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SERIES: My Favourite Art Supplies - Digital Art

This is the third and final entry in my favourite art supplies blog series!  Brace yourself because in this post I’m revealing my inner nerd and dishing my must-haves for digital artwork including iPad calligraphy, graphic design, and scanning.

I use many different tools for my work- from paintbrushes and calligraphy pens to graphic design programs, etc.  Depending on the project, I may only use a few materials in a one or two step process. Other times I use everything but the kitchen sink, taking several days, sometimes weeks to get the job done. I went to university for media studies with a major in photography. Much of my time was spent working with Adobe programs and learning to not be afraid of playing with technology. I think that in order to elevate a project to its full potential, especially in regard to wedding stationery, understanding forms of digital art creation is imperative. What do I mean by this? I’m asked frequently how I turn my calligraphy into a vector, or how I reproduce original art into multiple prints. These are very important parts of running a business with a focus on wedding stationery or art reproduction, and it would be difficult to complete these types of projects without the proper tools. 

I won’t be going over how I do digital artwork (I offer private lessons on digitizing artwork, more info here!) but rather the tools I use to get the job done… keep reading!

iPAD CALLIGRAPHY

Let’s start with the more popular topic- iPad calligraphy. Why do you need an iPad for calligraphy? You don’t, really.  It’s very possible to digitize calligraphy with a good quality scanner and some knowledge of Adobe programs. However, if you’re like me and require your calligraphy digitized on a regular basis, the iPad is a game changer. 

What I use:

If you’re confused about which iPads are compatible with the Apple Pencil, check out this article.

I have the 10.5” iPad Pro with the first generation pencil. I don’t use my iPad and Pencil for anything other than spot calligraphy so this size works perfect for me. You may want to consider a larger version if you appreciate a bigger screen with more surface area.

Again, I only use my iPad for spot calligraphy (individual calligraphed elements), more specifically for wedding stationery and the occasional graphic design or branding project. I find it much easier to perfect calligraphy elements on the iPad (vs. paper) because I can easily erase and redo them. Sometimes I even erase very small portions of a word or letterform and redo them (i.e. if my coffee shakes are apparent in an upstroke but the rest of the word is perfect, I’ll erase said upstroke and do it again).  These luxuries are non-existent with traditional paper and pen calligraphy.

Procreate is the app I use for calligraphy on the iPad.  It’s a really cool program at an extremely low price point (about $14). You can download different brushes (aka digital nibs and writing tools) from independent artists, Saffron Avenue and Isidore & Augstine are my favourites. You can also customize your brushes by setting your preferred pressure (stroke to weight ratio), automatic smoothing, etc. 

 

ADOBE PROGRAMS

This is where technology blows my mind. In modern graphic design, a vision is nothing without a technical program to bring it to life. Enter Adobe. I use both Photoshop and Illustrator on a daily basis, from wedding stationery and brand design to digital mockups for comprehensive commissions.

If you don’t already have these programs, please know it will be an investment of both your money and time (a worthy one at that). It’s a huge learning curve, somewhat like learning a new language. I have photography school to thank for my knowledge of Photoshop (four years of weekly 6 hour labs on editing techniques oughta do it), but my knowledge of Illustrator is completely self-taught. You don’t need a degree in design to call yourself a designer, just extra time on your hands to study Youtube videos LOL.

Photoshop and Illustrator are used for different things. Simply put, Photoshop is used for editing raster images (photos), and Illustrator is used for creating / manipulating vectors (graphics). I use both programs for most graphic design projects. For example, if I’m working with a wedding client on their invitation suite and the design includes a venue illustration, I’ll draw the illustration by hand, scan it, then bring it into Photoshop to remove the background and clean up the art.  From there I bring it into Illustrator, vectorize it, and insert it into their invitation design file. It’s a multi-step process and the programs often work in harmony.

SCANNING ARTWORK

If you’re making the jump to digitizing artwork, a decent scanner is imperative. I probably wouldn’t recommend the one built into your inkjet printer either. I use the Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner.

The key here is to find a scanner with the option of manually controlling the settings, particularly the resolution (or ‘dpi’ aka dots per inch). Most stand-alone scanners have a dialogue box that will open automatically upon starting a new scan.  This is generally where you can input your preferences. I scan my images at 600dpi, this gives me a really big file with high resolution, perfect for watercolour paintings or venue illustrations.

You don’t need to invest a lot on a scanner, don’t waste your money. Your best bet is to keep your receipts and try a few out, returning the ones you don’t like. The most important things are resolution and white balance (correct colour). The goal is to produce a scan as similar as possible to the original artwork.

 

There you have it, my must-haves for digital artwork. I barely scratched the surface here, there’s so much to learn. I just wanted to go over the tools I use and love. I know how valuable a good recommendation can be. I hope this helps you decide what pieces of equipment you need to take the next steps in your creative business. Nerds unite!