What’s most important to you in a new art tool? There are several great programs out there, and trial and error will help you find the best art programs for your next project.
Price, learning curve, availability of tutorials are all important things to consider when starting with a new tool. But I also think it’s important to look at other things as well. I consider the availability of plugins, how much is open source, how popular a tool is, and how many resources are available online when someone has an issue.
I love to try new tools, but the first question I always ask is what am I going to use this tool for?
This question is pivotal because it defines the class of tool you will need. For example, I’ve been exploring alternative painting programs. I’ve drawn in Photoshop for a long time, but I wanted to try something different, so I started to explore other painting programs.
Free Painting Programs
@MediBangPaint_e is a free painting and drawing program that works across multiple devices (something Photoshop hasn’t quite gotten right yet. There are mobile apps, but I don’t like them.) @Krita_Painting is a free & open source program that is really intuitive. I’ve only used a Desktop version and thought it was easy to pick up.
These are the best art programs that I have found, and it’s just an added bonus that they are free. If you are on the go, MediBang might work best for you. But Krita has amazing features and is so easy to pick up, so if you mostly are on your computer, I highly recommend it.
Every program has its pros and cons, and you should give these both a try to see which works best for you. I’ve stuck with the Adobe suite for 3 reasons:
1) I’ve gotten heavy discounts or free thru my university
2) I’ve been using them for >15 years and its hard to change
3) Integration of different programs that work together
But doesn’t the Adobe Suite have the best art programs?
I can draw in Photoshop or Illustrator, animate in After Effects and Character Animator, edit in Premiere Pro, and integrate edited audio from Audition. But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect.
There are lots of fantastic programs, some that I think are actually better than some of the Adobe suite. I think both Krita & Medibang have great advantages over Photoshop!
When I went to art uni, I was told to get certain brands. But after I left, I couldn’t afford that, and started getting cheaper brands. I noticed quality differences, but those differences just meant using the tools differently. Maybe I had to mix colors differently, or put them down in a different order.
But I quickly realized that a good artist (or #SciArt-ist) doesn’t need the fanciest tools. Amazing artists can make masterpieces out of nothing. Learning skills is much more important than a fancy program!
So while we’re going to dig more into tools in a bit, I think it’s important to know that a tool isn’t going to make you a better artist. A tool might make it EASIER for you to make art, but just like science and writing, practice makes perfect.
Learn, practice, and get feedback from a mentor to improve! 😊
Best art programs for vector illustration
My current process: I primarily use pencil & pen. Then I use my phone to digitize and use Illustrator to complete it.
But if you want to work with vector style art, have you checked out Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo? I’ve only used it a few times, but have been very impressed with it so far.
I’ve also had great luck with @inkscape. It’s a fantastic free tool that I’ve found to be really powerful!
And I hear great things about @GIMP_Official. I found it unintuitive after using Photoshop for so long, but it’s a fantastic free tool if you’re just starting out. There is now also a less-problematically named program called Glimpse which aims to extend GIMP’s functionality while being less ableist (yay!).
Best art programs for animation
Let’s talk about animation tools. Maybe you won’t like this answer, but I think the easiest way to get started animating is to draw a series of images by hand and then put them into a GIF maker. (Do a quick Google search and you’ll find several that work well)
But if you’re looking for animating programs, I haven’t found much of a match for Adobe After Effects. This is because After Effects was built to enhance video, not necessarily for traditional animation. Other animating tools often make the traditional animation process easier, but After Effects is incredibly feature packed and allows manipulations that are hard to come by in other programs.
But there are a few cool programs that I can recommend.
@Mohotwitter (Moho, prev Anime Studio) is probably my favorite alternate 2D animation software, but I’ve come to enjoy FlipaClip to be really fun to use on my phone. For 3D, you should definitely check out @maxon3d (Cinema 4D) and @blender_org (Blender). I’ve seen absolutely amazing stuff in both, but love that Blender is a free and open source software!
One you might not have thought about, but that I’m thinking about A LOT is @unity3d. I’ve been playing with game design lately, and Unity has some AMAZING tools and plugins for animating right in the program!!! I’ll def be using this more!
I also want to mention that outside of actual art programs, slide deck programs such as Powerpoint and Google Slides offer many tools that can make beautiful infographics, which I know many of my visitors are interested in making. Good infographics take a good plan, but can be created in these programs with a little effort and some helpful design skills.
Good luck on your art journey. If you find you need some support along the way, don’t forget that I offer one-on-one services as well as workshops that can help you get up to speed.