You Don’t Need A Huge Budget To Make Art


Well, thanks to playing some low-budget computer games recently, I thought that I’d talk about low-budget things today. More specifically, I’ll be talking about low-budget art.

Despite the fact that expensive image editing programs, expensive marker pens, expensive paints etc… often appear in a lot of art-related content on the internet, you don’t actually need any of them to make art. You certainly don’t need a dedicated art studio to call yourself an “artist” either.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, being an artist is all about the skills you have learnt through practice. It isn’t about the tools you use. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you can have the most expensive art supplies and editing software in the world, and your art won’t look any better than it already does.

If you do know what you’re doing (through practice, mistakes, studying other pictures, looking for tutorials etc.. ), you can make art using nothing more than a simple, cheap ballpoint pen (and possibly a HB pencil). You can also make digital art or edit traditional art (provided you have a scanner or digital camera) using free programs.

To show you what I mean, I’ll start with a basic drawing of three spheres:

This took me about three minutes to draw, using an old ballpoint pen I found on my desk. It may not look like much, but keep reading...

This took me about three minutes to draw, using an old ballpoint pen I found on my desk. It may not look like much, but keep reading…

Now, here is what I can do with a scan of the ballpoint pen sketch if I use a free open-source image editing program called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program):

This is the ballpoint pen sketch, after extensive editing in GIMP.

This is the ballpoint pen sketch, after extensive editing in GIMP.

This picture cost me very little, if anything, to make (my scanner and computer are both fairly old, GIMP is a free [approximately 100mb] download etc..) and yet, it’s still art. It isn’t too different to something you might see in a comic or webcomic. You could probably make a similar picture using more expensive materials and much more expensive software, but it’d still look fairly similar.

But, ballpoint pens aren’t my usual medium of choice and GIMP isn’t my usual image editing program. Yet, I was still able to create something relatively ok using a ballpoint pen for the simple reason that I’ve practiced a lot with other drawing-based mediums (eg: watercolour pencils, waterproof ink rollerball pens, 4H pencils etc..).

Likewise, I’ve mostly used other “basic” image editing programs on a daily basis for the past four or five years. So, with relatively little experience of using “GIMP” (compared to the other programs I use), I was still able to work out how to do what I wanted to do with the picture. Yes, some of the tools might work slightly differently – but “GIMP” still contains all of the basic features (and a couple of new ones) that my regular programs use.

Plus, thanks to reading about complementary colours and experimenting with them quite a bit over the past couple of years, I was able to come up with a good colour combination for the digitally-edited picture. It looks vaguely “realistic”, but it’s actually just a variant on the classic blue/orange complementary colour pair.

As I said, being an artist is all about practice. It’s all about knowledge. It’s also all about being willing to make mistakes – for example, the edited picture I showed you earlier wasn’t my first attempt at editing that particular image in “GIMP”! I messed up spectacularly the first time round:

Yes, this is what happened when I tried to edit this picture for the first time in "GIMP". Experimenting and making mistakes is all part of becoming a better artist.

Yes, this is what happened when I tried to edit this picture for the first time in “GIMP”. Experimenting and making mistakes is all part of becoming a better artist.

Being an artist is about a lot of things, but it isn’t about having fancy art supplies for the sake of having fancy art supplies. It isn’t about, say, splurging lots of money on certain expensive brands of marker pens just because your favourite artists on Youtube use them.

If you see a great piece of art that has been made with “expensive” art supplies, then it isn’t the art supplies that make that piece of art great. It’s the artist. If you want to make something as good as that, then you need to focus on learning and practicing.

In other words, making art is a bit like Judo. This is a martial art where physical strength doesn’t matter that much, when compared to good technique. Someone who is good at Judo can still throw an opponent who is more muscular than them onto the mat. It’s all about knowledge and technique. Not strength.

Something similar is true for art. It isn’t about how expensive or extensive your collection of art supplies is, it’s about what you know about using them. It’s about technique, not money.

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂


One Cool Thing That Webcomics Have In Common With Prose Fiction (But Can Do Better) – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Unlimited Budget webcomics

I can’t remember exactly where I read it, but there’s a brilliant quote from the author Matthew Reilly, where he talks about the “unlimited budget” that writers have when it comes to creating special effects and using interesting locations in their fiction. Since he writes fairly Hollywood-like thriller fiction, he takes full advantage of this fact. But, this isn’t an article about writing prose fiction, it’s an article about making webcomics.

One of the coolest things about making webcomics is that they’re both a visual medium (like television and film) and yet, they have almost all of the advantages that prose fiction does (eg: they don’t require a huge team, the writer can easily control the passage of time in the story etc..).

This was something that I noticed when starting another webcomic mini series that will appear here in mid-late March. In particular, this scene made me think about Matthew Reilly’s “unlimited budget” comments.

The full comic update will be posted here on the 21st March.

The full comic update will be posted here on the 21st March.

The thing is, if I was to film a live-action version of this comic, I’d have had to have actually find a museum that was willing to let me film there, commission a scale model and/ or learn how to use CGI. Either way, it would be expensive and time-consuming.

However, since this was a webcomic, the most challenging part was looking up a few pictures of galleons online so that I could work out how to draw one. It took me all of ten minutes and cost me absolutely nothing. And, unlike a written description in a story, my comic actually contains a cool-looking galleon!

This is one of the reasons why webcomics are such an amazing medium, since they’re basically an expression of pure imagination. After all, when you imagine things, you probably tend to think about them using both words and images. You don’t have to translate images into words and you don’t have to worry about the of practicalities re-creating anything in real life. You just imagine.

Yes, it takes a bit of practice to be able to make art that even vaguely resembles the images in your imagination. But, once you’ve learnt the basics (eg: how to work out how to draw things you didn’t know how to draw before), then webcomics are one of the best ways to directly transfer the contents of your imagination onto the page (or the screen).

In addition to this, one advantage that webcomics have over mediums like film and literature is the fact that you are in total control of how everything is presented. If you want to give your webcomic a more “realistic” look (if you’ve had enough practice) then you can. However, if you want to use a more unrealistic art style in order to compliment the kinds of stories and/or jokes that you are telling, then you can also do this too.

Plus, if you post your comics online (hence why I’ve been talking about “webcomics”, rather than just “comics”) you also have a lot more control over the size and format of the comics that you make (eg: some of the most creative examples of this can be found in an excellent webcomic called “Subnormality” by Winston Rowntree).

The worldwide distribution costs of your webcomic can be anything from nothing to very little. Again, this is another reason why webcomics can do more than any other medium – with only a fraction of the budget and/or no budget.

You can also do things like adding animations to your comics too (I haven’t done this with any of my more recent comics but, with the right skills and a few basic programs, it’s certainly possible to turn a comic update into an animated gif).

Because of all of this additional flexibility, webcomics are able to do all sorts of things that would require a significant budget in various other mediums.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂