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Sketching art programs: suggestions?

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Hi everyone, I'm looking for recommendations for software to do some sketching practice. I'm looking to improve my art skills up to an acceptable level, and since I am aiming for digital art and I'd like to also practice using my Wacom tablet I'd like to do a lot of this practice on the computer. To that end, I'm trialling a bunch of software to see what works best for me as a practice tool and am looking for recommendations. The essential task this software must be suited for is an equivalence to pencil sketching. I'd like to be able to work on something like a rough pencil sketch, flesh it out a bit, mark in some more definitive lines like with ink, and then if needed export the image and import it into another editor. However, the more work that can be done in the software the better. It will need an easy-to-use interface, since this is all about draft work, sketching and learning rather than coping with a byzantine GUI. It also needs to be Mac compatible, since that's what I'm using. Specifically, an iMac running Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5), using a Wacom Intuos3 6x8. Ideally, the software would also be able to be used for art within its own right. I'd like to use it for concept art, and if I could even use it for production level art, that would be fantastic. However this is merely desirable; I'm looking for something that's easy and fun to practice and sketch with and has the capability of exporting draft sketches for other programs above all else. Currently I've got two programs I'm looking at: I'm planning on trialling these and writing them up in my GameDev journal (if you're interested), but I'm looking for other suggestions. I might also try Inkscape, GIMP and Photoshop CS3 as a comparison since I've also got those installed, but I don't think they're quite right for the job. Any other sketching programs out there I should be aware of, and can add to my trialling test? Thanks in advance,

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I've heard Painter mentioned as being good for accepting tablet input in a naturalistic-looking way, but I haven't used it myself. And of course Gimp and Photoshop are at least ok for this sort of thing.

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I use Photoshop and only Photoshop for everything. Everything.

It was rough at first, but once I built up hand-eye coordination between the tablet and screen and got used to the various brushes and settings (which I am still learning to use in various ways and scales, honestly) it has worked out sufficiently.

Not a helpful perspective for your stated goal, I know. But what you're doing here looks interesting and I'll certainly follow it.

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I really like Art Rage for sketching compared to PSP7, Gimp and GGale especially using a tablet but haven't compared it to other sketch programs. I use it to sketch sprites before taking them into a more 'pixel' related package to finish them off so might not have used the same functions you are interested in. For me, it saves drawing, scanning, cleaning up etc. There are quite a few medium types (crayon, charcoal, pen etc) along with a few good and not so good extras (e.g. metallic paint and glitter).
Has proved well worth the price.

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Thanks for the replies, eveyone.

@sunandshadow:

Thanks for reminding me about Corel. I think Painter X might be a bit too pricey given I doubt I'll need all that functionality (it's about A$700), but Painter Essentials 4 is worth looking at. I can get that for about A$100, which is okay.

@dbaumgart:

I've got a copy of Adobe Creative Suite 3, but I haven't used Photoshop all that much. I mainly got the suite because I wanted Flash and I could get it with an education discount but with effectively the same full price license. Other than Flash I've only really used Illustrator, and I don't like the inteface that much (probably because I'm used to Inkscape. Illustrator's node tools irritate me). The Adobe interface seems to work better in Photoshop but all those options and tiny icons are intimidating for when I just want to do freehand work.

I really should use it some more - CS3 wasn't cheap even with the discount - but I'm going to see what else is out there.

@tonyg:

I'm going to buy ArtRage 2.5 regardless*. I like the paint and the minimal interface, and I think it would be a good way to learn more about appropriate use of colour, and as software goes it's pretty darn cheap at US$25. I'm still undecided on the pencil tool. It might depend a bit on what it is like with a very minimal paper texture. I've only tried the Starter version, and I can use just the presets with that.

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If it helps there are loads of paper texture types. I use 'cel' as it has no texture at all.

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Quote:
Original post by Gyrthok
Have you looked at the available list of tools on The Wiki? Pencil looks like it might be worth a look.

I'm skimmed it, but there's dozens of tools there. I'm looking for personal recommendations to help direct me to those worth taking a closer look.

I've seen the site for Pencil, but it appears to be a traditional animation tool with simple editing capabilities. Apart from the name, it doesn't appear to be especially aimed towards pencil sketching. Have you found it to be a really good sketching program regardless?

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
@sunandshadow:

Thanks for reminding me about Corel. I think Painter X might be a bit too pricey given I doubt I'll need all that functionality (it's about A$700), but Painter Essentials 4 is worth looking at. I can get that for about A$100, which is okay.


I got a legitimate OEM copy of Corel Painter X from ebay for about $40.

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Quote:
Original post by Kwizatz
I got a legitimate OEM copy of Corel Painter X from ebay for about $40.

$40?! Is it legit? I've checked the listing and it doesn't say where the seller got it from. I'm a bit wary of buying software from eBay, especially when they're apparently just shipping you a CD and a registration key.

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Art Rage is nice, and cheap. I owned a license for Windows, and found it to be a decent application. It's not terribly feature rich, and I'm not the biggest fan of its materials selection (since it's a natural media emulator, it applies texture to nearly everything, which can sometimes result in unnecessarily shiny/bumpy drawings).

Sketchbook Pro is awesome. I love it, I use it all the time. It has, by far, the best tablet-based interface of any application I've ever used. It has a few limitations as a painting application when compared to Photoshop, but you can find a workaround for most of them (and they don't bother me too much since I do most of my painting in a single layer).

Photoshop is the grand daddy, of course, but is also rather pricey. That said, Photoshop Essentials contains almost the full brush engine and is quite adequate for digital painting purposes, though its interface is horrid.

I've never used Painter. Pencil is inappropriate here; it's a cel-based animation utility with limited drawing tools, but quite nice for its stated purpose (and free!). The GIMP is capable, but you have to acclimate to its interface and idiosyncrasies. Personally, I don't find the effort worth the price.

Buy ArtRage. It's so cheap, you might as well, even if you ultimately abandon it (like me). Then buy Sketchbook Pro. For sketching purposes, nothing else comes close.

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I've already made up my mind to buy ArtRage, but I'll demo the free starter edition first in my journal roundup. It's definitely good value.

I've been demoing Sketchbook Pro due to your recommendation earlier. It's also a bit sparse in features (it's technically only got one tool, just lots of setting presets), but I like the algorithm they use for the sketches. It's got a good smoothing process for each stroke.

There is however one possibly fatal flaw with Sketchbook Pro - Autodesk doesn't seem to want to sell it to Australians [sad]. Their online store will only sell to the U.S. and Canada. Australians are directed to their affiliate seller partners, every single one of which has a spartan website, showing all the "solutions" they have on offer. And every single one of them never, ever bothers to tell you trivial details like, say, the price. It looks like they only deal with business customers, so for a single license I suspect it will be the old price (US$179), plus shipping and tax, plus the affiliate markup, equal triple the price on the Autoesk store. So I'm a little disinclined to want to send Autodesk any of my Aussie dollars, given that they don't seem to be interested in them.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
There is however one possibly fatal flaw with Sketchbook Pro - Autodesk doesn't seem to want to sell it to Australians [sad]. Their online store will only sell to the U.S. and Canada. Australians are directed to their affiliate seller partners, every single one of which has a spartan website, showing all the "solutions" they have on offer. And every single one of them never, ever bothers to tell you trivial details like, say, the price. It looks like they only deal with business customers, so for a single license I suspect it will be the old price (US$179), plus shipping and tax, plus the affiliate markup, equal triple the price on the Autoesk store. So I'm a little disinclined to want to send Autodesk any of my Aussie dollars, given that they don't seem to be interested in them.

Damn. [sad]

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
$40?! Is it legit? I've checked the listing and it doesn't say where the seller got it from. I'm a bit wary of buying software from eBay, especially when they're apparently just shipping you a CD and a registration key.


Well, you made me doubt now. the disk, as I said, seems to be OEM, the kind that comes bundled with a tablet or something like that in a paper sleeve, if it is a dupe, is one that took effort, the serial worked both to install and register Corel's website too, I am doubting it because I just took it out and make sure and the readable side looks suspiciously similar to a burned disk, but still not quite the same.

Picture:



If anyone can verify this is what the real thing looks like, let us know.

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