Best drawing and painting software
Read on for our detailed analysis of each app
Digital art has become the norm, with a wide range of software programs available to allow drawing and painting on a virtual canvas. Often these programs will focus on a particular aspect, such as design, illustration, or photo-manipulation.
Design programs can be use for CAD, such as 3D structure for architecture, or else focus on graphic design such as shapes, banners, and logos. General design software will focus on one or the other. Illustration programs can often include elements of graphic design in their interface, but will also feature a number of additional options for working with color and shading.
Best Video Software for the Mac How To Run MacOS High Sierra or Another OS on Your Mac Best Graphic Design Software the Mac Stay Safe with Best Free Password Managers for iPhone View All Guides. The Best Mac Software for Diagramming or Drawing ConceptDraw DIAGRAM v12 is a powerful intelligent vector graphics engine that can be used to create basic diagrams including flowcharts, charts, workflows, flowcharts, organizational charts, business diagram, learn business diagrams, flow diagrams. When it comes to technical drawing programs, one can not fail to mention AutoCAD, the most famous and used software for technical drawings in the world. It includes all the possible and imaginable functions for drawing in 2D and 3D and consists of an extremely customizable user interface. The Best Windows Graphic Design Software of 2018 We've been testing graphic design software for the past eight years. This year we spent over 50 hours comparing programs to find the best of the best.
Photo-manipulation software was originally for just manipulating images for digital photography, but often these also now incorporate elements key to illustration options. There are also dedicated programs that aim to emulate the experience of painting.
Different design, drawing, and paint programs have their different strengths and focus, and although all can be operated with a mouse, often it's better to work with a digital pen/design tablet such as a Wacom, in order to get fine details as accurate as possible.
Whatever you're looking for in design, illustration, or photo-manipulation software, here we'll look at the best to help you make your choice.
- We’ve also highlighted the best free painting software
- Want your company or services to be added to this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to [email protected] with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line.
1. Adobe Photoshop CC
A very well-known drawing tool from the creative mastersCreative Cloud Photography
When it comes to creative software, Adobe has dominated the scene for decades, and Photoshop CC (CC stands for Creative Cloud) is loved by artists and designers across the world. It provides creative types with a plethora of cloud-based tools to create and enhance photos, illustrations and 3D visuals.
This software isn’t just about editing photos. If you’re a professional designer, you can use it to create packaging, banners, websites, logos and icons. Not only can you come up with your own creations, but you’re also able to make use of intuitive templates if you’re more of a beginner, or you’re working to a tight deadline.
You can design your own illustrations and turn images into paintings as well, with the option of switching between animate and print-style options. When you’ve created a piece, you can enhance it with a range of built-in effects.
There are multiple pricing tiers, depending on which other apps and features you'd like bundled with Photshop CC. The cheapest is the Photography level at $9.99 per month and also comes with Adobe Lightroom CC, as well as 20GB of cloud storage. Up from that is the Single App plan at $20.99 per month and comes with 100GB of cloud storage, as well as Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Spark. For the All-Apps plan you get access to all Adobe creative desktop and mobile apps as well, and that costs $52.99 per month.
2. Autodesk SketchBook
Autodesk SketchBook is a drawing app targeted specifically at designers, architects, concept artists and other creative professionals. If you fit into any of these categories, the software will give you the tools to sketch and create stunning illustrations easily and quickly.
It sports a minimalist interface that works across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, as well as 140 pre-designed brushes. Should you not be able to find the brush you need amongst that lot, you have the option to tweak them and import your own. Another neat feature is the ability to add an unlimited amount of layers to your creations, all of which come with blending nodes and grouping abilities.
The software costs $16 monthly or $126 yearly, but whichever package you choose, there’s a lot of support on offer. For instance, you can schedule a call with Autodesk’s customer support team if you have any questions about the software, or indeed chat online or via email. You also get access to the company’s knowledgebase, which contains extensive documentation, tutorials and training videos.
3. Corel Painter
A painting solution that can create breath-taking results
Corel offers a host of creative software packages, one of which is a drawing app called Painter. Aimed at designers, artists and students, this cross-platform application provides you with the likes of ‘thick paint’ which you can daub onto your digital canvas, and then scrape around or blend to create some highly realistic looking masterpieces.
There’s a large selection of brushes, with the ability to create custom brushes and palettes – plus you can import these, too. Painter is a downloadable app which is available on both Windows and Mac. It’s compatible with third-party software like Photoshop and drawing tablets from companies such as Wacom, as well.
As for the price, for the latest version of Corel Painter is available for around $400, though there are special rates for an education edition for students and learning centers.
4. Rebelle 3
An expert-developed art tool
Developed by artist Peter Blaskovic, Rebelle 3 is another highly versatile drawing and painting application. Described as “one-of-a-kind paint software”, it’s been designed for creatives working on watercolor, acrylic, wet and dry media artwork.
Blaskovic created the app as part of his experimental drawing projects and wanted an easy-to-use program to access natural painting tools on-the-go. The app uses realistic color blending, wet diffusion and drying techniques, and offers a plethora of watercolors, acrylics, inks and pastels.
There are also ‘dry’ tools like pencils, markers and erasers, so you don’t have to stick to paintbrushes. The app also boasts some interesting capabilities like the ability to tilt the canvas you’re working on. What’s more, Rebelle works with Photoshop, allowing you to tap into 23 additional blending nodes. It currently costs $89.99, but you can give the app a spin via a free trial.
5. Artweaver 6
Artweaver is one of the oldest painting tools out there, and the software is now on its sixth edition. The application provides you with a diverse set of predefined brushes and pencils that can be used to create amazing pieces of art.
Not only does Artweaver offer an intuitive and easy-to-use interface which makes it suitable for novices, but it also boasts an impressively configurable brush system. So while you can choose from a variety of predefined brushes, you can also tweak them to suit your exact needs.
Furthermore, Artweaver has another strong suit when it comes to working on joint art projects, because you can use the app to collaborate with other folks on the same document. Of course, you’ll need to be online to do so.
Want to get a better idea of your artistic process and exactly how it flows? Then you can get the application to record your work. That way, you can review, evaluate and improve your abilities (hopefully). Currently, Artweaver is only available on Windows, but it’s temptingly cheap at $47 – and there’s also a free version available though it has limited functionality compared to the paid version.
Other drawing and painting software to consider
While we've covered some of the big hitters when it comes to drawing and painting software, there are some good lower-level programs worth considering if you'd prefer for not to pay out for a big program. Here we'll look at some of the other alternatives you might want to consider, especially if looking for something more entry-level, or simply competent when it comes to art and design.
PaintShop Pro is a neat little art program. Although not as full-featured as some of the above it's still very competent software for many aspects of art and design. Whether it's photo editing, drawing, or creating/designing graphics, there are a lot of tools and additional plugins available to get the effect you want. Originally developed by Jasc, it's now part of the Corel stable of creative programs and is available for around $80.
Adobe Illustrator can sometimes be thought of as being the little brother to the more powerful Photoshop, but don't overlook its possibilities. While Photoshop was originally built for photo editing, Adobe Illustrator has always been designed around illustration and drawing. You don't need to choose between one or the other, however, as if you subscribe to even the basic level Adobe creative apps plan, you can have both Photoshop and Illustrator together.
Sketchup is more focused on 3D design rather than general painting and drawing, but is worth considering if that's the main reason you need software for drawing. Even better is that there's a free version, but even the paid-for versions are relatively cheap by comparison to some of the above, with an annual cost of $119 or $299 according to how many features you want to unlock.
GIMP is a dedicated art program specifically built to run on Linux operating systems. While it may not be as powerful as some of the software listed, it makes a big effort to do a lot of things, from photo editing to sketching to design. Anyone who already works with Linux has probably heard of it and even has a copy, but if you were thinking of moving to Linux but weren't sure what creative software was available, you could do a lot worse than try out GIMP.
Microsoft Paint is a basic art package that comes with every Windows install, and has done so since at least Windows 3.x. The release of Windows 10 has seen 3D editing tools added to it, but let's be fair-it's still a simple program that isn't going to rival anything else on this list. However, because of the easy availability of MS Paint it's worth mentioning - if nothing else because it does have a basic toolkit that is expanded on by other software.
- We’ve also picked out the best VPN for creative users
Adobe Illustrator is hugely popular software tool for making vector graphics, but it's undeniably expensive. Thankfully, there are alternatives available for designers on a budget, and some of the best are available free.
Unlike raster graphics, vector graphics use mathematical expressions to draw the lines, shapes and colours. This means they’re infinitely scalable, so you can blow them up to the size of a billboard with no unsightly pixellation.
Vector graphics are the best choice for a number of design and illustration tasks, such as creating icons, logos, diagrams, charts, posters and website graphics. In the latter case, the current standard is Scalable Vector Graphics format (SVG).
Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard tool for vector graphics, but it's undeniably expensive
Programs like CorelDRAW, Sketch or Affinity Designer are popular alternatives, but if your needs are relatively simple, then you can save even more money by trying out alternatives to Illustrator that are totally free – and there are some brilliant options to choose from.
Example vector files designed by Freepik
A feature-packed editor that's a true substitute for Illustrator
Open source vector graphics package Inkscape is staggeringly powerful, and is the best free alternative to Adobe Illustrator for pro and semi-pro illustrators, graphic designers and web designers.
As well as the standard drawing and shape tools, Inkscape boasts a special spirals tool, a tool to create patterns and arrangements of clones, advanced object manipulation options, multiple filters (including bevels, textures, overlays and more), and some nifty fill settings. In short, there’s very little Illustrator can do that Inkscape can’t.
Because it's open source, it’s not only free to use but if you have the technical know-how you can even edit it and incorporate it into other software. And new features are being added all the time; the latest version brings mesh gradients, improved SVG2 and CSS3 support and new path effects to the party.
So what’s the catch? Some users have complained that it performs slowly, although that does seem to depend on what device and operating system you’re using. The best thing to do is just download it and give it a quick try; there's nothing to lose.
A browser-based vector editor that's as powerful as a desktop app
Boxy SVG is a free tool for creating scalable vector graphic files that runs as an extension in Google Chrome. It comes with a good range of basic tools, including pens, bezier curves, text, basic shapes, stroke and fill, layers, ability to add type, groups, transforms and paths.
The main selling point for Boxy SVG is the utter simplicity of its UI. It makes a virtue of paring down the experience of creating vector graphics to a fairly minimal set of options. These essentially restrict you to the kind of things that the SVG format is good at. As a result, it’s fast, easier to pick up than Illustrator, and the files it creates are clean and efficient.
As well as importing and exporting files in SVG and SVGZ format, you can also use Boxy SVG to import and export JPEGs and PNGs. Wonderfully convenient.
A sharp looking in-browser Illustrator alternative for stylish designs
Best Drawing Software For Mac
Vecteezy is another free in-browser Illustrator alternative (the developer earns a crust selling premium illustrations, and its customers include the BBC, Amazon, McDonald's and Dell).
You can import and edit SVG files, or create your own designs from scratch. There's a selection of shapes and ready-made clipart to choose from, and a huge array of typefaces for text-based designs.
Vecteezy also includes a pen tool for drawing freehand shapes and editing existing paths, plus a simple color-picker. It's all refreshingly simple to use, and even brand new users will grasp the fundamentals within a few minutes.
There are just a couple of points to be aware of: you'll need to create an account or log in using Facebook in order to save your work, and if you open a particularly large file, Vecteezy warns you that doing so might cause your browser to freeze. This is a risk with any similar web app though, and we appreciate Vecteezy being so up-front about it.
A slimline vector editor available for your browser or desktop
Vectr is a free cross-platform program that you can use used to create and edit vector graphics, either on your desktop (versions are available for Windows, Mac, Linux and ChromeOS), or in any modern browser.
Vectr is intuitive to use, with a shallow learning curve. “Design software shouldn’t bring people a sense of struggle, yet that’s exactly how the troublesome design software we grew up on made us feel,” says its developer, who has created this pared-back vector editor with accessibility in mind.
While it lacks many of the advanced features of Illustrator, then, it’s got all the tools you need for basic vector editing - shapes, text, multiple layers and like - and what it does, it does very well. You can save all work you create in Vectr online, or export it in PNG, JPG, or SVG file formats.
Vectr is a great choice for beginners, or just anyone needing to create a simple graphic with the minimum of fuss.
A straightforward Illustrator alternative for web developers
Best Drawing Software For Macbook Pro
If your prime reason for wanting a vector graphics editor is to create SVG files for websites, then SVG-Edit may be all you need. You can use this free vector software within your web browser to create SVG images and edit existing ones.
SVG-Edit works in any modern browser, and offers a basic set of vector editing features including hand-drawing tools, shape tools, text tools and path tools. The tool is open source, which means that new features are being added all the time by contributing developers.
- Check out our guide to the best free photo editors