Written by @Julia_V
As technology advances, digital paintings, drawings, and illustrations are becoming more common. Personally, I’ve been working with digital art for 6 years and have developed a deep love for it, thanks in no small part to its versatility and accessibility. Traditional art materials can be very expensive, and not everybody will have the space for it. During the pandemic, I lost access to the painting studio at my university and did not have the space to set one up at home. That was when I picked up digital painting and used my iPad to finish my painting projects. To this day, digital drawing and painting continue to be one of my favorite ways of creating art.
To help others get started in digital art – or just improve your studio! - I compiled a wide range of electronics, from computers to peripherals, that can be used for digital art. Whether you are just starting out, or thinking about going professional–there is something for you at Micro Center!
To get started, you would need a computer or a tablet to run your preferred digital art program. The system options are extremely flexible when it comes to illustration: it can be either Windows or Mac, and the tablet can be either Apple or Android. All illustration programs have one basic thing in common–they mimic traditional sketching and painting in a digital format.
When sketching with pen and paper, artists can create different line weights and shading depending on how much pressure is put on the tip of the pencil. This is exactly why artists need a device that captures pen pressure well. A device that has many levels of pen pressure will help us more accurately capture different increments of force. Artists can do so either with a drawing tablet such as the Wacom Intuos Pro Drawing Tablet, or a standalone device – like a tablet - that artists can draw on. A drawing tablet is a peripheral that you can connect to any computer, similar to a mouse or a keyboard. Some drawing tablets are larger, and some smaller; some even come in the form of an external display that you can draw on. Standalone devices, on the other hand, usually have that pressure-capturing feature built in and all that is needed is a compatible pen.
Another important consideration when it comes to a drawing device is the quality of the monitor in which you are viewing the artwork on. The specs to focus on for the screen are color accuracy, brightness, and resolution. Color accuracy refers to how closely the monitor can replicate certain colors in a defined color space, such as sRGB or DCI-P3. These color spaces are used in different applications, such as web, film, or games. Monitors with higher brightness allow colors to pop even in sunny environments, and this spec is measured in nits (cd/m2). Last but not least, higher resolutions, such as 4K or 2K, will allow images and text to look sharper and clearer.
The best value option for entry level digital illustration is the Apple iPad 10.2 inch (9th Generation) with minimum 256GB of storage. This model of iPad comes in two colors, Space Gray and Silver. Featuring a 10.2” 2160 x 1620 glossy, 500 nits, IPS display, and 260 pixels per inch, anything you do will look crisp and sharp. The iPad has an amazing sRGB color gamut at 105.3%, making it ideal for content creation. With Apple True Tone, the colors on the display automatically adjust based on your environmental lighting, allowing the colors to stay accurate in direct sunlight or indoors. Not to mention, its battery life is also over 10 hours, allowing you to make sketches anywhere, any time. The iPad is compatible with the 1st Generation Apple Pencil, which uses the same lighting charger as the iPad itself. The iOS exclusive app, Procreate, is one of the most streamlined and feature-rich digital illustration platforms I have ever used. Personally, I purchased my iPad just to use this drawing app. Since it’s extremely portable and easy to use, it’s basically a digital sketchbook on-the-go.
If you’re looking to step your digital art up a notch, I highly recommend the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 inch (6th Generation). Not only can it be used as an amazing illustrating tool, it can almost be qualified as a laptop replacement because of how powerful it is. With a brand-new Apple M2 8-Core CPU, the iPad Pro is incredibly fast and power efficient. The Pro offers storage capacity up to 512GB, and also features Wi-Fi 6 and 5G connectivity. For our illustrator purposes, the 5G is optional, but nice to have in case you want to search up references online, on-the-go.
What truly makes the iPad Pro shine is its incredible display. This is a 2732 x 2048 Mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR Display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 600 nits brightness. Unique to the iPad Pro, these displays also support DCI-P3 color gamut. The display is also capable of reaching much higher brightness levels in HDR content, making it great for both creating and reviewing content.
The other big art feature is the improved Apple Pencil support. The second-generation Apple Pencil connects magnetically and charges through the side of the iPad wirelessly, making it easy to transport around. This model also introduces ‘hover over’ sensing, which is a massive quality of life improvement over the older generations. When the pencil is held close to the screen, there is a dot that appears right under the tip, showing you exactly where your mark starts.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is a great Windows-based laptop that can act as a drawing tablet and your daily driver, all-in-one. Micro Center carries a few configurations of this laptop, with varying amounts of power, storage, and memory. The screen on the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is a 3:2, 14-inch display at 2K resolution at 120 Hz. Using the sRGB color space, this laptop screen is bright, vivid, and accurate. I love that you can use the laptop in many different ergonomic configurations, especially as it can lay flat and draw on the display directly. For the pen, we want to pair the Surface Slim Pen 2 with this machine. Not only will it magnetically attach and charge on the side, it’s also equipped with improved pressure sensitivity over its predecessor.
Depending on how you plan on using the laptop, there are two amazing configurations for digital art. For on-the-go sketching and 2D illustration rendering, I recommend the model with the Intel Core i5 Processor, 16GB memory, and 512 GB of Solid State Storage. This particular model does not come with a discrete video card, allowing for better battery life. I also like that it comes with plenty of storage and memory for digital art applications.
For the artists that also use 3D software for their workflow, or would also like to game on the machine, I recommend the model with the i7 processor, 16GB of memory, 512 GB of storage, and an NVIDIA 3050 Ti. The discrete graphics card will massively improve the performance of 3D applications, and allow modern games to run smoothly on the laptop.
When it’s time to present artwork to a physical audience, a good-quality photo printer is crucial. While there are a wide range of color printers, artists do want something that can print excellent photographs. These photo printers typically take more than your standard cyan, magenta, yellow, and black cartridges, and have additional colors such as gray and red.
One of my favorite Inkjet Wide-Format printers is the Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000. Printing up to 13” x 44”, it takes more than 10 types of photo paper, and even CDs/DVDs. This is one of the photo printers that use a 6-cartridge printing system, making those vivid colors shine on paper. Simply connect the printer to your network, and print from any computer, smartphone, or tablet.
We also offer professional-grade machines for exhibition-quality prints from the convenience of your own PC. The Epson SureColor P9000 is an outstanding 17-inch photo printer capable of printing wide-format, which means it can handle images and artwork up to 17 by 22 inches, and even banners that are up to 129 inches long. The P900 uses a 10-cartridge system that accurately reproduces colors with excellent print-quality. There is also the slightly smaller 13-inch Epson SureColor P700 which has the same print quality as the P900, and a great choice if there is a space restraint.
For digital art, we are mainly looking for monitors that have good panels, high resolution, and great color accuracy. Personally, I prefer a flat panel for illustration as most high-quality flat screen monitors use an IPS panel and have great viewing angles. Also, because 2D prints are, well, flat. There are definitely also some curved and/or ultrawide monitors that will serve the same purpose as well, such as the QD-OLED Alienware AW3423DW. The following monitors are especially great for digital art, but also great for everyday use.
Acer is known for making great products with amazing value. The V277U monitor is a 2K, 27-inch monitor with an IPS panel. Not only is it one of the best 2K monitors with great color accuracy with 100% sRGB, it’s also a great deal. While the stand that comes with the monitor isn’t adjustable, it is VESA compatible and can be mounted on a stand or an arm.
The ASUS ProArt PA279CV is designed for creators. Pre-calibrated out of the box, everything from the aesthetics to the specs of this display fits the digital artist. This monitor comes with a 4K IPS panel with 100% sRGB and many other display presets to choose from. In addition to the two HDMI ports and the DisplayPort, the monitor is Type-C power delivery compatible, which means users with a Type-C laptop charger can use the monitor to charge their laptop and output display at the same time. There is also a USB 3.1 Hub built into the monitor as well, along with on-board speakers.
I love that the stand on this monitor is adjustable and has a streamlined silver look to it. The ruler running through the bottom of the monitor bezel gives the monitor a professional aesthetic as well.
For the best monitor, I picked the Dell UltraSharp U3223QE 4K monitor. This is probably one of the most feature-rich productivity monitors that I have seen, with features such as Picture by Picture, a built-in KVM switch, and the ability to daisy-chain multiple of these monitors together. The ports include five USB 3.1 Type-A ports, two USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI, two DisplayPorts, audio jack, and even an Ethernet port. Most importantly, the monitor features a 4K IPS display at 400 nits brightness at 100% sRGB and 98% DCI-P3. Most consumer grade monitors do not have great DCI-P3 color gamut, as it is usually used in professional film industries. This just goes to show how incredible this display is. The Dell Ultrasharp is also one of the monitors that has true 10-Bit color. As a nice bonus, the stand on the U3223QE is fully adjustable and has great ergonomics.
We do carry a wide range of drawing tablets, but my favorite one has got to be the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium Tablet. The active area is close to 9” x 6”, and there are also programmable dials and buttons on the side. An incredible 8192 levels of pen pressure allows for precise control in various parameters such as line weight, transparency, and many more. A pen stand is included with the tablet, which also contains 6 standard nibs and 4 Felt nibs. This drawing tablet is universally compatible with any illustration application, and works great as an addition to your existing set up. Coming from an older Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet, this was a massive upgrade to my digital studio.
Thanks for sharing!
Something I like to do, and is supported really well on the Mac, especially in Illustrator if you don't want to do the stylus and pad is I will get a Magic Trackpad for my left hand and use my mouse with the right, Illustrator is set up so that you can use the track pad to pinch zoom, and scroll while using your mouse to pick and click. It is to great for maneuvering around a large drawing. I wish Windows supported this a little better.
This is amazing!
this is a great listing definitely learned something new
I think the new Surface laptop Studio design is smart and convenient.
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