I have started the Prismhawk LLC Network of websites and blogs in October of 2011 using nothing more than some clip art, old photos (from a now defunct camera), and Serif’s Web Plus software. While I have a long way to go in learning to use art and animation within my own sites it is clear from many top selling web pages that any start up web publisher (those designing, creating, or maintaining a web presence) should utilize the many inexpensive graphic software on the market. Why? Well, even if you use very little graphics to aid in your current content I truly suspect that someday you will and if you do not learn the terms and processes of web illustration and animation it would be hard to catch up. Listen when I first started I thought that uploading a bit-map or windows meta file was the norm. I had no idea that file size ruled out these files for web use in today’s internet. So, here are my favorites on my very small budget:
Daz3D Studio: I like its easy of use, cost (lately it is free), and a huge growing library of content. It is a great introduction into 3d art and animation although limited to the creation of characters (note: I also like Poser which is similar – slightly more professional). Yet, this limitation is a good first step because most of the terms seem to be exhibited in this software. Just take that knowledge when you are ready to broaden out to the next level. Ironically, I was searching for an older software I once tried to use a decade or so ago, called Bryce, when I found out about Studio (from the same company). Bryce is also limited to landscaping but if you have it you can learn some animation and import your characters from Studio. Daz3d also has Carara as their high end software that can do the model creation, environment, and animation (but do not try all of that at once!). If you are learning and on a budget Studio is absolutely a great software to start!
PD Artist: I was looking for a illustration software that improves on Windows paint (others to consider: Gump, Paint.Net) and also works for AVI video files and animation in the future. PD Artist is more difficult to me to use and has more terms than Studio, but it was created by an artist! Still if you want to doodle with the amazing brush effects, it is easy, and you may be able to create a surprise! It also works with layers and I believe it can work with many files relating to the much more robust and expensive (but the most widely used professional illustration software) PhotoShop. In fact, this could be your first stop before using PhotoShop. If you learn the process of illustration here I have no doubt that using PD Artist is a good step towards your illustration understanding and goals. Let me know if you think that is true, good luck!