Monday, September 24, 2012

Introduction to Digital Media

So today we'll start looking at working digitally.  Like any other medium, there's no right or wrong way to do it.  And there are no right or wrong materials either.  As with traditional media, I suggest you get the best materials you can.  The difference here, though, is the level of quality!  Do you need a high-end Mac running the latest Adobe Creative Suite? No.  There are some digital artists that work with free or inexpensive software on an entry-level computer.  When I started learning, I used Adobe Photoshop Elements on a PC with a mouse.  Today, I use a Macbook Pro with Adobe CS4 and a Wacom tablet.  Both my computer and software are not the newest, but who cares?! It works for me!

In case all of that sounds like gibberish, here's a brief breakdown of some of the programs and accessories that are available to use in digital art.  This is by no means a complete list!

Wacom Tablet

A Wacom tablet is essentially a digital input pad.  There's a pressure-sensitive pen and a mouse, and you use both of these draw on the pad & it shows up on your screen.  There are a variety of programs you can use with a Wacom, including all of the Adobe creative programs.  There is a large range of products available, from the professional-level Cintiq display to entry-level Bamboo or Intuos.  These start at less than $100.  For reference, my Wacom Intuous tablet is five years old and still does everything I need.

Adobe Creative Suite

 I'm using Adobe CS4, mainly Photoshop and Illustrator.  It's a little out of date (they're up to CS6 now), but it's not antique or anything.  Adobe has a variety of packages available, as well as a 30 free trial of any of their programs on their site.  There is also the option of using the Adobe Creative Cloud, which is a cloud version of the Creative Suite, and runs on a subscription (about $50 a month).  There's also Adobe Photoshop Elements.  It's up to version 10.  I have version 5 on my PC.  It's like Photoshop light.  It has the most common parts of the full version of Photoshop for about a fifth of the price.  And there are always older versions available on Amazon, etc.


This is another important part of my digital studio.  Like everything else, my scanner is a little older (like 5+ years) but it works great!  I like to draw by hand and sometimes color digitally.  Or create something start to finish by hand (like watercolors, etc), and then clean it up in Photoshop.  Having a scanner is essential.  You can use a digital camera in a pinch, but there can be a lot of distortion that way.  My scanner really only accommodates a standard sheet of paper so I have to plan accordingly.  Learn your scanner's settings too.  I scan at a high dpi (dots per inch) to ensure that I have the highest resolution image to work with.

I realize that this lesson is basically a wall of text, but it's important to know what we'll be working with.  Next week, we'll go through scanning a doll using my scanner (your scanner may vary), and how to work with it in Photoshop.

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