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Imaging Software


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So, no I haven't got any new pics, but I've been going through and upgrading my software this year and my lurkerness has noticed a few posts about what software to use, so since I'm at it....

A quick review of software used for digital art.

The most popular is probably Photoshop. I've used it a lot and I know that most of the WG guys use it (or at least they still did when last they were talking to me :roll: ). Its popularity acutally stems more from the fact that In The Begining, it was pretty much All There Was rather than the fact that it is actually an inherently good painting program. Its name pretty much sums up what it was designed to do - manipulate photos. While its since developed into a decently good paint program, it still is laid out to be most useful to digital photographers and manipulators.

The Pros: It is very easy to find tutorials for this program. It is in common use so its also easy to find other people using it to annoy for tips. Its fairly versatile, and can be used to achieve a lot of different effects.

The Cons: It is #@($&!! EXPENSIVE. A retail version is something to the note of 700-800$. It has more functions than most people use or even know about, and is generally Way More functionallity than needed.

The Learning Curve: Moderate if you are not familiar with graphic editing software, pretty straightforward if you are.

Staying in the Adobe pool is Illustrator. Vector is one of those things you either like or hate to do. I generally find its a patience issue. The pen tool is tedious sometimes, but it does produce some really awesome results. All of my lineart these days is done in Illustrator and I am begining to use it exclusively for somethings.

The Pros: You can get some phenomenal artwork with vector programs. It is especially good for doing cell-style work or technical/mechanical illustrations.

The Cons: Expensive(in the 400$ range), tedious at times to work with.

The Learning Curve: Can be very high when first learning to use the pen tool. Some people just seem to pick it up, others seem to be more inclined to start attacking the computer with a crowbar when faced with vector art for the first time.

There are several other vector programs on the market, Macromedia's Freehand is probably the second most well-known. I've not used it so I can't offer a comparison, but I don't notice a huge difference in what is produced from one vector program to another. The biggest thing seems to be what you learned on (and if you have a previous software you're familiar with - ie. Illustrator is easier to pick up for people who have worked with Photoshop)

For an actual painterly sense on the computer, Painter is generally the way to go. Its not as expensive as it once was either (I think 8-soon to be 9- is around 200-300). The program is also bundled in "classic" version with most graphics tablets (a very good investment IMO). Classic annoys me somewhat for more than sketching, but 6 (the version I have used) is quite nice and capable of a lot. It can simulate real art materials and papers, and has more options than you can throw a tablet pen at (which actually I'm often tempted to do).

The Pros: If you can get through learning the software you will not get better paint effects from anything. A huge array of options.

The Cons: Somewhat confusing when you first open it. Still takes some screen res adjusting to be at its best, but the palletes fit on screen better in the latest version.

The Learning Curve: Moderate - High. In many ways this is the most PITA graphics program I've ever used. On the other hand, it seems to be worth it and seeing what people can get out of it keeps me coming back.

Moving out of the land of Ungodly Expensive Software, you have things like Paint Shop Pro (99$). I haven't used it in a few versions, but it was among the first paint programs I worked with. In a lot of ways it's like Photoshop's bastard cousin. It didn't go to Harvard, and it doesn't have all the bells and whistles and its not as pretty, but it gets the job done, and doesn't complain about its lot in life (much).

The Pros: Inexpensive. Good at all the basics.

The Cons: Lacks a few nice functions.

The Learning Curve: Not quite photoshop levels

Lesser known but gaining in popularity is Open Canvas. Its actually a japanese program that started life as freeware. Recently its become functional enough to warrant a pricetag, but its a low one (70$). You can still find the old freeware versions (1.1) some places, though its getting harder. Its got a photoshop/painter sort of interface and has some neatish functions like the ability to playback drawings like a movie.

The Pros: Cheap, does nice work. Has some fun tricks.

The Cons: not as comprehensive as it might be.

The Learning Curve: Somewhere around the PSP range, some things are not labeled as well as they might be.

In the land of freeware exists GIMP. I tried to use this once got really turned around and gave up ten minutes later. All the same, I've seen some decent stuff come out of the software, and I think some of my failure was due to having photoshop on hand and that being easier.

The Pros: Free

The Cons: Its freeware, free means its not going to have all the bells & whistles.

The Learning Curve: Used to be higher, recent screenshots seem to suggest its not as bad.

Getting Software For Less!

Retail prices sucks, but there are other ways to get this stuff besides selling organs.

Educational Pricing: if you are in school, you can get software for up to 80% off retail. In the instance of Adobe, you can get Illustrator for about 99$ and Photoshop for 275$, or better yet you can get the creative studio which includes both of those, and some other nice toys (acrobat, golive, etc) for about 380$.

Upgrades: Buy old version on ebay, upgrade costs next to nothing. Probably more work than its worth if you can get student discounts, but useful if you can't, or in the case of companies that have bad student liscencing agreements (macromedia for example watermarks works from some of its student grade software).

Older versions: Most of this software is in version 7-8-9-10. Previous versions can be had for cheap and probably are just as good when you're getting started (plus - upgrades are cheap later!). I've been using PShop 5.0 forever, and it wasn't until CS came out that I had any interest in upgrading. I recommend the 5.5 version as it was the first to come with ImageReady.

Pirating is bad, m'kay? The viruses you get will learn you what good if you try, m'kay? Besides, its bad form to do commissions with stoled software, m'kay?

Other stuff to keep in mind - the software operates at your limitations. Having the best most 'spensive peice of software won't make any difference if you can't use it, so take some time to learn whatever you decide to use, and don't get upset if it doesn't immediately work like you want it to.

A good artist can do wonders with a any program, and base skill is still the biggest influence on the final product.

Stay AWAY from FILTERS. They are not your friend, they are a crutch. Refrain from using them until you know how to go without, and can judge where they will help a peice more than overwhelm it. Every artist I know does this when they first get their hands on PShop, I was stupid enough to do so. :twisted: So Do What I Say, Not What I Done.

I'm 100% sure I've left some out, but those are the basics. If anyone wants to add that'd be good, yup. 8)

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  • 1 month later...

For anyone interested Painter IX is coming out and there is a free trial version available for download on the corel website right now. It looks like they've done a lot of nice stuff since the last version I worked with, especially in the interface.

Trial version is fully functional for 30 days.


have fun 8)

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  • 2 weeks later...
I'm goign to sticky this here topic, due to it's helpfulness in finding a good art program.

Thanks Leigh-san! ^_^

( and sorry, I rarely use ICQ anymore at all >_< Blame it on Brian and moving to AIM, and then MSN! All his fault!)

Don't blame me because you are anti-social!!!!!!! :evil:

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