A common question that artists get is “what program do you use to make your art”. It’s a fair question, since there are tons of programs available at various prices. For someone just wanting to test out digital art, it can be a bit dizzying. There’s no “perfect” program, there’s what’s comfortable and works for you. So, here’s what works for me!
But first, a brief history of Ammo’s Arting and what led her to these choices. I’ve used a few different programs on my art journey. One of the earliest was OpenCanvas, which I haven’t used in years but was a great starter program for me. It was relatively inexpensive and every update had some nice features added. I could easily sketch, paint a bit, and do nice clean lines. I also did some dabbling in the free version of Painter that came with Wacom tablets. As my style grew and changed, I tried more recent, and full, versions of Painter. I used that for quite a while until I realized that what I enjoyed drawing most was “inked”, illustrative-styled images. Yes, basically, comic book-y. Naturally Painter had great tools for that, I made a whole toolbox filled with different ink brushes. But I felt that I wasn’t using the full potential of the program, my art brain couldn’t wrap around some of the advanced brushes and I felt like it was a bit wasted on me. I wasn’t satisfied with coloring all of my art with Painter, so I started looking around. Of course Photoshop is generally seen as the dream program for digital artists, but I started out with the lighter Photoshop Elements for my coloring. Elements is really a great program for learning your way around digital coloring, and I used it for several years. Moving on to more current tastes…
Sketching/Inking (line art): Manga Studio EX 5.
The first Manga Studio program I tried was 4. I liked it, but the program is a bit hard on newbies. I used it for quite a while back and forth with Painter, it had lots of great tools once you knew where to look and how to use them. I put MS4 on the shelf for a bit, and became intrigued when MS5 was announced. I tried it and was pretty amazed with the changes to the program. It was now much more user friendly, had a more familiar layout, and I almost immediately fell in love with the feel of it. I was never happy sketching in Photoshop, I still can’t get the hang of it… and a lot of my particular style starts with my crazy sketching. I don’t press down very hard on my pen when I work, so whatever program I use needs to be able to catch my light, zippy strokes.. and MS5 is amazing for that. I also have to mention Frenden’s amazing selection of brushes, several of which I play around with during sketching and one or two I use for all my line art. I use this for almost all of my art, I do some coloring with it but for polished coloring, I use…
Coloring/Post-production/etc: Photoshop CC
When I first started using Elements, there was no subscription plan for PS. This year is the first year that I’ve actually started subbing to PS proper, and it’s been a fun learning experience. I was able to move over my brushes, actions, and swatches easily. I made a workspace I was comfy with. It’s been great, and I’m very happy with my current art flow and continue to find ways to improve efficiency and creativity. I still can’t sketch in it worth a damn, but I love using it for coloring art and editing pictures. Photoshop is great at being exactly what you expect it to be, but again starting out “lite” with Elements is still a good choice.
My go-to routine routine right now is definitely Manga Studio EX 5 and Photoshop CC. Other good programs to check out, that are easier on the pocketbook, include Painttool SAI and Sketchbook. I’ve played around with both, and they each have their own fun quirks and are easy to use and sketch with. Whenever I have a bit of an art funk, I like to shake things up by messing around in one of those programs.