The Best Graphic Tablets & Programs To Use If You Want To Break Into Digital Cartoon Design

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cartoon design softwareFor years the personal computer has become an essential tool in making comics. While some traditional artists use computers mostly for coloring, more and more artists are switching to a completely digital comic creation process. Using high-tech graphic tablets and state-of-the-art image editing software, a cartoonist can mimic (and even surpass) anything which can be done via traditional tools.

If you’re ready to make the leap and start drawing your cartoons digitally, you’ll need to make two major purchases – a graphic tablet and a graphics editing program. This article will review some of the more popular graphic tablets and software in the market, and in light of today’s economy, budget has become a more important factor than ever. So we’ll list options for the professional high-budget user, the average low-budget user, and the broke user.

Graphic Tablets

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The first thing a traditional cartoonist needs is pen and paper. Digital cartoonists, on the other hand, use graphic tablets. When it comes to graphic tablets, Wacom is the most dominant company, so we’ll use their products for our comparison.

The Professional Option

Intuos tablets cost several hundreds of dollars ($229 to almost $800, depending on their type), and are intended for professional artists doing advanced digital painting. If you’re even more serious and don’t have any budget limits, you can go for the Cintiq – any digital artist’s dream.

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The Cintiq enables you to work directly on an LCD display, allowing you to closely replicate any work style and technique an artist is used to applying using traditional tools. $1,000 would get you the most basic Cintiq, while the 24 inch display palette will cost you more than $2,500.

The Basic Option

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The cheapest option for a Wacom graphic tablet are the Bamboo family of Tablets. The Bamboo Connect for example costs less than $80, and serves as an entry level tablet, providing the basic needs of a beginning artist. It has a rather small work area and 1024 pen pressure levels, but it does the trick .

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A better alternative would be the Bamboo Create (costs less than $200) which comes with a larger work area, better suited for professional artists and designer. Both tablets come with basic drawing and photo editing software (such as Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter Essentials).

Totally Broke?

Get some cash. Seriously, if you thought I’d recommend to use a mouse, think again. Producing digital cartoons with a mouse is like eating a steak with a toothpick.

Graphics Editing Program

The graphics editing program is the software the cartoonist uses with a graphic tablet in order to draw on the computer. For the sake of simplicity we’ll focus on software that specify in producing 2D raster art.

The Professional Option

Photoshop CS 5 and Corel Painter 12 are two examples of powerful tools used by professionals in the comics industry. They come with a wide array of brushes, effects, and plug-ins that provide digital cartoonists with all the versatility they need to produce great cartoons.

Additional features include support of layered editing and masks, professional text editing for typographers, and more.

The Basic Option

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Photoshop Elements is targeted at hobbyist cartoonists and the occasional user. It’s sold at a fraction of what Photoshop sells at, and may be given as a freebie when purchasing certain graphic tablets. It doesn’t include many of the advanced features that Photoshop has, examples being – advanced selection and editing tools, advanced text editing, “Save for Web“, support for CMYK coloring (which is a printing industry standard), etc.

Totally Broke?

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GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a totally free, open source alternative to Photoshop . It works on all major operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, OS X), and is designed to work smoothly with Wacom tablets (although it’s recommended to do some online research before purchasing your tablet if you plan to work with GIMP).

GIMP offers most of the core functionality Photoshop offers (for 2D image editing), and is a true lifesaver for those of us who need basic functionality and want to save money.

Try Them Yourself

Why take my word on these image editing software when you can try them yourself for free?

Do you have suggestions for other graphic tablets or software? Are you a cartoon design artist who uses solely digital tools? Let us know in the comments section!

Image Credits : Adobe Elements, Wacom

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This article may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

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