Graphic/Drawing programs

There are several nice image editing programs for digital drawing. Some are freeware,
some are cheap, and some professional programs are very expensive.

Here are some examples / suggestions for such programs:

  • Adobe Photoshop (professional program, full version expensive,
    but monthly subscriptions available) [info/get] | [subscriptions]

  • Manga Studio (Regular Version ~$80, EX Version ~$300) [info/get]
  • Great software for drawing and creating comics (especially the EX version for larger comic projects)

  • Paint Tool SAI (30 days trial, full version price ~$70) [info/get]

  • Open Canvas (free trial available, full version price ~$60-70) [info]  [get]

  • Art Rage (nice price ~ $20-80) [info & get]

  • Sketchbook Pro (about 60, Sketching / Painting / Drawing App) [info & get]

  • GIMP (freeware) [info]  [get]

  • Procreate for iPad (advanced painting app with many options, about $6) [info]  [get]

Adobe Photoshop

The program I am working with. I've been working with Adobe Photoshop for over 10 years now. It is a very professional program with many options and features including an advanced layer system, processing effects, filters, adjustment layers, custom brushes, etc. I have added a section "Photoshop Tips" to my website where I want to show examples and tips how to work with Photoshop.

Unfortunately, Photoshop (as all programs by Adobe) is one of the most expensive programs available. However, Adobe offers subscriptions for single programs or the whole program range for a small price per month. If you subscribe for 1 year, the monthly rate is even cheaper. At the time I wrote this, a month-to-month subscription for Photoshop was about 30 bucks, the monthly rate for a 1-year subscription about 12-20 bucks (per month). That way you can "lease" the newest version of Photoshop for an affordable price per month, which is quite a nice deal. Especially the new versions offer quite some great improvements regarding brushes and features.

Other programs

Programs like Paint Tool SAI or Open Canvas are definitely nice and cheaper alternatives though. Especially SAI is very nice for sketching and inking, while Art Rage offers a lot of possibilities for imitating traditional media (like oil, pastel, etc.) in an authentic way, and Open Canvas for example is well known for its unique blending style (working perfectly together with a graphic tablet). SketchBook Pro is also very nice for sketching (I sometimes use it for digital sketching / instead of pencil) and color the picture in Photoshop later. It is specifically designed to work with pen tablets.

I can't say which one I would recommend, because I haven't been working with them long enough, and it's always a personal choice which works best for you.

On this page I have listed some more details and tips about using Photoshop.

Vector programs

The program I am using for vector graphics is Adobe Illustrator. It's not an image editing program intented for regular images, but in first line for vector illustrations and designs (often used for logos). Like Photoshop, it is pretty expensive.

Here are two pictures to show you the difference between a pixel graphic (left) and a vector based graphic (right). If you enlarge a pixel based graphic (e.g. a photo), the quality will become worse and get "blurry" (as the pixels have to be "stretched").
A vector file is - as the name says - based on vectors, which means you can scale it to whatever size without loosing quality (cause the graphic will always be to scale).

Vector file formats are for example eps, svg or ai (Illustrator file),
pixel files would be jpg, gif, png, tiff, etc.

Animation programs

For creating animated gifs I use either Macromedia Fireworks, Adobe ImageReady or the newer versions of Adobe Photoshop, which now includes the animation options from ImageReady. These programs aren't cheap, but there are also freeware tools available for creating animations.

Another vector based animation program is Macromedia Flash which offers a lot of possibilities, from simple animations through animated websites to extremely complex movies or games. Creating such complex works requires additional skills in using action scripts, though.