Thursday, March 31, 2016

Moving Away from Photoshop.

I've been focusing on cutting my dependance on all things Adobe lately.  There's no big reason for it, I own a legal copy of Photoshop CS2, and nothing big has happened to make me hate them, I just wanted to be done.  Adobe has a mindset about their software that I'm not fond of, a focus on large businesses while excluding the real needs of the individual consumer that I think has caused so much of the rampant pirating I've seen.  Add to that the surprisingly bad integration of tablet usage when compared to just about any other art program and I just felt like they weren't the type of company I wanted to support.  Plus I have a new computer and installing a legitimate copy of Photoshop on anything is a hassle.  I wonder how many people have actually bought the program then just used the pirated version so they didn't have to deal with that?  I did on my last computer.

For this one, though, I decided to do something a little different.  I decided to be brave and just ditch Photoshop altogether and see how long I can last.  Kind of force myself to finally learn how to properly use GIMP.  So far I've been alright.  I've found that because of the lack of Photoshop I've been using more specialized programs.  In some ways that's good, those programs are more powerful at that one thing because of the specialization, but in other ways it's not as good because of the fragmented workflow and need to have multiple programs to do one project.  It's a completely fair trade off, in my opinion neither one has an advantage over the other, they're just different.  For me, I'm sad to lose my workflow but it's worth it to me.  With this setup I can do everything I need with completely free software.  That makes me feel a little more secure, especially since I lost some very expensive software when I lost my last computer.  No online backup, no record of my purchase, no key, can't find the CD, I'm just out of luck on that one. :(

Here's the programs I've been using:


Krita - Krita is to Painter what GIMP is to Photoshop.  It's set up a lot like Blender, free, and open to outside developers, but they run kickstarters and sell tutorial materials to pay for development costs.  It's really quite powerful and has this canvas wrap feature that I adore.  It also has more random crashes than I care for, so save very often.  Overall I am a fan.  It's pretty useless for pixel art though, there is a way to use Krita to get pixel perfect results, but it's not designed for it at all so it's a bit like swimming upstream.  It's better to use Krita for painting and leave the pixels to a different program.  I don't do a lot of painting so I haven't used Krita very much, and I haven't yet actually watched any tutorials or anything so I've barely scratched the surface of what Krita is really like.  What I know so far is that it's built with artists in mind (unlike most free software) and is highly customizable.  I use it to paint seamless autotiles.

GIMP - Truth be told, I don't like GIMP very much.  It's so very clunky!  Everything is hidden behind menus and the stuff that has easy to use buttons is pretty useless, it keeps deleting my preferences so I have to keep re-mapping the key commands, and the way it handles layers is extremely frustrating!  It is, however, very powerful.  I've been able to do most things that I used to do on Photoshop in GIMP, thought it is slower.  Because of the way GIMP works I only use it for editing, unlike with Photoshop where I would do most of my work in it.

Inkscape - So we've got a replacement for Photoshop and Painter, but what about Illustrator? That's where Inkscape comes in.  It's not as huge or featured as Illustrator, but if you just want to make some vector art, this is a great program.  I don't use it often, usually just for logos, but it's my go to program for vector art.  It's intuitive to use if you've ever done vector before.  I don't think I'll ever need a help file or tutorial to get this to work the way I want.  Between this and CSP I'm not missing Photoshop's vector tools.

Blender - This doesn't have anything to do with Photoshop but it is part of my work, so I'm putting it in here.  It looks like it can be used as a replacement for Premiere if you want to do simple video editing.  I'll be using it for (once I've learned it) making buildings for backgrounds, which I'll render as line art to color in a separate program.  In some cases it'll be faster to just draw the buildings, but I'm not very good at perspective, I don't like tracing pictures, and my perfectionism requires things like doors being the actual height of a real door and crazy stuff like that which gets really difficult to calculate the traditional way.  I used to use Sketchup for this, but with the change of licensing this may not be legal with the free version.  I don't know, the licensing for Sketchup was always confusing.  I may also end up using this instead of Spriter or Spline for simple 2D animation, since there's a free plugin for that sort of thing.

Tiled -  My art is on the front page, and that's really bizarre to me.  This isn't actually an art program, but it is very useful in creating art.  Tiled is a software for creating maps from tile based images.  I've found it a fantastic way to test out the functionality of my tiles as I work.  I have never managed to figure out how to use the autotile functions but I can make some really amazing maps with it.  I used it much more often before I discovered Pyxel Edit, now I just use it with tiles that Pyxel Edit doesn't support like iso or painted stuff.

Worth the Cost:

Clip Studio Paint - I use CSP for all the drawing things I used to do in Photoshop.  Since it's built for drawing instead of editing, there are a lot of tools that have no equivalent in Photoshop.  Just look at their page and you'll see.  It's highly useful.  The latest version even has limited animation support!  If I understand correctly it's the latest in what used to be called Manga Studio.  The Pro version is only $50, so if you're serious about drawing on the computer, especially if you're doing something that starts with line art, I recommend getting this program.

Pyxel Edit - This is my pixel software of choice.  Sadly it's Windows only and dependant on Adobe Air.  I'm a bit of a fangirl of this one because of just how easy it makes creating tiles.  Other pixel programs are better for things like animation or background painting, but this one suits my work style perfectly.  Before I found this program I had a long and overly complicated process for checking the tiles for seams in Photoshop, but it took forever, was very frustrating, and there was no real time way to check my work.  Pyxel Edit not only lets see how it tiles and draw on it at the same time, but it has integrated mapping.  You're basically drawing your mockup and getting seamless tiles.  This is the absolute best way to make tiles, it cut my tile creation time in half.  It also has stuff for animation, although those tools aren't as extensive as they are in other programs.  It's only $9, so I recommend it to everyone who wants to do pixel art, especially if they're doing anything with tiles.

If, for some reason, you can't afford $9, there is beta version available for free (left corner of the Get page).  The beta is extremely buggy, missing features, and crashes often, but the main things are there and even at it's buggiest it still makes things faster and easier.

Free alternatives:

MediBang Paint - Alternative to CSP.  I haven't tried this one out, but since it's possible to use it on smartphones I will be soon.  Another possibility is JugiPaint.  Both look like they were made specifically to work like CSP.  I'll see about updating this post once I've tried it them out.

Grafx2 - There is no real alternative to Pyxel Edit.  If, however, you're doing something different and want just one a good all around pixel editor, I suggest Grafx2.  I don't personally use it because I like the paid programs better, but I have tried it out.  It's got some nice palette control options and is the best of the free pixel options.  It is soooo much better than Microsoft Paint.  Don't use Paint.  Please don't.  However, if you're just doing pixel animation, then Graphics Gale is the one to use.  There's a paid version but the free one works just fine for most things.

My opinion on Expensive alternatives:

Painter - Alternative: Krita.  This is the software that I lost in my computer's death.  If I could get it back again I would be using it, because it's really powerful.  The brushes worked a little better out of the box (you can get Krita to do exactly the same things, but it requires some tweaking first) and it had some fun, if gimmicky, tools, like stuff to draw with multiple mirrors.  I've never painted traditionally and have worked on the computer for a long time, so some things weren't intuitive to me where they would be with a traditional artist.  Still, I miss it.

Photoshop - Alternative: GIMP. As much as I'm trying to get away from it, this is the best software for editing.  Crashes are extremely rare, things work the way you expect them to, there are lots of tools to streamline your workflow, it's just a solid program.  If I could get it for cheaper, like $150 for the latest version or something I would still use it.  Don't talk to me about the subscription service, I am really not a fan in the slightest.  I want to own a program, not rent it.

Illustrator - Alternative: Inkscape.  I'll be honest, I haven't really looked into Illustrator since college.  The latest version is probably even more awesome.  I have no idea.  What I do remember is that, like Photoshop, it was very powerful and had a lot of tools to help with workflow.  If you're doing something that uses vectors all the time then it's probably worth it.

Maya - Alternative: Blender.  I've never tried it, but this is the current industry standard.  I don't know anything about Maya VS Blender, but I do know that Blender artists are looked down on by the modeling community.  I don't know if Blender is inferior software or if the reaction is just the cheap/free stigma that you get sometimes from the people who paid a bunch and think that makes them better somehow.  It's $185 for a year!  Too rich for me!  Maybe I'll download the demo someday and just test it out, but I won't ever be buying this.  I'm a low poly, painted texture sort of person, I don't think Maya will ever be software that I'll need.

There is no alternative to Tiled.  It is the best and it is free.

Pro Motion - Alternative: Pyxel Edit.  I do own this, but since it's a Steam version, I've never really used it, it's not installed on my art computer.  I don't want a wrapper just to run a program, thank you! (I got it in a Humble Bundle.)  It's supposed to be able to do the same things that Pyxel Edit and Graphics Gale do and then some, but I can't figure out how.  Not intuitive, not recommended.

So, what do you guys think?  Are you a Photoshop fan and will stick with them forever?  Wanting to ditch it, but not sure how?  Maybe you have other alternative programs that you prefer more?  I'd sure like to know about it!


  1. Nooo! You don't like GIMP. *sob*

    Honestly, you are right, they are very behind when it comes to layer organization. I just forget that because I've never used anything else.

    Would Photoshop Elements work? I know it doesn't fit the "free" criteria (looks like version 14 is $70 on Amazon & a free trial at the adobe site). Having no experience with PS at all, I don't know if Elements would have the features you need, but I bet they have the better layer handling.

    Please let me know if you find something better than GIMP.

    1. It's completely functional in all the ways I need it to be, it's just not as good. It drives me crazy when I try to paste something into an image and have to add a new layer then merge it down just because the stupid layer was too small. I do like the way you can adjust selections as you're selecting things though, it's useful.

      Elements is just slightly too stripped for me, it takes out some things that I use regularly. I'm okay though, GIMP is good enough, and if I ever really get sick of it I'll just bust out my copy of CS2.