Best Laptop For Artists

What is the best laptop for artists?

I get many questions from both established and aspiring artists about what computers, especially laptops, are best for professional artists. What computer do I use? How much do I spend on software or programs to help me edit, digitize or photograph my art? So I decided to put this guide together to help you decide which laptop is best for you whether you’re a fine artists, digital artists and/or illustrators. I’m also going to break down ALL the programs that I use to create prints, website content, high quality photographs, mockups and all my social and marketing content. Let’s have a look!

I believe the best laptop for artists, considering all factors such as functionality AND affordability is the MacBook Air.

Here are my exact laptop details: MacBook Air 2020 M1, 8GB RAM, 245 GB Storage, 13.5-inch display.

I use this computer to do all my work, including handling massively large digital prints. Surprised? Let me explain! 

I used to have a 27″ iMac. I loved the thing. The larger display made working on it feel monumental. It could handle everything which is why it’s a popular choice amongst artists, graphic designers and anyone doing creative work. It rarely faulted on me. But, when we decided to move abroad I had to decide whether I try to pack and take the beast with me, put it in storage and use another computer in the meantime, or sell it and get a new laptop that I can take anywhere. We didn’t know how long we’d be abroad though, so holding onto a computer for a year or more didn’t make any sense. And I didn’t want to be tied down to a giant computer and not be able to work on mini trips or when we moved around, so the choice was obvious. 

I sold my iMac about 2 years after I bought it for about 60% of what I paid for it. So I had plenty of money for a good laptop. I started to do my research and knew I wanted an Apple computer because I already owned Apple devices and wanted to be able to share files, photos, notes easily between them all. It’s a personal preference though!

I compared the Apple MacBook Pro, which I actually had for about 10 years prior to purchasing the iMac and how the Apple MacBook Air compared. 

Mostly because the MacBook Air was much more affordable and I had imagined this being a temporary laptop and that I’d return to the iMac when we’d move back home, so I didn’t want to spend too much money. 

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After asking around, visiting the Apple store and chatting with various friends and family who used their laptop for various tasks, I decided to give the MacBook Air a try. It promised hours of battery life, high display quality for graphic artists or creative professionals, and was an excellent choice with all the most important features that I would need. And the best thing was, if I bought this one, I’d have money left over for some camera equipment I also wanted to take with me. I knew I wouldn’t replace the iMac but I didn’t want to, I just wanted something that would allow me to do as much work remotely as possible without breaking the bank!

Some of the essential features for everyday use that I needed and for the type of work I’d be doing included a good quality graphics card, easy access to all my apple products and devices, usb port connectivity to studio equipment that wasn’t wireless and sufficient RAM (memory capacity) to handle large file sizes. So, let’s get into some common artist tasks and how my computer handles them. 

The Apple Macbook Air and Digitizing and Editing Large Image Files

The MacBook Air can handle editing, digitizing and exporting large image files. 

This is the important bit, friends! As an artist selling your work online, you’ll have specific needs in terms of graphics. If you plan on creating digital prints, patterns or any type of licensing work you’ll need to create high-resolution scans or photos of your work and edit them in a creative editing software, most likely Adobe Creative Cloud or Suite (photoshop, illustrator, etc..) 

This is where computing capacity comes into play, and where your computer will do it’s heaviest work. 

My biggest concern was RAM and the graphics card, as I wanted to make sure my computer could handle large images as I didn’t want to compromise on quality of prints. For example, if you want to offer art prints that could be scaled to say, 38×48″ or larger, you’ll be working on file sizes that could reach up to 100 MB or more in size, so your CPU and RAM become really important! 

My computer has 8 GB of RAM and a M1 CPU which has 4 cores (processing power). Half of my memory is consumed by default system processes, like the operating system.

If you have a mac, you can search for your Activity Monitor at any point and see what apps consume how much RAM. For example, as I write this in Microsoft Word I also have photoshop (about 4 tabs running with large file sizes), chrome, excel and some other smaller apps open in the background, this is what that looks like in memory usage. If you are paying attention and wondering how Photoshop is consuming 10.28 GB of the 8.00 GB available, its because there is something called virtual memory, where your computer will “borrow” extra memory to complete a task.

The thing to keep in mind is when this number spikes, which is when you are saving or exporting a file and can reach up to 100% in certain cases (this is when things slow down). A few times, if I’m exporting a really large file I’ll get an error message telling me the action can’t be completed. That’s because there’s no more RAM left. It’s really rare but it does happen. But, to be honest I remember it happening on my iMac as well, so I just chalk it to part of the job… 

To minimize this from happening though, if I am working on a file I know is really large I’ll shut down all the other programs so that I maximize the RAM towards photoshop. 

All in all, I can do all my the tasks that I need to do on one small laptop. 

Must Have Software And Tools For Artists

Here is the complete list of editing, website growth and social media content software that I use as a professional artist, broken down into apps I use on my smartphone and laptop. 

COMPUTER PROGRAMS / APPS

1. Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) 

2. Canva Pro (Web Browser)

3. Microsoft Office (Word, Excel) 

4. Image Capture

5. Zoom

6. Adobe Reader (shipping labels)

PHONE APPS

1. Photoshop Express Lightroom

2. Splice

3. Canva (under the laptop category but you can also create content on your phone as well)

iPAD

1. Procreate

FOR WEBSITE ANALYTICS, TRAFFIC GROWTH, EMAIL MARKETING AND BLOGGING:

1. RankIQ 

2. WordPress

3. Flodesk

4. Google Search Console

5. Google Analytics

Must Have Computer Software For Artists – Best Laptop For Photoshop just over $1000

ADOBE CREATIVE SUITE (PHOTOSHOP)

Not a day goes by where I’m not using photoshop to edit, digitize or create mockups or social media content. Photoshop is a must! Whether you’re just starting out or in the game a while, you’re probably using photoshop to either create a mockup, digital print or sizing scans or photos for printmaking, pattern making or any licensing work you might be exploring. Extremely powerful, photoshop is the number one tool for photo editing and creating digital content such as framed mockups, renderings and any other type of imagery to help showcase your artwork. My recommendation is to start with just photoshop (you can pay monthly) and expand into other programs such as illustrator or indesign or premiere if you need it. 

Browse Adobe Creative Cloud here. 

CANVA PRO

A must for all your social media content – posts, pins and branding content. Canva Pro is the premium subscription plan for the Canva graphic design platform and it is well worth it, guys! It offers additional design tools, collaboration features, a brand kit, resizable designs, premium elements, one-click magic resize, and priority support compared to the free version. It’s designed for users who require more advanced design capabilities and teamwork features, which you’ll likely need! This is probably my second most frequently used software. What I use it most often for is to create a Pinterest Pin Template, where I’ll create 6-10 pins, all branded to my business, and quickly create pins that are formatted for Pinterest. I’ll then go into my Pinterest platform and schedule these pins to upload every 24 hours and create content for the entire week. 

Try Canva Pro

MICROSOFT OFFICE

All things back of house, I use Word to write my blog posts, create lists and generate all my copy for my content. 

Excel is where I keep track of all my expenses and create price lists for various products, art prints for example. 

There are other options available but I just find this to be the most commonly used and easy to export into other formats. 

IMAGE CAPTURE

My digital camera to laptop transfer software. This is basically an app that allows me to sync the photos from my professional camera to my laptop or phone. 

ZOOM

No explanation needed, here! I use the paid plan so that I don’t get cut off at 40 min and can schedule as many meetings as I need to! 

ADOBE READER

I use Adobe Reader as probably most people do, for opening and editing PDFs. I also create all my shipping labels, commercial invoices and any additional customs or internationally required documentation for when I ship artwork. 

Must Have Phone Apps for Artists

LIGHTROOM

Adobe Lightroom is a photo editing and management software in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. It offers non-destructive editing, organizational tools, and a powerful design modeul for adjusting various aspects of photos. Lightroom is known for its efficiency in handling large photo collections, presets for quick styling, and seamless integration with Adobe Photoshop. I have created a series of presets that I use in all my photography, check those out here!

SPLICE

Splice is a video editing application designed for mobile devices, allowing users to create and edit videos on the go. It offers features such as aspect ratio trimming for pinterest, instagram and my commonly used platforms. It has great transitions, text overlays, and the ability to add music and sound effects to videos. I find it extremely user-friendly and more than enough for basic video editing on my smartphone and for direct export for Instagram Reels. 

Must Have Website Growth and Traffic Analysis Tools

RANK IQ

My absolutely favourite blog post writing tool! Features keyword research built for your specific niche, analytics and blog post writing with updated keyword ranking and score. It helps optimize your content as you write it and gives you really incredible SEO reports. Must have for bloggers! 

Head over to RankIQ here to get more info on how to use one of my favourite traffic building tools. 

WORDPRESS

My website platform. WordPress is like the Swiss Army knife of the internet! I’m sure you’ve come across it at some point. It’s this awesome, open-source system that lets people, whether they’re tech whizzes or just getting started, create and handle websites with a breeze. What’s great about WordPress is that you can make your site look just the way you want it by choosing from beautiful themes, and you can add extra features using plugins. It’s also very affordable and completely customizable. 

FLODESK

Flodesk is like your creative sidekick for sending out super stylish emails. It’s a tool that helps businesses and creative folks craft eye-catching email campaigns without needing a design degree. With Flodesk, you can pick from loads of cool templates, drag and drop elements, and make emails that really pop. I use it daily to send out my newsletter, special promotions and new art releases. 

It’s not just about looks though – Flodesk also lets you set up smart automations. So, whether you’re welcoming new subscribers or nudging folks who left items in their cart, you can do it all automatically. This basically means setting up a workflow where you’re able to create automatic email sequences that send out whenever a new subscriber joins your list. It’s a hands-off system that lets you send out a series of emails customized to each subscriber without you having to manage every single email that goes out. 

Head over to Flodesk here to get more info on how to grow your mailing list! 

GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE

Google Search Console is a free web service provided by Google that allows website owners to monitor and manage their site’s presence in Google Search results. It offers valuable insights into how Google’s search engine views and interacts with a specific website. A must have if you have a website! 

GOOGLE ANALyTICS

Similar to Google Search Console, Google Analytics is a powerful web analytics service provided by Google that allows website owners to track and analyze the performance of their websites. It provides valuable insights into user behaviour, traffic sources, and the effectiveness of various aspects of a website.

I do all of these tasks on my Apple MacBook Air, and the amount of ram and storage space has almost never been an issue. I can edit in photoshop, write a blog post, work on some content on Canva all at the same time and my computer can handle it all. It feels like a small and powerful laptop. I really love it and honestly don’t need anything else for the time being. I’m currently writing this blog post on an airplane, and editing all the photos that will accompany this post and I just love that. It makes doing this job and all the design work extremely flexible and truly possible from anywhere. While I do sometimes miss the screen size of the iMac, I was tied down to my office with that computer. 

iPad Software For Artists

PROCREATE

Digital artists, rejoice! 

Procreate is an app designed for your drawing tablet. It is a digital painting app designed exclusively for the iPad. It is known for its powerful and intuitive features, making it a popular choice among digital artists, illustrators, and designers. If you’re looking to create digital illustrations, edit artwork, create palettes then this is your tool! Keep in mind, you’ll also need the stylus support or apple pencil if you want to have a pen-like feel while working. It has touch sensitive capabilities, making it feel like a physical tool, be it a pencil, pen or paintbrush.

What Do All Of These Tools Cost?

Here’s the breakdown of what I pay monthly (CAD) for each tool. You can get free versions of a lot of these tools but as you grow, you’ll find you’ll need more functionality and those have fees. Here is my current breakdown: 

Adobe Photoshop – $50 / month (includes Adobe Reader)

Canva Pro – $18.99 / month

Microsoft Office – $8.33 / month

Zoom – $17 / month

Lightroom: $11.99 / month

Splice: $9.99 / month

RankIQ: $49 / month

WordPress: $31.00 / month

?Flodesk: $29 / month

TOTAL MONTHLY COST: $225 

Procreate: $11.99 (one time cost)

Macbook Air (2023 current retail price): $1449

*If I didn’t mention one of the programs here but discussed them above, that’s because there is no cost to run or use them. 

living room with rustic theme

I’m a Beginner Artist – What Do I Need To Get Started?

If you’re overwhelmed by all the information, tools, equipment and apps you have to sift through as a new artist, I’d recommend starting here – Canva Pro, Lightroom, Photoshop, and WordPress. If you have a laptop or computer you’re using at the moment, likely it will be enough in the interim as you grow. If you’re looking to purchase one, the Apple MacBook Air or MacBook Pro is more than enough if you’re not wanting to purchase a desktop computer. If you’re not processing large file sizes, it will handle your everyday content creation. For example, Canva Pro saves everything you work on on their server so you’re not going to be saving large files on your computer. Photoshop does take quite a bit of space to run on your computer but again, you can save things to the cloud or their adobe cloud server. You’ll use photoshop to edit, create and use mockups you find online or purchase through Etsy and edit any photos you take. You can also edit photos really quickly in Lightroom as you learn how to use Photoshop, Lightroom will become your go-to quick photo editing tool while Photoshop will be where you modify mockups, create graphics and do heavier editing work. 

But before all this, if you don’t have a website yet, this is the very first place to start! You need a place to showcase your work and who you are as an artist. This is also where you’ll sell your artwork – originals or prints, connect with your community, write content that will expand your reach on Google, make announcements and grow your mailing list. 

You’re in good hands! 
 
This free guide will walk you through the first 9 things you can do TODAY to get started on your business from home!
 
Sign up below and you’ll also receive exclusive content, updates and discounts on special collaborations. You’ll receive tips and tutorials to create and curate beautiful art, how to start your own business and much more! 
 
Thank you for subscribing!

If all of these things sound new to you, head over to download your free creative business starter guide where I’ll walk you through each one, step by step! If you’re a traditional artist transitioning slowly into the online world and need some help with where to start and what to prioritize, the Beginner’s Studio Guide is a great tool that will help you define your business, find your online customers and build a platform to sell your art. It will also teach you how to grow a mailing list and create a beautiful and powerful website that will bring traffic and sales to your site. 

I hope you found this post helpful regardless of where you are on in your business!

All the best,

Donata

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