There is nothing like the feel of putting paintbrush to canvas or pencil to paper but the advantages of using the best drawing software might just have you rethinking your art. If you want to determine the best drawing software for you, keep reading.
Why Do You Need the Best Drawing Software?
Creating artwork using your mouse, a drawing pad, or an electronic pencil can open you up to a whole new world. One of the cool things you can do is erase an entire sketch with the click of the mouse or push of a button. You can also undo your last change if you don't like it.
The ability to export your drawings or paintings to different formats also allows you to use your artwork in ways you never imagined. Below are some of the best drawing programs and best digital painting software platforms to choose from.
- Adobe Photoshop
- Clip Studio Paint Pro
- Corel Painter 2020
- Affinity Designer
- Autodesk SketchBook
Adobe has been the standard in digital photography and creative design software for many years. Although quite a few new programs rival Photoshop's functionality and interface, it is still the go-to for many creative types.
Photoshop allows you to create stunning photographs, draw illustrations, design web interfaces, and even create 3D graphics. The software includes various drawing tools, filters, and special effects to create masterpieces easily. Some people consider it to be the best digital art software on the market. With Adobe’s reputation for quality comes a price. You can sign up for Photoshop for a monthly fee of $9.99 for one device or $20.99/month to use it on your desktop and iPad.
- The industry standard for editing photos and creating business artwork.
- Works on Mac, Windows, and iOS.
- Share data with other users.
- Cloud access for storing all your files, custom brushes, etc.
- Library of plugins available to extend the functionality.
- Includes all the necessary design tools and features.
- Pricey monthly fee, no straight purchase price.
- Does not work on Android.
- Interface is a bit outdated and overwhelming.
Clip Studio Paint Pro is gaining traction with comic artists and appears to be the best program for drawing because of its advanced pen pressure detection (up to 8192 levels of pen pressure). This feature allows creative types to craft realistic, natural pen strokes and draw and paint like they would on a real canvas.
The program includes thousands of customizable brushes, and they boast of no lag time, so your illustrations are fluid and smooth without any flaws. They do offer a free trial to use the software. The Pro version is $49.99, and you can extend the program's functionality by purchasing the EX version for $219, which includes tools for manga, comics, and animations.
- Great for manga and comics.
- Includes 8192 levels of pen pressure for amazing precision and smooth illustrations.
- Thousands of brushes to let your creative side flow.
- Works on Windows and macOS.
- Includes features like panel splitting and speech bubbles for animation and comics.
- Import 3D graphics and edit them.
- Can add sound effects and music to your creations.
- Includes vector layers for high-quality, scalable images.
- Interface can be confusing for some users.
- No publishing tools are included.
- Some users complain about the support.
Krita is an open-source, free painting and drawing software program. In 2019, TechRadar awarded Krita the best free painting software award. The best thing about Krita is although it's free, it's not amateurish, and it has a very professional look and feel. The interface is clean, easy-to-understand, and flexible. You can customize the UI by moving docked panels.
Packed with features like 100 brushes, brush stabilizers for fluid drawing, and libraries of vector and text elements, you can create fantastic artwork using Krita. This completely free software even comes with the ability to share artwork, brushes, and other elements between artists. Additional features include importing audio, exporting to video, framing, and onion skinning. You can't go wrong with this one!
- Packed full of amazing artist tools and features.
- Completely free forever.
- User-friendly interface.
- Sleek, professional program without compromise.
- Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- Nine brush engines.
- Wrap-around mode for texture and patterns.
- No online or cloud storage.
- Open-source with constant updates.
- Updates are sometimes buggy.
Corel has been making drawing software for ages, and it's just gotten better and better over the years. The latest version is jam-packed full of great features like a brush accelerator making your experience lag-free. The program is flexible enough to use for painting, drawing, illustrations, and even manga and fine art.
With 900 brushes, you won't be lacking. You can customize brushes, the interface, and more. Corel knowns its way around digital art software, but that knowhow and premium advantage comes at a price. The software costs a whopping $429. But if you are upgrading, you only pay $229.
- Specialized color enhancement tools.
- 900+ brushes.
- Brush accelerator for no lag-time and smooth drawings.
- Excellent performance.
- Stamp brushes.
- Clean, customizable interface.
- No subscription plan, one-time fee.
- Requires powerful computer resources to run.
- Very expensive.
Another digital studio contender in our line-up is ArtRage that allows you to blend colors for a realistic, canvas-envy painting. The software is geared towards traditional artists transitioning to the digital realm. However, the program is versatile enough to be used for illustrations, artwork, comics, graphic design, scientific drawings, and even caricatures.
It includes the standard gradient fills, paint cloning, along with grids and guides to keep everything in place. They do offer a free trial version and then have a Lite version for $29.90 and a full version for $79, but they also offer apps for iOS and Android for $4.99 each.
- Mobile apps for iOS and Android.
- Track depth and wetness of oil paints for realistic effects.
- Palette Knife to blend colors.
- Custom digital brushes.
- Fairly inexpensive.
- Plenty of cool effects.
- Interface could be improved; some areas are awkward.
Artweaver is another drawing and painting program that offers a basic free version. Although they call themselves a full-featured software program, the interface looks dated and simplistic and lacks the refinement of other contenders on our list. It does come preloaded with dozens of brushes that you can customize and save for future use. The software also includes collaboration tools so you can share your artwork with others or work on joint projects.
The downside is it's only available on the Windows platform, and the Pro version costs $34. The free version lacks all the fancy features that would make you want to use it.
- Dozens of customizable brushes.
- Collaboration features.
- Free technical support.
- Offers a free version.
- Only works on the Windows platform, with no Mac or mobile options.
- Very basic free version.
- Interface is dated and needs improvement.
Procreate is a favorite among iPad fans as it was designed especially for the platform. Not only does it include the expected features of blend modes, layering, and a variety of brushes, it was also designed to play nice with the Apple Pencil. Using a drawing pencil extends its functionality in very fluid ways. One unique feature is the ability to import fonts to create creative typography within your artwork.
Some additional cool features are the Eyedropper to choose an exact color, an unlimited palette library, and a sleek menu system to organize layers and multiple projects at once effortlessly. It is very affordable at $9.99 on the Apple App Store.
- Purchase add-ons.
- Sleek interface with robust features.
- Great for beginners and professionals.
- Layering, clipping mask, and blend modes.
- Only works on iPad, no Windows, or Android version.
- iPad-only interface may be difficult for some users to transition to.
Affinity Designer is another smooth operator when it comes to drawing and painting programs. It works great on Windows, Mac, and even on the iPad. The interface is modern and easy to understand. Overall, users like this program and compare it to Adobe Photoshop, although they mention that it's missing some features that would drastically improve it.
Affinity Designer has won a few awards and boasts of "changing the world of graphic design." There is no free version, but you can purchase the Mac and Windows versions for $49.99 or the iPad version for $19.99.
- Vector graphics for scalability.
- Dozens of brushes, pens, and pencils along with standard graphic art tools and resources.
- Works on macOS, iPad, and Windows.
- Powerful zoom, grids, and guides features for accuracy.
- Fast and designed for speed.
- Live gradients and special effects.
- Lacks some features that Adobe Photoshop has.
- Uses a lot of system resources – may slow down.
- Converting from raster to vector images can be tricky.
GIMP is an open-source image editor and works on Windows, Mac, and also Linux. It's completely free to use and change at will. It is advertised for illustrators, photographers, and even scientists. There is an extensive library of 3rd party plugins available to enhance the software.
It includes many useful tools, such as the ability to edit and enhance photos (retouching, composites, etc.) as well as a plethora of graphic design elements to draw, paint, and illustrate to create whatever you need. Because it's open-source, you can code new features and scripts into it to get even more out of the program. The program is free forever.
- Flexible, and you can install plugins to extend the functionality.
- All the standard drawing, painting, and photo editing tools needed.
- Versatile file formatting.
- Fully free and open source for customizing.
- Busy interface could be cleaned up.
- Lacking some of the polish of some other brand-name mentions.
Autodesk SketchBook is a unique animal in this list. It used to be a paid app on the Apple App Store but is now free for individuals. Enterprises, however, will need to purchase a license. It works on all your devices, and they offer a Windows version as well. SketchBook is a glorious graphic arts studio that includes everything but the kitchen sink. The distraction-free interface gives you plenty of space to create. You can even paint and draw huge images with its 100 mpx canvas. The powerful zoom feature makes this possible.
It works fast on the iPad giving you all the fancy tools and brushes you need to create pretty much anything. You can also scan images in using your device’s camera and share your artwork among all your devices seamlessly.
- 190+ custom brushes and pens.
- Sleek, modern interface.
- Distraction-free drawing space.
- Large canvases.
- Powerful import and export features.
- PSD compatible.
- Limitless options.
- Works on Mac desktop, mobile, and Windows.
- Free for individuals.
- Uses a lot of system resources on Mac.
- Can be sluggish at times on a desktop.
What are the Key Features to Look for in Drawing Software and How to Choose the Best One for You?
When considering the best software for drawing and painting, you need to think first about what you need. If you are using the program for work and need to create web or app layouts, that might dictate which program is best.
If you need something cheap or free, this again will help you decide. Some of these drawing software programs come with a monthly subscription fee (which some people hate), and with others, you can pay a one-time fee. Price is always a consideration. The other key features you need to consider when choosing the best drawing software are:
- Special effects to create artwork that mimics watercolors, oil paintings, pencil drawings, charcoal illustrations, and other formats.
- A variety of brush styles and complete control over line size and color.
- Whether or not they work with a mouse or stylus/digital pencil.
- Digital emulation of your medium/canvas.
- Custom brushes.
- Customizable interface.
- Blending modes.
- Built-in support.
- Brush engines.
- Flexibility to create many different types of art (3D, drawings, paintings, illustrations, wireframes, mock-ups, etc.).
- Transform tool for rotating, editing, or fixing items.
- Multiple levels of undo.
The program you choose must have all the elements you need to create graphics as good as you could with your paintbrush and pencil at a price you can afford.
The Best Drawing Software FAQs
What software do artists use to draw?
There are so many options out there to choose from, but the majority of artists and creative professionals use Adobe Photoshop because of its long-term reputation and viable features. Clip Studio Paint Pro and Corel Painter also have strong followers.
What is the best drawing software?
There is no definitive answer as to what the absolute best drawing software is because it depends on how you like to work, what you want to pay for the software, and if you are comfortable using the interface. Many people like Photoshop, but others say it's too confusing and difficult to learn (trying hard to be too many things at once). Some artists prefer simpler programs designed with the artist in mine like Studio Paint Pro and Krita, which are both great options for drawing.
What is the best free drawing software?
Probably the best free drawing software is Krita. It's open-source and updated frequently (which some users don't like), but unlike some open-source software, it's professional and fully baked with tons of great features. Old-school art professionals and graphic designers also love using GIMP because it's free and open-source, so they can modify it however they choose.
What software do most artists use?
Photoshop and Rebelle 3 are both popular choices for artists to use to render amazing professional or casual paintings, drawings, and edited photographs for any purpose. Mac users love Procreate and Sketchbook.
What is the best drawing software for beginners?
If you are just beginning the transition from canvas to digital, you probably won't want to spend a lot of money. A few options you can try are GIMP, Artweaver, and Krita, which offer free versions. For a couple of paid options, you might want to check out Procreate and Autodesk SketchBook. All these programs are geared towards the beginner to help get your feet wet and learn the ropes of digital drawing and painting.
The list above includes some great options for drawing, painting, and creating artwork. So, whether you are an artist dying to dig into the digital medium or a professional looking for a way to expand your toolset, one or more of these choices should work perfectly for you!