How do you digitial art?
May 27, 2016 8:22 PM   Subscribe

I need to step up my game with Photoshop. What monitor, what tools, what software does a real digital artist like yourself use? What tips do you have for me?

I have been Photoshopping like some kind of crazy wild animal for the last three weeks -- before work, after work and in the middle of night -- daily filling up the Facebook feeds of those who haven't silently unfriended me. A celebrity reposted one of my shops this morning! Shit is getting real.

"Digital art" might be a little grandiose for what I do. I mostly like to combine photos to paste people's heads on other people's bodies. But I really like doing it, and people seem to like seeing it. Combined, I have more than 120,000 likes -- mostly due to two shops picked up by said celebrity.

So now I want to get better, I want to get good. Like Worth1000 good -- really good. I think I need practice, yes, no worries there, but I also think I need...
  • A better monitor? My shops sometimes look fine on my monitor, but shitty in some way on my phone. The colors look weird, or a join or stray pixels are all too obvious. But what monitor? What do all the monitor things mean? What monitor do you use?
  • Stuff, tools of some kind? I just got a Wacom Intuos Art, and I trust it will make me faster and better in time but currently it makes me much slower and much worse. You probably use a tablet, right? Is my tablet OK for my purposes? Any tips?
  • Other stuff? No idea -- what else is there that would help with digital art?
  • Community for critical feedback? I asked about that before, but got little response.
  • Software? I use Photoshop Elements 12, and there is nothing I know to do, that it cannot do. Do I want to upgrade to the newest version? Do I want full Photoshop CC? Some other software?
  • Classes, tutorials, etc.? What are the best ones? What would help a non-absolute-beginner, but non-expert?
In case it helps to see where I'm at, here is some of my work: Thanks for any help you can provide!
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your tablet is fine. To get used to it, unplug your mouse and use it for EVERYTHING for a week or so - you'll quickly get used to using it.

You'll want to play around with calibrating your monitor. Color profiles are a big thing to learn about and will make it a lot easier to keep colors consistent across devices. Personally I go back and forth between my laptop's built in screen and an old Dell 23" external screen.
posted by egypturnash at 9:02 PM on May 27, 2016


Watch some videos on Youtube for various things, especially tips on setting up your tablet. I set my active tablet area pretty small so that you don't have to move your hand/wrist very far to get from one and of the screen to the other. You can also set up your hot buttons if you have them on your pen/tablet. Plus you can set the tracking speed, etc. It's super helpful. (I use maybe 1/3 of my small tablet area as my active area.)

I also use a macbook pro retina. I love my screen. People will have suggestions on monitors but do keep in mind that things will look different on different screens even if you use the best monitor.

I'd probably suggest you use photoshop for what you're doing. You can get it for $10/month which is what I do on the Photography plan. (I pay per year.)

I also use a vector program. But I do free-hand or from scratch stuff and less photo manipulation.I personally use Affinity Designer but that's Mac only. A lot of people use Clip Studio (formerly Manga Studio) which comes in the $50 level or the fuller $200 program. Both of those have free trials so you can see what you like. Though again, I don't know if you'll need a vector program and think you'll be just fine with photoshop unless you need to draw clean lines. (Which you CAN do in photoshop using the pen tool very meticulously.)

But, watching YouTube and people on Instagram has taught me more than I could have imagined. (My stuff is linked in my profile.)
posted by Crystalinne at 9:27 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tablets are slippery and weird at first. It takes several months to really get used to it, keep at it and it'll feel natural really soon.

Honestly, if your monitor has good colour, don't worry about getting a fancier one. That being said, if you have money to spare, most midrange monitors will be more than enough.

Programs for illustrating that I use: Clipstudio, Photoshop CS5(I have gotten used to it and never bothered to upgrade), OpenCanvas, and Krita(this one is free and is really great).

Class wise, I'd say either youtube or the tutorials section of deviantart(although none of the anatomy stuff, it's pretty...not great). Experimenting is 90% of the work,though. Screwing around with stuff is how you figure out what you enjoy.

Little extras I'd suggest:
-Start an instagram or tumblr and have it as a timeline/portfolio. It's really useful, and on tumblr you can reach out to other artist's for advice,etc.
-Get a wrist brace/wrap. You will need it. My biggest regret as an artist was not wearing one sooner.
posted by InkDrinker at 10:25 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Lynda.com for the nuts and bolts of how to use photoshop. It's worth it because you're probably doing things "wrong" which will work, but often you can save so much time just by knowing about all the functions in photoshop.

Everything Bert Monroy. He used to do a Kelby seminar that was great and it was all about the tips on how to make things happen fast in photoshop. His "thing" was that nothing should take more than 5 minutes in photoshop. I was all like "liar" and then I went, and with more photoshop experience than I care to admit, I got to see how wrong I was.

Tutsplus has great free tutorials, though they require more digging these days. Abduzeedo.com

Monitor is more or less just get yourself a good monitor. I know people who have done crazy calibration and it was all for naught when they get frustrated when it looks different on someone else's computer. And on that note, I agree about the MacBook retina- Apple cares about image quality, and I have on multiple occasions seen the problem you describe- regular monitor is find, laptop shows color issue I missed. (Even true on my older non-retina Mac). Layer's Magazine used to be fun because it has tutorials in it- it was nice to get periodically and have specific tutorials to work from as opposed to too many to think. Photoshop Wow books, Layers book.

I have a confused relationship with my tablet. When I've forced myself to use it. I like it a lot. But then I fell out of practice.

Lastly, learn Illustrator. Lynda is a good resource for this as well. Remember it's not just photoshop for vector art, it's its own program and behaves differently and has a different intended function. So many people "hate" illustrator because they just don't understand it's not photoshop but with illustrations. Photoshop can do a lot of drawing functions illustrator can now, but knowing both programs gives you a better appreciation of the art possible.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:09 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I bought an entire new setup for what you are talking about. I bought a Samsung 28 inch 4k monitor, a huge gaming console with 16 gigs of ram and room for 16 more. I broke down and signed on to Adobe Creative Suite, for $49 per month, I have my own image files to work from, so I didn't buy the stock images. I use a Wacom tablet. I have a Gretag Macbeth monitor calibrator and I am not sure yet if these new monitors need calibration, it might be that windows covers that, but I will check it out. I do a lot of create to print jobs, and I take the stuff bigger than 17 inches wide, out, to be printed. I use the Adobe program to set up my images and print dialogue, then take the image to the printer on a stick, and ask them to let Photoshop run the print, because I want the print to look like I want it to, rather than someone at a lab.

I bought a better video card for this machine, and the windows program wants to automatically enhance photos, I had to turn that off. The monitor is very dense, so what I see is what I get printwise. The monitor is apparently the next wave of things. It is big enough that I can push it 2-3 feet away and work in full views, detail is really great. I tried uploading my old CS2 and that doesn't work, the full Adobe program offers a huge array of work solutions, and new media experimentation opportunities. I am going to my favorite camera/imaging place next week, and I am going to find out of my old monitor calibrator is now obsolete because of new video cards, and their ability to calibrate, or if my old calibrator is still OK for the new monitor. I am sure I can find software upgrades for it if that is all I need. I might not need it all for the new machine, but still do for the old one.

Color looks different machine to machine, because most image viewing programs, including that in your phone are an SRGB profile, which is cooler and thinner, and for uniformity but not brilliance. RGB is what most digital artists work and print in, so the SRGB is a pale facsimile of freshly made images in RGB. Printing programs convert RGB to CMYK for printing because the color print space on a page, is much different than viewing your work, as you work, on a screen.

My tablet is still sluggish, because I haven't gotten around to installing the software, yet. Anyway, there you go. I did all this purchase when a drawing I was working on just went pfffft and was gone, trying to use my old CS program.

I am never putting anything into the cloud, and that is my geezer, "Get off my lawn!" statement, regarding putting all your creative endeavors and privacy, into someone else's possession.
posted by Oyéah at 9:29 AM on May 28, 2016


Thanks so much for the responses so far -- very helpful!
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:49 AM on May 28, 2016


My Surface Pro 3 let's me photoshop anywhere (on the plane, at the dog park, in a restaurant) and it has been a game changer in that regard. If you are going to take your stuff to print, start learning everything you can about the printing process, I know from painful experience how disappointing the conversion from screen to print can be.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:35 PM on May 28, 2016


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