2d drawing program: the lowdown on the best art software

2d drawing program: what to look for

In your average 2d drawing program that most artists use you will get more tools than you probably ever use. So the first thing to decide is exactly what you are wanting to do with it.

"Duh, I want to draw thing like!"

Ok...but how do you want to draw them? Do you want to draw things like hi-technology robots, or fur? Do you want the final image to look like a watercolour, or are you more interested in a refined image? Do you want something that will produce and image that looks very professional, or are you after something a bit rougher around the edges?

Depending on your choices, the 2d program that you choose will ultimately make you very happy, or else it will be the program of your nightmares! Why? Well it's simple, all those those options are going to screw with your brain. You won't remember how you did a thing, and you won't get the results that you want. Ultimately you will get depressed and go back to using pencil and paper. I will in the next section explain some of the top programs out there, and show you some images that I have created using the tools available. (and yes, all these pictures are ones that I produced, from black and white cartoons to colour illustrations)

 

2d drawing program: the options available

From the top, then:

Photoshop.  Anything above photoshop cs is fine as far as a 2d drawing program is concerned.  I use photoshopcs all the time, and these are a few images completed with it.


2d drawing program: Water colour style with photoshop cs

This image was produced for The salvation army using photoshop cs. I could have done more with the most recent version of photoshop, as there are more distortion possibilities and wrapping, but in the end, you can pick up photoshop cs for cheap in pl
This image was produced for The salvation army using photoshop cs. I could have done more with the most recent version of photoshop, as there are more distortion possibilities and wrapping, but in the end, you can pick up photoshop cs for cheap in pl
This one took a couple of hours to produce.  The difference between using regular media and digital is speed.  In the end, a 2d drawing and art program like photoshop will mean you can produce more in less time. And of course go back to an earlier ve
This one took a couple of hours to produce. The difference between using regular media and digital is speed. In the end, a 2d drawing and art program like photoshop will mean you can produce more in less time. And of course go back to an earlier ve

2d drawing program: photoshopcs used in the style of an old master

I was rather pleased with the oil paint effect on this.  Once I had painted it, I ran through a few effects to produce this
I was rather pleased with the oil paint effect on this. Once I had painted it, I ran through a few effects to produce this

2D drawing program: photoshop used as a blotty ink tool and a vector tool, and a high finish illustrator for children

This black and white used photoshop with a jitter set on the basic line as well as a little scatter.  The shape of the brush can be altered on photoshop, as can the angle of the nib, how often it makes a mark etc..
This black and white used photoshop with a jitter set on the basic line as well as a little scatter. The shape of the brush can be altered on photoshop, as can the angle of the nib, how often it makes a mark etc..
Whilst not illustrator, which is arguably not a 2d drawing program, photoshop can be used with the pen tool to produce tight and editable lines.
Whilst not illustrator, which is arguably not a 2d drawing program, photoshop can be used with the pen tool to produce tight and editable lines.
This image is more what photoshop is known for - slick and clean almost airbrush like quality.
This image is more what photoshop is known for - slick and clean almost airbrush like quality.

2d drawing programs: Corel painter. The best of natural media

There are certain things that photoshop just can't handle so well. Whilst I can get away with making photoshop look like a flat wash water colour, I often want the image to look like watercolour that has all the hallmarks such as a bleed right to the edge, or feathering. I can make that effect in corel painter. I have corel painter ix, but the most recent version does even more. I particularly like the pencil tool.

2d drawing program:corel painter

As you can see, the texture of the paper produced by Corel PainterXI is much better, as are the bleeds which are controllable.  I particularly like the digit watercolour which is very fast.
As you can see, the texture of the paper produced by Corel PainterXI is much better, as are the bleeds which are controllable. I particularly like the digit watercolour which is very fast.
The scratchboard tool is brilliant for producing black and white comic book work.  In fact many artists use only corel painter.
The scratchboard tool is brilliant for producing black and white comic book work. In fact many artists use only corel painter.
Another straight cartoon, using Painter ix
Another straight cartoon, using Painter ix

2d drawing program: manga

I got into using manga studio because I wanted a nib that would react well not to the varying pressure that I put on my wacom tablet, but that would look more like a brush line.  I usually add colour by photoshop, but you can do it from within manga studio.  Another feature of manga studio over most 2d drawing programs is being able to use it to add mechanical tints, essential for comic work

2d Drawing program: manga studio

Manga studio
Manga studio

2d drawing program: budget basement!

Artrage has got to be the best of the budgets.  Its a well advanced program now, and the creators have just created artrage studio pro which is $80!  A lot cheaper than painter or photoshop.  And yet you get watercolour brushes, oil, pencil (always hard to find on 2d drawing programs), layers, effects.  And the best bit, artrage will allow you to remove ALL the tool pallets and work with the whole of your computer monitor.  It's genius.  Quite often I will do my drawing prep work in artrage.  A couple of other features about artrage: you can get a budget version which has many of the cool features for just $20.  Ok, I have left the best to last on artrage... it has a ruler!  Ok, now that doesn't sound much but wait, the other programs you have to mess around creating vector lines and switching tools.  But the makers of artrage, ambient design, have included a ruler which is expandable and moves elegantly on the page just by dragging it around, and rotates around a movable pin.  This is brilliant when you want to draw vanishing points and very fast.  The pencil line afterwards kind of sticks to the ruler as you draw, but you can draw away from it.  In the end, if it really is a 2d drawing program you want, then artrage has got to be it!

2d Drawing program: free software choices and alternatives

I would be very remiss and not being doing you my reader a favour were I not to mention the completely free Gimp software.  I am not so keen on it personally, but many users really like it, not just because it is free but it does many of the things that photoshop does.

What about other programs.

Illustrator, by Adobe, is a vector based program.  That means that you use your mouse or tablet pen to click a point, then click another point.  The program then attaches an image to that line and contains information that displays that stroke with a width and an opacity.  The beauty of illustrator vector type programs is you can increase or decrease elements of the drawing without losing quality of the stroke, it is all scaled alongside.  When you try that with a bitmap drawing program like those I have mentioned already you get jaggedy edges (called pixelation).  The draw back is a very steep learning curve, very complex layers, and very computer resource hungry, similar to that of 3d drawing programs. However, I know many people who swear by them.

One alternative to the expensive illustrator is Serif draw, which is somewhat less complex and you can get quite good results.  

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Comments 4 comments

Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

This is a terrific Hub right here! I am a big art fan, and Photoshop really rocks! I have bought it and I am learning hoe to use it, I was told to manipulate art or pictures on the web means either this package or nowt.

I have heard of painter X. I have artist friends who read the Corel magazine, and its always a great read! You have great artwork here! Cheers!


AndrewGee profile image

AndrewGee 6 years ago Author

thanks loads. It all depends on what you want to achieve really. Photoshop is ok, and if you know how to use it it can achieve results quick. but it really can't handle watercolour!


vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 6 years ago

I do hand drawings, but lately I´ve been reading a lot about computer illustration programs. I will find the time to investigate these one day...


riland 4 years ago

Great info...i've been doing hand drawing for a long time. I however see the need to get into digital drawing since there's a lot of opportunities in it...i mean job opportunities.Hope you would do some specific step-by-step procedure especially photoshop. I want to start with it....

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