Help traditional painter do digital gifs with low-end Wacom tablet
July 22, 2017 8:51 PM   Subscribe

I am a traditional painter (water-based) and would like to learn to do the same style in digital and animate paintings as gifs but I only have Photoshop and enough money to buy the lower-end Wacom Intuos Art tablet.

I know similar questions has been asked before but software and hardware keeps changing fast. I am computer illiterate and basically use the Photoshop only for very minimal photo-processing.

I'm planning to buy the Wacom Intuos Art which comes with Corel Painter Essentials but I will probably be using Photoshop CS5. Will that be enough for painting?

I have no idea how to use the Wacom to do things I do with a brush like mixing colors, dry brushes, tonality, varying pressure etc. My ultimate goal is to do paintings and then convert them into animated gifs like this.

(Probably more detailed background and frames than I'm willing to tackle but you get the picture. She is really very good/talented and I despair that I will ever reach her level.)

This pro digital artist uses After Effects to do the gifs which I don't have. As a hobbyist, I can't really afford a After Effects subscription.I would be happy to buy a CS5 or 6 version but Adobe doesn't allow you to buy CS programs anymore because they want you to subscribe monthly. Do I really really need After Effects?

Does anyone have any tips on how a total novice can get up to speed artwise (I've never used a stylus) and software(preferably freeware) that can help with painting or animating gifs?
posted by whitelotus to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Intuos will be fine. I started on a similar tablet and I know pros who prefer the intuos to fancier more expensive options. It takes a while to get used to drawing on the tablet and looking at the screen. Playing mouse clicking games can help. Just give it time and practice.

You can make painted animated gifs in Photoshop CS5. No need for After Effects. I suggest Clip Studio Paint which is far cheaper than Photoshop and has recently added animation support. Clip Studio Paint also has built in tools to replicate various types of real media (water color, oil, markers and so on) and while Photoshop can also replicate these tools (and more) it's far more work to find and alter the brushes.

No program entirely replicates real media so there will be a learning curve. The good news is that there are tons of tutorials! Search youtube and deviantart. Don't be afraid to start with some basic painting digitally tutorials and follow them step by step, even if it's not the style or subject you want in the long run. Focus on learning the tools first.

Play around! Have fun!
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 10:25 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Color mixing in Photoshop is nothing like real pigments, and Photoshop's "real media" brush styles do not emulate real media even a little bit. I do not say this to scare you, I say this so that you aren't cracking your Wacom over the desk when you try to do things that would work with traditional pigments and Photoshop doesn't cooperate. If you want something that more closely emulates real media, look at ArtRage ($79 or so, last I checked), Corel Painter ($$$$$$), or Krita (free.) Still, as SometimesChartreuse says, even the most sophisticated software that attempts to emulate analog media is only the most general approximation. You absolutely can make work that *looks* traditional in Photoshop, but the path you take to get to the end product does not in any way resemble painting with watercolors or gouache or what-have-you.

I got my first tablet in the mid-90s and spent the first two weeks using it to replace my mouse. I literally unplugged the mouse and forced myself to use the tablet for all mousing. I played solitaire, too. Once I had the hang of it, I started learning to paint with the tablet. It was much, much easier to learn how to paint in Photoshop when I already had absolute control over my tablet. In this way I didn't have to face dual frustrations.

I still use Photoshop CS5. Like you, I refuse to play with software-as-subscription. When CS5 stops working I suppose I'll completely switch over to Krita, but I have built up my own custom brush set for painting in Photoshop and I am quite comfortable and familiar with it. For beginners, I highly recommend CTL+Paint, which is a series of free video tutorials on how to paint digitally. The author uses the latest version of Photoshop, but just about everything he does translates to CS5 quite well.
posted by xyzzy at 3:27 AM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

In terms of replicating “real” media in Photoshop, I highly recommend Kyle Webster's custom brush packs (, which work in Photoshop CS5 or higher. There's a little bit of a process* to get them installed, but they're well worth it. He even has a few “name your price” brushes, so you can try them out for a buck or two.

*You'll have to set up an account on the Gumroad marketplace to buy and download them, and then follow Kyle's included instructions to install them as brush presets. The Gumroad sign-up is hidden under LOGIN > CREATE AN ACCOUNT. Once that's done, you can head over to KyleBrush to browse the brushes. When you click BUY on a brush pack, a window will pop up with more info. If you're sure you want it, click I WANT THIS and you'll be taken back to Gumroad to check out and download. Install instructions will be included in the download.
posted by D.Billy at 4:38 AM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also recommend the brushes. There are tons of awesome brushes which are all specifically designed for pen tablet usage. Getting the same performance out of default PS brushes requires lots of tweaking pressure/tilt settings, saving your custom brush, and LOTS of time that is better spent drawing.
posted by p3t3 at 4:56 AM on July 23, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you to all who replied! xyzzy, I will download Krita once I get my tablet and I'll spend two weeks using it as my mouse as you did (what a clever idea!) I always have photos to process so that would be good practice.

I'm wondering whether I should just use Krita or use Photoshop. I hate the subscription hostage thingy but there seems to be way more custom brushes and tutorials for Photoshop. I assume Krita can also animate gifs?

I still haven't quite figured out how brushes are created and used. Can I scan some real paint brushstrokes of mine and turn it into a digital brush?

I'm planning to post my work on Instagram and tumblr. What other venues would be good? Can I post them under Mefi Projects?

Finally do I really need a medium size tablet? Does the size make a difference or can I go smaller?
posted by whitelotus at 8:01 PM on July 23, 2017

Can't speak to Photoshop alternatives, although I'm also not a fan of the subscription model, but have been using it so long, I've still hung around.

Can I scan some real paint brushstrokes of mine and turn it into a digital brush?

You could try, but the results would probably be not what you expect or even very usable without lots of settings tweaks. To fake different kinds of brushes with decent results, it seems like there is a lot of less intuitive tricking the software settings into getting results that feel like natural brushstrokes. I'm sure you could find tutorials If you look around, but I mostly gave up on building my own custom brushes long ago except for big texture or pattern brushes only.

Finally do I really need a medium size tablet?

I've only owned Medium, but I'd imagine the small ones would just require zooming in and out more often if you need precise detail. If you're zoomed out all the way, slight movements on a small tablet will lack the same level of subtle controllability.
posted by p3t3 at 6:33 AM on July 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you p3t3, I'll buy the medium in that case!
posted by whitelotus at 5:00 PM on July 24, 2017

Krita actually has an extensive animation toolset, but it's nothing I've ever dabbled in. If you search YouTube for painting in Krita there are a small but dedicated set of users who provide tutorials, free brushes, and the like. There's a cool French guy who produces a comic, Pepper and Carrot, in Krita. I like his brush set the most, and used his as a basis for adapting Krita to my own preferences. His project might interest you because he produces everything for his comic using free software only, and he finances his artwork through Patreon.

To be honest, Krita is the first free software contender that I've used that rivals Photoshop and Corel Painter for digital painting specifically. I still wouldn't want to edit photos or produce web graphics in Krita, but for art it's a very quality tool.
posted by xyzzy at 10:10 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for the extra info xyzzy!

Update: I got the medium tablet as planned. I don't really have problems controlling my stylus. Right now, my problem is that I have no idea how to do anything in Krita, especially since there are some differences from Photoshop. I tried reading the user manual but it was really technical and way over my head.

I guess I need to glue my butt to the chair and plow through youtube beginner tutorials.I haven't programmed the buttons on my stylus and tablet yet because I have no idea right now which functions I will need most.
posted by whitelotus at 7:10 PM on August 6, 2017

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