Top Drawing Software and Apps in 2022 (Free & Paid)

Top Drawing Software and Apps in 2022

There are so many software and apps for drawing illustrations and comics digitally, and it's easier than ever to get professional-level software as long as you have a device. This article compares eleven drawing tools, both paid and free, to help you decide what's best for you.

Software 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 tools and software that are right for you, which is especially important if you want to draw comics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article introduces the best tablets for beginners to digital art!

Top 11 Drawing Tablets of 2021!

 

Review of Each Software/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 company that produces it. 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 that’s popular with professional designers, photographers, and editors. Abundant in features, it is also useful for drawing illustrations. Photoshop CC requires some customization, so it is suitable for intermediate artists.

 

 

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 use online, in print, and for videos.

 

You can draw in Photoshop, but it wasn’t created with illustration or comics in mind. It takes time and effort to customize the pen and brush tools, 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. 

 

Since it was initially software for photo processing, it is quite good at adjusting colors. It also supports CMYK, the go-to format used for printed works. Since Paint Tool SAI does not support CMYK, you can use them in conjunction.

 

Photoshop CC is suited for intermediate users, so we recommend 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 then you might want to look at  Adobe Fresco.

 

Developer:  Adobe Systems Co., Ltd.

 

Trial version:
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 to purchase:

Creative Cloud Photography Plan: $9.99 USD/month

Photoshop CC is a monthly subscription service. When purchasing from the official website, Adobe accepts payments through credit card, PayPal, and wire transfer. You can pay with cash if you load it onto a prepaid debit card, available separately from many retailers. 

 

Support:

For some issues, the Adobe support team can be contacted via their official contact form or a chat feature. Although the official website has a community forum for asking and answering questions, these topics are mainly related to design and photo processing. There is not much information on illustration and comics.

There are also many books and online websites that introduce Adobe Photoshop, but again, there is little information specializing in illustration and comics.

 

Community:

There is a large community of artists from amateur to professional focusing on mainly design and photography. Many people also have created brushes and other materials to make the program more friendly to draw in.

 

 

 

● Clip Studio Paint (Windows/macOS/iPad/iPhone/Android/Chromebook)

Clip Studio Paint is a versatile software that supports a wide range of genres, including illustration, comics, and animation. It comes with a plethora of digital art tools, so you can start drawing with it right away. Clip Studio Paint is suited for those who want to try creating in various different formats. 

 

 

Illustration, manga, and animation professionals choose Clip Studio Paint and schools also use Clip Studio Paint to teach comic, illustration, or animation courses. This software has an outstanding reputation for how it feels as you draw. Clip Studio Paint supports multi-page data export for digital, and printed work. With features for arranging images and text, it’s suitable for simple design work as well.

Furthermore, it is useful for specialty comic production, such as for webtoons. It comes with webtoon canvas settings and the ability to split long vertical pages into multiple smaller pages. Last but not least, your process can be recorded with the canvas timelapse feature and then shared to social media in video format.

 

It takes some time to learn how to use all of the software. However, some features such as the posable 3D drawing figures are great for beginners. You can change their pose and angles to help create base sketches.

In addition to pens and brushes, it also 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 you can import Photoshop brushes (extension: .abr). Pens and brushes have a high degree of freedom, and once you get used to them, you can customize them to suit your style.

 

There are two versions, PRO and EX. Multi-page comics and full-fledged animations can be created with the higher grade EX version.The tablet and smartphone versions for iPad and Samsung Galaxy devices have the exact same features as the desktop version. When using it on multiple devices, you can use a cloud service to migrate your files and settings. Another advantage of this software is that you can create and use the same pens and brushes regardless of OS.

 

Developer: CELSYS, Inc.

 

Trial version:

Check out a free trial from the Free Trial page. The trial allows you to use the app for up to 3 months for free. If you go through the Galaxy Store, you can enjoy up to 6 months free. 

 

How to purchase:

Windows/macOS

One-time payment (download version) 

  • 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.

 

Support:

There is a dedicated support site with a contact form that you can use to directly reach the support team. The support site also includes a Frequently Asked Questions section with helpful guides and explanations.. Not only that, but there is also a Q&A service, Clip Studio ASK, that allows users to ask and answer each other’s questions. Many users also use social media to exchange information.

You can also find books about this software. However, because it is continuously releasing new updates, the information may not match the latest software specifications.

 

Community:

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 of them available for free. There are also official tutorials and user tutorials available on the Clip Studio Tips site.

 

 

 

● Corel Painter 2022 (Windows/macOS)

Corel Painter 2022 is a multi-functional graphics software suitable for creative works. You can draw comfortably with its versatile brushes and high customizability. It’s suitable for painting in a realistic style.

 

Corel Painter is a long-selling software that is 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. Although expensive, its preset brushes and intricate customization make it suitable for a range of painting styles. However, the focus 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 the specs of your computer before installing and use a computer 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 selected color. So even if you aren’t confident in picking colors, these features help inexperienced artists choose colors more easily.

 

Its annual subscription is available for both Mac and Windows, and includes various types of 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 both free and paid versions. The paid version comes with more functions.

 

Developer: Corel Corporation

 

Support:

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 several books have been published that teach you how to use this software.

 

How to purchase:

Download the desktop version (Windows/macOS) from the official website.

  • Annual subscription: $199 USD
  • One-time payment: $429 USD (Free 30-day trial available)

 

 

 

● Krita (Windows/macOS)

Krita is an open-source, free graphics software. This digital illustration tool is complete with basic drawing functions and brushes.

 

 

This software is available 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 will need to get used to brushstroke lag if you want to draw with it. This lag exists regardless of device, so if you are looking for high-performing brushstrokes, we recommend Clip Studio Paint.

Krita is available for purchase from Steam, Microsoft Store, and the Epic Store.

Beta versions for ChromeOS and Android are also under development and can be downloaded from the official website.

 

Developer: Krita Foundation

 

How to purchase:

  • 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)

 

Support:

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.

 

Community:

Krita is actually made by a community of developers and fans who run it through the Krita Foundation. Purchasing versions of it on the various stores helps fund the program.

 

 

 

● 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.

 

 

Artists love 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 one of the leading drawing software for beginner illustrators.

 

Paint Tool SAI lacks strong user support and requires basic knowledge of Windows 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 artists use the beta version to draw manga.

 

Developer: SYSTEMAX, Inc.

 

Trial version:
Download the trial version from the official website.
You can use the trial version for free for 31 days after installation.

 

How to purchase: 

Purchase from the official website.

The website accepts payment via Paypal and credit card.

 ¥5,500 JPY

 

Support:

The official website has a Frequently Asked Questions page but no official community.

The software comes with a simple manual.

 

Community:

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, as well as numerous tutorials online.

 

 

● ibisPaint (iPad/iPhone/Android)

A fast-growing free app that lets you draw illustrations and manga on your smartphone or tablet. We recommend ibisPaint for artists who want to draw on their smartphone or tablet.

 

 

ibisPaint is a free illustration and manga drawing app. The UI design is optimized for smartphones and tablets. In addition to more than 2,500 textures and screentones, it also has a full range of manga production features such as paneling tools. However, canvas size and dpi are limited. A B5 or A5 canvas cannot have 600 dpi resolution, a requirement for printing black-and-white comics.

 

The free version displays ads and limits the number of brushes. Watching an ad will unlock these functions for a limited amount of time. Purchasing the paid version removes ads and brush restrictions. If you become a premium member of their monthly membership system, you can use the member-only filters as well.

 

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, then continue working on the same layers in Clip Studio Paint.

 

Developer: ibis mobile inc.

 

Support:
Check the official website for Frequently Asked Questions and tutorials. It has a lot of useful 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.

 

Community:

In addition to an official YouTube channel, other users’ tutorial videos are also available on their website gallery where you can see other user’s artwork.

 

How to purchase:
Free version (ibisPaint X)

Download the app from the following links. The free version has ads and limited functions. To become a prime member, you need to purchase it within the app. 

  • Download the iOS (iPad/iPhone) version from the AppStore.
  • Download the Android version from Google Play.

 

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

 

 

 

● Procreate (iPad)

A classic and well-known iPad paint app that won the Apple Design Award. Its wide canvas with touch operation ensures a comfortable drawing experience. The simple UI makes it easy to find features.

 

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 a 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 and, therefore, unfortunately, no way to test them out before purchasing.

 

Developer: Savage Interactive Pty Ltd

 

Trial version: No trial available.

 

How to purchase:

Purchase from the App Store.

$9.99 USD

 

Support:
Procreate’s official website has a mail contact form and a user community.
There are plenty of user tutorials available online too.

 

Community:

Procreate has a dedicated community site called Procreate Folio where you can check out other users’ art.

 

 

 

●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.

 

 

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 as real art supplies would. 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 that is not often reproduced 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 both the feel of watercolor and oil painting with the benefits of working with vectors.

 

Adobe Fresco is highly recommended 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 full, robust digital art workflow.  Furthermore, it uses Photoshop brushes as well as Adobe’s cloud service.

 

Developer: Adobe Systems, Inc.

 

Trial version:

Instead of a trial version limited to 30-days, the app is available as a free scaled-down version in a freemium model.

 

How to purchase:

Free for Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers or $9.99 a month 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).

The Windows version can be downloaded from the official Adobe website.

In addition to its own separate plan, it also 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.

 

 

 

● 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 a good way to try out features before committing.

 

 

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 screentones you can use through the cloud. It also offers 3 GB of cloud storage so that you can 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 will not be able to transfer your brush settings between different OS, for example, from desktop to iPad. You will be able to transfer over application settings for Windows and macOS. 

If you are looking to draw black-and-white comics, MediBang Paint or Clip Studio Paint, the de-facto industry standard, are both good go-to options.

 

Developer: MediBang Inc.

 

How to purchase:

Download it from the official site.

Free (with ads) 

 

Support:

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.

 

Community:

There is a dedicated social media service the developer runs called ARTstreet. It details ongoing illustration contests, users’ artworks, and resources.

 

Price: Free (with ads)

 

 

● 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 brushes and many customizable features. If you draw digitally, you should check this software out.

 

 

There are many default brush settings, allowing you to draw natural objects and backgrounds using CG-like effects. Many of the 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 of the same functions as the desktop version. However, you cannot share files between devices.

 

Developer: Sergei Komarov

 

Trial version:

Download the desktop version (Windows/macOS) from the official website. You can launch the trial version up to 30 times within a limited amount of time.

For the iPad, there is a feature-limited version, Paintstorm Studio Lite.

 

How to purchase:

You can purchase the desktop version (Windows/macOS) from the official website via Paypal and credit card. The iPad version can be downloaded from the App Store.

  • Desktop version (Windows/macOS): $19.00 USD
  • iPad version: $12.99 USD

 

Price:

  • Desktop version (Windows/macOS): US$19.00
  • iPad version: US$12.99

 

Support:
Paintstorm Studio’s website has a contact form and a user community.

 

Community: Fan communities exist independently of the program.

 

 

● 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 to use.

 

 

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.

 

Developer: The GIMP Team

 

How to download:
Download GIMP from its official website.

Free

 

Support:

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.

 

 

Affinity Designer (Windows/macOS/iPad)

Affinity Designer is a vector drawing application for making illustrations, icons, and other graphic designs. 

 

 

Affinity Designer is a vector-based drawing app that can export files in PDF, EPS, SVG, and PSD formats, but not AI formats. Something that sets it apart from other apps is how you can not only edit vector paths but you can 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 useable 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.

 

Developer: Serif Labs

 

Trial version:

No trial version available.

 

How to Purchase:

One-time purchase of $54.99 USD on the official website.

 

Support:

Check out the basics of using the program on the official website as well as an FAQ section.

https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/tutorials/designer/desktop/

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/

 

Community: 

There is an official forum where users can answer questions from each other and chat.

 

 

 

ArtRage 6 (Windows/macOS)

A painting application dedicated to getting real medium textures.
Choose rich oils, delicate watercolors, and more to get the feel of various traditional mediums.

 

ArtRage6

 

ArtRage 6 is a painting program that focuses on replicating the look of traditional painting, especially with the thicker brush mediums. Not only can you use tools like pencils and paintbrushes, but also traditional tools not usually found in digital art programs 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 available that will provide a guide to snap to as you are drawing. However, you can only use one grid on your canvas, so it might not lend itself to be a super precise way of drawing.

 

Developer: Ambient Design

 

Trial version:

You can try it out by downloading ArtRage 6 Demo for free.

Note: You cannot save or export files in the trial version.

 

How to download:
One-time purchase of $59 USD on the official website.

 

Support:

Check out the basics of using the program on the official website as well as an FAQ section.

https://www.artrage.com/support/

 

Community: 

Users can ask questions on the official forum and chat. You can also browse other user’s works on Art Gallery and comment on them.

https://forums.artrage.com/

 

 

 

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.

 

Adobe Illustrator iPad

 

The iPad version features over 18,000 fonts and over 20 different color palettes. Subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud to be able to use your files in conjunction with Photoshop, Fresco, and the PC version of Adobe Illustrator.

Saved files will automatically be saved 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 is up you will be charged.  For $9.99 USD a month for Illustrator on iPad you will have access to over 17,000 fonts, be able to 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 not only Illustrator but also 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 you will be charged after the first month of trial use based on the plan price.

 

Developer: Adobe Inc.

 

How to Purchase:

Download it from the AppStore

 

In-App Purchases

Illustrator on iPad:

$9.99 USD/month

Adobe Design Mobile:

$14.99 USD/month

$149.99 USD/year

*You do not need to purchase any plan if you already are on a Creative Cloud plan with Adobe Illustrator.

 

Support:

You can find FAQ and a contact form on the official website.

 

 

Article by Art Rocket