So you want to be a digital artist, and not just any digital artist, a creative and successful one whose designs sell and who can work full time from home? Over the next 12 weeks, I'll be compiling lists and tools that have helped me go from beginner to expert digital designer in just one year. I'll provide you with lists of sites to sell your work, do's and don'ts of marketing, and techniques for beginning designers.
Now, I've purchased many apps in the seven years I've been designing graphics and surface patterns, some apps that should probably never have existed in the world and some that absolutely blew my mind and made me say "take my money and my first born." So to save you the countless hours of your life and dollars I wasted on terrible iOS applications that should go back to the fiery hell in which they were created (ahem), I've compiled my top 12 favorite apps for you to try that will give your designs or blog a whole new look. These apps are all essentials in my designer toolbox and I use them all practically everyday. Now, I'm not saying that you won't eventually need to purchase the Adobe Creative Suite desktop applications like Illustrator, Photoshop or Lightroom. You will eventually need them, but I made a decent passive income off of Print on Demand (POD) sites for years without them until I wanted to take my designs to the next level and could no longer live without them. So if you're just starting out these are great and easy to use applications that won't make you tear your hair out or throw your coffee mug at your computer screen like I do on occasion (is that just me?...okey dokey).
This app is quintessential to my livelihood. This app is the Beyonce of design apps and will transform those drab pieces to fab in seconds. Here's how it works. You upload a picture that has a color palette you like and it changes your artwork to match the other image's color scheme! I've recolored so many pieces using this app. I'll even sell one design in various color schemes because I know each one markets to a different audience and taste.
Click on this link to view a tutorial on Color Thief by Cat Morris.
Adobe Sketch, Adobe Draw, Adobe Capture CC, Adobe Lightroom - Any Adobe Suite App
The Adobe apps will always be my hands down favorite. I would number them in order but with all the incredible apps that Adobe provides it would've taken up my entire top twelve list easily. While these apps don't replace the desktop apps, you can always send them to your desktop applications by using your creative cloud account. They're also linked to your Behance portfolio (get on Behance and share your work, it'll create more traffic to your work and can generate sales). Here are some perks of each individual app.
Adobe Capture allows you to create color palettes based off of pictures and us them in other adobe apps as well as on your desktop. It can create patterns using your artwork, You can customize brushes and create your own brushes for Adobe Sketch. Simply paint a brushstroke on paper and "capture" it through your camera lens in the adobe CC app and you can use that brush in any photoshop iOS or desktop app. It also allows you to create custom shapes based off of images you draw to trace over in Sketch or Draw.
Adobe Draw creates vector drawings. It's intention is to be like Adobe Illustrator. I wish they had more brushes like Adobe Sketch but it works well for creating layered drawings. I love the undo swipe left feature. I probably use that feature the most....I mess up a lot and I'm very particular so I love this feature more than drawing on actual paper with ink. I've actually transitioned from drawing on paper to solely using this app and it has saved me so much money on ink and pens. You can easily fill a shape by selecting on the inside area of a shape.
Adobe Sketch is more like drawing on paper. You can't fill shapes like in Adobe Draw but you get a larger variety of brush textures with this app.
I actually recolor a lot of my photographs and artworks in Adobe Lightroom. I love vibrant colors so this app allows me to fine tune the saturation, vibrancy, and clarity. I create a lot of abstract artwork and it helps enhance the texture on my paintings that may not show up when you first scan in your work.
Overall these apps are worth it because they're free and Adobe will always be the leader in design applications.
If there was an app that I would marry it would be this one. I just recently found this one a month ago and the first time I used it I did a happy dance so embarrassingly awesome I was sure my dog Louie was contemplating running away forever. I absolute love this app. It changes your artwork into Pop Art color schemes. Now not all of the color schemes work for my art, because some filters have intense color burn and pixelated textures, but it's great for photographs and watercolor works created in Adobe Sketch that can give your designs a whole new colorful and vibrant appearance. I often work on pieces and feel like "I hate that piece" and because I'm a perfectionist I use to throw away pieces I didn't like. DON'T DO THAT! Save all of your work because later down the road you'll use it or transform it or add to it, I promise. I'll often paint with random colors and recolor them through apps. It's saved me a lot of money in paint first of all, because I can just go into this app and recolor it to a theme I find more visually appealing or sellable.
For the longest time I didn't realize that if you clicked on a filter in UltraPop it actually provides a variety of styles to just one filter. It allows you to create a screen, hard light, multiply, color burn, color dodge, difference, exclusion, lighten, overlay, soft light filters. It's worth the money to upgrade and get all the filters. The color schemes are endless with this app and you'll never get bored with it.
Click on this link for a quick tutorial on Ultra Pop by AppLast Blog
Here are examples of my works before and after Ultra Pop.
Cost: Free but definitely worth purchasing all of the filter packs.
People! You need to watermark your work, especially if you plan to share it anywhere online. There is a huge problem with people stealing designs off the internet and POD sites and taking screen shots of your work and then selling them for way cheaper and crappier quality on Amazon. First of all you don't want people stealing your work, you worked hard for those designs and nobody deserves to profit off them except for you. Do not share any digital work unless it's watermarked, especially on social media. I once had someone I was friends with for years on Facebook selling my work and claiming it as theirs. We are no longer friendsies to say the least. Eventually we'll talk about how to market on social media but for now watermark everything or sign everything you! iWatermark provides a lower quality resolution to the image so even if someone did try to go in and photoshop your watermark out (which yes people do that....those little nasties) it'll deter them from reproducing the image at such poor quality and getting terrible reviews. It also allows you to create a custom made watermark with either text or graphics.
Click on this link for a tutorial by The DailyAppShow
If you're a beginner graphic designer then this is the perfect app for you. Also if you're terrible at drawing then you'll love this app. Wait....you don't have to know how to draw to be a graphic designer? Nope. You just have to have a basic understanding of layering shapes together to create larger images or texts. Designing is often more mathematical than having a surplus amount of creativity flowing through your veins. The Assembly app allows you take shapes from a provided list (and it's worth the 10 dollars to upgrade to get all the shapes!) and combine them to create logos, banners, patterns, words, etc. It's so easy to use, you just click on the shape you want and place it on the artboard and click on the link button to combine them. You can also unlink them if you want to go back in and edit the shape sizes, colors, etc. Here's a link to a tutorial on how to use the application.
Click on this link for a video recording of the Assembly app
Cost: Free but worth the $9.99 upgrade to get all the shapes.
I have yet to master this app probably because it's very simplistic and my brain doesn't work well with minimalism, however, I've seen some amazing tutorials and works created using this app and it's extremely easy to use. I've watched many tutorials on creating typographical works using Paper and they're stunning. Youtube has some bomb diggidy tutorials on how to create designs with Paper. It's also great for taking notes or creating quick sketches.
Click for a tutorial by The Digital Painter
Tayasui Sketches (GO PRO YOU WON'T REGRET IT!)
The best feature about this app are the brushes. The only way to control the amount of ink or paint int the brush, however, is to go pro so it's definitely worth the purchase to upgrade and get all the features. I love that you can paint or draw with textures. The calligraphy pen is beautiful and close to what I imagine writing with an old school ink well pen would be like. I also like that this app allows you to blend colors together or create new layers. It's definitely fun experimenting with the different brush styles. It also has a undo swipe left feature like Adobe Creative Suite Apps. Did I mention you can also download this app on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac?
Click here for a youtube tutorial by Karen Bosch
This is a great app for bloggers. You can't sell any designs that you create using this app because the templates and most of the fonts are all copyright of Rhonna Designs, however, if you need a blog header or to add text to image this is a great app because it provides high resolution images. You can also purchase packages with cute seasonal or holiday images. Rhonna is constantly updating the app with new features, texts, and graphics to use. My favorite feature is the gold glitter or gold foil overlays for text. You can change any color of the text or template, and create shadow outlines to make your text stand out from the background.
Click on the link for a tutorial by Kelli Alaina
It wasn't until about four years after I started designing that I was able to purchase my first scanner to upload my drawings. In the mean time I used the Scanner Pro app to upload either black and white pdf files or jpeg files to sketch or paint over them in other apps. While the Adobe CC app can do this same feature for capturing basic shapes, the scanner pro app captures more detail in your drawings or illustrations. If you ever need to scan a large image, you can always take it to a local Kinkos and get it scanned by a commercial scanner. However, for small projects that shouldn't cost you and arm and a leg to get scanned you can always use the Scanner Pro app. It also sends faxes, emails, and uploads files to your google drive.
Click on the link to view a tutorial by Readdle Live
I've recently been expanding my portfolio to include more geometric and abstract works. This app allows me to paint an image in another app and create a geometric design based on image below. There are more than 20 great texture filters on this application as well as it allows you to fine tune how large or small you want the geometric pattern or shape to be.
It's worth purchasing all of the extra filters and features on this app. Typically I use this to create geometric pillowcases to sell on Society 6. Once you do you'll be able to download 4K files (large file types with high resolution) of your work and transfer it to photoshop and resize for selling.
Click here for a quick tutorial by Martin Ivanov
This is a very popular app that I feel really deserves a trophy for bloggers and web designers. It provides a variety of templates that you can personally transform for your particular tastes. Whether it be for an instagram post, or a header for your blog, or social media header, it's completely free and worth your time to learn how to use it. It's so easy to use just by dragging and dropping items. Plus you can use it on a desktop and it always saves your designs. I created my business cards and all my social media graphics using Canva and even created a resume template which I sell (sell everything you create, just make sure you're not using copyright material, use your own designs, your graphics and revamp a template to make it your own and then make bookoos off it!). It's such an awesome app that even businesses are requesting that social media specialists on indeed.com know how to use this app. So think of it as an investment in your future, because you could potentially get hired to do someone else's graphics for their blog or website one day. It's like InDesign for beginners.
Free Tutorial by Canva here!
Cost: Free for simple version or $1.99 to go pro. I just use the free version.
Texture!! Exclamation point, exclamation point! Seriously, this app is great for overlaying paint like textures to images. I've hand painted images in Adobe Sketch and then export my image to glaze to experiment with textures. It adds a little something extra to your designs to make them appear more three dimensional. I wouldn't recommend going pro on this one unless your focus is abstract works. The simple free filters should do just fine for adding simple textures. I love any artwork that has such intense texture it makes you feel like you want to eat it. This app will make you hungry for your works.
Click here for a quick video tutorial by Gilles Dezuestre
Enjoyed this read? Leave a comment or question below. Stay tuned for my next blog post. Top 12 Sites to sell your Designs and Make A Full Time Passive Income.
About the Author
Lisa Guen Raymond is a former professional theatrical designer and teacher located in the state of Texas. She has a passion for art and education. The Purpose of this blog is to educate others about new and trending mediums in art, illustration, and graphic design.