Best Drawing Apps and Software in 2023 (Free & Paid)
There are many great apps for drawing illustrations & comics digitally, and it's easier than ever to get professional-level software for any device. We compare11 paid & free drawing apps.
Drawing Apps by Purpose
First, think about your drawing goals, what you want to draw, and whether your art will stay digital or go to print. This will help you find the drawing apps that are right for you, which is especially important if you want to draw comics.
Apps for Drawing Professional Illustration and Painting
Apps for Drawing Comics, Manga, and Webtoons
Apps for Bringing Your Drawings to Life with Animation
Apps for Vector Drawing Design
Apps to Just Have Fun Doodling
This article introduces the best tablets for beginners to digital art!
Looking for just iPad apps?
Review of Each Drawing Application
Scroll down to see the features of each drawing software/app as well as price information, support, and trial versions. For first-time users, you might value a drawing software or app with more reliable support from the app developer. Trial versions allow users to try something out before investing in them so you can make a more informed choice about which one suits you best.
● Photoshop CC (Windows/macOS/iPad)
A professional graphics software popular with professional designers, photographers, and editors. Abundant in features, it is also helpful for drawing illustrations. Photoshop CC requires some customization, so it is suitable for intermediate artists.
Developer: Adobe Systems Co., Ltd.
Download the full-feature seven-day trial version from the Free Trial Download page.
Note: To use all the features, you must obtain an Adobe ID and register for the trial version.
How much is Photoshop?
Creative Cloud Photography Plan: $9.99 USD/month
You can buy a subscription from the official website, Adobe accepts payments through credit card, PayPal, and wire transfer.
For some issues, you can contact the Adobe support team via their official contact form or a chat feature. You can also ask questions on the community forum, but topics are mainly related to design and photo processing.
There are also many booksand websites that introduce Adobe Photoshop, but again, there is little information specializing in illustration and comics.
There is a large community of amateur to professional artists focusing mainly on design and photography. Many people also have created brushes and other materials to make the program more friendly to draw pictures with.
Photoshop CC is prominent in the design and photo processing industry, and many design schools use Photoshop to teach students. This versatile software can export multi-page data for online, in print, and for videos.
You can draw in Photoshop, but its main purpose is not illustration or comics. Customizing the pen and brush tools takes time, and features like pen pressure are turned off by default. However, if you are looking for a highly customizable program, Photoshop CC will work well for you.
Photoshop is software for photo editing, it is quite good at adjusting colors. It also supports CMYK, the go-to format used for printed works. Since many apps do not support CMYK, you can use them together.
Photoshop CC is suited for intermediate users, so use it if you know what you want to create and are happy to customize your software. If you want a more drawing-friendly Adobe experience you might want to look at Adobe Fresco.
● Clip Studio Paint (Windows/macOS/iPad/iPhone/Android/Chromebook)
CSP is a multi-functional graphics app suitable for creative works, including illustration, comics, and animation. You can draw comfortably with its versatile brushes and high customizability.
Developer: CELSYS, Inc.
Check out a free trial from the Free Trial page. The trial allows you to use the app for up to 3 months free. If you go through the Galaxy Store, you can enjoy up to 6 months free.
How much is Clip Studio Paint?
- PRO: $49.99 USD (tax included)
- EX: $219.00 USD (tax included)
Windows/macOS/iPad/iPhone/Galaxy/Android/Chromebook Monthly Plan
A flexible monthly usage plan for a single preferred device (Windows/macOS/iPad/iPhone/Galaxy). You need to apply from the app.
- Clip Studio Paint PRO: US$4.49 (tax included)/month (Annual: US$24.99)
- Clip Studio Paint EX: US$8.99 (tax included)/month (Annual: US$71.99)
There are also other offers available for multiple devices. For more information, please refer to the official website.
There is a dedicated support site where you can reach out directly to the support team. The support site also includes a Frequently Asked Questions section with helpful guides and explanations.. Not only that, but there’s also a Q&A service, Clip Studio ASK, that allows users to ask and answer each other’s questions.
Clip Studio boasts an impressive library of community-made assets with new materials being added daily. Materials range from 3D materials to custom brushes, with a wide range available for free. Official tutorials and user tutorials are also available on the Clip Studio Tips site.
Clip Studio Paint is a long-selling app geared towards drawing and painting. Its unique brush engine allows you to draw intuitively with realistic painting strokes as if you were painting on paper.
Many schools also use Clip Studio Paint to teach comic, illustration, or animation courses because of the amount of specialized tools.
Clip Studio Paint supports multi-page data export for digital, and printed work. With features for arranging images and text, it’s also suitable for simple design work.
Furthermore, it comes with webtoon canvas settings and the ability to split long vertical pages into multiple smaller pages. Last, you can record your process with the canvas timelapse feature and then share it to social media in video format.
It takes some time to learn how to use everything the software offers. Some features like the posable 3D drawing figures are great for beginners.
In addition to pens and brushes, it has many other digital art tools such as gradients, filters, and layer effects. You can download and add pens, brushes, tones, etc., from Clip Studio ASSETS, the official material library, and import Photoshop brushes (extension: .abr). Customize brushes optimized for your sketching pleasure.
There are two versions, PRO and EX. The higher grade EX version allows you to create multi-page comics and full-fledged animations. The tablet and smartphone versions for iPad and Samsung Galaxy devices have the same features as the desktop version. You can use it on multiple devices using a cloud service to migrate your files and settings.
● Corel Painter 2023 (Windows/macOS)
Corel Painter 2023 is a graphics software suitable for painting. The brushes offer a comfortable drawing experience and high customizability. It’s suitable for painting in a realistic style.
Developer: Corel Corporation
You can contact user support from the website’s official contact form. Detailed manuals and user galleries are also available on their dedicated tutorial website, and there are guidebooks that teach you how to use this software.
How much is Corel Painter 2023?
Download the desktop version (Windows/macOS) from the official website.
- Annual subscription: $199 USD
- One-time payment: $429 USD (Free 30-day trial available)
Corel Painter is made with drawing and painting in mind. It is a good software for someone who wants to digitally replicate their drawing and painting style. Although expensive, its preset brushes and intricate customization make it suitable for various painting styles. However, focusing on realistic brushstrokes makes it less ideal for creating cartoon or comic styles.
To improve the speed of launch and operation, we recommend that you check your computer’s specs before installing and using a laptop with specs that exceed the software’s minimum specifications.
Its independent color selector allows you to select a color while checking it against other colors. It also has a Color Harmonies function that lists colors that match the desired color. So even if you aren’t confident in picking colors, these features help inexperienced people choose colors more easily.
Its annual subscription is available for both Mac and Windows, and includes various brush packs for purchase. A more economical version of Painter Essentials 8 is also available. Although it has fewer brushes, the freedom of customization and the independent color selector is comparable to the full-featured version.
Corel also has an app for Android called Painter Mobile that comes in free and paid versions. The paid version comes with more functions.
● Krita (Windows/macOS)
Krita is an open-source, free drawing software. This digital illustration tool is complete with essential drawing functions and brushes.
Developer: Krita Foundation
How much is Krita?
- Download the desktop version (Windows/macOS/Linux) from the official website for free.
- Purchase the desktop version (Windows/macOS/Linux) from Steam, Microsoft Store, and the Epic Store.
$14.99 USD (Steam, Microsoft Store), $9.99 USD (Epic Store)
You can contact support from the website’s official contact form. Krita also has tutorials, an online user manual, and a Frequently Asked Questions page. Furthermore, you can download additional resources and browse their user gallery.
Krita is actually made by a community of developers and fans who run it through the Krita Foundation. Purchasing versions of it in the various stores helps fund the program.
Sketch to your heart’s content for free. Unlike other software, Krita supports Linux. You can also use many brushes and import additional user-created resources, a feature unique to open-source software.
In addition to the ability to create an infinite number of layers, it has vector layers that you can use to transform figures and text without losing image quality. Krita also has a symmetry drawing tool that allows you to draw objects with intricate patterns.
Even though it is free software, it has animation features, supporting frame-by-frame animation and simultaneous playback of animation and imported audio.
The drawback is that you must get used to brushstroke lag if you want to draw with it. This lag exists regardless of device, so we recommend Clip Studio Paint, if you are looking for high-performing brushstrokes.
Krita is available from Steam, Microsoft Store, and the Epic Store.
Beta versions for ChromeOS and Android are also under development and you can download it from the official website.
● Paint Tool SAI (Windows)
Paint Tool SAI is a software with a simple interface and a smooth brush engine. However, it lacks functions such as text input, gradients, and figure drawing, so we recommend it for artists who want to create illustrations rather than comics.
Developer: SYSTEMAX, Inc.
Download the trial version from the official website.
You can use the trial version for free for 31 days after installation.
How much is Paint Tool SAI?
Purchase from the official website.
The website accepts payment via Paypal and credit card.
The official website has a Frequently Asked Questions page but no official community.
The software comes with a simple manual.
Paint Tool SAI has existed for over a decade, so plenty of books are available to explain how to use the software to draw illustrations and numerous tutorials online.
Many people love drawing with this software due to its excellent stabilization and the overall feel as you draw. However, it only has a handful of methods for adjusting colors, and it does not support CMYK output. You’ll need to switch to another software to carry out these steps. Still, it is easy to draw in and one of the leading drawing software for beginner illustrators.
Paint Tool SAI lacks strong user support and requires basic Windows knowledge to use. SYSTEMAX is developing Paint Tool SAI Ver.2 with text input and ruler features. A beta version is currently available on the official website, and users who own Paint Tool SAI can use it free of charge. Some hobbyists use the beta version to draw manga.
● ibisPaint (iPad/iPhone/Android/Windows/macOS)
A fast-growing free app that lets you draw illustrations and manga on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Recommended for artists who want to try out digital drawing for the first time.
Developer: ibis mobile inc.
Check the official website for Frequently Asked Questions and tutorials. It has a lot of helpful content, perfect for digital art beginners. You can also contact support from the website’s official contact form.
In addition to an Official YouTube channel, other users’ tutorial videos are also available on their official website gallery.
Besides an official YouTube channel, other users’ tutorial videos are also available on their website gallery where you can see other users’ artwork.
How much is IbisPaint?
Free version (ibisPaint X)
The free version has ads and limited functions. To become a prime member, purchase it within the app.
- Download the iOS (iPad/iPhone) version from the AppStore.
- Download the Android version from Google Play.
- Download the computer version on the Microsoft App Store.
Paid version (ibisPaint)
Purchase the paid version of (ibisPaint) from the App Store.
- Paid (ad-free version): $9.99 USD (tax included)
- Prime Membership: $2.99 USD/month, or $27.99 USD/year
- Computer one-time payment $19.99 USD
ibisPaint is a free illustration and manga drawing app with a UI design optimized for smartphones and tablets. In addition to more than 2,500 textures and screen tones, it has a full range of manga production features such as paneling tools. It can also support B5 or A5 canvases with a 600 dpi resolution, a requirement for printing black-and-white comics.
The free version displays ads and limits the number of brushes, but watching an ad will unlock these functions for a limited time. Purchasing the paid version removes ads and brush restrictions. If you become a premium member of their monthly membership system, you can also use the member-only filters.
You can also record your drawing process as a timelapse video and post it to their official website and Twitter.
ibisPaint is compatible with Clip Studio Paint, so you can upload ibisPaint artwork to the Clip Studio cloud; and then continue working on the same layers in Clip Studio Paint.
● Procreate (iPad)
A classic and Apple Design Award-winning iPad paint app. Its wide canvas with touch operation ensures a comfortable drawing experience. The simple UI makes it easy to find features.
Developer: Savage Interactive Pty Ltd
Trial version: No trial available.
How much is Procreate?
Purchase from the App Store.
Procreate’s official website has a mail contact form and a user community.
There are plenty of user tutorials available online too.
Procreate has a dedicated community site called Procreate Folio where you can check out other users’ art.
Procreate has many digital features, such as brush customization, perspective rulers, clipping masks, text tools, and animation. Not only is it rich in features, but it also has a clean interface that’s easy for beginners to understand. When you start the app, it displays an impressive video on how to use it and high-quality sample artwork.
There is a Procreate app for the iPhone with fewer features called Procreate Pocket.
Neither application has a trial version available so there is no way to test them out before purchasing.
●Adobe Fresco (iPad/Windows)
Adobe Fresco is a painting software released by Adobe in 2019. Its main feature is its live brushes that you can watch blend and expand in real time.
Developer: Adobe Systems, Inc.
Instead of a trial version limited to 30 days, the app is available as a free scaled-down version in a freemium model.
How much is Adobe Fresco?
Free for Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers or $9.99 monthly for non-subscribers.
Adobe Fresco can be purchased on its own from the Abode official website, Adobe Creative Cloud, or the App Store (iPad version:$9.99 a year).
You can download the Windows version from the official Adobe website.
In addition to its separate plan, it comes in a plan with Photoshop or the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan.
Support and manuals:
As with Photoshop, you can make inquiries using chat and email via the inquiry form on the official website.
Official website tutorials focus on watercolor and oil painting.
Like Procreate, Adobe Fresco is also designed for use with pen and touch-operated devices. Its main feature is its ability to mimic aspects of traditional painting, such as color mixing and bleeding. It uses live brushes that bleed and mix colors. You can also adjust the amount of water and how the paint mixes for each brush. Mixing yellow and blue mix in Fresco makes green, an aspect rarely available in other digital painting software. You can also use both raster and vector brushes on the same canvas. In this way, Adobe Fresco is similar to Clip Studio Paint in that it combines the feel of watercolor and oil painting with the benefits of working with vectors.
Adobe Fresco is great for those who already use Adobe products. It specializes in drawing and rounds out Adobe’s other specialized area software (photo processing, design, animation, etc.), resulting in a complete, robust digital art workflow. Furthermore, it uses Photoshop brushes as well as Adobe’s cloud service.
● MediBang Paint (Windows/macOS/iPad/iPhone/Android)
MediBang Paint is free software with many features for drawing manga. If you register as a user and log in, you can unlock more features. It’s an excellent way to try out features before committing.
Developer: MediBang Inc.
How much is MediBang Paint?
Download it from the official site.
Free (with ads)
You can contact the developer from the email form on the official website. Additionally, their website offers tutorials, materials, and an FAQ on basic app usage and announcements. You can search for OS-specific queries, but results can sometimes still come back with mixed OS results.
The developer runs a dedicated social media service called ARTstreet. It details ongoing illustration contests, users’ artworks, and resources.
Price: Free (with ads)
This app is a free simple drawing tool. Although you cannot customize it as much as paid ones, it has essential functions for drawing manga, such as frame borders and screentones. It’s made by the same company that makes the apps Jump PAINT and MangaName. These are apps for creating comics rather than illustrations.
It has over 1,000 screen tones you can use through the cloud. It also offers 3 GB of cloud storage to switch to a different device and keep drawing. You need to create an account in order to use this service. If you opt for MediBang Premium, you will get increased cloud storage as well as be able to unlock more features. Be aware that you cannot transfer your brush settings between different OS, for example, from desktop to iPad. You will be able to move over application settings for Windows and macOS.
If you want to draw black-and-white comics, MediBang Paint or Clip Studio Paint, the de-facto industry standard, are excellent go-to options.
● Paintstorm Studio (Windows/macOS/iPad)
Paintstorm Studio is a low-cost, advanced painting software available for Windows, macOS, and iPad. It has a wide variety of brush types and many customizable features. So if you draw digitally, you should check this software out.
Developer: Sergei Komarov
Download the desktop version (Windows/macOS) from the official website. You can launch the trial version up to 30 times within a limited time.
For the iPad, there is a feature-limited version, Paintstorm Studio Lite.
How much is Paintstorm Studio?
You can buy the desktop version (Windows/macOS) from the official website via Paypal and credit card. The iPad version is on the App Store.
- Desktop version (Windows/macOS): $19.00 USD
- iPad version: $12.99 USD
- Desktop version (Windows/macOS): $19.00 USD
- iPad version: $12.99 USD
Paintstorm Studio’s website has a contact form and a user community.
Community: Fan communities exist independently of the program.
Many default brush settings allow you to draw natural objects and backgrounds using CG-like effects. Many default brushes have a traditional feel, suitable for impasto painting. However, you can customize brushes to suit detail work and other drawing styles such as manga and anime-style illustrations.
Paintstorm Studio also has a Mixer palette that allows you to mix colors. It’s quite a unique drawing tool, and having some previous knowledge of CG will help when working with this app.
The iPad version of Paintstorm Studio has almost all the same functions as the desktop version. Sadly, you cannot share files between devices.
● GIMP2 (Windows/macOS)
GIMP is a long-established open-source, free software with an abundant amount of functions for image processing and the ability to add user-created plug-ins. Due to this high amount of software customizability, GIMP requires some computer skills.
Developer: The GIMP Team
How much is GIMP2?
Download GIMP from its official website.
Check the official website for Frequently Asked Questions and tutorials.
Many websites share links to guides and paperback books on GIMP, making information on software usage accessible.
The functions available for image processing are almost the same as similar paid software options, making it a good choice for adjusting color illustrations. However, since GIMP was initially developed for photo manipulation, it’s not recommended for print or animations.
If you have the technical skills needed to manage its customization abilities, GIMP can be an asset to illustration production.
● Affinity Designer (Windows/macOS/iPad)
Affinity Designer is a vector drawing application for making illustrations, icons, and other graphic designs.
Developer: Serif Labs
No trial version available.
How much is Affinity Designer?
One-time purchase of $54.99 USD on the official website.
Check out the basics of using the program on the official website and an FAQ section.
There is an official forum where users can answer questions from each other and chat.
Affinity Designer is a vector-based drawing app that can export files in PDF, EPS, SVG, and PSD formats, not AI formats. Something that sets it apart from other apps is how you can not only edit vector paths but also paint over a vector base with a raster brush to add texture. With powerful shape tools you can easily create offset paths and make designs that will come out beautifully when printed.
There are also tools like grids, guides, alignment snapping and more to give you control of the design. It also comes equipped with raster brushes usable with pen displays, powerful typography editing, symbol registration functionality, and more. There is also an iPad version available, but it will not be able to offer the same high-level functions as the PC version.
● ArtRage 6 (Windows/macOS)
A painting application dedicated to getting natural medium textures.
Choose rich oils, delicate watercolors, and more to get the feel of various traditional mediums.
Developer: Ambient Design
You can try it out by downloading ArtRage 6 Demo for free.
Note: You cannot save or export files in the trial version.
How much is Artrage 6?
One-time purchase of $59 USD on the official website.
Check out the basics of using the program on the official website and an FAQ section.
Users can ask questions on the official forum and chat. You can also browse other user’s works in the Art Gallery and comment on them.
ArtRage 6 is a painting program that focuses on replicating the look of traditional painting, especially with thicker brush mediums. Not only can you use tools like pencils and paintbrushes, but also traditional tools not usually found in digital art apps like paint rollers and palette knives.
Another unusual feature is the stencil function which allows you to place a stencil sheet on your canvas and fill it in from above.
There are grid rulers and a perspective grid that will provide a guide to snap to as you draw. Unfortunately, you can only use one grid on your canvas, so it might not lend itself to be a super precise way of drawing.
● Adobe Illustrator (Windows/macOS/iPad)
The iPad version of Adobe Illustrator, the standard in vector drawing programs.
Design intuitively, as if using a pen and paper, with a system optimized for the iPad and Apple Pencil.
Developer: Adobe Inc.
How much is Adobe Illustrator?
Illustrator on iPad:
Adobe Design Mobile:
*You do not need to purchase any plan if you already are on a Creative Cloud plan with Adobe Illustrator.
The FAQ and a contact form are on the official website.
The iPad version features over 18,000 fonts and over 20 color palettes. Subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud to use your files in conjunction with Photoshop, Fresco, and the PC version of Adobe Illustrator.
Saved files will automatically be stored on the cloud, freeing you from dependency on any one device. You will want to make use of this if you already use Illustrator.
You can use this program for one month free, but after the trial period you will be charged. For $9.99 USD a month for Illustrator on iPad you will have access to over 17,000 fonts, can study how to use the program with live tutorials, and of course, use Illustrator. For $14.99 USD a month you can subscribe to an Adobe Design Mobile plan to use Illustrator and other Adobe mobile apps like Creative Cloud Express, Photoshop, and Fresco.
You need to select the plan you would like to try before starting the trial period, so keep in mind that you will be charged based on the plan price after the first month of trial use.
Hopefully, this article gave you a good overview of what art apps seem best for your creative situation and device!
Article by Art Rocket
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