Ok I know it costs money, but as a new artist and game designer it was worth the money to buy a Wacom Intuos tablet. This came witht he free software ArtRage 3. Since I had that deal I was able to purchase ArtRage 4 for $25 instead of $50. You can find Wacom intuous 4 tablets online for $56-$80 (Amazon is at the low end) brand new with the free art program codes. So total price is about $80, but I just started doing all of these things maybe 2 weeks ago and I'm really getting good. I am making game characters and uploading the .PNGs to Construct2.
Artrage4 has almost everything Photoshop has that matters for tablet drawing. If on paper you can draw ok with ArtRage's quick to learn settings you can draw really nice things.
Wacom tablets have like 2048 pressure sensitivity. It's very close to paper, but a lot more forgiving. You can still scan your work and upload it to artrage, but doing everything electronic is much faster.
I pay for Adobe Creative Cloud, but I like ArtRage way better than Photoshop CS.
ArtRage might take a couple days to get used to, but I'm sure photoshop takes way longer.
I want to chip in recently from personal recent experiences.
I used to use Paint.NET, Inkscape, Gimp a lot. Free. Good enough most of the time. However I have to say recently I bought a cheap Wacom tablet and found that Paint/Gimp just kinda suck for tablets. So I was suggest to try Manga Studio 5 because PhotoShop is expensive(I don't pay monthly for tools).
WOW. I tried the demo and wow. The tool is far more intuitive. Faster. More effecient on the CPU, the tools are far better laid out than Gimp/Pain.net. Also MS5 has Vector Layers. So you can mix and match your art. Though the Vector work is a little less than InkScape. That because Vector art in MS is for inking mostly. It was just outstandling better than Paint.net/gimp. I was surprised.
Also I got MS for super cheap. I really suggest anyone who is going to do digital art work to pick up one. If you can't affort PS like me. MS is a fantastic vastly cheaper alternative that's far better than the Gimp/Pain.net.
http://www.amazon.com/Smith-Micro-Softw ... angastudio
Develop games in your browser. Powerful, performant & highly capable.
I'll second that Manga Studio recommendation. It's not really super-useful for game stuff in terms of exporting to a usable format directly, but it's inking tools are the best I've used. And while it calls the layers "vector" internally, you can't export to any vector formats, so that's something else to keep in mind - it's not really like Illustrator/Inkscape in the way it handles vector drawing.
GIMP, Inkscape, Adobe Flash and Adobe Illustrator.
And maybe Anime Studio and Toon Boom.
How about KDE's Krita?