There are many options in the illustration field for digital computing. The industry has been dominated for a long time by graphics heavy-hitter Adobe, in many cases for a good reason. Adobe has really blown away the competition to be the progressive, cutting edge and adaptable technology in the computing environment. Not to be dismissed, there are a number of really great pieces of software being developed by smaller companies. I would not want to write off other software developers, SmithMicro for example, from the digital art scene. They produce a lot of great stuff, so we’re going to look at both of them and I’m going mention a couple others as well.
Photoshop and Illustrator: These are the two most common and dominant graphics software programs made by Adobe that have pretty much ruled the landscape of digital art for a couple of decades. This is because they were front-runners in the industry and were quickly adopted by digital artists and designers, becoming standard software through every step of the creation process and right up to the actual act of publishing. Photoshop is a great program for editing photos, as that was its original purpose, but people soon figured out that it is a great option whether you want to draw traditionally or do it all digitally. You can sketch in layers and digitally ink on top and color, or you can do your work traditionally, scan it in, and use Photoshop to digitally color your artwork. I have personally not hand-colored a piece of art in 20 years. Photoshop is often my go-to piece of software for digital comic and art coloring. The filters and layers make it ideal for creating art on different levels and being able to tweak or manipulate without having to erase and re-draw. Photoshop generates rasterized images. Rasterizing means that the image is made of a whole bunch of very tiny square pixels of color. That’s why if you zoom in on an image, it’s really blurry and pixelated. So in order to create good images in Photoshop you have to remember to stay at 300 dpi or higher. A good image ranges in quality from 300 to 600 dpi. You can find the DPI settings of your image in the image menu in Photoshop. Original artwork or colors should be done at this high of a resolution. If you’re only self-publishing on the web or digitally, you can save a second version of each file at a lower resolution between 72 to 96 dpi. This ensures that you always have a good version for screen viewing and a separate version of higher quality in case you ever want to print it in the future. If you print the screen quality version that is 72 dpi, it will look very pixelated and blurry in print, even though it looks great on your screen. This is because printing and monitor viewing are two different technologies based on different principles and are always doing their best to simulate each other but simply do not work the same. Illustrator, on the other hand, is a vector program. Illustrator is really the one that was meant for illustration, but Photoshop has been so popular and has taken such a hold of the entire industry that by the time Illustrator came out, Photoshop still remained the standard. With vector images, the placement of lines and shapes are all based on mathematical formulas that places them in relation to each other. The formulas ensure that the image always looks good whether you shrink it down to microscopic size or you blow it up to the size of a billboard. Your image will always be sharp and crisp with clear edges and legible writing and never pixelated. This is why we always use Illustrator for digital lettering and word balloons. The reason the sound effects are so awesome looking in comic books you buy at your local hobby shop is because those letterists used Illustrator. Of course there are some great and very talented hand letterists as well, and if you’re working in the traditional format and love drawing really dynamic sound effects and dialogue, that’s great; I admire you for that skill. It’s not one that I have. My handwriting is generally illegible at best. So as a professional, I know the best thing I can do is create my lettering digitally. When it comes to price range, the full version of the software is a little bit pricey, if you can even still get it. Adobe has moved to a Creative Cloud system, where you pay a subscription for the software you want to be permanently up-to-date. Prices range from $10 per month for one piece of software to $50 per month for the entire Adobe suite. If either one of those options don’t thrill you or fit your budget then don’t fret, there’s another option. In recent years, Adobe has developed powerful mobile app versions of all of their famous and popular software at much lower prices. You can get a touchscreen version of Photoshop for your phone for $5 or your tablet for $10. They have also come out with a number of very handy art creation apps for mobile devices and even mobile app versions of Adobe Illustrator, many of which are free, in the hopes that you will sign up for their free cloud storage service and become a premium paid member in the future. Visit Adobe.com for more details.
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