I’ve been growing steadily more serious about my art for the last five years or so. As art has dominated more and more of my life, I’ve noticed several resources that have become indispensable in my endeavors.

I’ve detailed five that I consider essential.

1. Posemaniacs, Quickposes, and New Master’s Academy

I’m a big fan of timed drawing and it’s my experience that timed drawing advances your skills faster than anything else. And just because these focus on the human figure doesn’t mean the hand-eye connection you develop won’t translate to other subjects.

Posemaniacs provides thousands of figures in that are digitally rendered without the skin. If you think this is gross, it’s really not. Seeing the musculature under the skin provides valuable insights into the body. Besides seeing the musculature, you also rotate each figure into every position imaginable. There’s also a section dedicated to hands, but the rendered shapes are disappointing.

Quickposes is another fantastic tool for honing your eye, but unlike Posemaniacs, they have a huge library of real human figures and you have control over whether you want your models nude or clothed. Like the others, the timed intervals are my favorite. Even better, you can choose to do pose, face, hands, or feet.

New Master’s Academy is the third figure drawing tool I recommend. If you visit their website, most of what New Master’s Academy is not free but their YouTube channel is! Their video sessions are the next best thing to a live figure drawing class. Each half-hour video features several timed poses featuring the same model for each pose.

2. The Best Photography Tutorial

You cannot share your artwork without getting the very best photos of it (and who knows, maybe someone will want a print of your artwork). As I look back at the photos I shot of my early work, the photos are dismal (or as they say in layman’s terms, crap). The lighting was uneven, many shots were a tad blurry, and the colors were not accurate. And now some of those pieces are gone forever with no chance to reshoot them. Let my story of woe be a cautionary tale.

Okay, so a camera is not going to be free, but no other equipment is needed especially expensive studio lights. He uses a tripod, but there’s a workaround for that too. What I like most about this tutorial is its simplicity.

I revisit this tutorial every time I need to photograph a new piece.

3. Framelaspe

If you want audience engagement, this is my number one go-to tool. People are fascinated by time-lapses. Heck, I’m fascinated by them. Watching a finished piece of art develop out of a blank canvas can be a powerful learning tool and  even cathartic.

Framelapse is just the app to create a beautiful time-lapse and is a free for Android users (don’t worry, Hyperlapse is the awesome alternative for iPhone users.) I have tried a great number of time-lapse apps and I keep coming back to Framelapse. It allows a lot of controls while keeping it simple.

However, you should know that simplicity is not a priority for me. It’s the final result that keeps me coming back to Framelapse. Its output seals the deal because it is so smooth and clean. Most other time-lapse apps have flickering or focusing problems which can be distracting in the final video. That’s why Framelapse it is.

One word of caution with Framelapse: try to keep your lighting as consistent as possible. One day I was filming on a partially cloudy day and strong changes in light were not very fun to watch in the video

If you have any other suggestions for a timelapse app that you think I should try, I love testing new ones out.

4. VSDC Free Video Editor

Now that you have a great piece of art and a time-lapse to show it off, I find a bit of tweaking of the video is always in order. This is where a powerful editor like VSDC Free Video Editor comes into play (and I mean powerful). I had a big problem finding one that did everything I needed while still being free. After trying several that were okay but didn’t do quite enough, I was overjoyed to find Free Video Editor. (There may have been some divine intervention because I was becoming seriously frustrated after installing so much other junk on my computer.)

Features that I needed:

  • video cropping
  • the ability to merge videos
  • video splicing
  • capturing stills from the timelapse
  • and lossless editing

You may be surprised that these features barely scratch the surface of Free Video Editor. (There’s also screen capture which I have yet to use, but couldn’t be more excited to try.) And there are no ads, no trial period, and no watermarks! Score!

I have to admit one downside: there is a steep learning curve. While they claim that their program is intuitive, I did not have that experience at all. It was painful trying to figure how to put together everything I needed. But I’m a stubborn cuss and if you don’t mind things that test your mettle, this software is for you. I have come to love it.

5. Wave

Now that you’re creating amazing art people are going to start knocking down your door to buy it. Congratulations, you’ve made it! {Okay, maybe it’s not that easy.} But now you need to act like a business.

Taxes are the nasty side of business. And keeping track of your earnings is essential for warding off the IRS. As a hobbyist, your tax rate is nearly half of what you earn, but as a serious business, your taxes are significantly less.

Wave to the rescue!

Wave is the completely free small business accounting software and app to handle all of your art income and expenses. Wave lets you send invoices to your customers, collect payments, create reports and upload receipts. There is so much to Wave I can’t believe it’s still free.

Bonus Resource!

Finerworks

What?! I know I said five, but I’ve included one more as a bonus.

Sometimes people will be so enamored of a piece of art they will ask if you do prints. Even if you don’t normally do prints, you can immediately say yes because there’s Finerworks. I’ll be honest I haven’t used any other service, but I did do a lot of research. I even started the process with a few of them, but Finerworks was the only one I clicked with.

You may not believe this, but I never even saw the print (it was one heck of a leap of faith) – I had it delivered directly to the customer. They have this fantastic service that will dropship your order straight to your customer while still using your logo on the paperwork. I think this was the part that sealed the deal for me. The customer was thrilled and so was I so I have no reason to try anyone else now.

Now, what made me trust them over some of the others? Maybe it was the ease of use, lots of explanations, numerous papers to choose from, their branding, their blog, or the dropshipping. Maybe it was their fantastic blog: it was thorough and really about helping the artist succeed. But by-and-by it was the dropshipping that sealed the deal.

And having a happy customer? Couldn’t be better.

Bonus #2!

Instagram

I’m including Instagram because of the awesome worldwide exposure you can gain as an artist. Instagram rocks the visual scene so you can understand why any artist would be drawn to it. And it may not be immediately evident, but it can make you a better artist. Wrap your brain around how Leonardo DaVinci puts it:

“I say and insist that drawing in company is much better than alone, for many reasons. The first is that you would be ashamed to be seen behindhand [inferior] among the students, and such shame will lead you to careful study. Secondly, a wholesome emulation will stimulate you to be among those who are more praised than yourself, and this praise of others will spur you on. Another is that you can learn from the drawings of others who do better than yourself; and if you are better than they, you can profit by your contempt for their defects, while the praise of others will incite you to farther merits.”

I really like that last part: “the praise of others will incite you to farther merits“.

Instagram is a great place to get likes and positive comments. It’s also the place to easily find your tribe. There’s no other place where you can see what so many other (and sometimes discouragingly incredible) artists are creating. Plus, you get to see what they’re doing in their lives, progress shots, techniques, demonstrations, and upcoming shows.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention few of the apps that are indispensable to posting on Instagram: Instashot, Photo Editor, and No Crop.


Now, I don’t need a lot of tools. I find having too many just clutters up my life. The ones I’ve described here handle very specific needs and do it efficiently. Are there others out there? Heck yes! But I’ve got to sleep eventually (despite how often I try to avoid it) and I can’t try them all. If you’ve found something out there that is free, earth-shattering, and you can’t live without, I’d love to hear about it.

If you’re comfortable where you are, then go with it. But if you’re searching for a better solution I really hope you give some of these a try.

The right tools can make all the difference in your success. Click To Tweet