Top 10 Best Art Programs for Digital Drawing & Painting : free and paid

Nov 27,2019 PM 18:36

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In recent years digital advancements have designers leaving pen and paper behind, allowing them to create visual image files using their computer mouse or Graphic Drawing Tablets.

if you are good at freehand pencil/drawing then a tablet is great to have your work already created in the digital realm without transferring it there later to work on more. sketching basically, i’m not good at it but a good sketcher would probably love a good tablet.

and, if you need to edit (especially for raster images) down to individual pixels and pixel groups then a tablet is very helpful.

tablets are great to have when you need to transfer a raster image into a vector environment and vice versa because you are definitely going to need to edit pixel by pixel to get edges to blend etc.

Almost any professional graphics software will work for Drawing tablets, as they have pretty much a stranglehold on the digitizer tablet market. So you should pick the right software for your needs and preferences.

I tried out a lot during the years: photoshop (cs2 - cc ), krita, gimp, paint tool sai, mypaint, corel painter, paintstorm studio and maybe more, just can't remember. I own a XP-Pen Deco Pro (Medium) graphics tablet .

What I can say is that every software has their own advantages. The question is: what advantages are good for you personally. That's why I suggest to try different softwares before you decide which one is the best for you.

I can name some really-well known ones and I'll say my own personal opinion about them.


5 Best Paid Drawing & Painting programs for Artists :


On this side we've the comercial programs. They can be very pricey but they have the advantage in that you’re buying a high quality product right out of the box made by paid professionals. They won’t suffer from a lack of updates or bugs like most opens source programs do.


1. Adobe Photoshop CC - many tools

photoshop.jpg

The king of photo editing, painting and hands down the best program. When you see an amazing painting eight out of ten times was made on photoshop. On the free side only Krita comes close to match it’s raw power.

Get this one if you can.

This one is the favorite for all professionals mainly due to all the highly advanced tools it has and it’s second to none brush engine.

No wonder it’s the most pirated software ever.

Some people get intimidated by it, but it’s actually very easy to learn. Because you won’t be needing most of its tools as the majority are mainly used for photo manipulation —not for painting. In fact if you learn to use this program you’ll know the basics of all the others.

All painting programs want to be as good as it (wheter they admit it or not).

Most tutorials and learning tools are made for photoshop so it’s ideal for beginners and pros alike. All painting programs owe something to this one.

It’s main drawbacks are the fact that it’s a very heavy program that will demand a lot resources from your computer, like memory and RAM. Not for the faint of heart.

Photoshop is the industry standard. It's easy to find tutorials, brushes, or anything else you need,

This is subscription based now. Has so much stuff featured and it's good at doing anything. There are different tiers starting from $15/month (Photoshop + Lightroom + other stuff) up to $100 (All adobe apps + adobe stock). It has everything. Tons of options like custom brushes, workspace customization, plug-ins, filters, effects, 3D support, and many more features. Not sure if you can buy older versions for a fixed amount... There's a trial too.

While it can be faulty, Photoshop is still "the industry standard". At some point you'll have to learn how to use it in one way or another. It can be complicated, frustrating and the default brush engine is not that good with lineart, but still, it's can be considered the best in everything overall.


2. PaintTool SAI:

paint tool SAI.jpg

Really popular and cheap for its capabilities. Has a free trial. It has a pretty good drawing engine overall.

This is the program all other “manga” painting software want to be. Manga artist love it. It’s legendary.

It has an amazing watercolor brush and eight out of ten times most manga style art, on the internet, is made with this software.

It’s very lightweight and very easy to learn and master. In fact the “easy” part of its name is not just a trademark; it really is easy.

Artist love it for it’s lack of lag, great paint feeling and it’s superior linear to even photoshop’s.

However it does suffer from the drawback in that its developers are too content “being at the top” and they seldom ever (if ever) update or fix bugs for it.

3. Clip Paint Studio/Manga Studio - Windows/Mac

clip studio paint.jpg

Taking advantage of Sai's lack of— “enthusiasm”— comes Manga Studio , especially for lineart. Has trial.

Clip Studio paint is a specific software to use for digital painting and comic drawing. This software offer a lot of easy method to drawing comic (something like comic panels, comic page, comic cloud etc) and have a lot of artistic brushes to help you on drawing. Any professional artist use this software usually have manga style drawing .

It's very similar to Sai. But it has much more features. It leans heavily on artist that want to publish comics/manga as such it has many features that help on it including vectors.

It's a bit pricer than Sai, but it,s development team is much more committed .


4. Corel Painter

corel painter.jpg

a great realistic painting tool, bridging the gap between traditional media and the digital world.

Corel allows you to customize anything you want, be it brushes, palettes, papers, colors, patterns, gradients, etc. It has every professional tool to provide the user with a seamless drawing experience. There are over 900 brushes in Corel Painter with an addition of 36 new brushes for diverse drawing requirements. It also offers a range of amazing tools for creating the perfect composition. Additionally, you can also import content from others to complete your drawing.

This one is a favorite for many professionals due to it’s power to emulate real life tools/ traditional media. The feeling of painting with actual oils and the like is second to none. If you come from a traditional background this one is the very best bet.

It's awesome - the real brushes simulating the real deal are uncanny, it's almost too good to be believed. However, some of the functions are extremely clumsy to use - resizing or moving images, rotating layers etc, small details which can frustrate the user or slow down the workflow.

Higher tier, expensive stuff . Just like photoshop, profesional love it but–

I personally don’t recomend it for hobbyists, like me, due to the fact that it’s too pricey (money you should be investing in learning)

It’s also very complex and it has a high learning curve so it can be incredibly confusing specially for people that don’t know anything about digital painting.

5. ArtRage 5

artrage 5.jpg

This full-featured digital painting software from Ambient Design, with new digital editing tools, provide improved performance. The advanced features make creating art a fun and easy activity.

On ArtRage 5, you can customize your paper to get the desired effect and allows you to design brushes, composition tools, pattern and gradient fill, filters, etc. The latest version comes new tools such as the natural pencil, flexible custom brush editing along with previous tools. The user can personalize everything and can adapt the software to one's needs.

Art rage is a cheap alternative for a program that emulates traditional medium like oils and water colors.

 

Free digital art software


First let’s talk about the ones you can get for free “as in gratis.” It’s said that there is no such thing as a “free meal.” But this is an exception as most of these were done by talented people that believe in freedom of software (open source) . Neat uh?


6. Gimp

gimp.jpg

Mac Os/Windows/linux. While it's free and has a lot of freedom, it's like linux. Can be complicated, faulty and frustrating.

Even painters that love it tend to heavily modify it to suit their needs. I was using gimp for Graphic Design for more than 2 years and I guess I'd say it's more of a Graphic Design rather than painting software.

It also suffers from the drawback that it’s creators want it to be an image editor and painter features aren’t a priority for them. Updates can take years to materialize.

Developers tend to care more about catering to other developers than the average users (hence it’s weird version numbering and confusing “save as” option) .

But if you want a solid photoshop replacement this one is the one you should try.

Many incredible artist use this program. Once you get used to the UI you’ll be doing amazing works of art in no time. Best of all, you’ll get the best of photoshop at no charge.

The “underdog” feeling of creating art as amazing as photoshop is also priceless.

7. Krita - extended tool-set aimed at digital drawing

krita.jpg

It’s available for Mac/Windows/linux and some tablets. Krita seems to be one of the most underrated free and open source painting apps on the market, despite it being in development for over 10 years. Krita has an intuitive and customisable interface, where the dockers and panels can be set up to maximise your workflow.

Its free, open source, and very powerful. It is great for beginners who don't have the money for photoshop and you can do most things that you can do in photoshop. Have fun and enjoy!

This one is my personal favorite and in my opinion the best. The developers are hardworking knowledgeable individuals and in some aspects this software is even better than photoshop. This program was designed with 100% of painters in mind. It’s been used by profesional artist as a serious alternative for photoshop and it has every tool you could possibly need and even more!

Looking for an amazing brush engine? Perspective tools? layers? Masks? brush customization? This program has you covered.

The tool offers nine unique brush engines, including a Color Smudge engine, Shape engine and Particle engine. You can also import brushes and texture packs or create and share your own. As an added bonus, you can use a brush stabiliser to help get those perfectly smooth lines every time.

Its developers made it possible to use photoshop brushes on this program neat uh?


8. MyPaint - basic tool-set

mypaint.jpg

MyPaint is a free and open-source raster graphics editor for digital painters with a focus on painting rather than image manipulation or post processing.

has a lovely, endless canvas (raster) & nicely done brush engine. Free & open source. - Linux, macOS & Windows. Can require some technical knowledge to install on macOS (use MacPorts) & Windows.

This one’s mains strength is that it’s simplicity and great UI makes you focus on painting and let’s you forget about everything else. It has great preset tools, like Krita, and you will be working right away expressing yourself. This program is the one that stimulates my imagination the best. They developers make you forget about the burdens of software making it one of the easiest programs to master.

Its main drawback is that it takes developers ages to update and they’re focusing mainly on linux. It can be a pain to install in none linux platforms.


9. Medibang paint

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Platform: Available for Windows, MAC, android and iOS.

If you're looking for a great, free alternative to Clip Studio Paint, have a look at Medibang Paint Pro. Medibang Paint Pro is a lightweight digital drawing tool with a strong focus on creating manga art and comic books. It comes loaded with 800 free pre-made tones and backgrounds that you can use. It also has more than 50 brushes, and a huge selection of free fonts you can use within your projects.

This one is a favorite of manga artist due to it’s simplicity and the fact that it resembles the legendary Paint tool sai. It’s not open source but it’s still free.

It’s strongest points are how lightweight it is, the fact that it’s multiplataform, and it’s free “cloud service.” This means that you could be working on any device and continue your project in any other. Say you sketch in your iPhone and finish in your Pc’s tablet.

It also has tools for comics which makes it a serious contender. Lightweight digital drawing tool with everything you need to illustrate comics .


10. Autodesk Sketchbook

sketchbook pro.jpg

Autodesk SketchBook is available on iPad, Windows and Mac. This is a very good software as replacement for pencil sketches. What you would do if you start completely digital is start in SketchBook with the basic setup of the page and then use tools like Photoshop (Procreate, Sketch Club) or Illustrator to fill in the details.

This sketching tool is free for personal use, which is a recent update by the Company, but a paid one for commercial purposes. The Autodesk Sketchbook is perfect for beginners as well as intermediate users as it comes with a lot of customization option. The exceptional interface helps in maximizing the drawing space of every device. The drawing engine of the sketchbook can handle 100 mpx canvas while maintaining the zoomed-in feeling you get when you work on traditional canvas. Professional artist choose Autodesk Sketchbook because it is fast and precise.

I used it for about three(ish) years without the Pro subscription and if you know what you're doing, it can still work fantastically without the subscription. It runs on Mac and Windows (not sure about Linux) and on most, if not all, mobile devices.

It has the basic tools plus some extra brush sets, and if I remember correctly without the subscription you only get three layers to work on, plus a background layer (color/transparent only) so that can be a bit limiting, but for basic sketching and painting, it works just fine.

On mobile there's an option to convert a paper image to a drawing so you can sketch on paper and then paint over it on your phone or tablet. With the subscription you basically just get some extra tools and brushes as well as unlimited layer space.

conclusion

Afterward, go buy any tablet and app you wish, it does not matter. You will know how to draw on any of them. Without good basic drawing skills all of the apps in the universe will not help you

Draw, draw incessantly.


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