I might need a larger desk, too...
October 18, 2012 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I just acquired a Wacom Bamboo Create. Do you have any advice/tutorials/program reccomendations for me?

I've only had time to quickly run through the tutorial on it, so far [Hooray midterms!] So I've not gotten a chance to properly play with it. But if you know of any videos or other tutorials on how to draw with a tablet, that'd be great! As an aside, straight-up "how to draw' tutorials aren't helpful. I'm already taught, and can draw well by hand. But this digital thing is a whole new beast.
I have photoshop, but are there any other programs I should get? To sketch? To paint? Drawing?

All advice welcome, including how to set up my desk so I can work properly.
posted by FirstMateKate to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I love my Wacom Bamboo Create. The tutorial also came with some games -- play those games! They are worth the time and I can't recommend them enough.
posted by mochapickle at 8:34 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't have a Bamboo Create, but I've been using Wacom tablets since the early 90s.

The paint program you select will have some impact on how you learn to paint. If you're more familiar with traditional tools, I'd suggest trying out the free version of ArtRage. Corel Painter, also modeled after traditional media, is excellent, but has been known to be somewhat crashy. Save often. There's a free trial of that available as well. Sketchbook Pro is another popular choice, particularly for people who like to do painterly concept renderings.

I currently use Photoshop and Painter. The thing with Photoshop is that painting is somewhat non-intuitive at first. You might wish to check out Ctl+Paint--it provides some decent fundamentals, particularly the paint blending video. ImagineFX also has a load of free workshops with sample brush packs available for your perusal.

As for workspace setup, I find it easiest to paint with the tablet either in my lap or in front of me and to the right, with my left hand on the keyboard. I find it much faster to use shortcuts to change brush sizes, flow, opacity, etc. using hotkeys rather than buttons on the tablet.

Back in the old days, I taught myself to use my tablet by playing Solitaire. :) On preview, it seems the bamboo comes with games! Do those.
posted by xyzzy at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: xyzzy has a lot of great advice. Personally, I have my tablet in front of my keyboard on my desk, so that I can easily use my left hand for quick keys but can also put my stylus down and type when I need to. When I was using a flat-on-the-desk tablet, I kept a wrist cushion thing next to it to rest my arm on and help with strain. Tablet use styles vary enormously, though -- you'll probably have to experiment until you find a setup that works for you.

In my experience, Photoshop's precision is both its strength and its main drawback. It's an extremely unforgiving program, particularly with lineart. If you're on a PC, you might want to try and find a copy of SAI, which many people find more comfortable to draw in. I've also heard good things about Sketchbook Pro and and Manga Studio from friends, although I haven't used either extensively. I would recommend trying out several programs yourself, and completing at least one finished-ish image in each -- like everything else in making art, people's preferences and comfort zones vary wildly, and what's awesome for me might be terrible for you, or vice-versa. The difference in feel between one program and another can be as dramatic as the difference between inking with microns and inking with a brush.

My main advice for learning how to use a tablet is probably not what you want to hear: you just have to practice. A lot. It takes hours and hours to even begin to get comfortable using a tablet, and there aren't any shortcuts around this. It helps to set yourself some fun, not-actually-important projects -- fanart is a common one -- to do entirely digitally, start-to-finish from sketch to color. The first attempts will probably look terrible, but it's just for fun, right? They will get better! You will figure out a digital style and workflow that's comfortable for you. You will stop feeling like the tablet is fighting you, and more like it's just another tool that you don't really have to think about. I promise!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:33 AM on October 18, 2012

OH, AND: if you're more interested in painting than drawing, then the sooner you get comfortable using and modifying photoshop paint brushes, the better. Remember that you can always reset things to the default, so there's no reason not to get in there and play around with the settings. You can get a huge variety of effects just by moving the sliders in the brush palette around.

There are a vast number of free-to-download Photoshop brushes and presets available online, particularly on sites like DeviantArt but also on people's personal blogs. Many will give you basic instructions as to how to install the brushes, which only takes a couple minutes. Play with them, fiddle with the settings, figure out what the original brush creator did to get the effect they were going for. Then look up some tutorials online and try making some brushes of your own. Again, the best way to learn all of this is to experiment!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2012

Response by poster: So far, so awesome!
Adding something to the list that i'll find helpful:
Draw-a-day things, etc, that will let me practice without having to do the agonizing process of thinking of what to draw. Narrative priorities suggest fanart, which is a great suggestion, though maybe a bit time consuming. Geometric Daily is more along the lines of what I'd want, sort of but close enough.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2012

Artrage is cheap and really, really nice -- it's the closest thing I've found to traditional media on the computer. It's also pleasantly intuitive even if you've never used a tablet before. FireAlpaca is a free, stripped-down little program that's great for doing quick sketches... it might also be a good intro to the tablet, since you don't have to worry about dealing with so many settings/brushes/etc.

As for draw-a-day blogs, you could try the 30 Day Drawing Challenge, follow Drawing Prompts on tumblr, or hit up the Random Art Prompt Generator.
posted by vorfeed at 12:37 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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