Advice and answers from the CG Cookie Team

The simple answer is no. 

But let's dive further into this topic and explore the optional softwares available for digital painting and what the pros and cons are. This is a question we are asked many times and the final answer to this comes down to what YOU are looking for as an artist. Is this something that you are pursuing as your future career or is this a leisure hobby that you pick up from time to time? Either way, these are good questions to ask yourself to make sure this is worth it for you!

So to start off, let's look at the pros of working with Photoshop.

It's the most used in the industry, hands down. Most game, animation, and studio companies are working within Photoshop and it's easier to work on files back and fourth when using the same software.

  • Adobe is constantly working to add features and tools for Photoshop that make it cutting edge to the industry we work in. And you can feel comfortable knowing that you can typically receive support from them within a short amount of time because of how large they are.
  • It's incredibly adaptable. If you can learn Photoshop and have a pretty solid understanding of how to navigate, edit settings, and find tools, every software is laid out in a similar fashion so you can definitely adapt to others.
  • You hear it often, but each software has a certain "feel" and with Photoshop it's typically referred to as smooth and efficient. This can be bias as I feel most at home within it but I've used other softwares before and I also enjoy using those but I have always come back to Photoshop because of that familiarity and reliability.

Now let's look at the cons of working with Photoshop.

  • It's expensive compared to most. This is the number one reason I hear people leaving the software and moving to cheaper, more accessible softwares. This doesn't mean they are less than, but you can definitely tell there are notable differences, mainly with the amount of features available.
  • If you consider yourself more of a hobbyist, than starting with one of the free digital painting softwares may be a good place to start and see if this is something you would considering pursuing further.
  • While it's considered a great program for digital painters, if you're looking for a software that best emulates traditional mediums than a software such as Coral Painter would probably be more to your liking. Same goes for those more interested in smooth, solid outlines, a software such as Paint Tool Sai may be better suited for you as it has a "smoothing" option for your brush strokes.

It's always best to experiment with a few different softwares to know what is the best fit for you as an artist. Photoshop generally is a great software all around and if you are willing to pay the cost, I believe it would be worth your while.

- Tim Von Ruden, Concept Artist CG Cookie

In Conclusion

Do you have to use Photoshop? Absolutely not. But for any inspiring artist, would I recommend it? Absolutely.

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