I first fell in love with digital art about 5 years ago, after being taught basic Photoshop in university. For many years, I had noodled around with watercolour painting and sketches, but rarely had time to indulge. I have used Photoshop now, along with Illustrator to create digital art since. If I am honest, I rarely miss the analogue fuss of conventional painting.
When I needed to upgrade my technology earlier this year, I decided to invest in a 2 in 1 tablet-style Windows PC. Portability was a priority for me and the model I had chosen had an active stylus. This meant I would be able to paint on a screen for the first time. I have used a gaming mouse to create all of my digital art, up until recently. Excited at the prospect of being able to paint with a stylus and my new buddy firmly on my lap, I began my adventure.
Whilst I knew I could install Photoshop on my tablet, I decided I wanted to first explore other options, freeware shaped ones. There are a few out there, but in my humble opinion, only one program stood out for me. Krita is a digital art program, which despite the fact that you can download it for free, is incredibly powerful, exceptionally user-friendly and highly customisable.
I installed the program, vanilla style – no add-ons or packages. I hesitantly opened up a canvas, expecting frustration. The clean user interface and attention to detail assured, that I felt comfortable immediately. I was so at home that I made my first task setting up the desktop (or workplace as Krita calls it) the way I like it. That dear reader is how you know I am fully immersed in a program and smitten. After a few minutes I already know, I will be back for more.
I did the usual playing around with the standard brushes and found a few features hidden. I then realised I had to configure my stylus to work with pressure sensitivity. Upon slaying the dragon, the fun could start. I thought to myself “What the hell, you have that sketch you did of those crazy buildings from your imagination, why not start with those? That’ll put this to the test.” So that is where my love affair with Krita truly began.
I found Photoshop style, keyboard shortcuts were already pre-programmed into Krita and that you could add your own. As someone, who has previously used these tools extensively for digital art, this made things a lot easier for me to switch over. Let’s talk about the stabilisation tools for the brush for just a moment. My new screen is as slippery as heck, quite different from drawing on paper. In short, it made my ink outlines look wiggly. I knew practice would ensure better results, but darn it, I wanted outlines now! The stabilisation tool has incremental settings from “hurricane hands” (not real setting name) down to “leave my damn lines alone”. Being able to switch between these settings with my new shortcuts, meant I was soon able to get on to the fun task of painting.
There are not as many paint brushes available for Krita as for Photoshop, but those which are available are easily downloaded and installed directly from the main site. I installed all the ones I liked and began painting. This is where using a stylus comes in handy. The handy right-click menu which you can customise to always have your favourite brush set, along with the ability to change almost everything about any brush selected, meant I was quickly able to achieve layers of fine detail in my work.
The Krita documents available online answered many of my questions. Members of the Krita community also kindly resolved many of my queries. All I had to do was ask for help on social media using the #Krita hashtag. This community of artists has been so welcoming to me, very patient and most helpful. I used social media to reach out to others, asking questions, posting screenshots and updates using the Krita hashtag. I have found inspiration and online kinship with other artists all using this impressive open source program. We all have our different styles, abilities and inspirations but we all share a love for Krita, which unites us.
Those interested in trying Krita for themselves can visit their site to find out more. Like what you see and would like to support the programmers? You can donate directly on the site or pay for a download of the same program from the Windows store.
If you would like to see how this art project finally pans out, you can find me under LozMac or Loz Mac on Redbubble, Design by Humans, Society6, Art Wow & Teepublic. You can also follow my art progress on Instagram under the username lozmac_.