Digital art

Intro: TouchDesigner

What is TouchDesigner?

TouchDesigner is at its core a programming language. However, it probably looks and works quite different from the programming languages that you might have encountered before. First of all, Touch Designer is a visual programming language which means that instead of the code expressed in text, TouchDesigner utilizes visual and graphic elements that are already optimized, structured, and basically ready to work (think, you get chunks of code at once instead of a single function). Each of such clusters of code expressed via a graphic element is called a node. You can connect various nodes into a string establishing a relationship between them and creating a sort of a network between the elements of your code. This might sound a little confusing (and it is at first), however, don’t worry, you will get used to dragging little boxes around pretty fast.

What do you need to know to use TouchDesigner?

TouchDesigner is used by designers, artists, and musicians for a vast array of purposes. This piece of software allows its users to create sculptures, animations, live performances, and immersive VR spaces. TouchDesigner’s toolset extends to editing still images, videos, 3D models, as well as working with sound through converting sound frequencies of a compatible music device (MIDI or a simple keyboard) into numerical values and, thus, allowing for music visualization. The program possesses a wide range of tools that facilitates visual manipulation from color editing to data visualization with an emphasis on geometry nodes as a way to create complex generative artworks. Unlike other image editors and 3D modeling software, TouchDesigner also offers an impressive arsenal of pre-made widgets, movement sensors and trackers, and other interactive components. Hence, ether you want to create a cool GIF for you website or design the real time responsive visuals for you DJ set, you can do it all in TOuchDesigner.

Why learn TouchDesigner?

Digital design is becoming more and more diverse encapsulating hundreds of programs for editing or modeling. TouchDesigner combines features of a simple graphic editor with some experimental and immersive approaches allowing for innovative UI/UX design, creative coding, and music visualization. Without spending countless hours on learning multiple pieces of software, by learning TouchDesigner you can try yourself out in various domains of design without familiarizing yourself with confusing and intimidating interfaces of multiple programs. By learning TouchDesigner, you are not only exercising your creativity but also getting useful skills of coding which is virtually ubiquitous in the world of design today. Moreover, TouchDesigner is an upcoming platform soon to be considered Industry standard, and it is always good to be ahead of the game.

How can you learn TouchDesigner?

The main resource I have been using in my journey with TouchDesigner has been a YouTube course that covers the basics of the program. The author goes over all the beginner things such as layout, main tools, and techniques (basically how the program operates). The format and language are very accessible even to non-tech/design people. Most of the videos are 20 minutes maximum which allows you to maintain a high level of concentration and learn a lot fast. Besides this course as well as a plethora of tutorials on YouTube, TouchDesigner also possesses an extensive textual database that covers almost everything in the program. Whereas it is not as accessible as the video course due to the abundance of complicated coding and techy vocabulary, the manual allows you to really go in-depth into the piece of software and grasp the primary algorithms that Touch Designer is built upon.

Where to download TouchDesigner?

Here: https://derivative.ca/download. TouchDesigner is free, however, you could also subscribe to get more features available (for instance, the basic version only allows for maximum 1080 x 1920 resolution).

Useful links: 

https://docs.derivative.ca/Learning_TouchDesigner

Starting with digital art and animation

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! 

Blender

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.

Krita

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. 

Pencil2D Animation

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. 

Honorable mention:

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!