Written by @Vaganza
As a designer, I often work with some very powerful systems. These systems could be solid gaming systems, but they often require some additional, specialized hardware to interface with specific tools, both of the hardware and software variety. These requirements, on top of the need for a powerful creative machine, can make it daunting for the working creative to build a professional machine. In light of that, I’ve pulled together a parts list for two machines great for digital art: one top-of-the-line and one a bit more accessible. Both are based on the gorgeous North case from Fractal, designed to feel right at home in a professional setting.
Let’s dig into it!
I first want to talk about the aesthetics of the build and the case directly ties into that. For my studio, I have a clean desk with a couple ultra-wide displays, and so I want that case to look clean and sharp. Currently, the Fractal Design North has a look and feel we have not seen in a while, and it harkens back to the clean lines and warm materials used during the Mid-Century Modern designed houses in the 40s-70s. The black case, with gold trim and real walnut slats on the front’s air intakes, use a pair of 140 mm intake fans and, despite looking compact, the case can accommodate an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 video card with ease. The inspiration for the case fits beautifully with the ASUS ProArt Motherboard and Video card I have selected here as well - black with gold accents. I’ve been itching to put all these components together.
For this build out, I was looking for a board that has not only the latest and fastest chipsets, SSD interfaces, and RAM speeds supported, but I was looking for that one aspect that you don’t typically find in a gamer board: the Thunderbolt 4 port. This is used heavily by designers to interface with a myriad of specialized storage devices, CNC machines, and MIDI Controllers. The Thunderbolt 4 not only supports data transfer speeds of 40 Gbps, but gives you USB 3, DisplayPort, HDMI, High Speed charging, and multiple 4K display support from a single interface. In my personal case, it would be to plug into an external RAID drive array. To match all those requirements, I opted for the ASUS Z790-Creator ProArt Wi-Fi.
Design applications are optimized for lots of CPU cores, so to match with the ProArt Pro model, I went to the Intel 13900K. This will give you plenty of processing power to use. If you need to, you can even create Virtual Machines with ease. Capping it all off is 64 GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR5 RAM.
Large and fast storage is a must if you do not have access to vast amounts of external storage. Thankfully the pricing of NVMe onboard storage is getting to be so competitive, making it easy to pick a 2 TB Samsung 990 Pro drive for storage of things like the OS and applications. I’ve also added a nicely priced Inland 8TB secondary drive in a second NVMe slot for scratch space when working with video editing or rendering. I have found the Inland SSD to be very good drives and carry the awesome Micro Center lifetime warranty.
In keeping with the look while getting great performance I opted for an ASUS ProArt Nvidia 4080. This card will support multiple monitors and give great performance for advanced Revit, AutoCAD, and Illustrator work. Less lag leads to more production!
Take a look at the ASUS TUF line of power supplies! The cables are very attractive sleeved cables that you used to only be able to find as aftermarket accessories that cost an arm and a leg. Now you get performance and style without overspending. It also has the dedicated 12 pin video card connection, a must for this build. 850 watts is perfect for this build.
Part of the theme is keeping the RGB to a minimum, but I did opt for an NZXT Kraken Z53 so that I can keep tabs on system performance using the LCD screen on the pump. The North supports up to 280mm fans and/or radiator, and the Z53 uses the full 280mm. Things will look nice and tight in there, but the case will have no issue supporting it. It’s a great CPU cooler with and the monitoring tools are just the icing on the cake.
When all said and done this system checks in at around $4,500, but will meet the needs of heavy, specialized design work. But I also know that a build this robust is not going to be necessary for all digital artists. With that in mind, I also pulled together an alternative parts list that keeps the same spirit and design motif but shows off more of the ProArt Line. I’ve made some adjustments to get the cost to nearly half while providing an attractive system that meets the needs of photo editing, CAD work, and graphic design.
With this one I wanted something that was in the roughly $2,500 range, which is still pretty beefy for a “work PC” but wanted to feature some of the rest of the line. Rather than dive deep into each piece of this build, this is more of a low-cost reflection of the Pro, so we’ll refer to that for more thorough explanations. We’re going to keep the case and power supply as is but step down the following components.
This motherboard uses DDR4 memory and lacks the built-in Wi-Fi and Thunderbolt 4 connection but will provide a great basis for a more budget-focused build.
The 13700K is still a very capable CPU that offers overclocking. While it does not have the same core/thread count of its older sibling, it can still handle visual work with aplomb.
32Gb of DDR4 RAM should be more than enough for any work you may need. But if its not, you can easily double it to 64GB.
Here I cut the size of both drives in half, still leaving plenty of storage but without as steep of a cost. Of course, you still have all sorts of SATA options. The case will support four 3.5-inch Platter drives, or six 2.5-inch SATA SSD, or any combination therein.
A small step down from the 4080, the 4070 Ti is still one of the most powerful current-gen cards on the market. Unless you’re really pushing the art envelope, this should work great!
I’ve opted for air cooling here, as it will save you some money on your build and still perform admirably. I also wanted to mention the new Lian Li UniFan P28, which link up to four fans together but without RGB. The P28s move up to 92 CFM (cubic feet per minute), achieving static pressure of 4.79 (MMH2O) compared to 58.54 CFM and 2.64 (MMH2O) of similar fans. That’s a big difference, especially when you’re pushing your build to its limits while creating!
ASUS does also make AMD versions of the ProArt line, with support for the AM4 and AM5 line of CPUs, if you prefer AMD. To fill out any build, they also offer several displays, mice, keyboards and even some highly specialized 14” Ultrawide Multi-Touch displays that can be added to your system as a form of drawing tablet, whether you use your fingers or a stylus. The ProArt series is one of it’s fastest growing new lines with a focus on performance for digital artists, and including them in your build can help elevate it – and your art! – to the next level.
I did actually build a couple Elementals for sale in the Sharonville Store.
I really love how the ProArt GPUs look. I'll be using one for my next build, whenever that is :)
ooh, i like the ProArt GPU!
Sleek design and it would match perfectly with a nice ProArt Monitor!
This is like an actual dream build of mine. I have the ProArt X570 myself and I Cannot Emphasize how much I love it.
What monitor are you using with this build?
Great looking build and certainly an interesting looking case.
Nice. Both of these builds look great.
I mean, Asus does make a ProArt display too.
I thought it looked great too
the case for the proart is nice and love the wooden finish to it
i really like this build
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