A decade ago I got Photoshop Elements for about $68, and started using it to clean-up, edit and color my toons. Most of what you see on my CCAS gallery is done with a mouse, although pieces done within the last two years are assisted by a Wacom drawing pad ($240). Easy to use and focused I what I wanted to do, these programs gave me multiple years of making multi-layer toon art, and for the hobby artist on a shoestring budget these are still great art tools. Today Photoshop Elements 2019 retails for $87 and the Wacom Intuos tablet retails online for $149; sweet!
As my retirement from my dayjob approached, I started shopping for the next level up in Digital Art programs for cartoonists. Since I had a mini ipad I looked closely at ipad’s Procreate (full functionality necessitates an ipad Air 2 or higher), latest versions of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe illustrator. Many online cartoonist are using Manga Studio5 for coloring and dialogue, but were still creating art with either Adobe Photoshop and Adobe illustrator. Both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe illustrator are powerful, sensibly formatted and widely used in industry and homes. However since 2017 you can no longer buy them, but must rent them for $22 -$40 per month depending on the package. I researched various sites for buying older versions with less capabilities, but was frightened by the many, many horror stories of buyers suffering with virus inlaid, older programs (both disks, drives and online download). Criminals are flooding the market with a range of infected software, some even in sealed commercial packages; counterfeits are part of what drove Adobe to going to a subscription service.
If I was a younger artist seriously considering going into the animation-toon industry, I would probably have followed the advice of several pros and allied myself with Adobe. Adobe has great support and a huge online community with tutorials and apps. But personally I wanted to own a simple, easy-to-use program that had the features I prized in illustration and coloring toons. Procreate by Apple ($10) promises to be just that, especially if you shell out the additional $94 – 140 dollars for an ipencil (draw directly on the screen) and…you already own an ipad Air ($549 online) or better. The pressure sensitive ipencil (either versions 1 or 2) allows a huge variety of texture and line width with easy control. Sweet! However, using Procreate on split screens or screens bigger than the size of your ipad (smaller, if you like your controls to be visible while you work) is for now out of the question. Procreate on an ipad is a rugged, portable art solution if you want to be able to carry that much software power in a number of locations; I didn’t.
In my research, I came across a highly recommended Illustrator program called Krita. It was touted as an illustrator-focused, Photoshop-formatted, easy to learn art program with good support…for free. Even a “ free” art program is not free because the time-investment to learn, become comfortable with and stress over the new tech; but two weeks ago I downloaded Krita and slowly putting it through its paces. So far I am experiencing enough success with Krita to keep me engaged and encouraged.