Digital art has evolved significantly in recent years, with new tools appearing almost every month as technology improves. New apps often provide features not available elsewhere — and sometimes at lower prices or without subscriptions.
Whether it's an existing tool or a brand-new option, we've rounded up some of our favorite options so far this year. We'll also highlight where they fall short compared to others on the market. Here are our picks for the best apps for digital drawing on Windows 10.
Note: This post focuses primarily on desktop applications (we haven't included mobile apps in this list). If you're looking for more resources specifically related to digital painting on tablets like iPads or Surface Pens, check out these articles:
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
If what you want is something simple but powerful enough to get some serious work done, Adobe’s Photoshop Sketch should be near the top of your list. It’s easy to use and provides several different brush styles to create everything from cartoon figures to detailed portraits. You can even import photos into your sketches if you need another texture element. There are plenty of tutorials online to help you learn how to use this application effectively.
While there aren’t many advanced features here, such as layers, filters, masks, etc., those who only plan to do quick drawings will find themselves quite satisfied. The program works well across all platforms. And while it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, its ease of use makes sketching fun again.
Download: Adobe Photoshop Sketch ($9) | Mac OS X version coming soon
Pixlr Touch Up
This popular photo editor already comes installed on most computers running Windows when using the Microsoft Store. But Pixlr Touch Up offers much more than just enhancing images. With dozens of brushes, effects, frames, stickers, and other elements, users can make their pictures pop by adding text, shapes, borders, gradients, and more. It’s especially useful for creating collages and greeting cards.
You can easily add multiple layers to any image, which helps users achieve complex looks quickly. Also, you can adjust opacity, color levels, brightness, contrast, saturation, and more within each layer individually. Other helpful functions include spot healing, red eye removal, blemish fixing, cloning, background erasing, and more.
The free version allows for five uses per week, after which you must upgrade to the premium subscription service for $4.99/month. Otherwise, a single purchase nets you lifetime access to Pixlr Touch Ups full range of features.
Download: Pixlr Touch Up Free (Free) | Pixlr Touch Up Premium ($4.99/mo)
If you don't mind paying for quality, DotPict may be the perfect choice for you. Like Pixlr TouchUp, it's designed around editing photographs rather than general graphics. Users can perform basic adjustments, including sharpening, coloring, changing exposure, adjusting colors, and applying filters. However, there isn't nearly as much variety in the types of edits offered.
Although the interface itself could stand improvement, the overall experience is solid. DotPict includes various templates for social media posts, presentations, posters, and flyers. Plus, you can upload your own files and then edit them further through the Edit tab. For example, once you download your final product, you can save it directly to Dropbox or Google Drive.
With a 30-day trial period before subscribing, the standard price ranges between $19.95 and $49.95 depending on whether you pay monthly or annually. A yearly fee gives you unlimited usage.
Download: DotPict Lite (Subscription required, free trial available)
ArtFlow Studio 3 Pro
For people interested in designing original artwork rather than simply modifying existing media, ArtFlow might be worth considering. Its primary focus is helping artists create unique illustrations, paintings, murals, cartoons, logos, t-shirts, book covers, banners, buttons, and similar items.
Users can select from hundreds of professionally crafted textures, patterns, and backgrounds, plus thousands of clipart. Thanks to ArtFlow's Smart Shape feature, anyone familiar with PowerPoint can take advantage of its automatic shape generation capabilities. When finished, you can export your creations in high resolution.
A wide array of customization options allow you to tweak your designs endlessly. In addition, Artflow supports multi-monitor setups, allowing you to view your projects side-by-side during creation. All told, ArtFlow is a great option for beginners and professionals alike.
There are three versions available for purchase: Standard (starting at $29), Professional ($59), and Artist ($79), though the latter two cost extra because they offer additional functionality. Unlike other programs listed above, ArtFlow has no free trials. Instead, it requires either a payment via PayPal or BitPay.
Download: ArtFlow Studio 3 Pro ($39-$119) [Broken URL Removed]
One of Apple’s strongest offerings, Procreate 2 combines both traditional pen and touch tablet input methods for producing beautiful results. Users start off with a blank canvas, then switch back and forth between modes whenever necessary. While working in the Pen mode, you can customize your tools with numerous settings. Meanwhile, switching over to Tablet Mode lets you utilize multitouch gestures to manipulate objects instead.
By default, Procreate 2 includes 50+ brushes, 20+ pencils, 100+ markers, 15+ fill tools, and 15+ adjustment sliders. Additionally, Procreate 2 contains a host of options ranging from color correction to blending, along with support for third party plugins.
On the downside, Procreate 2 costs $14.99 at launch, making it slightly more expensive than competitors. The good news is that it receives regular updates that enhance performance and bring newer features to old devices. Unfortunately, due to ongoing technical difficulties, Procreate 1 remains unavailable.
Download: Procreate 2 ($14.99)
Also known as PixelLab, MyPaint originally launched in 2014 as PaintShop Pro 9. Since then, it’s undergone several major revisions, resulting in the current version being called MyPaint 11. One thing hasn’t changed about the program: It still sports a relatively minimalistic user interface that favors simplicity over flashy design.
Like Procreate, MyPaint includes a built-in set of preselected brushes. These come with customizable parameters, letting users alter things like size, hardness, flow, spacing, and more. They also contain various gradient blends, which let users blend colors together seamlessly. On top of that, MyPaint's selection includes 12 preset pencils, along with six paintbrushes.
In terms of versatility, MyPaint excels thanks to its extensive plug-ins library. As long as a compatible plugin exists, chances are that you’ll eventually run into a situation in which it solves whatever problem currently plagues you. Some examples include particle emitters, real-time video compositing, cloud rendering, and noise generators.
However, despite being open source, MyPaint does require a license fee of $20 per year. That said, you’re getting a fully functional piece of software that won’t disappoint. Still, it's probably wise to wait until the price drops closer to release.
Download: MyPaint (free)
SketchBook Mobile & Sketchbook Pro
Both Android and iOS users can enjoy the benefits of having their sketchbooks accessible anywhere via these smartphones. Both versions sport identical interfaces for drawing straight onto paper. Though neither has received upgrades since 2016, they continue to serve as excellent alternatives to pricey professional art suites.
SketchBook Mobile runs smoothly on older phones. It also packs a ton of functionality into a small footprint. Besides enabling you to complete drawings right from your phone screen, the app boasts smart guides, grid overlays, adjustable rulers, and tons of shortcuts.
Meanwhile, Sketchbook Pro takes care of business on modern devices. It also adds a few nifty extras, like undo history, custom keyboard shortcuts, and auto-save. Overall, both apps look and feel exactly like their counterparts on desktops.
Unfortunately, neither of these is completely free. Subscriptions begin at $2.99 for SketchBook Mobile and $7.99 for SketchBook Pro. Alternatively, you can buy individual licenses starting at $0.99 for SketchBook Mobile and $3.99 for SketchBook Pro. Considering their low price tags, these solutions are better suited for casual users who occasionally wish to sketch on the go.
Download: SketchBook Mobile ($1.99) | SketchBook Pro ($5.99)
Though less focused on aesthetics than other programs, Drawplus' primary goal is providing users with countless ways to express themselves creatively. Along with a number of preinstalled brushes, users can also employ a large assortment of downloadable content. Many of these cover topics like animals, landscapes, cars, plants, fashion, and food.
When working away from home, you can transfer your project(s) wirelessly to a PC via USB cable. At least one person in your household shouldn't worry about installing anything locally, as DrawPlus automatically installs on all supported operating systems.
If you're a budding artist, a newbie or even an experienced professional looking for something better than what's built into Windows 10, then it might be time to consider using dedicated art-making applications instead of Microsoft Paint (or GIMP).
The good news is there are plenty of options out there and they range from simple to complex. Here we'll look at some of the top choices available today in terms of features as well as how much money each costs. We've also included our own thoughts about why these particular programs may work better for certain types of drawings — whether those be comics, cartoons, illustrations, etc. If you have suggestions of other apps worth considering, let us know below!
Before diving into specific recommendations, here's a quick overview of how computers typically handle graphics processing so that you understand exactly where different platforms fall short when compared with specialized tools.
In order to display any image onscreen, including images created by your favorite app, all incoming data must first pass through three separate processes before appearing on screen. First, the application converts information contained within files such as PDFs — which often contain vector graphic elements like scalable shapes and lines — into rasterized form, i.e., pixels. This step produces a file called a bitmap or "bitmap" file (.bmp) because this type of file contains only 1s and 0s representing color values rather than actual line widths. Next, the operating system uses this.BMP file to create a window showing just the parts of the picture visible on the user interface. Finally, once everything has been rendered onto the screen, the operating system displays the final product as seen above.
Why does this matter? Because while this process works fine 99 percent of the time, it means that if you want to modify the image after creation, say adding another layer, things get more complicated. In fact, creating multiple layers requires converting the whole thing back into its original vector format in order to edit individual elements, making post-production tasks arduous without additional support. For example, Photoshop users who wish to switch between editing their photos and viewing finished products will see this issue arise immediately, but many lesser programs struggle to handle similar scenarios.
Another important point to keep in mind is that unlike traditional print production methods, modern computing technology lacks the ability to scale up large batches of artwork. Instead, artists working digitally need to rely on various techniques, including resizing images manually via photo editors, exporting entire projects as high resolution TIFF files, or simply repeating the same task over again until they achieve results they desire. While not necessarily ideal, none of these approaches offer real-time feedback during the creative process, nor allow users to preview completed projects side-by-side until everything is finalized.
With all this said, here's a list of popular desktop art applications currently available online. As mentioned earlier, note that many of these don't provide native export capabilities, meaning that if you're trying to switch between platforms later down the road, you could run into trouble unless you save your project as either.PSD or.PDF files.
One of the main reasons Adobe Illustrator remains king among professionals is because it's specifically designed to accommodate the unique requirements of illustration and design. It was originally released way back in 1952 and continues to evolve to meet changing demands thanks to updates made every few years. What makes Illustrator truly stand apart from competitors is its robust set of tools, powerful filters, and full integration with cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. That being said, it's far too expensive for casual hobbyists, especially since the latest version now costs $1,299 per year ($14.99/month), plus whatever extra fees apply depending on region.
Adobe recommends designers start off by learning basic Illustrator skills, but if you're interested in exploring a wide variety of stylistic possibilities, you should check out Canva. Created by two former executives from Adobe Creative Cloud division Sparkleshare, this easy-to-use platform offers hundreds of professionally styled templates ready for download. Thanks to advanced AI algorithms, Canva automatically creates layouts based around the chosen template, allowing you to concentrate solely on designing content. The end result is a polished piece of marketing collateral, web banner, social media cover, infographics, presentations, etc. Best yet, Canva allows you to share designs directly to Facebook and Instagram, giving you instant access to millions of potential customers.
For someone less familiar with Illustrator, Affinity Designer comes highly recommended for Mac owners due to its clean UI and intuitive layout. Available for both personal and commercial purposes, this tool provides a great starting ground for anyone wanting to learn 2D animation, video game development, motion graphics, or anything else related to visual arts. A recent update brought forth Procreate, which lets iPhone users import live footage straight from compatible devices, complete with effects and adjustments. By combining still frames and moving camera clips, you can produce stunning animated videos.
Affinity Photo combines professional level tools with a streamlined workflow that doesn’t require previous experience. Designed for macOS, this offering excels at handling RAW imagery and producing beautiful pixel artworks. Not to mention, it integrates seamlessly with Apple Photos so users can easily manage their library across all their gadgets.
Finally, Pixlr X is a hybrid editor meant to serve everyone regardless of skill level. Featuring a sleek, minimalistic interface, this app gives beginners the opportunity to try their hand at painting, sketching, retouching, coloring, and more. More seasoned creators can take advantage of dozens of useful filters, masks, and adjustment tools.
There's no shortage of excellent alternatives to mainstream offerings like Photoshop and Corel Painter. Some are even geared towards mobile devices! Yet, if you prefer something simpler and easier to grasp, Krita is definitely worth checking out. With near-endless customization options, this open source option is perfect for users who aren't quite ready to graduate to fully fledged prosumer grade applications.
You won't find fancy filters or automatic layering systems here, but if you enjoy experimenting with colors and textures, Krita can deliver incredible results. Users can customize brushes to fit their artistic goals, and even add custom brush presets based upon the kind of style they'd like to go for. There's even a community behind Krita where enthusiasts discuss tips, tricks, tutorials, and ways to improve their craft. And speaking of improving your skills, Krita includes extensive training materials to help newcomers get acquainted with its myriad functions and tools.
An alternative for Linux users, MyPaint aims to simplify the overall process of drawing by providing users with a single canvas workspace that supports several drawing styles. You can quickly select from preset categories, adjust opacity levels, tweak tonal settings, and experiment with other controls found nowhere else. Afterward, you can output your creations as PNG or JPG images. One downside is that this program isn't optimized for tablets, though, so keep that in mind when choosing which device to buy.
As previously mentioned, Blender is used primarily for 3D modeling, sculpting, and animating. But did you know it can also function as a standalone drawing tool? Simply load in reference images, grab a pencil, and begin playing around with shapes and curves. Although Blender struggles slightly when dealing with very small details, it's fantastic for rough sketches, concept generation, and general brainstorming sessions. Just make sure to avoid getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of nodes and modifiers present in the menus.
A relative newcomer to the scene, Synfig Studio focuses exclusively on 2D animation, helping people develop characters and scenes for movies, games, and other interactive entertainment. Its UI looks incredibly dated, but at least it's completely free and runs smoothly under almost any OS. However, it really shines when paired with external hardware like keyboard docks, touchpads, and mice, though sadly there's nothing available right now for iOS devices.
Lastly, MangaStudio 5+ is a versatile solution aimed mostly at manga readers. The interface itself is fairly straightforward, although the feature set feels somewhat limited given the price tag. Despite this, it's actually capable of producing impressive pieces, and the developers continue to refine the app with each passing iteration.
Although there's no definitive answer to this question, most artists seem to gravitate toward Photoshop, Autodesk SketchBook, ArtRage, and Da Vinci Resolve. On paper, these four solutions seem pretty comparable to one another, aside from minor differences in pricing structure. So which one should you pick? Well, it depends largely on your personal preferences.
Photoshop handles virtually every imaginable scenario you could possibly think of, ranging from simple portraits to intricate architectural renderings. Though the newest versions are technically superior to older ones, they come with a steep cost attached. Plus, if you ever decide to move away from this program, migrating your assets can prove extremely difficult.
Autodesk Sketchbook is targeted mainly towards illustrators and cartoonists, and despite having fewer bells and whistles than other solutions, it certainly gets the job done. Like Photoshop, Sketchbook is usually priced higher than competing products, making it harder to justify buying this one unless you plan to stick around awhile.
For some creative types, nothing beats sketching with pen on paper or pencil on canvas — but if you're looking to get into the world of digital art, there are many apps out there capable of creating high-quality images without any brush strokes. If you want an easy way to create 2D graphics in various styles, here's how to use some popular programs to find what works best for you.
1. Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 ($19)
Adobe has been making graphic design software since 1959. Its most recent version, Illustrator CC2018 (the latest edition), offers users state-of-the-art tools to create everything from vector illustrations to 3D models. The app can be used by both beginners and experienced artists alike, so no matter whether you have never worked with it before or want to learn more about its features, we'll show you how to start using this application today. You will also see why Adobe was ranked #2 among Best Graphic Design Software by PC Magazine.
Download: Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 | iOS | Android ($19, subscription available)
2. Corel Painter 2019 Essentials Edition ($59.99)
Corel’s flagship painting tool gives you access to thousands of brushes, textures, effects, and other resources. It provides all the tools professional illustrators rely upon every day to produce stunning artwork quickly. With support for layers and masks, plus unlimited undo history, you can easily manage complex projects with ease. And because it supports multiple file formats including PSD, XCF, SVG, PNG, TIFF, JPEG, GIF, BMP, DIB, HDR, and even PDF, you always have options when working between devices. In addition, you can add custom shapes, text boxes, frames, and color palettes right within the program itself. Plus, there are hundreds of tutorials and video lessons built in to guide you through each step.
3. Autodesk SketchBook 2020 Pro ($49.99)
Autodesk Sketchbook is designed specifically for people who draw digitally. This intuitive platform allows anyone to unleash their creativity and express themselves visually. Whether you prefer traditional media such as ink or paintbrush, or modern electronic methods like stylus or finger touch, SketchBook welcomes everyone to join in on the fun. From simple charcoal sketches to detailed watercolor paintings, SketchBook helps you work freely and explore new ideas.
4. Manga Studio 5 SE ($79.95)
Manga Studio is made especially for those wanting to become manga creators. Using powerful tools and innovative technology, it makes traditionally time-consuming tasks easier than ever. Users can import characters from over 20 different anime series, edit photos and videos, and enhance existing drawings with filters, stickers, and overlays. All while keeping the lines clean and preserving the integrity of the art. After completing your project, you can save it directly to Steam allowing yourself and others to enjoy your masterpiece! Or export it to Photoshop, PaintShopPro, GIMP, and more.
5. PIXLR Editor - Drawing & Painting App [No Longer Available]
If you want to take your creations beyond screens, consider trying Pixlr Editor—a fully featured web editor for designing websites, mobile apps, social media posts, and much more. Create beautiful designs at lightning speed thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality. Then go further with its advanced image editing tools, which include photo retouching, layering, and masking capabilities. There is also plenty of useful content to browse, ranging from templates to icons sets. Once you've completed a project, you can share it online via links, email addresses, Dropbox, etc., or download it to your computer.
6. Google Art Project [Broken URL Removed] (free)
Google Art Project uses machine learning algorithms to automatically detect objects and figures in pictures uploaded by users. When searching for something specific, you simply type "what does" followed by whatever object or person you're interested in finding. For example, typing "what does woman" will bring up results related to women across categories like portraits, animals, fashion, and architecture. While it may not match a particular style exactly, chances are good that Google Art Project will deliver something relevant. Additionally, you don't need any prior knowledge of art or culture associated with the search term.
7. Da Vinci Resolve Free Trial (free)
Da Vinci Resolve is a nonlinear editing suite exclusively for professionals. It enables you to seamlessly transition footage from shoots, film festivals, and home movies into a final cut ready for distribution. Unlike consumer products that often require extensive post-production work, Resolve takes care of all the heavy lifting during production. Thanks to its multi-camera timeline feature and customizable tracking parameters, you can effortlessly pull off edits involving dozens of cameras and subjects. Furthermore, the system comes equipped with several industry standard plugins for audio mixing, grading, telecine conversion, and 4K/60p output.
8. Krita (Free)
This open source desktop composition software focuses entirely on providing users with a full set of tools needed to create digital artworks. Since 1990, Krita has grown into a community committed to supporting aspiring artists and hobbyists alike. Today, it boasts a vast library of assets created by Krita contributors around the globe. As a result, you won't need to purchase additional third-party software once you begin exploring the numerous possibilities offered by Krita. Not only does this give you added value, but it keeps its prices low compared to commercial alternatives.
9. ZBrush Core 9 Professional ($399+)
ZBrush is one of the leading providers of digital sculpting solutions. Originally developed by Academy Award winning special makeup effects artist Stephen Rosenfield, the company now belongs to NVIDIA. Offering unparalleled quality, detail, and realism, ZBrush remains focused on delivering innovative software aimed at helping artists achieve their artistic vision. What's more, ZBrush offers customers a plethora of exciting opportunities, spanning from concept development to character modeling. To date, the product line includes four versions: Classic, Pro, Max, and Mobile. Each model adds new functions, improving workflow efficiency.
10. Blender (free)
Blender is one of the most recognized names in 3D creation software. First released in 2003, it has gradually evolved into a robust piece of software capable of handling large files and complex operations. Blender is known for being flexible enough to serve a variety of purposes. Moreover, the interface is user friendly, allowing newcomers to pick up concepts quickly. One downside, however, could be the fact that Blender lacks certain functionalities found elsewhere. Nevertheless, it still serves as a great starting point for users wishing to pursue an independent career path in animation.
11. Grasshopper [No Longer Available]
Grasshopper is another excellent option for budding animators. Initially founded in 2014, this cross-platform software lets users animate live actions, puppets, and static scenes. A core element of Grasshopper is its ability to handle millions of keyframes per second. Consequently, Grasshopper produces smooth and seamless animations. Unfortunately, Grasshopper doesn't come cheap. However, the price tag might motivate potential buyers considering that Grasshopper is constantly updated, meaning future releases will continue adding greater functionality.
12. PhotoScan (free)
PhotoScan isn't just a name. It's a brand for a revolutionary scanner that turns physical photographs into digital ones. Simply put, PhotoScan scans old negatives and prints into high-resolution images suitable for sharing and printing. Although this process sounds impossible until you try it yourself, the end result is surprisingly impressive. Before scanning, ensure that your original materials meet the following requirements: 1.) must contain actual photographic elements, 2.) must be reasonably flat, 3.) should ideally remain unblemished, and 4.) shouldn't consist of anything fragile. That said, PhotoScan recommends scanning photos horizontally, though vertical scanning is possible too. Also, keep in mind that black backgrounds are ideal for better detection. Lastly, remember to follow these instructions carefully to avoid damaging your documents.
13. Inkpad Digital Pencil (free trial, $29.99 premium plan required)
Inkpad Digital Pencil is a unique solution suited for both beginner and experienced digital painters. Specifically designed to allow users to accurately capture real life colors, shadows, reflections, gradients, and details, Inkpad transforms ordinary monitors into realistic canvases. By doing so, users benefit from enhanced productivity, improved accuracy, and increased overall experience. Even novice artists can master the basics of shading and coloring with little training due to Inkpad's convenient layout. On top of that, Inkpad comes packed with helpful features, such as unlimited layers, layer groups, adjustable grid settings, and opacity control. But Inkpad really shines when paired with a tablet. Not only does this provide extra precision, but it opens doors to new ways to interact with your device.
Become CEO of your own lead generation software company, just follow our battle-tested guidelines and rake in the profits.