In honor of the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh

The architype of the “tortured artist”; famously neglected in life and celebrated in death. The 30th of March marks the 160th birthday of the post-impressionist dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh.


Vincent Van Gogh is undoubtedly one of the most recognised artists of modern times. Though his artwork is often shadowed by his infamous behaviour (famously cutting off his left ear for example) and mental difficulty, he has given the world of art some of the most celebrated and widely recognisable pieces. Van Gogh is credited with completing more than 2,100 works; 860 oil paintings, and over 1,300 watercolours, drawings and sketches.


Throughout his turbulent life Van Gogh’s work was rejected. His use of heavy brush strokes and multi-layered compounds of thick oil paint was constantly out of the favour of critics in the midst of the Impressionist movement. The recognition of his artistic genius and subsequently his legacy came after his suicide at the age of 37. Van Gogh has provided many artists with inspiration to push boundaries as he did with his unique style of painting. Many of these inspired pieces of work can be seen in the world of fine art and graphic design alike.


Here at Kalexiko HQ we wanted to celebrate Van Gogh’s birthday by encouraging artists out there to create their own masterpieces, so we thought we would share with you some of the graphic design programs that we recommend.


Brushes 3

Brushes 3 is a pretty good application for creating pieces on the move and boasts big name users such as David Hockney. The application itself is very simple and straightforward to use but still gives you the ability to create some impressive pieces of art. The preset brushes included with the app allow you to easily create many different effects and textures, which is great for getting to grips with the app and your artistic flair.


When you get more comfortable with the app, you have the option to create your own brushes and tweak the existing ones to fit exactly to the purpose and effects you want to create. If any of you out there are like me and prefer a more “realistic” painting experience then you will definitely want to take advantage of this option. This also prevents you with your own visible learning curve, as you progress to more advanced brush effects it not only makes using the app dynamic depending on your ability, but also rewarding as you progress to create finer pieces.


Selecting your colours is again simple. The colour wheel included in the app allows you to easily select the exact shade of a colour that you want down to delicate hues and tones. A nice feature included in the app is the option to select the transparency of the colours you are working with. With this feature you can blend colours and create the effect of lighter and heavier brush strokes; giving the option of depth in a piece, which is always a nice option to be able to experiment with. Following from this, when experimentation takes a turn for the worst you don’t need to fear as you can easily undo and redo actions without having to annoyingly recreate whole sections of your piece.


Another nice feature is the ease of sharing of your pieces. From within the app you can tweet, email or print your work. So if your particuarly happy with a piece or want to share it someone in particular then you can easily do it. Brushes 3 is a good, simple and minimalistic painting app. While it wont exactly flex your technical drawing or some of your more ambitious ideas it serves it purpose as a digital equivalent of a pocket sketchpad.


CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6

CorelDraw is a powerful graphics designer, without a doubt. CorelDraw is a good tool to create vector designs and layouts. The CorelDraw interface will be familiar to users of older versions of CorelDraw, it has the pull-down menus for File, Edit and View. There are some pretty useful effects included in CorelDraw X6 like Smear, Twirl, Attract and Repel, which allow you to create a nice variety of effects with imagery and colour in your pieces. These features also give you room to experiment with new personal boundaries and to experiment in artistic realms that you may not go down with other softwares. If you’re not a confident user or are new to the program then you will find the preview feature of the program useful; you can get an instant preview of what each of these effects will have on your drawing which is easily done through a simple drag and drop.


Colour harmonies are easily created and adapted using the Colour Harmonies Docker its colours will be turned into a smart colour palette that you can quickly transfer into a base colour, with hues to match. Furthermore, the relationship between multiple colours can also be identified and set as a gradient. So if you are working with a range of colours on a piece you can produce a nice range of complimentary or contrasting colourways to work with. If you are more about designing for the web then CorelDraw has a lot of features that will prove useful for you, with Corel Website Creator you can easily turn your creations into simple websites and there is a vast array of professionally designed templates that you can use to create posters, business cards and the like.


Unlike Brush, CorelDraw is definitely geared more towards the design professional and consequently can be very very daunting to a first time user. Though there are user tutorials included it can still be very difficult to grasp. This is definitely geared more towards the professional than the enthusiast.


Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro is possibly the closest experience to pen and paper that you will get on a PC or graphics tablet; it’s almost uncanny. It’s a very ‘organic’ drawing experience and very much modeled around offering a very authentic pencil and paper experience on your PC or tablet. Though this fidelity has left the program a bit thin and limited; unlike many other drawing programs it lacks features such as textures, ‘paint’ thicknesses (so you Van Gogh’s will be feel a bit short changed here) or the option to include basic shapes. Though, for this I quite like it. If drawing and design for you is the old-school way then you feel right at home with this program. It’s easy to get started with, the interface is nice, simplistic and easy to access and adaptable.


Though, if you want more than a drawing simulator you can still get quite a lot out of Sketchbook Pro. While the options for customisation of paints and textures is extremely minimal you can still have fun with what’s available. There are plenty of brush palettes, colour picking and layer options available to you as well as templates as guidelines and rulers to help you with the more meticulous designs; you can also also create your own custom brush sets, which helps when having to work with trickier projects when the standard set just won’t do.


Though, that being said this is definitely a program more in the favour of those who want uninhibited creative freedom in a program. The lack of restrictions may become frustrating when working in more ‘logical’ design areas. This is definitely a program for you if you are after a highly realistic drawing experience.


Adobe Creative Cloud

At Kalexiko HQ, we are firm followers of Adobe’s Photoshop, as were sure that you are too. With the launch of CS6, with it has come a plethora of new features that would just be far too magnanimous to go through here. What we have really been taken by is the Adobe Creative Cloud. The Adobe Creative Cloud is revolutionary as far as digital creative suites go. For a reasonable monthly charge you have access to a huge list Adobe programs that will help your creative ability and scope expand. Say for example you had some free time in the office and you wanted to learn some animation; you just download After Effects and away you go!


The cloud system also makes operating in the studio and on multiple machines so much easier. If you have a constantly expanding team; all of whom are used to different versions of Photoshop say, it can be a pain constantly trying to install and uninstall different versions of the program. With the cloud system you merely go onto Adobe’s online cloud system and download the one you want, simple. The Adobe Creative Cloud really makes design and sharing around a team so easy. While Photoshop isn’t necessarily the easiest of programs to get to grip with, the option to select the version you prefer and run with it is brilliant.


Those are just a few of our favourite graphic design programs and we would love to hear what ones you recommend. If you think we have missed any or, better still if you want to send in some of your masterpieces in then we would love to hear from you. Now, get out that tablet and stylus; or pen and paper and get working on your next masterpiece.