What an Illustrator wants from a Computer

Hello all,

We’ve all been there: it’s time to upgrade your hardware.

It can be very stressful picking a new computer. Every user has different needs, and it feels like there are infinite choices. I’m going to talk about some of the specific considerations an illustrator has when picking a computer.

My last computer was an HP tm2t touchscreen laptop. It allowed me to draw directly on the screen, and had good portability and ease of use. Great computer. It lasted through art school and into the start of my career. But the touch input was limited, and I need a better pen response. Now I’m in a position to customize myself an upgrade.

The Dream001

I already have the chair!

Desktop, Laptop, or Tablet?

For an illustrator, the desktop wins out. Illustration means using a lot of different inputs. Wacom tablets are standard, plus a mouse, and a keyboard. It’s a lot of cords plugged in. A laptop is portable, but not when you’re trapped in a spider web of cords, plugs, and peripherals.

Also, illustrators can really use a second screen. It’s useful for looking up references, emailing while working, and watching hulu while you draw. Crucial stuff.

Most tablet options are under powered for what I’m trying to do. Illustrators are going to be multitasking.  But here the desktop wins again. With a Cintiq plugged into your pc, you can do everything a tablet can, but with the power of the desktop.

How much power do you need?

This is a tricky question. An illustrator’s needs fall somewhere between a casual gamer, and a hardcore gamer or video editor.

You’re definitely going to need a dedicated graphics card. Most desktop computers come with two slots for graphics cards. I don’t think you need two GPUs running at once, unless you’re doing something crazy. I’m going to start with a single mid level card, and have space to upgrade later.

My last rig ran an intel core i5, and it always worked for me. I don’t think an illustrator needs the top-of-the-line i7 processors. Maybe that’s making your art better, I don’t know. I’m sticking with the i5.

How about the operating system?

Go with the last good operating system: Windows 7. Skip Windows 10, Cortana is spying on you, and the windows store is a cheap apple knock off. It may be controversial to say this. I’m not trying to troll you, it’s just what I believe.

You may notice, I haven’t mentioned Apple. They have very effective advertising that associates their product with creative people. But reality does not live up to the promise. The hardware is expensive: a comparable Apple rig costs up to $1500, versus a $1000 windows computer. There can also be compatibility issues once you’re penned into the Apple ecosystem. And you can’t make a custom Apple computer anyway.

I’ve never tried doing art with Linux. In my experience it’s harder to make all your hardware and software compatible. Then again, once you got everything figured out it could make for an impressively stable system. I may try it one day, but for today Win7 is just easier.


If you want to see my build, follow this link.

I am in the process of fund raising for my new computer. If you would like to contribute, you can donate to SCLeccentric’s paypal account.

(I’m actually having trouble with the paypal donate function, if you really are interested in contributing please say so in the comments section and I will reach out to you.)

I’d love to hear what people’s opinions on building a computer. Please chime in in the comments section! Have you made an art computer? I’d love to hear about it.

‘Till next time,