I wanted to write this journal for a long while now.
A lot of people ask me what art software I use, and/or what's the best choice, so I'll try to cover everything in this journal.
Paint Tool SAI is arguably the most widely used art software by casuals and professionals. I used it for a long time too.
However, from my personal experience I have reason to believe that by now SAI is no longer worth it: it still gets the job done but I find it obsolete and here's why.
Lack of tools
When it comes to tools, SAI is fairly poor for today standards.
Few brushes, few textures (please note that we're not taking in consideration custom ones created by the community, we're staying vanilla here), no filters, no polygon tools, no text tools, low layers limit, baraely customizable UI, if you do more than drawing a generic OC for your "ask me anything" average tumblr blog, you're more than likely going to need a secondary software to add things that SAI can't let you do.
There "currently" is a SAI 2 in developement, which adds part of such features, but I'll explain why it's still not going to be worth it.
In many occasions, to a relevant bunch of users (which means not everyone), SAI would come up with various errors and left with little to no clue of why or what to do about it. One example I can recall is an annoying popup that would constantly prompt you for something being broken while you were browsing for files to open. Most users (and especially the not so techy ones) would just think the program is going to explode, perhaps. The reason of that is that when browsing, SAI generates thumbnails for easier view. Too bad that it would fail to load .png thumbnails, and start shooting errors at each met one.
Or, another one: in certain versions of the software (it is still unknown to me which ones exactly, most likely old ones), the transparency support was fully broken. That means that when you went and tried to save your png drawing that was meant to have a blank background, you'd still get a white canvas. Oh, and there's no .gif support.
I honestly don't like apple devices, but I acknowledge they're used enough to deserve compatible versions of the software. Well, if you got a mac you got to run SAI via wine. It is not a big problem, but it shouldn't be necessary in first place.
Same thing probably goes for Linux, but Linux is not loved enough. That's another story.
Also, as mentioned earlier, it does not support .gif.
MS Paint does.
SAI 2 is not going to be a big deal
Although as previously mentioned, SAI v.2 is not going to make a big difference. The devs indeed added something, but it's still far from any other art software of major relevance. It is just in beta and the developement started in 2011!!
I did try it out a few years ago and there was really not much to see.
I would like to say more about SAI 2, but... it does not launch at all on my windows 8.1. Which is awesome.
This is the worst part. Paint Tool SAI is a program born in 2008, and its price has never gone down. It was and it still is 5400 JPY, which equals (at the time I'm writing this) to 43.69 US$ (38.50€).
The program itself in my opinion is not worth more than 20$.
Other (and better) software for art?
Practically any, but I cannot give complete reviews of others except one, as I haven't tried them. I however would like to point out at the prices of the few ones I know;
Open Canvas 6: It looks pretty neat. Has a function to record the progress of your art to replay. It looks equipped with a good bunch of tools and features. 59 US$ (39$ on steam summer sales now)
Corel Painter Essentials: I don't know much about this one, but I've seen people using it and they seem happy about it. 45~50$ (pro version costs a fuckton of money)
Photoshop: Best photo editing software (read again, photo editing. NOT drawing), but you have to sell a kidney for it. 200, 300, 500$... the hell I know
Clip Studio Paint / Manga Studio 5: Awesome. This is what I use and never looked back. From my personal experience this is the best art software you can get. It has:
- Everything SAI has
- Mac version
- Polygon tools
- Not sure how many layers but I've gone over 300 and didn't get cap, so probably more than that
- swatches for intermediate, approximate colors
- sub view for reference pictures
- a good amount of filters such as blur types, pinch, wave, whirlpool, zigzag, mosaic... etc.
- many rulers (perspective, parallel, concentric circle, symmetrical, curve, linear, ruler pen...)
- a lot of brushes, customizable and they can be sorted in tabs within the window. It's also easy to create them
- Good amount of textures, also screentones, everything sorted into folders and categories with tags for fast search
- Very customizable interface, each window is detachable and can be sorted in any way
- Light and dark theme, with adjustable intensity
- Text tools, balloon tools
- Deep-in brush customization to the smallest setting like only photoshop does
- Auto actions (basically macros)
- Brightness to opacity conversion (this is a life saver for traditional artists)
- per-tool stabilization (tool pressure, pen weight)
- 3D ANIME MODELS KAWAII DESU NE?!
- EDIT: As of mid 2016, ANIMATION FEATURE!!!
- Even more than this
But! They put it on sale many times during the year (every ~2 months?) up to 60% off, so it gets even more convenient!48 $ (There is EX version which comes with manga panels and other tools for Manga creation, but that's a whooping 210$. The main reason to want this is probably because it allows unlimited animation, while pro version only gives 24 frames.)
However, it doesn't support .gif either. Goddamn it, MS Paint!
Now, don't get me wrong. You are free to use any software you want. Even SAI, I'm not saying it's shit. I'm not telling you to dump it and get csp/ms. It would be a good idea in my opinion, but it has a little bit of learning curve and with this journal I only wanted to cover most questions I get regard choosing what software to use.
My advice is that if you're planning to get a license, you should think twice before buying a software when with a few more bucks you can get a superior one.