Using software for artwork, crafts and design

Where application meets art

In two of my last post about my projects during my leave and CAD pattern drafting using Valentina I told you about some software I use for CAD and drawings. As the use of software requires a bit of technical details especially when it comes to CAD I thougt I would like to give you an overview which software I use for what purpose.

First of all let me tell you a bit about my hardware. I used to have a Mac since I decided to study design and were interested in graphics. I still would use a Mac because they are best for all creative workflows. But as they are quite expensive and I also need MS Office for my studies (I take my masters degree in marketing management) I decided to have a PC again.

In addition I use a graphic tablet like wacom intuos to my normal mouse. I would recommend it to everyone who wants to draw directly on his computer. I know there are touch screens nowadays and you can draw directly onto screen on this devices. But when I looked for a new computer devices with touchscreen where more expensive while having less efficiency. At home I use my laptop with a desktop screen which has the advantage of having to screens when needed.

Single pictures for print or web

When you want to do arts on your computer you have to decide whether you want to work pixel or vector based. Therefore you have to decide what you want to do with your output.

Raster based

When you work with a raster based tool it may feel more like painting. But you decide on the size and solution before you start and may not be able to scale up your work afterwords without a qualitiy loss. Nevertheless your results can be stunning and look like real paintings when finished. So these programms are the choice for creating paintings and drawings as you would create on paper.

My eyes – one of my first attempts at painting digital with Photoshop

My favourite raster based programms are Photoshop and ArtRage. You may know photoshop as a mighty tool for retouching photos but you can also easily use it for painting and artwork. In addition you can create own effects by creating your own tool tips. On the other hand Photoshop is quite complex and not easy to learn. If you want to have a more intuitiv tool I recommend to give ArtRage a try.

Another disadvantage of Photoshop is that it is quite expensive. During my studies I used the tool gimp which is an opensource solution and said to be nearly as mighty as Photoshop. I did not use it for quite long as it is a bit different in handling.

Vector based

When you want to create a logo or a graphic you want to scale afterwards (like a patter for fabric printing for example) I recommend you to work vector based. This means that all lines you draw will be translated into mathematical functions which are new calculated when scaled to another size.

My favorite is the well known Illustrator. There is also an opensource solution inkscape which I did not try so far. As you can measure each line and use measurements to create matching lines or points you can do a lot more than graphics with Illustrator. In my workflow I draw my design in illustrator, color and shade it with photoshop and do the technical drawings with illustrator again. In the past few years I also made my patterns by Illustrator. This works because you can define every line, angle and curve by length or size.

Design for a chiffon and jersey dress – combination of Illustrator and Photoshop

Pattern drawing/ CAD

As written before I am testing Valentina. Valentina is an opensource CAD solution for pattern drafting. While Illustrator is just a quick help to draw (onesize) patterns Valentina is a programm entirely designed for patternmaking. Therefore you start by setting up a measurement table. You are free to work on individual measures or set up a multisize measure table. While constructing the pattern you define each line by formulas using the measures of the loaded table. This make it easy to change the measurement table – for example you have sewn yourself a pretty dress and want to change the pattern for your best friend- all you need to do is changing the measurement table.

In school I used to learn CAD using a professional software (in terms of costs). After only two weeks of experience using Valentina I can say that Valentina can keep up with the program we used at school. It is not that easy to use as Illustrator because it depends on the order in which you create pattern pieces to use the measurements for another piece due to the complex relation of formulas. Though the handling is a bit easier than some other CAD software you will need knowledge about pattern constructing.

If you want to get started I recommend the books of Winifred Aldrich or to visit a course about pattern construction. I found out that the video tutorials for Valentina are more for the basics not for complicated things like conditional increments – maybe I will make some tutorials myself later on.

Printed media

After designing single graphics using Photoshop, Illustrator or ArtRage you may want to collect them in printed media like books, flyers or magazines. Therefor I used Indesign because it works best with Photoshop and Illustrator. In 2000 when I started with my first G4 ProMac I also used QuarkXpress. When I could choose I would prefer Quark but Indesign comes with my CC licence.

Intelligent sports clothing – concept during studies for Cebit 2009

Video, Animation and Audio

I must admit that I have not much experience with these. Though I have made an digital catalog as a flashfile of my final exam. But I tried to animate my shop logo with Aftereffects today. When you use an old Creative Suite version or you have a Creative Cloud licence you will get solutions for everything. As I am new to the CC I am trying to find out what is possible.

For sound and film I used the free programms which come with Mac OS like Garageband and iMovie. Not that professional but it worked,

What are your favorite art and creative programs? Did I forget something in my list above? Are you interested in tutorials – and if so, what do you want to see? Please leave a comment below.

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KeyaDesignrightstopmediaIdrees khanMary OsadolorLaura Whittaker Recent comment authors
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Alex Drummond

Nice layout


I absolutely know nothing about graphic designing and using Photoshop for anything other than retouching photos, but this was a neat perspective. Enjoyed reading it.

R. Alexandria

Thanks for the info on vector based. I want to be able to put my logo on a t-shirt.


Very informative. Great post (y)


I used to use GIMP, it has all the basic requirements- and you can do so much with it. I used it for photography touch up with a tablet, I find a tablet is more intuitive rather than using a touch screen.

Great post!

Laura Whittaker

As a photographer/videographer team we use a host of software. For photos we mainly use Lightroom but we also have Photoshop. For video, is it’s something simple we will use iMovie or if it’s a more professional thing then we use Final Cut Pro. I would like to learn more on Illustrator. I like designing basic things on a Photoshop and hopefully I will make the leap to learn illustrator. Great post xxx

Mary Osadolor

I’ve always been clueless when it came to graphic designs, other than using my smartphone to manipulate pictures. I just got an insight into this subject after going through your post. Thanks for this.

Idrees khan

Quite interesting tools you have mentioned , i will try to use these tools. Thanks for sharing with ous.


Your doing a lot of great works with software artwork it’s amazing