When choosing your digital art software as a new artist (or even an old one trying a different program), it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Drawing on an iPad
Drawing on an iPad
Photo by Howard Lawrence B on Unsplash

While initially, it may seem like there are only a few programs out there that work for digital art, you’ll quickly find its a growing industry. After reading this, I hope that you’ll have a better idea of how to go about choosing your art program.

A note: I will only be focusing on programs that are specific to 2D art – not 3D. If you are a 3D artist, this article is not for you.

Points You Can’t Ignore When Choosing Your Art Program

As much as I would like to tell you that picking out a digital art program is as easy as typing “Art Software” into Google and choosing the first one that comes up, there are a few hard and fast factors you can’t ignore.

Price

Just as with choosing your drawing tablet, choosing your art program usually does revolve around a price point. True, there are some free programs out there which are fantastic for someone just starting. Some might even come with your tablet. But others either feature a one-time price (which you may need to then pay again if you ever have to upgrade) or a subscription fee. Keep your budget in mind when searching for your art program.

Hardware and Software Specifications

A graphics card inside a computer
Research now can save you an added expense of a more powerful graphics card later.
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Not all digital art programs are created equal. Some are going to put a massive load on your computer. Some can only be used on specific operating systems (Android, IOS, Windows, Mac). Some even flat out tell you that they won’t work well on a laptop with an integrated graphics card. Make sure to research the system specifications on the art software you are looking at.

Now that you’ve started to think about the items you can’t ignore when choosing your art program, what else should you factor into your decision?

Things You Should Put Some Thought Into

There are some things you need to keep in mind when choosing your art software as well that come from a more personal standpoint. A lot of new artists don’t think about this when they start researching software and end up choosing something else later on down the line because they’ve reconsidered.

Your Goals As A Digital Artist

Brush strokes on canvas
A painterly style is when you mimic painting techniques in your digital art
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

What do you want to do as a digital artist? Do you want to do comics? Do you want to have a painterly style? Do you want to work in video games or concept art? Some pieces of software excel in some areas where others don’t. Some industries expect you to be proficient in the software they prefer to use. As a result, having proficiency in that software can give you a leg up when job seeking. For that reason, keep your goals in mind.

Software Design Preferences

Deciding what you like in a program can be hard if you’ve never tried that type of software before. I know I want a customizable user interface and a darker theme. Think of other software you use regularly. Do you like bigger text? Do you like the default program, or do you want to move things around? What art programs have you looked into already that start to fit that mold? Most importantly, what art programs can you start to remove from your list?

Something Most Don’t Think About:  Help and Tutorials for your Art Software

Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t take the amount of help and tutorials available into their decisions to use a specific digital art program. They think of what the brush engine can do, how well the stroke stabilizer works or what software their favorite artist uses. This can swiftly become a headache for new digital artists if they’ve chosen a program without excellent help resources. Want to know what you should look for? Keep reading.

Software Help and Tutorials Built By the Developers

Colorful computer code on a monitor
Figuring out how to do something in your art program should not look like this
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Visit the software’s website. Do they have a help section? Is it easy to navigate? Is it robust? Do they have a tutorials section or even better, a youtube channel dedicated to tutorials? As a new digital artist, if they don’t have any online help for the software, it’s confusing or lacking, consider steering away from it. Why? If the documentation doesn’t exist, you’re going to have a hard time digging into the meat of the software when you need to.

If you can’t find something created by the software developers, though, you may find something by following my next section.

Tutorials Created by Other Artists

Do a search on Google for the digital art software you’re looking at + tutorials. Check some of them out. Are they useful to you? Easy to follow along with? Is there a good amount of them, or are they difficult to find?

Now do the same thing with some of the things you would like to create and see if any tutorials come up in the art software you’re looking at. This isn’t as important because some techniques can transfer from one program to another. But, more importantly, to a new artist, things can get muddled if you’re following something and confused about what tool the artist just used. As a result, you can grow irritated with your progress in learning digital art.

Digital Art Schools

An image of Adobe Photoshop in use, a digital art program
I use Adobe Photoshop for my courses in Art School

A quick note about digital art schools. Some of them will claim that you can use any program you want to take their classes. While this can be true, I advise being very comfortable with your chosen art program before investing in one of these schools. You’ll want to be able to focus on what you’re learning rather than what button the teacher used!

Read Reviews on Art Software

Research and read reviews on the art software you’re looking at using. Ask some fellow artists – but please take this suggestion with a grain of salt. Just like with drawing tablets, some artists can be very determined that this art software that they use is the only software you ever need. That software, however, may not align with your goals or needs.

Try Out Different Art Software

Most art software, just like a lot of other programs out there, allows you to try it before you purchase it. Take advantage of these trials to get a feel for the software. If the software was free, still try out some other programs. You may find one that you like but just don’t have the budget for right now. Put it on a wishlist and build up to it!

Some drawing tablets, particularly Wacom Intuos tablets, can come bundled with digital art software. Don’t ignore these, even if you already have a program in mind. Take advantage of the free software if you purchased one of these tablets. You may find something you like!

Want to know what’s available for you to use?  See below for a sample list of programs.

A Sample of Digital Art Software

While this won’t answer all of your questions, the list below will give you a general idea of what art software is out there for your digital art needs.

  • Krita: A free, open-source program. Useful for those just starting or budget conscious but sometimes can be challenging to understand.
  • Adobe Photoshop: A subscription-based digital art program that packs a powerful punch. Many professionals in the art world use Photoshop and its touted as the industry standard.
  • Corel Painter:  A powerful piece of software with a one-time purchase fee.  Well known for reproducing traditional art mediums in digital formats such as oils and acrylics.
  • Clip Studio Paint:  A one-time purchase software that is praised by those in comics and manga for its capabilities.  Particularly in smooth lines.
  • Procreate: Only available on the iPad, the digital art program praised for its powerful painting tools packed into a small mobile tablet application.

Have You Chosen Your Art Software?

If you have, great! Still haven’t made a decision yet? I hope that this article on how to choose your digital art software has helped you become better informed, and I wish you the best experience with whatever choice you make. If you found this article helpful and know of some friends that might be having a hard time choosing their art software, hit that share button below!

External Related Articles

Having some difficulty choosing what art software to use? Here’s another guide I found that may be helpful to you.