Not just a fascinating spectacle that magically brings still drawings to life, but also a booming industry elevating films to new levels by the means of visual effects, animation (as well as other forms of digital art) captivates people of all ages and aesthetic preferences. However, the craft that is, at first glance, so playful and entertaining requires strong technical skills, excellent time management, and an incredible amount of commitment. So where should one begin?
As a beginner in the vast world of animation and digital art in general I have spent hours on the Internet trying to decide what software to use. I wanted it to be powerful but yet accessible (and not too intimidating). Here I created a list of three (+ an honorable mention) incredible pieces of software that cover all the basic approaches to animation and digital art in general.
DISCLAIMER: I will not be including Photoshop here, since if you are interested in digital art, with a 99.9% chance you have already used it at least once, and probably know about it more than I do!
First of all, it is important to decide what type of digital art you are more drawn towards. Are you more into 2D art or are you trying to create three-dimensional models? Your answer will affect your choice of software (however, some programs can handle both!). My personal journey into the world of digital art has started with 3D art and, thus, this particular program is very dear to my heart. Blender is an amazing free software that possesses an extremely vast toolkit allowing users to create hyperrealistic renders as well as a powerful automatic rigging tool. Blender is not only an exquisite modeling software but also incorporates texture editors, sculpting modes, compositing, and other intriguing extensions such as non-realistic rendering. Some of the cons may include the intimidating interface that, however, will become your best friend after a couple of tutorials that are available in abundance on YouTube.
If you, however, are more drawn towards 2D digital art and animation Krita should be able to satisfy all of your needs. Unlike Photoshop, Krita does not function as a photo editor but focuses on animation and digital painting. Krita is acclaimed for its simple yet effective layer system, a vast variety of brush tools, and the possibility to personalize user interface for further convenience. A recognized professional program that is vastly used in the filmmaking and video-game development industry and is also free? Sounds like the perfect choice for beginning illustrators and digital artists looking to enter the industry.
If these professional industry-standard ‘monsters’ seem too intimidating, Pencil2D Animation might be an optimal choice for you! Its minimalist design is very user-friendly and not as intimidating as one of the digital art giants I mentioned above. Pencil2D is the perfect tool for someone who is just starting exploring the world of hand-drawn animation or is pursuing 2D animation as a hobby. As a beginner myself, I use Pencil 2D to improve my practical skills in hand-drawn motion design. Completely free and compatible with various operating systems, Pencil2D animation is a great starting point for amateur animators like me.
Pixel art is another intriguing genre of digital art that allows for the creation of weirdly appealing low-resolution images that have a very special nostalgic vibe of indie video games. Composed of visible pixels, such images seem simple, however, require a special skill of color blocking as well as an ability to prioritize basic elements to make an image recognizable even in a very low resolution. While you can still use popular digital art editors such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP for pixel art, the software that I have used in the past and that has proven to be simple and efficient for this particular style is iDraw. This program provides all the necessary tools for pixel art production as well as features a nostalgic flair of the 90-s RPG games. The software is practically free, however, unlocking some additional pro features requires an upgrade that only costs 5$.
I hope this list managed to persuade you that digital art can be accessible and fun for anyone. Can’t wait to see your first digital painting, GIF, or animation!