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Informational articles on various topics related to art tablets and digital art, tech news, and more.

7 free online image editors

7 great free online photo editors

7 top free online image editors and collage makers

7 free online image editors

Browsers can handle much more heavy-duty image editing than before. If you’re looking for a photo editor online that’s like Photoshop, you won’t find something quite as powerful. But you’ll be able to get many of the same photo effects online that Photoshop offers.

These Web-based programs can be invaluable tools to quickly create graphics for social media or even for print. You can make a photo collage totally online, either one in neat boundaries or loose ones where you can arrange collage-style images however you wish.

One of the most basic functions is as an online image resizer. Online photo editors let you resize images to any dimensions, and low, medium, or high resolution. Some offer extra high retina resolution.

Another is an online collage maker. You can arrange images in cells, with borders automatically resizing.

They let you save images as jpgs. For more on what a jpg is, see Vector vs. raster for noobs.

What can you do with an online photo editor?

Web-based image/photo editors let you upload your own image or choose from included libraries of royalty-free images. Often, you can share directly to social media accounts.

Most online image editors operate on the Freemium model. So while a lot of it is free, if you want more features, there’s a monthly or annual charge. Some offer a free trial.

Most have filters, text and image overlays, icons, templates, backgrounds, and even layer support. They provide a library of fonts as well as giving the option of letting you use ones installed on your own computer. They allow text enhancements such as outlines, and the addition of vector shapes you can use in designing. You can make cool double-exposure photos, blur backgrounds, and even apply “makeup.”

Here are 7 of my favorites:

1. PicMonkey

A popular free image editor, PicMonkey is highly versatile, with plenty of free options. PicMonkey lets you edit, upload, design, and collage. It also lets you draw freehand.

free online photo editor

PicMonkey

PicMonkey has a healthy selection of fonts you can use to overlay or caption your images. Its touch-up tools to make faces look better. (Many of these touch-up tools are in the paid version). 

It offers well-designed templates for when you don’t want to start from scratch. It’s very simple to use for basic stuff, but also has more advanced things you can do with brushes and filters. For those, it’s best to watch the video tutorials. You can choose high, low, or medium-resolution files to save.

You do not have to log in to use PicMonkey.

You can share directly to social media, such as to your Pinterest boards. PicMonkey does not resize images automatically, and it doesn’t have many premade social media image sizes. 

To upload your own image and resize it, choose Overlay.

PicMonkey occasionally runs slowly or glitches for me, and there are a few common tools I wish were free. But I use it a lot—it’s quick, easy, and convenient. It has a “fun” feeling, with humorous messages and a monkey mascot. 

2. Canva

Canva is also very well-known. It has thousands of premade templates, many already made to standard social media sizes, such as Pinterest. It has thousands of templates to choose from, from simple to complex, or you can start with a blank one. 

canva graphic design tool

Canva is robust, and can be used for professional graphic design. It has an accompanying iPad app. It includes photo effects such as stickers, blurs, badges, charts, presentations, infographics, and book covers. It pretty much has everything.

Canva can indeed be a powerful tool. One problem I have problems with it running so slowly in my browser (I usually use Chrome) that I could not use it, but when it works it works well. Canva is a serious business tool. 

3. Fotojet

Fotojet is a hidden gem. You don’t hear about it that much, but it’s quite powerful, and similar to PicMonkey. The paid version is lower cost than others (at the moment). 

Fotojet

Fotojet

Fotojet has premade image sizes if you like creating the image from scratch instead of using a template. Templates can have a lot of fussy little pieces you need to delete, and you spend more time altering a template than you would designing your own piece. But depending on what you want to do, templates can be a valuable tool.

The templates are well-designed and on the traditional side. The creative collage options are cool, with fun effects such as 3D. There are also templates for photo cards and other occasions. There’s a lot to play around with. Fotojet lets you share images directly to social media; remember to put your own link in.

The program is snappy; I’ve never had it run slowly. Like Canva and PicMonkey, it supplies editing effects, fonts, embellishments, templates, and file-saving options. It has quite a few text effects. It’s powerful in image editing, offering advanced filters such as Color Splash and Radial and Tilt Shift for sophisticated photo effects. While it’s not enormous like Canva, there’s a lot it can do.

4. Stencil

Stencil stands out for a few reasons. In addition to the desktop app, it offers a Chrome browser extension that lets you choose an image directly from the browser, open it, and then add text and other embellishments. (You don’t have much control over the size, but they’re supposed to be redoing this feature soon). Or, you can upload an image as an icon (overlay) and control the size. You can then add text to it. 

Stencil’s big draw is that you can automatically resize images to fit various social media demands at the click of a button. Then you can share them directly to your accounts. So it’s a huge timesaver if you do a lot of sharing. 

You get 10 free images per month. 

Stencil is a business social tool.If you’re serious about making beautiful images across channels quickly, it may be worth it to invest in Stencil.   There are two paid levels; it can get kind of pricey.

5. Snappa

Snappa has a ton of premade social media sizes from the obvious to the unexpected, including YouTube Channel Art, Email Header, Twitter Card, and LinkedIn, as well as “eBook Cover” and “Infographic.”

snappa free image editor

Snappa can automatically resize graphics you’ve made to fit various social media demands.(I do like to make pins, but not to have to keep typing in the numbers 735 x 1102). It lets you upload and save images for later use even in the free version. You have to log in to use Snappa. You can schedule your creations on Buffer directly from it. https://snappa.com?afmc=9s 

Like Stencil, Snappa is not that cheap, but can save you a ton of social-media time.

6. BeFunky

is a photo editor, collage maker, and design tool. It has lots of facial touch-up tools in the free version (unlike PicMonkey). So if you want to retroactively do a makeover, this is the image editor to use. It’s also got templates.

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BeFunky partners with Pixabay, a free stock-image site. Its graphic design tools target cards, invitations, even menus. It has lots of social media headers and when signed in, you can save directly to social media. You don’t have to be signed in just to use it. It has a variety of blog headers and graphics sizes.

BeFunky has an arty feel and fun designs and image effects. It’s great for bloggers and designers. Like Fotojet, the monthly fee is low and gets rid of ads. 

For bloggers who want to jazz up their sites, BeFunky may be the best one out there. Its paid features filters like “cartoonization” and “graphic novel.” You won’t get bored using BeFunky.

7. Fotor

Fotor collage maker is one of the free photo editors online.

Fotor collage maker

It lets you make collages on a grid with your choice or how many cells, borders, and stickers. It lets you choose funky borders for the collages, such as heart-shaped cells with which you can create photo mosaics.

Styles are plentiful: Artistic Collage, Classic Collage, Funky Collage, and Photo Stitching. Fotor has advanced features and photo effects similar to Photoshop, such as Curves to adjust lights to darks, and tilt-shift to blur backgrounds.

Its special features are HDR, which lets you combine three photos of different exposures into one optimal one, as well as some really cool art filters that let you get funky effects. It also has digital enhancement effects such as “weight loss” and “makeup” in the free version. Fotor is a powerful online collage, design, and editing tool.

It also has some free clip art and presized social media images. Fotor has a free and paid version. The paid is a lot cheaper if you get it for a year.

Online photo effects vs. Photoshop

Some of the editors lack useful features like the eyedropper tool, and you can’t open PSD files; I am not sure what the limitations on layers are–but they do provide quite a few features of Photoshop. I like that you can draw freehand in PicMonkey–that isn’t a feature in all of them. They have the “enhancement” parts of Photoshop but not the extensive text tools, brush sets, ability to work with Smart Objects, different file options, and such. 

These editors are great for online uses such as memes and social media. But since they allow for high-resolution files, you can also use them to spruce up your photos and artwork for print. They certainly can’t come anywhere near the feature set of Photoshop or InDesign. 

Web-based photo editors: in sum

Each image editor has its own focus, so to speak, with PicMonkey more for social media with an emphasis on fun and upbeat (the monkey shows up with cute sayings). Canva is all about variety and endless customization, it has a more structured feel.

Fotojet is a bit of everything—it’s not as large as Canva, but does some things PicMonkey doesn’t. Snappa is efficient and businesslike. BeFunky is creative fun that’s more similar to PicMonkey but larger. Fotor is about creativity and spending some time making something special (or you can work quickly, too).

In writing this, I’ve realized how incredibly complex these online image editors are. I no longer automatically fire up Photoshop if I need to make a graphic. I remember some of these from when they started out, and it’s amazing how far they’ve come.

You can truly use them as free graphic design tools to make things like ebook covers and presentations that you once needed desktop software to do. That’s not to say that designers no longer need desktop software, or that the skill is no longer needed. 

 Just about anyone can make beautiful designs with these tools, and designers can make eye-catching, original creations—all for free, or a low monthly fee. Try them all!

 

lenovomiix720review

Lenovo Miix 720 coming April 2017

miix720review

Lenovo Miix 720

Lenovo Miix 720 goes to art studio and office

Lenovo has put out several Miixes with active pens–the Miix 510, 520, and IdeaPad Miix 700. The Miixes have been somewhat quiet competition to the Surface Pro. Now the Miix 720 has come.

Lenovo has gone on a listening tour, and is trying to deliver what people want. The Miix 720’s assortment of varying USB ports makes it so you can use your existing peripherals without dongles.  

Download the Miix 720_Spec Sheet (PDF)

This tablet is aimed at artists, designers, writers, business, and general use. Its integrated graphics can handle 4K video. It has the latest Kaby Lake processor. And it has fast memory.

Storage goes all the way up to 1TB. That way, you can be choosy about what you save to the Cloud. As well, you can work offline.

Lenovo Active Pen 2

The new Lenovo Active Pen 2 now has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. It’s not hiked to the 8,192 of the newer Wacom Pro Pen 2 for the art-specific Intuos Pro (2017) and MobileStudio Pro, but it’s plenty. Even 1,024 wasn’t bad. 

 

Lenovo-Miix-720-review

The tablet will be out in April 2017, and the Active Pen 2 in February 2017.

Lenovo has long used Wacom digitizers in its PCs. Lenovo went from using Wacom EMR to Wacom AES in laptops and 2-in-1s. It switched back to EMR in the Yoga Book (which is really a graphics tablet with a separate screen), but is continuing to use AES on the Miix.

Lenovo’s Pro Pen and Active Pen 1 and 2 are both AES. The Active Pen 2 has raised the pressure levels to 4,192.

The Miix 720 comes in two colors, Champagne and Iron Gray.

Lenovo Miix 720 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Though it’s certainly thin, the computer part is a hair thicker than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, at .35″ to the Microsoft’s skinny-Minnie .33.” There is little weight difference. The 12″ screen is a bit smaller than the SP4’s 12.3, but the Miix’s resolution is higher. The Miix, as far as I know, will not have a version with dedicated graphics the way the Surface Pro 4 does.

The Surface Pro 4’s pen is the less-sensitive N-trig, but perhaps the Surface Pro 5 will sport the long-awaited Wacom-Microsoft pen.

The dual watchband hinge on the kickstand is adjustable up to 150 degrees, as well as aesthetically appealing.

Features

Type of tablet: detachable 2-in-1
Display: 12″ QHD (2880 x 1920)
400 nits with Gorilla Glass
Digitizer: Wacom (probably will be ES), 4,096 levels
Processor: Intel up to  i7, Kaby Lake
Graphics: integrated
Build: one-piece metal alloy
dual-watchband hinge
RAM: Up to 16 GB DDR4
Dimensions
inches : 11.5″ x 8.27″ x 0.35″
mm: 292 x 210 x 8.9
With Keyboard
inches : 11.53″ x 8.5″ x 0.57″
mm): 293 x 216 x 14.6

One USB 3.1 (Type-C1)
One USB 3.0
One USB 2.0
microSD
Audio Combo Jack
Cameras: front 1MP, rear 5MP

Storage: up to 1 TB PCIe SSD
Dolby speakers

Weight: tablet starts at 1.72 lbs (780 g). With keyboard, starts at 2.42 lbs (1.1 kg)

Full-sized Backlit Keyboard
Lenovo Active Pen 2

WIndows Hello
Colors: Champagne Iron Gray

What’s included:

Miix 720
Keyboard
Power supply
Documentation

The Lenovo Active Pen 2 will likely be a separate purchase.

Battery Life:
Up to 8 hours of mixed use

lenovomiix720pin

Portability

It’s very thin. At a little over half an inch thick and a little under 2 1/2 lbs. including the keyboard, it can fit into bags and backpacks without a bulge. The penholder keeps the pen where you can find it.

It has Windows Hello, the somewhat creepy facial-recognition program that keeps you from the sweat of typing in a password. It’s optional. Here’s some privacy info about Windows Hello if you’re concerned.

Here’s a neat factoid from Lenovo: 20% of 2-in-1 users use a pen every day.

With the Thunderbolt 3 has a download speed of 40 GBps, you could attach this to a 4K monitor for video feed, and download stuff at the same time.

Keyboard

The keyboard is full-sized and has 1.5″ of key travel, just a shade (.1″) over the Surface Pro 4’s detachable keyboard. Unlike the Surface Pro 4’s bouncy slab, the Miix’s keyboard is rigid, and fully backlit.

Kickstand with dual-watchband hinge

miix720kickstand

The kickstand goes up to 150 degrees, which is almost upright, so you can watch movies or videoconference. Or you can adjust it down to draw on.

Multimonitor

You can use this in a multi-monitor setting, connecting up to two displays.

If this is as it sounds, if the price is right it could be pretty appealing.

Lenovo Miix 720 review to come

Right now the Miix 720 is a bit ahead of the Surface Pro 4 on most counts but a Surface Pro 5 is probably around the corner.

It’s still early (Feb. as I write) but I’ll update with a Lenovo Miix 720 review.

 

Wacom+Intuos+Pro+Paper+Edition-2

Intuos Pro Paper Edition hits the stands: Hands on

Intuos Pro Paper Edition: Take note

The Intuos Pro Paper Edition is here, joining the ranks of tablets that add real paper and pen to the mix. It comes in only Medium and large, and is a regular Intuos Pro except for the addition of a paper pad and fine-tipped pen.

Like the paperless model, it comes with the Wacom Pro Pen 2, which gets an eye-popping 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity.

The regular Intuos Pro has also been updated.

Intuos Pro Paper Edition

Intuos Pro Paper and pens. Image courtesy Wacom

New Intuos Pro and Paper Edition features

Click to check price (international and U.S. users).

The new Intuos Pro, including the Intuos Pro Paper Edition (as they’re the same tablet)  is thinner than the old version and has a smaller footprint. The pen stand is now smaller, the pen case is updated. Then nibs sit in the pen holder, which is now flatter and cookie-like.

You also get three Texture Sheets that you can use to get the look of three drawing textures.

The Paper Edition still has touch, the ExpressKeys, and Rocker Ring as controls.

It also includes the 0.4mm Finetip gel ink pen, which is also an EMR pressure-sensitive pen.

Inkscape App

Like the Bamboo Slate and Spark, the tablet comes with the Inkscape app. (Though the app is free to download, eventually it becomes subscription-based).

intuospropapereditionreview

Intuos Pro Paper with Pro Pen 2 and new, thinner pen stand

Besides the gel pen, there’s an optional ballpoint pen. Wacom says that in mid-2017, there’s going to be a pencil option. Yippie! Wonder if it will have an eraser end.

With the app, which works on mobile or desktop, your drawings get digitized and you can store or share them.

intuospropaper

You can use the Paper Clip (that thing on top) to attach your favorite drawing paper to the Intuos Pro Paper Edition. Or you can use the tablet as a regular Intuos Pro.

WIth the paid app, you get 50 GB storage instead of 5; you can convert text to notes, collaborate with others, or turn raster into vector. It costs $3.56 per month as of this writing. The basic app is free and can be used on its Web platform or as an Android and iOS mobile app.

newintuosprogelpen

Intuos Pro Paper Edition Bamboo gel pen

The Intuos Pro Paper now has this whole new functionality. While I like the ink pens, can’t wait for mid-2017 when the pencil comes out in time for summer sketching.

See it on Amazon (international and U.S.).

Dell Canvas 27: Hands-on at CES

dellcanvas27review

The new Dell Canvas 27″ tablet monitor, slated to hit the shelves at the end of April 2017, was on display at this year’s CES 2017. I was fortunate enough try it out. It’s the first large art tablet monitor made by Dell.

Dell-Canvas-and-UltraSharp

Dell Canvas 27 (bottom) and Ultra Sharp monitor (top). Photo by Dell

Dell Canvas uses Wacom EMR pen

The Canvas is a bit like a Surface Studio except that the Canvas is a tablet monitor, not a 2-in-1, so it’s more similar to the Cintiq 27″ and has the same resolution. Dell states the Canvas pen is Wacom EMR. (Dell’s recent products have used Wacom AES, and before that they used Synaptics).

EMR is the most sensitive and what Wacom uses on its own Cintiqs. This pen was thick but comfortable and had two buttons. Its girth and simple barrel shape reminded me of pens by Huion more than the skinnier, shapelier pens used by Wacom and Microsoft.

dell-canvas-side-pen-2

It only does Windows

The Canvas has to be connected to a computer, and that computer has to be running Windows. This is a big difference from any other tablet monitor, as most will work with Windows PCs or Macs out of the box. (Maybe Apple will fight back by coming out with its own tablet monitor or all-in-one with Apple Pencil!)

Dell partnered with Microsoft on the Canvas, and the Canvas will work with the Creators Update, and will run with AVID. Dell, naturally, suggests using the Canvas with the Dell Precision workstation, which is powerful enough to create VR content.

The Canvas is protected by Gorilla Glass. It has some cool functions like virtual desktops, and it comes with two kinds of “Totems” (ahem, Surface Dial clones) that you can twist and turn.

dellcanvasoverlay

Display overlay shows open programs. Photo: tabletsforartists.com

Dell’s initial idea was the SmartDesk, where the two monitors would interact, but it’s not clear if that will come to fruition or if it will be the regular routine. In this case, there are actually three monitors–the laptop, the Canvas, and the eye-level monitor.

2.5k display resolution

The display has a 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution (111 PPI). A close competitor would be Wacom’s 27″ Cintiq, with the same resolution (2.5K). The all-in-one, 28″ Surface Studio packs 4500 x 3000 (192 PPI). So the Canvas is pretty high resolution, but it could be higher. However, the 2.5K will have an easier time working with more Windows computers than a 4K or higher would.

The Dell Canvas’ wide color gamut covers 100% of Adobe RGB, which is a welcome feature for pros who print their own work.

Palm rejection worked well. The stand is adjustable, and I like that it can lie flat as a desk, something the Surface Studio’s hinge does not allow.

As you can see, the pen is accurate with no jitter. It also had no detectable tilt sensitivity (which could change) or perhaps there were tilt settings I needed to adjust.

Two Totems for the Dell Canvas 27

To me, two Totems plus the pen and multiple monitors is a lot to think about and the idea of the 20-point multitouch, which can accommodate an extra person or two, starts to seem a bit left-brained. Right now there are not a whole lot of apps for the Totem and Surface Dial, but these are in their early stages.

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Totem with contextual menu. The Canvas comes with two kinds of Totems. Photo: tabletsforartists.com

The whole thing is very BUSY pus there are lots and lots of on-screen menus. It’s not exactly Zen, but it offers a lot of options. Right now the levels of pressure sensitivity are not clear, nor are other specs.

For now, my hands-on experience with the Dell Canvas 27 leaves me feeling like it’s not a huge leg up over other 27″ tablet monitors as far as hardware.

The jury’s out on the software, as that’s such a big part of this, and it is impressive. But what are the specific benefits? Do all the accessories and tools make the designer’s workload easier, or is this an exercise in deconstructing and fragmenting workflow?

For most users who draw, having the top monitor is not needed. It looks cool, and there are good reasons to use it, but the Canvas doesn’t need it. For multimedia design, or if you want to make sure colors match, or you want to see your work higher-res, it makes sense. But it’s part of the packaging of the Canvas.

The Verdict–for now

Because at the time of this writing, the product has not yet come out, this Dell Canvas review is focused on testing the pen, examining the screen, speed of the computer, and more. For now, I’m not sold on the Totem/Dial, though that could change, and no one’s forcing me to use it. Microsoft’s Surface Dial is an optional purchase, unlike the two Totems, suggesting that Dell feels they’re integral to the software.

dell-canvas-smartdesk-3

The display is certainly pleasing and I like the idea of the eye-level monitor, though that’s an individual choice. For drawing, I would probably just prop up the Canvas to 20 degrees and use that.

Dell released a lot of innovative and award-getting products at CES, including a super-thin 8k monitor and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, which uses Wacom AES.  Dell has put out numerous tablets, but somehow you didn’t hear about them all that much–most of them have been small portables, such as the Venue series. They had a rocky journey with three versions of a Synaptics pen before switching over to AES.

The pen and digitizer information on their site seems to confuse people, as I can tell from the questions I’ve gotten, but this is de rigueur with large companies who didn’t focus on pen tablets. Now, Dell has stepped into the limelight with this large art gizmo.

Now Dell is working with Microsoft and incorporating Wacom, aiming to get in more seriously on the art action. I particularly like the software, such as the overlay, and look forward to seeing the finished product.

2016 Digital Artist Holiday Gift Guide

2016  Digital Artist Gift Guide

Hard to believe it’s that time again–winter holidays of 2016! 2016giftguidepin

 

If you’ve got a pixel artist in your life, they’re probably looking for ways to enhance their creativity, work in comfort and style, travel with their tablet. They love traditional art supplies, too. To that end, we bring you our 2016 Tablets for Artists gift guide.

Will be adding to this page, so check back for more!

 

Apple iPad Pro

Elegant portable drawing solution with highly sensitive, tilt-enabled Apple Pencil (which needs to be purchased separately). Can be used as Cintiq-like input device with a Mac using the Astropad app.

 

 

Copic Markers

Sometimes you just need the smell of markers. Copic Markers are great for manga, marker rendering, sketching out logos, and everything else. Copics are alcohol-based, which is less toxic than solvent-based markers, but we like to keep a window open.

 

Tombow Dual Brush Pens

Tombow markers can be combined with water for beautiful blended effects. Tombows are water-soluble. The dual brush have a marker brush on one end and a marker tip on the other.

MAKING COMICS

by Scott McCloud. Learn to create comics, manga, and graphic novels from a master.

 

TONED TAN SKETCHBOOK

Drawing on medium-toned paper can make all the difference in your art. The Old Masters did it, and so can you.

Wacom Bamboo Slate

lets you create digital art or take notes, starting on paper. The notebook has its own memory, so you don’t need to snap a photo of your page. You open your pages in a mobile app. Wacom Inkscape lets you save to the Cloud. Comes with EMR digitizing pen. The older Bamboo Spark is similar.
The Moleskine Smart Notebook uploads your paper drawings from this classic artist’s sketcbook to Evernote after you you snap a photo using an iPad app. It then converts it into an SVG. There’s also a version with Adobe Creative Cloud.

SwissGear Travel Gear ScanSmart Backpack

A laptop backpack with extra pockets for a portable tablet that’s ready for airport security is a blessing. Most airports won’t make you take the laptop out, saving you time and hassle. It also has RFID protection from those trying to steal your info electronically.

 

Wacom graphics tablet

Read this post to figure out which one is best for your artist.
intousartpentouch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handmade Leather iPad Pro Case

Beautiful and durable.

 

Case Logic WMBP-115 15.6-Inch Laptop and Tablet Backpack

 

Fujifilm INSTAX Mini 8 Instant Camera

Who doesn’t love instant photos? Take pics and have them on paper immediately with the . It has automatic exposure and a high-key setting perfect for portraits.

 

Aeropress Espresso Maker

Coffee! Without it, modern civilization wouldn’t exist. Whether that’s good or bad, we still need our fix. The Aeropress delivers a pungent cup in one quick blast. Geeks love it.

 

Computer Arts Magazine

Magazines keep artists on top of the latest developments. Computer Arts is a good one to follow to keep up with constantly changing tech.

 

Clip Studio Paint


Clip Studio Paint is an inexpensive art software program with a great brush engine.

 

Books on Creativity, Art, and Careers

BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CREATING MANGA ART

This fascinating genre requires a lot of study,  but it can be learned.

This season will be special with creative gifts. And remember to check back, as I’m scouting for more swag.