Digital Artist Rig

Artist_Rig_Intro_titleAs per the love of computers from childhood, I thought I would try my hand at a desktop build.  Since this is Black Friday (with Cyber Monday looming), I though this would be the appropriate time for such a post. This comes out of a desire to hone the art of system building.  The thought behind this build was to be medium-sized, focusing on a digital artists’ needs, while being reasonably priced.  Newegg has long been my online hardware distributor – they know computer tech.

The first thing was to find a base system board.  I chose a ASUS Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

System board

ASUS Z170M-PLUS LGA 1151 Intel Z170 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

This comes bundled with the CPU.  It is a Core i5-6600 6M Skylake.

Intel Core i5-6600 6M Skylake Quad-Core 3.3 GHz LGA 1151 65W

Any modern digital artist will quickly reinforce the importance of a good GPU.  And while I would suggest dual GPU for hardy gaming, 1 Cuda-based GPU goes a long way in 3d software today.

EVGA 02G-P4-3753-KR G-SYNC Support GeForce GTX 750 Ti Superclocked 2GB 128-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 Video Card

A good system art computer needs a lot of RAM.  It is for this reason I looked for 16gb of DDR4 2400 pin memory.  I am increasingly looking for more costly name brands because they are backed by hard-won trust.  Corsair has been a long-time runner in the RAM market.

CORSAIR Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400 (PC4 19200) Memory Kit Model CMK16GX4M2A2400C14

Any artist will also want to know there is pretty of space to store his work!  For this reason, I thought it appropriate to include a Seagate 1TB SATA HDD.


Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive

To power all of this equipment, a Power supply is needed.  I have always been a bit paranoid about powersuppy wattage, and so choosing something under 800w was difficult, but since this is a single GPU rig, 500w should be fine.

Enter a EVGA 100-W1-500-KR 500W ATX12V / EPS12V 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC

When all is said and done, this equipment needs to be contained in a special user-friendly box.  These can get expensive, ranging from simple flat aluminum to customized artisen high-heat glass.  A simple black steel will suffice well as it merely holds the precious components inside while appearing not-too-out-of place in the art studio.

Fractal Design Core1100
Fractal Design Core1100 (FD-CA-CORE-1100-BL) Black MicroATX Mini Tower Computer Case

And there you have it.  The final cost comes to $674.93, meaning it arrives at your home/studio/office for under $700.  Of course, this package only includes the tower itself, appropriate peripheral devices such as mouse, keyboard, touchscreen monitor, webcam, speakers/microphone will need to be optionally purchased as well.

As far as a good operating system, Apple OS will deliver the best overall art solution, but it requires some hacking.  Here is a possible path to take: How to Build a Hackintosh Mac

But more likely, you will find ample access to a modern version of Microsoft Windows.  Windows 8 and above offer great touch screen compatibility.

But if you are like me, you are looking for a system that has decent hardware, but open source software.  I suggest looking for a good linux distrobution.  Debian-based distros will offer a software set-up that is guided, but openSuSE Linux also comes very secure.  Fedora (red-hat based) is very similar to Apple, but generally Ubuntu is the one mostly likely to appeal to a new Linux user.

As far as software, I recommend open source for those not already owning their own software.  Blender should be the first software suite you install.  It is your all-in-one 3d modeling studio.  The learning curve is large, but if you are willing to save something like $1k, the amble Youtube tutorials will reveal quality results from this community-develop suite.  GIMP should be your second collected app, appealing to those who want to work with image layers, color manipulation, and a whole gamat other features.  Finally, get Inkscape.  This is quality free alternative to Adobe Illustrator, and I have found it is widely compatible with different file formats.

When creating your digital art studio, one terabyte of storage space may seem to be nearly limitless, until you start working.  Be sure you keep some method of organization.  Especially when working with HD video (in Blender), space can be eaten up quick.  I hope this digital artist rig solution is helpful, and if you decide to use some (or all) of it, I would love to hear about your result!