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The 10 Tools You Need to Become an Illustrator.
All the essential and non-essential tools you need to set up your home design studio as an illustrator.
Hello Creatives! My name is Ubon and I design and illustrate at TVP Games; a toy and game design company. Business of Play is the newsletter curated by team members at TVP Games. As we design games and build toys, we write about our insights here. Subscribe and share this newsletter to join a community of people who love creative work, design, toys and games, and want to get all up in the business of play.
There are plenty of opportunities in the creative space for Illustrators; you can work as an editorial cartoonist, product illustrator, comic and book illustrator, or even a game and toy illustrator like myself. Since you are getting ready to launch your career as an illustrator, this article will provide a guide to the 10 most important tools you need to begin. There are must-have tools and nice-to-have tools; these I refer to as primary and secondary tools respectively. You will need some capital (money) to start but it might not be as much as you think, initially. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 tools every illustrator needs to start up a smart home studio.
There are many reasons why people prefer Macs over PCs or PCs over Macs. However, all you need is a clear understanding of what each brand has to offer so you can choose which works best for you. If you don't have unlimited resources, you can start with any laptop that is available to you. In my case, I started as a freelance illustrator with a Windows PC which served me well and got the job done. Now, I use a MacBook Pro which gets my more complex jobs done. The biggest differences I see from both of them are:
Screen Display: The MacBook Pro does have a Retina display which helps enhance the color spectrum on most Apple computers. This is not available on some Windows PCs.
Cable Connector Ports: The Windows PCs tend to have more USB cable connector ports than most Apple computers.
Operating System response to User Experience on the Apple computers are quite efficient when compared to most Windows PCs.
Before you choose a laptop, consider the following:
Central Processing Unit (CPU) - This should be a Core i5 or greater. The CPU is the brain of the computer. You sure want your computer’s brain to function on a high-performance dual and quad processor, unlike the entry-level Core i3.
Random Access Memory (RAM) - You’ll need at least a 4GB RAM. Also, consider a readable and changeable storage space for your work.
Screen Size - The size of the screen is not so important (a secondary monitor can be added in the future) so a laptop with the previous specifications should not be neglected because of a small screen size.
Graphics Tablet (vs Mouse)
A $100 graphics tablet will serve you better than a $1000 mouse. Many creatives are at war over whether a mouse is better than a laptop trackpad, however, all the different camps can agree that a graphics tablet is better than either a mouse or a laptop trackpad. Many different brands can give you value for money, however the three most common brands used by illustrators are the:
XP-PEN New Deco Mini7
The Apple iPad is not a graphics tablet but offers similar features as those mentioned above.
Trust me, you do not want to work from your bed! At least, you need a table and chair to start your journey as an illustrator. I recommend that you invest in an office-style chair and table that allow you focus on your work without back pains or discomfort. You may have a whole room for this setup or just a corner of your bedroom. Whichever it is, ensure you have a dedicated workspace.
There are advantages and disadvantages to working from home as well as working from a co-working space. At home, you are more comfortable and can save on co-working space rental fees. Also, you have a lot more control of your time and space, and can exclude the commute from your routine. On the flip side, you could become too relaxed and might not be as disciplined as you should be. You don't want to end up on the bed when you should be illustrating.
While Coursera, Udemy and even Domestika are amazing platforms to learn how to use software and courses on illustrations and designs, YouTube is a well sophisticated platform to learn illustration tutorials in detail. I personally admire YouTube-Illustrators like Mohammed Agbadi, Cypher Den, Danica Sills, and even Tutvid. Their explanation techniques are quite unique and well detailed. You’ll also need digital software to work with. While platforms like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator seem to be recognized as industry standard, CorelDraw, Krita, and Manga Studio are all great tools too.
Even when resources are free to access; you still have to find the time to learn to use these tools and practice so you can learn which art styles you are comfortable with. It is one thing to have access to the tools and tutorials you need and it is another thing to practice them. Please, practice and practice and practice some more.
Yes, there are diverse communities online where you can build your skills and grow your network. However, it is important to have a specific person whose work you understudy, whose style you can learn from and who can provide constructive and useful feedback on your work. If you were intending to illustrate tomatoes, you want someone who can tell you that your tomatoes look like potatoes. Soon enough, you will become this mentor to someone else and the growth cycle continues.
A Daily Routine
There has to be a structure that drives you to get work done and helps you manage your time. In the early stages of your journey as an illustrator, you may not be motivated entirely by money as with any artform, it could take some time to become lucrative. However, it pays off later. You need to create a routine that allows you to study illustration and practice your drawings. You need to draw regularly, even when you don't feel like it. Your work may not be perfect but you'll be building your skills and you'll be preparing for jobs.
An external monitor can be added to your collection of tools for work later on for a wider view. This enhances your ability to zoom your drawing in and out to add details, and ensures you experience a good sitting posture.
The Apple iPad
This is quite an awesome tool every illustrator should consider purchasing, especially the iPad Pro series, or even the entry-level iPads. This is by far the best mobile office for illustrators and designers; very useful with the Apple Pencil and the Procreate app even as basic animation features have been added to the app.
You will need a large amount of internet to study illustration tutorials and art references and to share your work to the world. Share your work across your Social Media platforms, and you can also tag me @ufotubon on all social platforms to follow along with your progress.
If you would like to join our community of explorers, sign up for our weekly newsletter at TVP Games. Every week, we will share our design processes and our upcoming games and toys. You’ll be the first to hear about deals and steals. Every member of our team will contribute to this newsletter and you’ll also get a chance to tell us what you’d like to see us create.
TVP Games is the modern brand that designs games and puzzles for adults and children to discover the world. Our bold and creative games turn adults and children into global explorers and cultural discoverers. We are building the world’s most diverse community of people who explore the world through play.
Until next time, keep practicing,