First off, welcome Nathan. ... As far as software, I would say try Corel Paintshop Pro X4, which can be found here Paintshop Pro X4 It's their latest version and priced at $69, so you can't beat it for the price. I also used this program for a while, before switching to Photoshop, and can say I found them to be quite familiar in the way of functionality. They both have a few things the other don't, but for the most part it's just that Photoshop is a lot stronger program overall. ... The other one you can try is Artrage Pro 3, which can be found here. Artrage Pro3 (Good thing is, they have it marked down right now, for $59.90, from regularly $80) You definitely want the pro, or if not, you will be going back to upgrade it soon after. But they do have a studio version, but I've never heard anyone suggest using it over the Pro. ... You will also find a lot of people on here that use it, and make some great pictures with it. **? I think I've heard someone mention that Artrage can sorta be compared to Painter, but I can't personally say, since I haven't used Painter before.
As far as where to start, I would say to just start with whatever you enjoy. Hang out here, post some work, get ideas from others. Just keep it fun and I think you will be creating all kinds of work in no time. And anything can be made into a Tattoo. :)
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