What Photoshop equipment/programs would you recommend for a beginner?

  • Hello all! I am coming up on a year at SVS, although my progress is impeccably slow due to life interruptions with 3 kids (1 being a toddler with speech/other issues). I'm just starting to get to the part where learning Photoshop would be helpful and time saving instead of recreating designs and transferring them from sketchbook to paper or redoing on the paper when I make corrections. What would you all recommend as a general "getting myself outfitted for illustration" basics type package? Creative Cloud vs purchasing outright? What pen/drawing tablet, etc? I have a brand new Surface Pro from last Xmas. Disclaimer: I am totally not tech-savvy and feel like I'm swimming in options without a clue as to what would be good. Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  • @charitymunoz This doesn’t address the “software” part, but more of the “learning” part. Check with your county library system to see if they offer free Lynda subscriptions. Lynda.com is a great source of technical instructional videos for things like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. It complements the art instruction of SVS very well. I use it pretty often through my library, and I think it kind of flies under the radar if most people.

  • You can use your Surface Pro; it's a good piece of tech to have. If you don't have the Surface Pen you'll want to invest in one; otherwise you're good to go with hardware.

    Photoshop is by subscription only now; I think it's $19.99 a month. It might be worth it if you are doing anything that requires text, but if not you might try other apps like Clip Studio Paint. It's a one-time purchase on Windows, and it's incredibly intuitive for drawing and making comics. I prefer it over Photoshop for artwork any day.

  • @charitymunoz The entire Affinity suite is becoming quite popular as well. Pay-once software vs subscription like with Adobe. In particular, Affinity Designer would be comparable to Photoshop and Illustrator kind of mixed together, and costs $50.

  • Pro

    @charitymunoz Pro-tip: on the Creative Cloud getting one of their program is 19.99 a month OR get the Photography plan, which includes Photoshop and is only 9.99 a month! If you have a Surface Pro that's amazing, you're good to go! There are thousands of tutorials for Photoshop nowadays, it's easier than ever to learn. I suggest you head up to Youtube and type in "Photoshop for beginners" or "drawing in photoshop" or something similar. You're bound to find dozens of good videos walking you through the basic tools and such.

  • Moderator

    May I offer a word or two of advice?

    Part of the problem with learning Photoshop is that there are so many pathways to learning it out there that it becomes daunting. And the downside is that often, when learning something as expansive as Photoshop, the way you use it is shaped by the "frames" you develop to initially approach it and understand it.

    If you look at learning Photoshop like you're learning to play a piano, l think you'll have less of a problem. There are a million ways to learn piano. And a million different musical styles you can play with it. And everyone learns it at a different pace. What you ultimately compose once you've learned music through learning the piano is going to be as vast and wide as there are... well... composers.

    Please know that learning Photoshop is a lifetime endeavor--no one ever "masters" it, so let yourself off that particular hook. You will probably learn Photoshop to do specific tasks you need it to accomplish for you, but as any "master artist" will tell you no one masters a medium--they just develop a partnership. And every partnership is different. Your partnership with the piano that is Photoshop will be different than everyone else's.

    Pick an initial tutor, dive in, and then explore other tutors as you progress. Just like students move from teacher to teacher or athletes from coach to coach.

    The Affinity suite of apps is much like Photoshop, but has a different interface and mental approach. Its one-time purchase is part of what makes it appealing but please note the program (being an app) is lighter and doesn't have all the "bells and whistles" (albeit, it has most...) as Photoshop might have. But much like using a high quality instrument, Photoshop's capacities are great only if you actually know enough or are skilled enough or your particular process requires the depth and specificity of those capacities. For most artists, the work they're doing can be done in apps like the Affinity suite.

    But the Affinity suite isn't the only option available. As TwiggyT mentioned above, apps like Clip Studio Paint emulate a number of Photoshop tools but narrow the focus of their use toward specific purposes and sort of "curate" all those plethora of tools that might ultimately complicate your way for what you want to do.

    The challenge with learning Photoshop in particular is that it's actually a photographic editing software. It has developed into an art rendering program. So a LOT of what it can do is actually about editing photos. Adobe quickly learned that because it can do so much more it could exploit that and lean into its versatility, so it has become the gold standard for digital artwork and illustration as well.

    I just wanna put that out there, because sometimes people can become really frustrated learning how to use Photoshop and remembering all its ins-and-outs and buttons and key commands and drop down menus and blah blah blah... It's big, but it's just a piano. Don't fall into the trap of thinking anyone is a Photoshop master. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that any employer actually knows what they're talking about when they put "Photoshop Mastery" on their job description. Fluency with a particular workflow and Mastery are very different. There are many MANY people out there that are completely competent with the program that only know a percentage of its full capabilities.

    You are going to have SO much fun!!! Photoshop is a trip!! Enjoy it!!

  • Thank you for all the advice and help! I am on my way to get a pen for my Surface Pro now. After that lots of tutorials so I can figure out which program I'm better to start with (it usually takes me a while, so I might as well start now). But the advice and direction have helped give me a start so thank you all!

  • I agree with @Coreyartus photoshop is so complex and it really depends what you want to do with it. There are so may different options/tutorials to go with and not knowing which one to dip into can be hard.

    What type of art would you be looking to produce?

    I used Photoshop for over 10 years for Graphic Design but really only started digitally painting with it 2 years ago.

    Lynda.com I found very useful for learning software, I haven't been on there in a while but I remember it being very useful. They might be good for a beginner photoshop course. But there will possibly be loads in that you dont need to know.

    Bobby Chiu's digital painting course on schoolism.com is good as it starts from the beginning as if you don't know photoshop at all

    Will Terry's 10 step digital painting course here on SVS is very good too

  • Pro

    @Coreyartus Very well said! There is just so much you can do with Photoshop, it's good to remember that not all of that can possibly apply to everyone. I really like using Photoshop's vector tools but have rarely encountered other who do. Also I recently discovered Photoshop has animation capabilities. Did you guys know that? LOL neither did I and I've been using Photoshop for 15 years!

  • @Coreyartus well said and a great analogy. I may want to interview you for my dissertation. It's about teaching and learning Photoshop.

  • Interesting topic!
    So I understand there are only one or 2 softwares that compare to photoshop when it comes to illustration.

    From those who are fully equiped, could you tell me what budget I would need to start with for a basic equipment and basic software features?

    At the moment I have a 13 year old mac book (which unfortunately does not support SVS videos 😢) and... that s pretty it! As I am not into tech, I have also no experience at all. Do I need to acquire a surface tablet and a pen?

    I would like to be able to try quickly variation in my compositions and clean the background before printing / editing. I am not a professional and dont want to be... just working on a book for hobby.

    Many thanks all!

  • @Julia You do need a computer that can run the software, if it has trouble playing videos then you probably need a new one. 13 years is pretty old for a computer- I usually have to think about upgrading parts in my PC every 4-5 years. Most digital art software websites list what the minimum / reccomended requirements for your computer should be but unless you want to do 3D modelling as well you won't need a really expensive one or fancy system to start with. When it comes to software there are lots of choices these days- I wrote an article that might be helpful for you here, although the focus is on digital painting it is relevant to illustration in general: https://medium.com/the-art-squirrel/whats-the-best-software-for-beginners-to-digital-painting-86efe527a2a1
    Personally I think Krita, the Affinity Suite and Clip Studio Paint are really great and are used by beginners and proffesionals. I think they work on tablets as well which could be useful. Nothing against Photoshop, but I stopped using it so much after finding Krita and Affinity Photo. I still have an old version of it that works fine, but Adobe are actually working on a new thing called Adobe Fresco which will be more tailored to artists anyway, so it will be interesting to see how that develops. A lot of Illustrators are using tablets as well as desktop computers these days so that might be an option to think about as well.

  • SVS OG

    @Julia hi! You don’t really need a surface tablet. If you’re just doing this for a hobby a simple drawing tablet like the wacom Intuos would suffice. They cost below a hundred dollars. Or you can get something more affodable from Huion or XP-Pen. Also there are a lot of free photoshop alternative softwares like Gimp, Krita, etc. They’ll do nicely for the type of work that you do. I hope this helps.

  • @charitymunoz I would actually recommend Clip Studio Paint over Photoshop for a beginner. It has all the same capabilities (plus some special features for making comics) but is way cheaper! It’s on sale right now for a single payment of $25! I just got rid of my Adobe subscription and switched and it’s been great, and a huge money saver. https://www.clipstudio.net/en

  • I think Clip Studio Paint is running a 50% sale right now. . . just throwing that in there! I've been using Photoshop for over 20 years, but I'm tempted to make the leap over to Clip Studio.

  • SVS OG

    @RajSolankiArt @TessaW Is there a reason to get Clip Studio if a person doesn't have a graphics tablet? I do traditional art and use Procreate on my iPad for any digital work or tweaks to my traditional work but that sale is really tempting. Do you think Clip Studio will do enough things without a tablet that would make it beneficial for digitally enhancing traditional art?

  • @demotlj I haven't used procreate, so I have no clue how they compare. Clip studio seems geared more toward drawing and painting on the computer, and is not as heavy on it's photo editing capabilities when compared to photoshop, but it definitely has functions that can be used to enhance traditional art. I think it would depend on just what kind of editing and enhancing you are going for. I've downloaded Clip Studio's free trial and am trying to go through all the features I regularly use in photoshop to see if it can be done in Clip Studio. So far it matches up pretty well for the functions I use.

    As @Nyrryl-Cadiz has mentioned, Krita and Gimp are free and they probably have the functions you need for digitally enhancing your traditional art, without having to purchase anything. The reason I'm interested specifically in Clip Studio rather than Krita and Gimp, is because of it's relative simplicity, "drawing feel", and it's 3D reference capabilities.

  • @demotlj Good question, I think it depends on what you want to do with it. But I know Clip Studio can also be used on an iPad, so you wouldn't have to go out and buy a graphics tablet.

  • If you can use Procreate on an iPad with Apple Pencil, it is awesome and a 1 time purchase that’s pretty reasonable ($30ish) for an awesome program with a really active community around it. It’s pretty good at being intuitive.

    Affinity designer is also pretty easy to use, but a little more complex feeing than Procreate, but that could just be my personal preference.

    I think photoshop can run on your surface tablet, so if you have a nice pen, just do that. Keep it easy! There’s always some sale, so sign up for their emails.

    What’s helped me learn the drawing programs are YouTube videos, and knowing I don’t have to use ALL the tools and all the bells and whistles. It’s ok to just use the built in brushes and pick like 1 or 2 favorites and go from there. Like at the art store, I want to buy all the paints and markers and stuff, but I can’t, so I just draw with what I really need.. same is true for all those options in a program. They tempt me because they are free, but I know it’s better if I pick just a limited edit.

    Also, have fun! If it isn’t fun, pick a different tool. It’s about the art, not the tools.

  • @Christine-Garner thank you so much Christine for the detailed information. I'll check out your article and also have a look at a tablet, Nyrryl also says this is a good option for a limited budget. I kind of knew that I would need to invest, hopefully Santa will help me this year to be better equipped! thanks again a lot!

Log in to reply