So we here at iyear have been dabbling a lot recently in digital art. Some people may think that software like photoshop is exactly what it sounds like: just for photos, but this is simply not true! We’ve also been getting some questions about whether the software helps the artist to paint, and this is also not true. Using digital medium and a tablet is the same as using traditional art materials, you are not “cheating” in any way. Both require that the artist have good control over their medium, and have good motor skills.
The thing about digital art is that it can be counterintuitive, you are using unnatural technique to replicate a look that comes naturally to traditional medium like oils. However, there are a lot of useful tools too that will help you speed up your workflow and also be able to create special effects.
One notable effect is related to lighting, and “the sunflare” fx. When doing traditional you paint the painting around light, and your painting can get no lighter than the color of the paper. In digital painting, you can use all sorts of blend and lighting effects to get effects like futuristic flares a la Star Trek 2009, headlights in the dark, complete with hazy dust particles highlighted in the affected area. You can get halos, neon lights, and any type of screen glow will look particularly good against a dark backdrop.
So what do you need to get started?
1. A graphics tablet
Graphics tablets run the gamut from reasonable to very expensive. If you’re getting one, you want to strike a balance between price and performance. The cheapest graphics tablets like this (link here) is alright for writing or signing but terrible for drawing. You’re looking for a mid-level tablet from a reputable company like wacom. Your tablet will be your best friend so think it through before you commit to one. If you like, you can even get a display-type like the Cintiq. Read reviews like Graphics Tablet Guru before you buy.

2. Painting software
There are lots out there that are paid and free. It used to be that I would only endorse good software like Painter or Photoshop that you have to pay for in suites but nowadays the free programs like ArtRage are catching up! ArtRage and MangaStudio (paid) are good for anime style coloring with cel-shading in layers. However, there is a tendency for contemporary anime illustrations to have high levels of detail and gradient shading far more elaborate than what used to be “stereotypical” anime-style.

Many of these software employ the same color picking tool with hue, saturation and value in a rectangular or triangular pick-box. Painter has a lot more layer and brush tools to simulate real media but will not run on slower computers. Photoshop is concise but has a steep learning curve and is made for photo editing. Other programs are similar to painter, except lacking the sophisticated brush engine.

3. Good tutorials
I can bet that you’re not going to get past the first canvas without a tutorial. It took me a whole year to learn all the functions of photoshop and I still haven’t gotten all of it. The scope of actions possible here is huge and amazing. Learn to use all that is at your disposal but don’t neglect basic pillars of painting like color harmony and value/form, etc. You definitely cannot paint with just some fancy softwares.

Alright, that’s it. Grab your materials and get to it! We’re excited to see what you create. Join up with one of the digital painting communities and draw away!

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