Back to school – Art

James Thornton


Learn to draw on your computerIf you’re struggling with the ‘proper’ subjects at school you’ve always got art class to fall back on. Here you can forget all about algorithms, algebra and Archimedes and mess about with paints instead. If you really want to make the most of the subject though, you need to get kitted out for the world of digital art. There is such a broad range of graphics software out there that it can be tricky to know where to look. I’ve picked out a few of the best ones for each level of academia.

Primary: All the great masters started their careers by doing coloring, and it’s important to get a grip on how to stay within the lines from a young age. If you don’t want to upset Mum by spilling paint on the carpet or getting felt pen all over the table then why not do all your coloring on the computer? I know it sounds crazy, but computer programs such as Kea Coloring Book or Connected Kids Coloring Book let you learn the craft without making a mess. Once you’ve perfected the art of coloring why not expand your talents to making writing look pretty? textArt allows you to apply various cool typography effects to text, simply by selecting an effect from a drop-down menu and choosing colors.

Secondary: High school is the place where your abstract blobs are transformed into works that actually look like something else from real life. There are some quality drawing tools around that can be picked up with just a bit of practice. Corel Painter might be a good place to start as it allows you to take real photos and very easily change them into paintings though its Photo Painting palettes. OpenCanvas is another good quality art app with a gentle learning curve. There are loads of different brushes, pens and pencils, so you can really get creative. However, perhaps my favorite of all is ArtRage, which I feel gets just the right balance between user friendliness and powerful artistic tools.

College: If you choose to pursue art after leaving school, either in further education or as part of your career, then you’ll probably need to add to your arsenal of software. The weapon of choice for most in the graphic art industry is Adobe Illustrator, which provides a wide range of advanced tools and integrates nicely with that other bastion of the image editing world, Photoshop. If you’re looking for a creative new tangent to explore then perhaps you could also try Context Free Art, an app that allows you to generate images by entering code. No matter how good you are technically though, you will always have periods where your ideas dry up. When this happens, you can always get some inspiration by customizing your computer around the works of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or Cezanne.

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