and such. Despite my aspirations to draw the next Spawn or whatever I never got "good enough" to draw serious comics and feel much more comfortable with cartoon characters - which in a way is a real bummer for me. So although you might want to draw in a particular style, you may end up discovering that you feel a lot more comfortable with something else along the way.

#7 Edited by verysexypotato (252 posts) -

I think NOT having the ability to edit will make you more confident and enjoy mistakes a whole lot more. I say just attack a sketchbook with pen. Do it.

#8 Posted by dudeglove (9278 posts) -

For the occasional 'shop, I use GIMP. It's free, the interface is a little ugh, but you can work with pretty much every file type, including .psd files and it does pretty much everything I need to make stupid alterations of the crew.

head swaps 4 life

I don't have a tablet, so I don't use it for brush work (not that I can draw anyway), but the quality and choice of brushes seem a little meh. If you're more into advanced stuff like bump mapping or whatever, you might wanna consider something like CS instead. Depending on your needs, GIMP might not be as pretty or intuitive, but it's a darn sight better than Paint.

#9 Posted by SkullPanda1 (539 posts) -

At work I'm forced into using CorelDraw x5, but at home I still use adobe CS3.

#10 Edited by RawText (28 posts) -


Check out this book if you want to get into drawing. There's a 5 dollar kindle version. (There's a free version too but this is no place for linking that sort of thing)


I use a Wacom Bamboo tablet. Works pretty great.

#11 Posted by selbie (2090 posts) -

Photoshop (I can't stand using GIMP) and Inkscape for vector logo type stuff. InDesign and Illustrator if I need to do complex stuff.

You will learn a lot about software just by following step by step tutorials and looking at how each aspect of the software fits together. I learned a lot of what I know just by photoshopping stupid stuff for forums :P

Drawing is not a genetic gift, it is a skill learned like an instrument with tonnes of practice. Start with drawing simple 3D shapes and work your way upwards.
Lately I've been watching a few of these videos, and there are millions of this kind of thing out there now.


#12 Posted by nateema (79 posts) -

For my general, architectural visual, and graphic work I use Photoshop with an Intuos tablet. But for sheer ease of use and performance I use Mischief when i want to 'draw' and do freehand visuals.

It is probably the best art program I have used - Photoshop does have previous when it comes to tablets and lag (which can be fixed if you delve into the settings) but Mischief is always smooth and the way it works - infinite canvas and scaling - is a joy to use. Definitely recommended.

#13 Posted by RobertOrri (1177 posts) -

Photoshop comes highly recommended and is the standard for many professionals. However, it's expensive. Adobe's "lightweight" alternative, Photoshop Elements, simply feels too barren, feature-wise, considering it is still paid software.

Paint.net is easier to learn but it doesn't have quite as many features, though all the essentials are there. It's great for beginners - especially if they're only familar with MS Paint, since the interface mimics it a lot. Free software, so why not give it a try?

GIMP is more of a free alternative to Photoshop. It can do a great many things and is highly customizable but be aware that it isn't necessarily the most user-friendly of the bunch.

#14 Edited by Dixavd (1502 posts) -

My advice is get a printer/scanner. In general, they are cheaper and easier to obtain than a drawing tablet, and the issues that come with cheap ones are usually a fidelity problem that won't make much of a difference to beginners (whereas with a tablet, shitty calibration or an odd interface can be a huge turn-off to beginners as well as professionals). This way, you can try things out on pen and paper and then transfer it to the computer (at which point you could simply recreate it with vectors, or use a Bitmap software to edit, colour and rearrange the image without having to re-draw it).

This also means that you can skip to the part of finding out what your digital applications will allow you to do. Sometimes, trying to draw directly with the tools in the software can be a daunting first step. Instead, drawing on paper and scanning in allows you to jump to the more interesting parts of the editing process. You can do the same with photographs you take or pictures you find online (its basically a stand-in for the "collage" teacher that physical art is taught with to get a sense of the placing of parts of an image to form a final picture). This is also the step that generally shows the difference between a novice and a professional, being able to use the tools in your digital software to make the image seem constant, proportions the same, lighting and colour consistent, etc... is the building blocks of what is most colloquially called "polish".

As for getting good at drawings: try out physical objects, or try to draw the things in a picture (And compare how they match). Also, there are many great guides (both in physical art books and online) that will take you through a step-by-step process of how to draw a given picture: from areas such as specifying "people's faces", to landscapes, to creating a three-dimensional perspective, to light and shadow, etc... Once you understand the basics of proportions and such on pictures to make them look real and/or as expecting, you can then move on to trying to mess with these proportions to form your own unique style.

-Edit- It should also be noted that trying out different styles is probably the most enjoyable and quickest way to find one that works for you - but each styles takes a while to understand on its own and most have hundreds of books devoted to tutorials on that style (or even on the style of a particular person's work or show or whatever). So if there is a particular style you most want to be good at - you might want to start with that as motivation to get good at what you are currently trying (though just remember that the more specific a type of art you try and recreate, the larger a jump it will be to other traditional styles).