Many years ago the only options for digital painting I had were MS Paint, Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. Fast forward to 2018 and there is a bewildering choice of software and tablets.
These days getting into digital painting is easier and more affordable.
When I started out, prices of digital painting software were much more expensive, the only decent pressure sensitive drawing tablets available were by Wacom ( but now I changed to some affordable alternatives ) and there was no where near the amount of training support available. I will give a general overview of the software available. So you should pick the right software for your needs and preferences.
Graphic tablets can be split into two categories: those that have a screen (like the XP-Pen Artist Line ) and those that don’t (like the XP-Pen DECO Type). Almost any professional graphics software will work for XP-Pen tablets, XP-Pen Was a professional pressure sensitive Graphics Tablet manufacturer on the digitizer tablet market. they provide affordable Art Tablet fot Digital Artists , the driver is powerful and update quickly .
Here is the portrait I made with XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Tablet Monitor.
I’ll be mentioning software which tries to emulate natural artistic media but with digital painting you can pretty much get any effect you want.
Adobe Photoshop is well known as the industry standard of photo editing software. Photoshop is a popular and very versatile program specializes in photomanipulation that can be used for photo-manipulation, compositing, digital painting and illustration and even print and web design. all that was because it have a really good brush engine . to be honest it’s brush engine is better than krita’s in some places .
The term industry standard has no weight in why I choose which software to paint with though, I like to keep open minded and try software based on the features it offers. For this reason I will mention software that is not as well known. I’ll also list some mobile software options I’ve heard of as they are increasing in popularity. It’s up to you to do further research for what will work for you and there are always more options if you dig deep enough.
Open Source and free options
Adobe Photoshop Sketch (mobile)
Tayasui Sketches (mobile)
Here is a list of affordable software from cheapest to highest price:
Infinite Painter (mobile)
Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo
Corel Painter (current version Painter 2018)
Over the years I’ve tried Paintstorm Studio, Mischief, Artweaver, Affinity Designer, Black Ink, Expresii, ArtRage, Rebelle, Clipstudio Paint, Krita, Affinity Photo, PaintTool SAI, Sketchbook Pro, Adobe CC and Corel Painter. Here are my thoughts on them so far.
Paintstorm Studio is created for professional digital painting. And a major role in this program play the brushes. We did our best so that you can easily and quickly .
Paintstorm Studio is a recent addition to my collection and I’m impressed by the brush engine. It is easy to use and nice to paint with.Of course, it may be be missing some tools and filters for image processing, and it has little drawbacks. Paintstorm, though, is all about brush drawing and they tried to make it the maximum quality. Besides, Paintstorm studio has several unique features you won’t find anywhere else.
The free version of Artweaver is something I tried years ago and I thought it was ok. Get creative with this impressive paint tool which boasts support for Photoshop files. It has brushes like Photoshop and blendy brushes like Corel Painter. The only reason I haven’t used it is because I’ve already got Photoshop and Corel Painter. The interface is a mix of Photoshop and Painter and it has similar brushes.
When choosing a graphics package it is important to select the right tool for the job. Opt for too basic a program and you may find that you do not have access to all of the tools you need, while opting for a program which is more advanced can mean a steep learning curve and great expense. Artweaver positions itself neatly between the two, being both powerful and instantly accessible for users of all levels of ability.
Full support for layers and a wide variety of brushes, along with a range of effects filters, means that Artweaver provides you with everything you need to get started on creative ventures. Brushes are highly configurable so they can be tailored to very specific tasks while support for transparency and the Photoshop PSD format means that it is not only possible to generate very impressive results, it is also possible to work with files that have been created in other programs.
A graphics tablet can be used with Artweaver to allow for greater control over the tools provided, and completed projects can be saved in a variety of popular formats. Upgrading to the paid for Plus version of the program adds support for Photoshop plugins, and the saving and playback of onscreen events – this can be used to demonstrate techniques to others. With the Artweaver Plus, large documents can be created and a great degree of control over brushes is available.
Affinity Designer is good for vector graphic creation and painting. It can mix both raster and vector artwork together which is interesting. There is free online support and tutorials which are great for beginners . It’s a replacement for Illustrator.I was so happy when I found Designer. For me, Designer is way easier to draw with and manipulate drawings than Illustrator. The developers at Serif (the makers of Affinity Designer) are great. You can freely communicate with them on their forum asking questions, making requests, etc.
Black Ink is a digital painting software that uses your computer’s rendering hardware to provide a perfectly responsive experience no matter your picture’s size .
Black Ink impressed me with weird procedural brushes but I found it too technical for my general use. It’s great for someone who is already confident with digital art but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners.
Make, download, or use the provided brushes to make amazing speed-sensitive designs. People with no talent can make interesting paintings in seconds, while those with skill can produce amazing picasso-esq poitraits in minutes. Black Ink has become my favorite drawing/painting application and I do recommend it, but you should be aware of some of its limitations before you decide if it’s right for you.
The second limitation is that the selection of brushes is very limited and not entirely satisfactory. While the software is certainly able to handle them, it contains no traditional brush/knife/spatula effects, giving you instead a number of flashy, but not very useful ”computery” ones.
The third limitation is that there are no geometric tools whatsoever: no lines, circles, arcs, rectangles, spline curves, etc. Their addition would make the program enormously more useful for certain types of illustrations, especially if they were given parametrizable ”organic” effects (like random variations) in addition to being rendered with the current brush.
Also, keep in mind that you will need a drawing tablet and a pressure-sensitive stylus to get any decent results. Mice and track pads just won’t cut it. This is true of all paint programs, but not everyone will think about it until they’ve tried and struggled with an inadequate input tool. I’m using it with a 10″x5.63″ medium-sized XP-Pen DECO 02 sketch tablet and it works great. You might consider upgrading to a stylus with tilt sensors because some brushes are tilt-sensitive and you’ll get even better, richer results. Because Black Ink works best on large drawings, I recommend a large writing surface as well, though that’s largely a matter of personal taste; I prefer to have room to move my arm rather than just my wrist.
But even with these limitations, what it does, it does very well. I am particularly in love with its layering feature. In addition to letting you stack backgrounds, foregrounds, and various intermediate slides, it’s also great for experimenting on one layer without damaging parts that you want to keep. Which brings up the fact that Black Ink’s undo feature works very well. This seems like a trivial observation, but I’ve used programs that make you want to throw the computer out the window either because they undo too much at once or they can’t undo enough.
So I certainly recommend this program to anyone who wants a pleasant sketching/drawing/painting program, but I also recommend to Bleank to add more conventional brushes (and why not some more unconventional ones, too?) and a small panoply of geometric tools to make this a more complete and satisfying product.
The first limitation is that it requires a powerful graphics card to operate. Don’t expect to run this on your laptop, much less your Surface tablet. The lag will make it unusable and some brushes won’t even render. If you’re looking for something to take with you so you can paint under a tree by the lake, thi
Expresii is not an ordinary paint app but one packed with innovations.
A few points to highlight:
3D brush done right. You can really create so much variations by simply wielding the brush like in real life.
Physics-based fluid sim. When other commercial paint apps claim to have ‘real’ watercolor, just compare with this one and decide which one feels more natural.
Hybrid vector-raster representation solving the low-res problem. Low-res digital painting are unsuitable for printouts or even viewing on a larger screen, but not for this one!
Expresii is one of a kind for it’s realistic Eastern watercolour painting brush engine. Artwork can be exported as PSD files. This software is very specialised, but if you are familiar with digital painting it is worth a go.
A simple but lovely natural media painting and sketching program. Art oriented, but capable of loading/saving photoshop files. A very cheap alternative to Painter,
ArtRage is a painting and illustration tool for various platforms and is developed by AmbientDesign Ltd. It is suited for beginner as well as experienced artists and the main features include painting symmetry,natural painting tools,special effect tools like cloner,gloop pen etc,sticker sprays,tracing images,creating scraps and views etc.The latest version ArtRage4 supports the Wacom stylus pen and adjusts the image by using Pressure,Tilt, Airbrush Wheel and Barrel Rotation of the stylus pen. It runs both on Windows and Mac OS.
it was excellent, lower-priced digital art software which replicate real-world media and painting techniques. Artrage was one of the first art programs to offer naturalistic squidgy paint blending, which is what made me settle on Artrage as my main software. Artrage features some interesting lighting effects which allows for metallic textures and glitter. Apart from that, Artrage has a simple, intuitive interface which lets you get straight to art without a huge software learning curve a la Photoshop. Advanced settings are behind the scenes, which means you might not ever find them, to be honest. Artrage was ahead of its time for a while. At $79, Artrage has always punched above its weight. I won’t hear a bad word about it.
If your computer is more than a few years old it won’t cope with Rebelle 3, in which case go with Artrage (which will run slowly, but it does run).
ArtRage 5 is the best I’ve tried for realistic digital oil painting and the interface is easy to learn. The way the paint seems to react to the canvas texture is the best out of all the software I’ve tried so far.
Rebelle 2 is another watercolour painting software and is easy to use. Editing options are limited but formats can be exported for use in other programs. Rebelle 2 lets you create realistic watercolor, acrylic and dry media artwork, using real-world color blending, wet diffusion, and drying!.
For anyone more accustomed to working with real pencils, pens, paintbrushes and paint, Rebelle 2 was the most naturally intuitive user experience and the results went way beyond my expectations. Photoshop-like options are more limited than some of the other apps, but nothing can compare to how realistic Rebelle 2 feels to work with and looks when you’re done.
Painting in Rebelle is fun, but I would suggest using it along side something like Photoshop or Krita to give more editing options.
Clip studio Paint
Clipstudio Paint is a good all round alternative to Photoshop or Corel Painter and the inking brushes are fantastic. It also has animation tools.Clip Studio Paint, previously Manga Studio or ComicStudio in Japan, is a family of software applications for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows used for the digital creation .
I’ve tried PS, Mediabang, Sai and Gimp and nothing has impressed me as much as CSP. In my opinion, CSP is better for drawing while PS is better for editing photos but I know others who prefer drawing in Photoshop.
CSP has all the tools you could need for drawing, it’s a very extensive drawing software compared to other ones out there. CSP also has a stabilization setting for your brushes as well as a blending tool which my version of PS lacks (not sure if the newer subscription-based version has them though) however CSP lacks the liquify tool that PS has, it’s really the only feature I miss from PS. The way you can organize your brushes in CSP blows photoshop and the other drawing programs I’ve tried out of the water. I also find CSP to be more user-friendly but keep in mind that’s also because PS has a crazy amount of features, most of them you won’t need for digital art.
If you like comic and manga there are really awesome features for it in CSP to speed up your workflow as the program was intended for manga/comic work, the original brushes the program comes with are therefore meant for a more ”comic” style of drawing which not everyone’s cup of tea. However the assets store (most things are free to download there) that CSP comes with lets you download so many different brushes that more realistic drawing and painting is no problem, I’ve drawn several real-life portraits in CSP using downloaded custom brushes that mimic real pencils. Another pro to CSP is that it’s only a one-time payment (besides on the Ipad) and then the program is yours for life whereas PS now requires you to pay a monthly fee. I’ve also noticed that the touch functions work much better on my Cintiq in CSP than in PS where it’s quite laggy, then again I’m using an older version of PS and the latest version of CSP.
This is just my individual opinion though, I’m by no means an expert at either program nor am I saying that CSP is necessarily a better program than PS, both are good softwares, it comes down to personal preference which one you like the most. Thankfully both PS and CSP have free trials so you can try out them both for yourself.
Krita is a complete creative sketching and painting application with advanced, commercial quality features. It’s free, open-source . I used Krita last year and really liked it. I started using it more than Corel Painter because it has nice brushes and the layer support is much better. The latest version of Krita is a big improvement so far and now works with my XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro tablet Monitor (with the newest XP-Pen driver).
Krita has a LOT of realistic brushes, layers, vector shapes, the ability to rotate and mirror the canvas to spot errors… It has allowed me to work in layers, apply filters, use brushes and use colors.
I really like that it supports different formats such as RAW, PSD, PNG, JPEG and BMP, it is also possible to export the files in a large number of formats.
Krita has brushes for all tastes, and has a variety of filters and effects. allows easy color management ,It has an easy-to-use interface, so that our paintings are amazing
If you need a cheaper alternative for just digital painting, Krita is the program for you! Krita is a powerful tool for editing and designing images, it’s free and with enough potential to create quality images.
The only important tools that Krita does not have is Clone with perspective.This is a software which feels like a lite Photoshop version for painters. Especially with the new update, promising new features can be found.
Adobe CC has a solid offering of apps, my favorites being: XD, Photoshop, Illustrator, Audition, After Effects, and Acrobat.Adobe CC allows me to be affective at my work and provide a wide range of services.
I tried the Adobe CC last year but I still have Photoshop CS3 so I had no reason to upgrade and the subscription model puts me off.
Corel Painter is one of the leading software for painting and illustration and is developed by Corel corporation . The most interesting feature in latest version Corel Painter 3 is the RealBristle™ technology which uses the angle and the pressure of the stylus pen for controlling the color and effects of the image. The other features are Brush Search engine,Stroke preview,Jitter brushes,Advanced Brush Controls,Brush tracking,Cloning workflow,transforming multiple layers at a time,Memory optimization,Flow Maps,Custom palettes,Customizable surface texturing etc . It runs on both Windows and Mac OS. It also has other softwares like CorelDraw,PaintShop,PhotoImpact etc.
Photoshop is not totally the industry standard for painting. Corel has a good reputation too. I know even Feng Zhu uses it.
Corel is more traditional and will have alot effect photoshop has, although a very poor selection tools set.
AD and AP share the same painting engine, but for ”pure” artistry mood AP offers something more.
AP features the Colour Mixing Brush which offers different colour blending (RGB/RYB and CMYK models) and the Liquify Persona that is a terrific booster for digital painters.
Bristle and Watercolour models of Painter are almost ”unbiased”: this means that there is a physics model behind pigment/media/canvas interactions so results are ”almost” real.
Anyway the cons are:
You need a super Mac to deal with pro-grade resolutions, and computations are heavy. This is one of the reasons why Painter cannot be defined a rock-solid software to rely on totally…
Do you want to paint on a 8000px canvas with the Real Bristle and Watercolours? Only 16GB od RAM and 2 cores? Pray… :
Watercolour technique is probably the most complex to master, and this is the reason why Painter still offers the Digital Watercolour model aside the Real Watercolour one…
My experience tells me that painters are inclined to an analog approach, so unbiased models as ArtRage/Painter/FreshPaint fit best their user experience.
Illustrators and digital artists are more frequently in a rush, so do prefer ”digital” approaches as the models offered by Affinity, Photoshop, MangaStudio, Sketchbook.
In this second scenario an ”analog looking” tool is complex to achieve, but not impossible.
But in any rate, you can use anything you want to. No one cares as long as they have the files to work with or the final image is uploaded. You can use either, or both. If you just fear it, try it out. ALl of them have some sort of free trials.
I’ve used Corel Painter less and less in favor of Photoshop and other programs. There seems to be a paid update every year which is far too expensive for me to maintain and I don’t need more features than it already has. If anything I would like fewer features, more stability and no internal advert nags. Other than that it’s a great program and still has gorgeous and customisable brushes. I guess if you want to really simulate traditional medium in a computer, this might be it but for more quick stuff, i’d prefer other software. I find the layer system very frustrating but it is fine if you generally paint on the canvas layer. The version I use is the 2016 release. Layers may have been improved in future editions. What I do to overcome the layer problem is paint in Corel Painter on the Canvas layer only. I then go into Photoshop or Krita with the image if I need to do further work on other layers and editing.
I am trying Affinity Photo because the features rival Photoshop for editing. It supports the more recent file types and I want to try 360 Panoramic painting. I’ve tried out several brushes and they are great to paint with. There is also a mixer brush option for doing blendy painting techniques. So far it looks very promising.
There are some features that Affinity offers that are, in my opinion, better than what Photoshop offers. The video tutorials are great – short enough that they aren’t overwhelming, but comprehensive enough that you get to understand how things work. Once you are familiar with the layout and what does what, it is easy enough to translate Photoshop and Elements tutorials to Affinity.
PaintTool SAI is high quality and lightweight painting software, fully digitizer support, amazing anti-aliased paintings, provide easy and stable operation.
My favorite software, because the program file itself is super small, only 5MB, so it loads up very fast. It has all the basic tools you need to create art, so it is super simple to use. The stroke engine is just awesome, when you draw curves, it is just smooth, no jagged lines or anything. Also you can mix colors very nicely. The vector function is also very cool, because after you are done tracing and have the lines, you can go in and add line weight where you like it. The interface is easy and you get used to it very quickly. However, it doesn’t have many blend modes and my version also doesn’t allow to use text. For freeform drawings and paintings, this is it for me.
I can definitely recommend it. Said is lighter and less complicated than Photoshop, so although it may not be able to do everything Photoshop can do, its also easier to navigate and use.
Sai is really handy for line art, I always had trouble with it in Photoshop, but I’m much better with it in Sai, though it may just be because I’m used to it. One thing that Sai has that Photoshop doesn’t is the ability to rotate the canvas to any angle at anytime. This has been a GODSEND for me, it makes it a lot easier to get precision lines down, ect.
Long story short, it’s like Photoshop cut down and streamlined for drawing in painting. Easy to use and still capable of making great things!
Sketchbook pro is a product of the company Autodesk Inc and is a professional painting software for the artists. It has got more than 100 illustration tools which can be customized to our needs. It also has other features like Vibrant colors and Copic® Color System,Annotate and iterate quickly with layers etc. It runs on both Windows and Mac OS.Both personal and business version is available for this software.
I recently stumbled across this and i like it. also great for quick sketches. The pencil feels very similar to the pen in Paint Tool Sai, that’s great. The marker tool is nice, it behaves like real markers and the airbrush is smooth. I’d use it for marker sketches.
Some features to look for in digital painting software :
A crucial rule for painting software is it should run well on your operating system and work with your choice of tablet.
Stability is important. Painting can take a long time to do and file sizes can get large, you don’t want to lose hours of work with crashes or bugs. How far it is in development is also a factor to consider.
The painting engine and what you can do with the brushes as well as photo editing capabilities are factors. Some of the software I’ve mentioned does not have photo editing features. Because of this file compatibility and PSD support is important. Being able to save and export your painting in the top supported formats is essential.
The interface is a consideration as well. The main questions I ask are is it easy to understand, does it look nice and can I customise it? If the interface is hard to use or looks old fashioned it puts me off no matter how good the program might be.
Community, documentation and training support available are also vital to consider as a beginner.
Here is another Art Work I made by Phhotoshop CC
These software’s have their pros and cons, it depends what you want to achieve and what your budget is. Krita is great for a free all round option and it also has 2D animation tools.
For 2.5D painting and audio brushes you can use Corel Painter, but PD Artist also has these features.
For nice oil painting look at ArtRage and Paintstorm Studio. For realistic watercolour Rebelle and Expresii are both worth a look.
Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo look promising for cheaper and non-subscription alternatives to Adobe CC.
The more expensive software options are the Adobe Creative Cloud and Corel Painter. This reflects their brand equity and amount of features. I started with Corel Painter around 2012 and used it for years. I still use it from time to time. It is an impressive program for digital painting. However, Corel Painter has a high price and steep learning curve. If you can afford it I would recommend Photoshop over Corel Painter to learn the basics with. Clipstudio Paint is a great cheaper alternative to both when it’s on sale. I cannot fault Krita over these options for continuous improvement, community support and price (free).
My recommendation for beginners to digital painting is Krita because it has digital painting tools, editing tools, great community support, lots of online tutorials and it is free Open Source. It works with lots of tablets and its cross platform for Windows, Linux and Mac.
I hope this article has been useful to you for discussing some options available for digital painting. I advise you look at the software’s websites and weigh up the options for yourself depending on what you need.