If you want the short answer, it is totally possible to start digital art without a very expensive or high-quality pc, however, you would need a better pc if you want to keep working in this field and want to take your skills to the next level and make significant progress in your digital art journey.
If you want the longer answer well, here’s my story and the factors that depend on your decision to start with a cheaper computer;
How I Started Digital Art
|My 10-year-old laptop|
I used to get disheartened after seeing that even amateur designers have a PC worth at least $500 and some additional tech such as a drawing tablet and the latest software which could only be run on the latest computers.
As a broke college student, I simply couldn’t afford any of this and decided to just start using my dusty old laptop and try out some free software such as Krita – which is a great alternative to photoshop.
After saving up some money I bought the Adobe products as they were and still are the industrial standard for digital production.
I started designing menus for restaurants and logos for some small local businesses. This was the start of my career and it wasn’t very smooth as my applications would sometimes crash in the middle of a project, I have also lost a lot of data because my computer’s hard drive crashed and my fan also stopped working because of overheating, which I then replaced with a new one.
Sure, the low RAM, the inconsistent processing, and the frequent bugs and errors did make it difficult but not impossible.
But on to the real question, do YOU need a PC to start your digital art career
If I were like most people I’d say, “If I could do it, so can you” but the thing is I’m balancing between traditional and digital art so I’m not fully relying on digital art as a full-time career but if you are then there are some things you must take into consideration.
The Nature of the work
This is the most important one, if you know early on what field you want to enter you should start researching what kind of software and equipment is required to fulfill that specific role. Is a drawing tablet going to be necessary or a choice? Do you need the latest industrial software or any software that could do the job etc?
For example, if you are applying as a motion graphics designer and your job is to only animate subtitles on top of iconic speeches by celebrities you might be able to achieve that with a lower-end PC using some cheap or even free software but If your job is to make a full-fledged animation for adults detailing on all the healthy habits they should adopt in their 40s, you might need a display graphics tablet for drawing/animation and some of the latest software like after effects and Photoshop to complete that project.
If you want to create digital art with a cheap PC or laptop you have to be patient in order to get the results you want.
You will find yourself frustrated and even a bit infuriated over how some people can just click and drag to make their imagination a reality whereas, you have to be willing to spend extra hours using an outdated technique to add a rather simple effect.
This is because digital art keeps on advancing at a rapid rate due to changing business dynamics and demands/needs of the consumers, in this case, digital artists. In order to stay competitive in the market and keep on giving convenience to these artists, companies keep updating their software and release new versions of it making the earlier versions outdated and obsolete.
But if you are using a cheap PC you don’t have access to the convenience of newer resources and are rather restricted to the time-consuming ineffective methods of earlier versions.
This doesn’t mean you can’t achieve the same effect or keep up with the artists that have the latest IPad Pro and Apple Pencil but it will take some time to get there.
This is usually the main reason many people aren’t able to get their digital art career to progress. Having a tight budget means you will be limited to some resources that are available to other designers but it depends also on how tight your budget really is.
You might not be able to afford an IPad Pro and Apple Pencil which is very popular amongst digital artists right now along with its exclusive Procreate software but you might still have some money to afford a decent mid-range PC. Not too fancy but can still manage to run some heavy-duty software and have good enough RAM to create digital paintings, animations, etc. without crashing.
So, even though you might have money to only afford a very cheap laptop with hardly 4GB RAM and has a 32-bit operating system it just isn’t worth it
It would be a much better decision to wait till you have saved up just enough to buy a decent budget laptop/computer with good RAM and runs a 64-bit operating system as it would allow you to download the latest versions of most software.
Check out my article on the best computers for graphic design students for some good budget options.
The thing I’ve found truly magnificent about broke artists is that, since they are limited to the supplies they have, they seem to make full use of them and experiment a lot to get their desired results.
In order to win over the competition and your audience, you have to be creative when working with a cheap PC by finding alternatives for expensive resources.
For example, when digital artists want to draw something they just whip out their display drawing tablet, plug it into their computer, and start designing but I didn’t have a tablet nor could I have any good software at the time which would stabilize my lines even if I decided to draw with my mouse since my laptop ran a 32-bit processing system.
So, what did I do?
I drew the exact sketch I wanted on a piece of paper and took a picture of it using my phone, I sent that picture to my laptop using Gmail and scanned it making the lines clearer. Then finally I loaded it into Krita and traced over the drawing using the line and curve tools, finally adding some effects for some finishing touches.
You have to develop this level of creativity in order to work on a cheaper laptop as you do not have the extra or necessary help but I assure you the results are just as good.
To conclude, it’s not impossible to get started in digital art without an expensive or high-quality PC/Laptop but it is totally worth it to invest in one as it will open up a lot of opportunities for you and is much more cost-effective in the long term. But as a beginner who is just trying to get a feel for things and wanting to see whether or not he wants to do digital art seriously a cheap computer might be able to help you achieve that.