Since the popularization of the digital drawing and painting apps, many of these software packages have been launched to the market. From all-time classics like Photoshop and Corel Painter to new arrivals like Affinity Designer we are going to list the 20 best drawing apps. We will include software supported by Windows, macOS and some of them even by Linux.
We will divide our list into two parts:
The first part will be dedicated to premium programs. These programs are aimed at those who want to take things to the next level. For sure you can find great solutions for your artistic needs with the free programs, but the premium software is the most commonly used not only by artists but also by the studios and companies of the entertainment industry. So in order to become a professional artist, you gotta be familiar with the most commonly used software inside the industry.
On the second part of the article, we will speak about the software you can find free of charge on the web. We understand that not everybody can afford to pay a premium license and this part of the list is for those starting their path into art and probably on a tight budget. This free software is backed by a community of developers who support and encourage an open-source platform model.
Now that we know how we are going to list the best drawing software for 2020, let’s start with the premium ones.
Price: Starting at 9,99$ Per month
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pros: Photoshop is the industry standard. Is used in Video games, graphic design, film studios worldwide. If you decided to purchase the Adobe Creative Cloud bundle, you will have Photoshop + access to other amazing tools like Illustrator, Animate ( Flash) or In Design between others, all included on the package.
Cons: The Perspective Grid Tool needs to be more intuitive and easy to use in my opinion.
Created by Adobe, Photoshop it’s been running for more than 20 years with several updates and revisions. Is by far the most known and used 2D software on the market. Originally design for photo editing still is widely used today by photographers. But what makes Photoshop very powerful is its great drawing and painting tools. From customizable brushes to filters and deformation tools like blenders, blurring, and sharpening effects. Photoshop has a true arsenal of tools and options that for sure will help to make your artwork stand out.
Photoshop is the bread and butter for professional artists around the globe. Concept artists, illustrators, texture artists, graphic designers, photographers, etc… use this amazing tool on an everyday basis.
Price: Starting at 10$ per month
Platform: Windows, macOS, IOS, Android
Pros: Very useful tool for sketching and quickly generate ideas. The mirror tool is quite useful depending on the type of work you are doing.
Cons: You can for sure create fully rendered paintings with Sketchbook but I think it really shines when it comes to sketching, creating roughs and iterations.
Originally developed by Alias Systems Corporation, Autodesk bought Alias in 2005 and has been the owner and developer of all the Sketchbook versions since then. The software is design for expressive sketching and concepting.
Sketchbook Pro has a variety of tools like brushes, pencils, and markers that tries to reproduce the effect of traditional materials. The canvas has a radial menu with several tools included. This allows a quick action-reaction meanwhile the artist is drawing or painting.
Platform: Windows and macOS
Pros: Created by artist Peter Blaskovic. His main goal was to come out with an easy to use software with fast access to the painting tools.
Cons: The purpose of the software is to try to imitate acrylic, wet and dry media. It is purely an artistic software with no graphic design or vector drawing tools.
Rebelle is a watercolor and acrylic painting program created by Escape Motions. Its watercolor simulation is based on a real-world color mixing, blending, wet-diffusion, and drying. Rebelle mimics the way natural media interacts with the canvas and itself. Users can paint, smear, re-wet dried colors, blow wet washes across the paper, tilt the paper to create water drops and runs and create countless fantastic watercolor effects.
Price: Basic -Free, Plus-34$
Pros: It’s one of the oldest and most reliable painting software on the market.
Cons: It is only for Windows.
Artweaver is a full-featured painting tool with a huge set of predefined realistic brushes to paint creatively or just experiment. Artweaver is suitable for beginners and advanced users. It has a powerful and highly configurable brush system to simulate many different brushes. Each brush configuration can be saved as a new variant or even into a new category.
The software has another fantastic feature that allows you to share and joint art projects because you can use the app to collaborate with other artists online on the same document.
Price: 429$ Full License. 75$ Educational Licence
Platform: Windows and macOS
Pros: Solid software with a good reputation, very stable, and reliable.
Cons: The older versions were very demanding in terms of RAM memory. We gotta see how the new 2018 version performs.
This another software it’s been around for a long time. A newer version for 2018 has been released to the market and comes with performance improvements, newer brushes, patterns, and color workflow.
I can still remember when Painter was the only serious alternative to Photoshop for digital painting. Traditional artists coming to the digital media or just artists trying to give a more traditional media style to their work will appreciate tools like the impasto brush, the watercolor, and the acrylic brushes.
Platform: Windows, macOS, and IOS
Pros: The app gained a lot of popularity in the last couple of years, especially on IOS.
Cons: Purely vector-based. Oriented to graphic designers and vector artists only.
Affinity Designer is a vector graphic design software. Built from the ground up over a five-year period, every feature, tool, panel, and function has been developed with the needs of creative professionals at its core. With continuous innovation and development, the result is a ground-breaking application that will revolutionize how you work.
An interesting feature is the “Non-destructive operations”. This feature allows you to combine shapes using Boolean operations, but to doing it non-destructively so you can still move and edit the component parts.
7. ART RAGE 5
Platform: Windows, macOS
Pros: Great tool for digital painters who love the traditional medium feeing. Is quite affordable compared to other software.
Cons: It slows down and has some performance issues when working with large files.
ArtRage Studio Pro 3.5.4 creates raster images (pixels) rather than scalable vectors, but you wouldn’t know it from the smooth, beautiful brush strokes you can achieve. Since raster images are not re-sizable, choosing the appropriate size for your artwork a key step. Fortunately for beginners, ArtRage offers an easy-to-understand conversion to screen or paper size.
8. CLIP STUDIO PAINT
Price: 49,99$ Pro version, 219 Ex version CHECK IN AMAZON
Platforms: Windows and macOS
Pros: It has become the number one digital art tool for manga artists. The Pro version is quite affordable.
Cons: The superior version with all the features is way more expensive than the introductory version ( Pro)
Like we said above Clip Studio it has become in the last years the number one option for manga artist. Design and oriented for comic type artwork, this software has several tools specific to creating vignettes. Another strong point is the brushes, which emulates very convincingly real ink and pen brushes. Finally, the 3D posse tool with dummies you can posse and full camera control is a very convenient tool in case you are struggling with a particular composition or posse.
9. PHOTO DONUT
Price: 59$ Basic 1 year license. 99$ Pro 1 year license.
Pros: Good photo editing tools. The basic version is free to use.
Cons: Only for Windows and it has a limited functionality.
Photo Donut has an amazing very versatile photo editing tools. The strength of the App lays on its capability of converting regular photos in any type of artwork you want, oil paintings, comic, manga, watercolors, etc… You can convert any photo in an art piece just by touching and adjusting some levels and effects. The main detriment of the software is that you can’t really paint or create any type of artwork from a blank canvas. It’s purely oriented to photo editing.
10. BLACK INK
Pros: Comes with over 9000 brushes included in the app.
Cons: Is not a friendly option for beginners. The brush customization can be a bit confusing.
This app is one of those innovative tools experienced artists, willing to immerse themselves in the big world of capabilities the brush customization tools offer, will love. Another great feature is the GPU-based render engine that comes with the app. This allows you to work with enormous canvas without the fear of lagging or freezing of the software during the painting process.
11. EASY PAINT TOOL SAI
Pros: Very lightweight software that allows you to work with several canvases opened at the same time. Includes a Color Wheel tool.
Cons: It’s purely a painting app. Is so lightweight because features like channel editing or effects like Gaussian Blur, originally created for photo editing, are not present. The Vector tools are quite limited.
This Japanese software was launch in 2008 and it has been updated since then. The GUI is very clean and easy to understand so beginner artists will find this software easy to use. The GUI style is very similar to other Japanese apps like CLIP STUDIO or MEDIA BANG PRO so lots of manga artists are familiar with this app. The Color picker includes several options like a Color Wheel, an RGB, and an HSV slider.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pros: Some great features like 9 unique brush engines or brush stabilization in case your hand is a little bit shaky.
Cons: The community is somewhat small and active, but the software is not heavily supported.
Krita is an open source tool, designed for conceptual art artists, illustrators, matte and textures artists and the VFX industry. Krita has been in development for more than 10 years and, recently, has experienced quite rapid growth, offering many functions, both common and innovative, to help beginners as well as professionals. Below you will see some of the most outstanding features.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pros : The software it’s been running since 2003 and has a very active and helpful community. Is the best alternative to Illustrator and it’s one of the top vector based software you can find premium or open source.
Cons: If you are looking for software that allows you to achieve a more traditional painting style, you have better options out there than Inkscape.
Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics editor. Inkscape can create and edit diagrams, lines, graphs, logos, and complex illustrations. The main format used by the program is Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). Inkscape aims to provide users with an open source free tool for drawing graphics in Scalable Vector Format (SVG) that fully complies with the XML, SVG and CSS2 standards. Inkscape is developed primarily for the GNU / Linux operating system, but it is a cross-platform tool and works on Windows, Mac OS X, and other Unix-derived systems.
3. MEDIABANG PAINT PRO
Platforms: Windows, macOS, and IOS
Pros: Great free option to illustrate comics and manga.
Cons: Is a lightweight tool and it comes with some nice preset, but the brush customization is quite limited. If you want a more illustration and painterly look to your artwork this software lacks tools for achieving this. If you are looking instead for a more comic and manga type look, it becomes a great and free of cost option.
Mediabang paint pro can be considered the free to use version of the premium software Clip Studio Paint which is very well known by the manga artist community as one of their main creative tools.
Some of the cool features you can find in this software is that it comes loaded with 800 free pre-made tones and backgrounds that you can use. Also, you can find more than 50 brushes available with the software.
4. EXPRESSION DESIGN 4
Pros: Easy to learn and perfect for logo and banners creation.
Cons: Not useful if you want to create illustration and in general heavy duty type of work that requires tons of different visual effects.
Microsoft’s Expression Design first version was launch in 2007. In the beginning, the full name of the software was Expression Graphic Design. The latest version was launched in 2012, and Microsoft made it open source giving to developers and Microsoft’s community, in general, the option to work on the software.
On the bad side, Microsoft is not supporting the software anymore, so it’s the community who is supporting it. This is basically the reason why Microsoft made it open source after the release of the latest version.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD
Pros: The real Open Source alternative to Photoshop. You can create from vector graphic designs to outstanding digital illustrations with it.
Cons: I can’t say anything bad about it. For an open source tool offers some truly amazing features.
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. As the software’s name indicates GIMP was created as a GNU/Linux based software. The software was born in 1995 at Berkeley University as an exercise for the student’s computer science club. The software is still fully running and active today, supported by a wide and dedicated community that contributes to new updates and plugins.
Among all the fantastic features GIMP has, I want to highlight the working tools that offer to the user. Again, they are quite similar to Photoshop, and you can find from basic vector creation tools to more photo editing or painterly type tools like brushes, smudging tool, blurring tools, etc… and all open source and free of charge.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pros: Very clean Interface with a nice minimalist touch to it. The software is quite easy to learn and use. Also, you have available on their website several tutorials and lessons.
Cons: Is a vector based software developed for the creation of logos, banners, and basic graphic design work in general. If you are looking for a more complicated type of work like illustrations you will find the software short of resources in that matter.
Vectr is a free graphics software used to create vector graphics easily and intuitively. It’s a simple yet powerful web and a desktop cross-platform tool to bring your designs into reality.
You can use the software in your browser or you can download it and use it offline from your desktop.
7. SPEEDY PAINTER
Pros: Open GL-based software with nice minimal interface aim to digital painters looking for a free and easy to use software.
Cons: The software is only available for Windows and for those PC with a graphics card that supports OpenGl 3.0 .
Speedy Painter is an OpenGL based painting software for Windows. It supports Wacom digitizers to vary size and opacity of brush strokes according to pen pressure.
One of his best features is the Perspective Grid Overlay tool, which is very easy and convenient to use compared to other similar tools you can find on the market. If we compare this free tool with the Perspective Grid tolls of other premium software we can appreciate how reliable and easy to use is.
Pros: You can create an amazing pencil-type artwork with your computer and for free. It imitates very convincingly the feeling of drawing in a real sketchbook.
Cons: It’s only Windows-based. The pencils are too rough in my opinion. You can scale the size of the pencil but the problem is the fine ones aren’t very precise, so you can’t detail as well as you can do it with a real-life sharpened pencil.
Pencil Sketching App, designed by Appoetics LLC, to excite the enthusiast with fun drawing ease, – Create realistic Graphite Pencil Drawings on a digital media. – Practice drawing with no compromise, using real workflow tools such as Graphite Pencils, a Blend tool, and an Eraser. – Have fun drawing with minimal configuration from the get-go. The Pencil Tool – Choose from a wide range of Graphite Pencils beginning with 2H and ending with 8B. Sketch and work tones from light to dark as you go.
Platform: Web-based tool.
Pros: Is cross-browser so you can work with it from almost any browser available. also is very easy to use and learn.
Cons: Is a very lightweight tool, aimed for simple work so His features and tools are quite limited.
SVG-edit is a web-based free and open-source vector graphics editor. It can be used to create and edit Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) images. One of the qualities of SVG-edit is that you can create graphics from within the browser, so you don’t need to download the software on your computer.
If you liked this article I think you will find interesting too my article about “The Best drawing tablets for 2020”. Another article I think you will find useful is “The Most Affordable Online Art Courses”.
I hope you liked the article. See you at the next one.