Category Archives: Art

Digital Painting On A Budget, Part 2

Okay, so now you have your painting and photo manipulation software, if you read my previous post, that is; you can begin to paint straight away using your mouse. For more controlled use, however, you really would be wise to invest some money in a dedicated graphics drawing tablet and pen. Good grief, i hear you say. More money to splash out? Well, yes, but the cost needn’t be prohibitive, as you will soon see.

If you’re someone with money to burn, then by all means splash out on one of the latest all-singing, all-dancing top-of-the-range tablet and pens from Wacom or Aiptek or one of the other “big boys”. If, however, you’re simply after a tablet and pen that doesn’t cost the earth and can give you a comparable experience to the more expensive tablets, then i suggest that you read on, because i have some more good news for you!

It came to my attention recently that a company called Monoprice make a range of drawing tablets that are fast becoming a favourite among many digital artists and are getting very favourable reviews from their users. I bought one recently too, opting to buy the MP1060-HA60 which has a drawing area of 10 x 6 inches.

Monoprice MP60-HA60 tablet and pen

Compared to the nearest equivalent from its more expensive competitors, it cost approximately ONE THIRD of the price!

Out of the box, It is supported by Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista and 7) and Mac OS X. Check the Monoprice website for exact system requirements.

The beauty of these cheaper brands is that they are clones of the UC-Logic range and so the drivers for them are easily available. People have reported problems when using them, but that is because you need to install the drivers in a specific way, removing ALL other graphics tablet drivers on your system before installing the drivers for the Monoprice unit. You must not plug the tablet in before you have installed the drivers, and neither should you plug it in until your system is fully booted and everything is loaded in. Another thing to be aware of is that you should always use the tablet to start your painting software. There are tutorials on the web telling you how to do all that i have mentioned, so get Googling, peeps!

These tablets have decent specs and perform admirably. To get the best from them, as with all other tablets, one must fine tune the tablet’s performance once you are up and running with it in your painting software of choice. Getting used to pen pressure sensitivity which affects the brush strokes is probably the main thing you need worry about to begin with.

The pen itself is battery powered, using one AAA battery (AAA is a British standard, so you’ll have to find out what the equivalent is in your country, though i an guessing that it will be called an LR03 AM-4 1.5v), and you should get around 5000 hours of use from a single battery.

Other accessories included with the tablet and pen are: 3 extra tips for the pen, a pen holder and a disc containing the drivers and bonus software. As far as i know, the bonus software is not compatible with Windows 7, so please be aware of this. You don’t need the bonus software anyway!

I nearly forgot to mention that the tablet itself has 8 programmable buttons on the left side, which is extremely useful! Okay, you got me! I did in fact forget to mention it and have had to come back to this blog and edit it *blush*

Another piece of software I’d like to steer you towards because it’s FREE and it’s EXCELLENT is Inkscape, a marvellous program used to make scalable vector graphics. Vector graphics can be re-sized without image quality loss, so it’s a great piece of software to have around. It is comparable to Adobe Illustrator and Xara X, and so there’s a steep learning curve, but it is well worth learning to use.

Source tarballs for GNU/Linux are available from the Inkscape website, but check your Linux distributor for ready made binary packages designed for your distro. Inkscape is successfully used on FreeBSD and other Unix-like operating systems. The packages for Windows XP/Vista/7 are available as a fully self-contained installer, but older Windows versions (98/ME and 2000) are no longer supported. Inkscape is also available for Mac OS X.

Check it out, get playing, and have lots of fun. Go on, get creating some masterpieces!

Inkscape, the fantastic open source, FREE scalable vector graphics program

Digital Painting On A Budget

Isn’t Adobe Photoshop just great? You bet it is! It’s the industry standard for most of the images you see all around you everywhere you go. Wouldn’t you just love to own it, or software very much like it, without having to fork over so much money for it, or having to resort to illegally downloading and installing a pirated version? Well, i’m here to tell you that you can have your photo manipulation cake and eat it!

Though it’s no big secret, I’d like to shout out to all who either have not used it or even heard of it before that there is a piece of software out there that is not only cross-platform, it’s FREE to use, and can be every bit as good as Photoshop! All it takes on your part is the time to learn to use it. There’s no money to hand over whatsoever. I’m talking about the GIMP.

Surely one can’t edit photos in this kind of gear!

No, not THAT kind of gimp! THIS kind of GIMP!


GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program, and at time of writing is in its v2.8.4 incarnation. You can use it for so many things: photographic manipulation and retouching, image authoring and even digital painting.

There’s a version for most of the popular operating systems too:

  • GNU/Linux
  • Microsoft Windows (XP/Vista)
  • Mac OS X
  • Sun OpenSolaris
  • FreeBSD

It is skin-able, so that you can make it look like Photoshop if you so wish, and you can use Photoshop plugins too with a little work, using the PSPI plugin or the Shellout python module which launches an external program so that you may use the Photoshop plugins you wish to use, making it a very versatile piece of kit to have!

“But it doesn’t have CMYK support!” I hear the die-hard Photoshop fans out there cry. Not a problem! You can perform a workaround to give you some CMYK support, giving you those deep blacks that you so desire.

The greatest thing about GIMP apart from it being freely distributable software is the community of users and developers who support the program and offer solutions to other GIMP users. There’s no shortage of GIMP forums and websites to peruse should you wish to find out how to perform a specific task.

It is far beyond thew scope of this blog to go into detail about all of the things GIMP is capable of. After all, i’m just a story writer and a hobby artist, not a software reviewer, but i can at least save you all a lot of money simply by pointing you in the direction of GIMP, which you can find at

And if you’re in the mood to be trying out 3D creations, and you’re still in the mood to be saving yourself a small fortune, then your choice just has to be Blender, another fantastic piece of software that is 100% FREE, works on 32-bit and also 64-bit systems and is supported on multiple platforms:

  • Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7)
  • Mac OS X (PPC and Intel)
  • GNU/Linux
  • FreeBSD

Blender is available for download from

Violet, created and rendered in Blender by Lucas Falcao

Go on – treat yourself to some great free software, get creative and have some fun!

You Probably Weren’t, But in Case You Were Wondering…


…The words that appear in the image that made up the original header on this blog are all taken from the first paragraph of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. I pasted the text into Wordle, then made a screen capture before pasting the image into GIMP (for Gnu/Linux) (GIMP for Windows can be found here) and cropping then saving the resulting image.