Now that I’ve decided one of my intentions for this year is to focus on painting and drawing, I have been doing some research and stocktaking, and creating my digital ‘art studio’.
The subjects I want to create artwork of fall into two main categories:
- Fantasy art, mainly character-based, for use in my TTRPG projects and for potential book covers
- ‘Natural media’ art, recreating the look and feel of pencil, watercolours, oils, acrylics and more
No matter the subject, I want to create artwork purely digitally. And now, after some playing around with trial versions and existing hardware and software I already owned, I have settled on my tools of choice.
I have a MacBook Pro and an iPad.
I also have a Wacom drawing tablet & stylus, and an Apple Pencil.
I have all the hardware I need (for now: one day I may well upgrade my aged MacBook and get a 20″ display tablet, but I need to save up a bit for those …)
I have settled on three packages, which together give me a good combination of styles and media, as well as providing the ability to be ‘mobile’.
Software packages come and go, but Photoshop always remains top of the pile.
I use it extensively for photo editing, but nearly every serious digital artist also uses it to create artwork.
Its flexibility when it comes to brushes, layers, blending modes, transformations and special effects makes it hard to beat. It can emulate natural media and is the classic example of the ‘tool that can probably do everything’.
I’d be crazy not to use it, and as I love it (and I have an Adobe subscription anyway) I will use it.
Until I upgrade my Mac and/or get a display tablet, my only ability to draw directly onto a screen is provided by my iPad.
Fortunately, with the Apple Pencil, that experience is excellent.
And further fortunately, I had already bought one of the best art programs ever created for tablets.
Procreate is a stunning piece of software. Designed from the ground up to be an art creation studio, it has all the benefits of Photoshop (brushes, layers, blending modes, etc) but also has a sleek mobile interface and works amazingly well with the Pencil.
With Procreate, the iPad and the Pencil, I am able to draw and paint anywhere. And my linework is better when I am directly drawing on a screen rather than via a drawing tablet, so Procreate may well actually become my tool of choice over Photoshop. Time will tell on that one, but for now, I am a Procreate fanboy and I don’t care.
Another piece of software I am unashamedly enthusiastic about is Rebelle 5.
It is purely a natural media art package, but has one of the best brush and media engine rendering engines I have ever seen.
Watercolour paint blends and bleeds live before your eyes. Oils smear, acrylics blend, impasto emulates the paint build up from thick daubs of colour. The pencils are convincing; the airbrushes are awesome … but those watercolours … they are beautiful.
Creating natural media emulation artworks is my tribute to my late father, so Rebelle is very likely to be a frequently used tool in my box this year (with Artrage and Adobe Fresco potentially enabling similar to be done on the iPad, but we’ll see …)
My studio is complete
Although there are always new tools and other solutions that catch my eye (hello Clip Studio Paint), with the gear above I have (more than) everything I need.
Or, to put that another way, nothing to stop me doing anything I want to do.
And that’s a pretty nice place to be.