Artsy Arsenal

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.


Getting started (over).

So, after attempting to possibly maybe try and pretend to sort of kind of start this blog, I’ve learned a few things.

Words are daunting.  Actually, I already knew that.

But to be fair, art is, too.

I quickly found out that writing posts of words was even more difficult when I was already drawing every day (including posting something to a daily art blog), and working through a queue of badges and at times, other commissions.

Realizing that I had less time for this than I thought, I considered a few options, like.. basically just making a screenshot blog, because I like talking about pictures and game stories.  Or discussing random thoughts behind some of my pictures because Tumblr isn’t always a great platform for that and my deviantArt account is currently a frustrating mess.  But the weeks drew on, stuff happened, etc etc.  I pushed away the blog, telling myself that I had nothing of interest to say anyway, and my attempt at blogging was shoved into the junk drawer of ideas to stay.  Until a week ago, when this post from Chestnut at Gamer Girl Confessions popped up on my Twitter feed.

Now we’re talkin’.

Now this, I can do.  This could also help me re-tackle my blog challenge in a different way, and at a better time for me to work on it.  I already take lots of screenshots, and I also enjoy editing some of them into wallpaper for my pc. I’m pretty excited for this challenge and I really have no set plans about what all I’m going to post – and I’m okay with that.  This is a thing that I’m going to do, and I’m going to enjoy seeing what other participants post as well.

Screenshots? Sure, how many would you like?

Since the introductory post, Chestnut’s also added a faq.  Basically the main challenge is to post 50 pictures (screenshots, photos, whichever) in November.  It’s open to any blogging or micro-blogging platform, and it should be great fun for anyone to join in!  She even has a few prizes for the snagging, but that’s just icing on a pretty, picture-perfect cake.

Time to dig through the screenshot folders!


When I worked my old full-time job, I had a pretty standard daily routine.  Roll out of bed at a horribly early hour, stumble to my computer, log into (usually) WoW and knock out a few daily quests or manage auctions.  Then I was off to work, and afterwards home in time to unwind by logging in for an hour or two unless there were errands to run.  This was followed shortly by cleaning and dinner, and finally drawing the rest of the night.  Days off followed a mostly similar schedule.  Roll out of bed at a less horrible but still pretty early hour, stumble to the computer and log in, except now I could go on a longer gathering run and take alts out questing.

Not much has changed now that I’m self employed. Wake up. Log in. I limit my time in game and keep productive with my art, mindful of keeping a schedule of sorts. Gaming in the morning and drawing in the day or evening is what I grown used to, and that’s what I generally stick to.  Not that I plan on stopping either of those things or changing up that routine, it’s a system that’s worked out pretty well for me.  But I think I might try to add something more,  expanding on something similar that I already do.

I made a blog-thing.

Over on my Tumblr, I post daily doodles.  It’s something I’ve done to keep me drawing every day – even back when I was tired and stressed out from my job.  I had a good three+ year streak of posting something every single day, until I finally had to stop for a while due to problems with my hands and other work-related stress.  I began this year by taking up the challenge once again.  Currently with my busier badge art workload I’ve mostly posted random “warm-up” doodles, but it feels good.  It’s like a visual art diary of whatever’s on my mind about whatever game I’ve been playing or comic that I’m reading.  However, I don’t really talk much about.. well, anything.  I’ve felt that I don’t really need to write, I do pictures.

The two most used tags* on my Tumblr.

I’m not sure if it’s the awesome people I follow on social media, or being in a Free Company that seems to be 90% bloggers, or just all the tweets about the Newbie Blogger Initiative a few months ago or the Blaugust challenge now, but I feel somewhat inspired to give it a go.  I’m not quite ready to join the actual #Blaugust movement and be an active participant, but it seems like a good time to kick things off with an actual Blog of Words.  It could be a nice outlet beyond just pictures, because try as I might there are times I can’t match my art to my thoughts (though to be fair, I have a hard time putting my thoughts into words, so there’s that challenge too).  So I think I’ll start this out slow, maybe around a post a week to toughen myself up.  It’ll mostly be game chat, but I think I’d like to discuss drawing as well.  I guess we’ll find out!

*Tag counts for my Tumblr posts generated on 08/01/15 using this tool.