Sunday Mailbag

April 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I see whenever you mention working digitally, you cite “PhotoShop” as the software you use. Why PhotoShop? Painter seems to be more of an artist-orientated program with a lot more choices for emulating natural media. Why don’t you use Painter?

A: I have also heard that Painter, and least compared to previous versions of PhotoShop, was a much more artistically versatile program. I dabbled in it once and found there was a dizzying number of choices as to drawing and painting media, paper and canvas textures and ways to mimic natural media down to applying watercolor “wet” and then “drying” the watercolor whenever you wished before moving on. Amazing stuff… but for me it was overkill.

I taught myself how to color and paint in PhotoShop, and so that program is the easiest and fastest for me to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I don’t use many filters or tricks, but really just paint using the opacity and size control of a pressure sensitive pen and table (actually the Wacom Cintiq) to get the look I want. Probably there are a lot of easier ways to accomplish the same look, but it works for me. Therefore, I go by the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

No doubt if I had taught myself on Painter I’d be using Painter and not PhotoShop, but I didn’t. Painter offered too many choices and the learning curve was too steep compared to the relative simplicity of PhotoShop, so I went that route.

It looks to me that PhotoShop is closing the gap with respect to natural media emulation. I have CS5 but find myself still working in CS4 because some of the new features are a pain.

Thanks to Terry J. for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!


  1. Aside from using the Cintiq (I’m still on an Intuos4), you just explained exactly why I use Photoshop instead of Painter as well, Tom. Love these Sunday Mailbag blog entries!

  2. Lash LeRoux says:

    Count me in on the Photoshop bandwagon — hear, hear!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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