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Best digital art & drawing software of 2022

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Paint brushes in a glass jar.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The best digital art & drawing software makes it simple and easy to use your computer to design and draw artwork, using a range of novice to advanced tools.

It doesn't matter what medium, type, or style of art you want to create - the best art software can help you achieve it. It could be drawing or painting on a virtual canvas, for design or illustration, or even for photo manipulation.

What makes the best software especially useful is how much control you can have over your medium, such as choosing effects for oils, watercolors, charcoal, pencils, and more.

Additionally, unlike with physical art, you can edit and delete, develop and evolve your work until you're completely happy with it.

Different drawing, and paint programs have their different strengths and focus, and although all can be operated with a mouse, often it's better to work with a digital pen/design tablet such as a Wacom, in order to get fine details as accurate as possible.

In this article, we compare the best digital art & drawing software to help you decide which package is right for you. We look at ease of use, breadth of features, price, at lots more.

Whatever you're looking for in a drawing and painting program, you're bound to find the perfect solution for you in our helpful guide.

We’ve also highlighted the best free drawing software.


The best digital art & drawing software of 2022 in full

(Image credit: Adobe)
Best overall digital art & drawing software

Reasons to buy

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Easy-to-use
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Cloud-based suite
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Comprehensive tools

Reasons to avoid

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Subscription only price model

When it comes to creative software, Adobe has dominated the scene for decades, and Adobe Photoshop CC (CC stands for Creative Cloud) is loved by artists and designers across the world. It provides creative types with a plethora of cloud-based tools to create and enhance photos, illustrations and 3D visuals.

This software isn’t just one of the best photo editors. If you’re a professional designer, you can use it to create packaging, banners, websites, logos and icons. Not only can you come up with your own creations, but you’re also able to make use of intuitive templates if you’re more of a beginner, or you’re working to a tight deadline.

You can design your own illustrations and turn images into paintings as well, with the option of switching between animate and print-style options. When you’ve created a piece, you can enhance it with a range of built-in effects. 

There are multiple pricing tiers, depending on which other apps and features you'd like bundled with Photoshop CC. The cheapest is the Photography level which comes with Adobe Lightroom CC, as well as 20GB of cloud storage. Up from that is the Single App plan which comes with 100GB of cloud storage, as well as Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Spark. For the All-Apps plan you get access to all Adobe creative desktop and mobile apps as well.

Read our full Adobe Photoshop CC review.

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(Image credit: Corel)
Particularly good at simulating paint effects

Reasons to buy

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Custom brushes
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Support for third-party apps and hardware

Reasons to avoid

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Not massively advanced

Corel offers a host of creative software packages, one of which is a drawing app called Painter. Aimed at designers, artists and students, this cross-platform application provides you with the likes of ‘thick paint’ which you can daub onto your digital canvas, and then scrape around or blend to create some highly realistic looking masterpieces.

There’s a large selection of brushes, with the ability to create custom brushes and palettes – plus you can import these, too. Painter is a downloadable app which is available on both Windows and Mac. It’s compatible with third-party software like Photoshop and drawing tablets from companies such as Wacom, as well.

While many of the best digital art & drawing software providers have moved to a subscription-only model, Painter is still available as a one-time purchase. There are special rates for an education edition for students and learning centers.

Read our full Corel Painter review.

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(Image credit: Escape Motions)

3. Rebelle

Perfect if you want a natural, realistic painting experience

Reasons to buy

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Designed by a pro artist
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Easy-to-use
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Lots of customization options

Reasons to avoid

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Can slow down on older hardware

Developed by artist Peter Blaskovic, Rebelle is another highly versatile drawing and painting application. Described as “one-of-a-kind paint software”, it’s been designed for creatives working on watercolor, acrylic, wet and dry media artwork.

Blaskovic created the app as part of his experimental drawing projects and wanted an easy-to-use program to access natural painting tools on-the-go. The app uses realistic color blending, wet diffusion and drying techniques, and offers a plethora of watercolors, acrylics, inks and pastels.

There are also ‘dry’ tools like pencils, markers and erasers, so you don’t have to stick to paintbrushes. The app also boasts some interesting capabilities like the ability to tilt the canvas you’re working on.

What’s more, Rebelle works with Photoshop, allowing you to tap into 23 additional blending nodes. You can download a trial version to see if Rebelle is the best digital art & drawing software for you.

We've also featured the best laptops and tablets for drawing and artwork.

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(Image credit: Artweaver)

4. Artweaver

Best for collaborative art projects

Reasons to buy

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Easy-to-use
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Collaboration features
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Lots of brushes

Reasons to avoid

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Only available on Windows

Artweaver is one of the oldest painting tools out there, and the software is now on its seventh edition. The application provides you with a diverse set of predefined brushes and pencils that can be used to create amazing pieces of art.

Not only does Artweaver offer an intuitive and easy-to-use interface which makes it suitable for novices, but it also boasts an impressively configurable brush system. So while you can choose from a variety of predefined brushes, you can also tweak them to suit your exact needs.

Furthermore, Artweaver has another strong suit when it comes to working on joint art projects, because you can use the app to collaborate with other folks on the same document. Of course, you’ll need to be online to do so.

Want to get a better idea of your artistic process and exactly how it flows? Then you can get the application to record your work. That way, you can review, evaluate and improve your abilities (hopefully). Currently, Artweaver is only available on Windows, but it’s temptingly cheap and there’s also a free version available though it has limited functionality compared to the paid version.

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(Image credit: ArtRage)

5. ArtRage

Particularly good mobile app support

Reasons to buy

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Custom brushes
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Oil paint feature
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Recordable actions

Reasons to avoid

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A little slow and unstable

ArtRage is an art program primarily for Windows and Mac, but also has app versions for iOS and Android. All versions are available as a one-time purchase, with the mobile app being particularly affordable.

It packs in a good range of painting features, such as pencils, pens, and oil painting brushes, as well as digital editing features such as layers, transform, filters, and custom brushes.

The recent addition of collaborative workflow tools means that ArtRage can certainly hold its own among the best digital art & drawing software packages.

As well as the apps for tablets, the desktop versions come in both a full and lite version with the Lite version coming in at half that price.

There are also a good range of support options available on the website, such as manuals, tutorials, as well as an online community for advice, suggestions, tips, and tricks.


Other drawing and painting software to consider

While we've covered some of the big hitters when it comes to drawing and painting software, there are some good lower-level programs worth considering if you'd prefer not to pay out for a big program. Here we'll look at some of the other alternatives you might want to consider, especially if looking for something more entry-level, or simply competent when it comes to art and design.

PaintShop Pro (opens in new tab) is a neat little art program. Although not as full-featured as some of the above it's still very competent software for many aspects of art and design. Whether it's photo editing, drawing, or creating/designing graphics, there are a lot of tools and additional plugins available to get the effect you want. Originally developed by Jasc, it's now part of the Corel stable of creative programs.

Adobe Illustrator (opens in new tab) can sometimes be thought of as being the little brother to the more powerful Photoshop, but don't overlook its possibilities. While Photoshop was originally built for photo editing, Adobe Illustrator has always been designed around illustration and drawing. You don't need to choose between one or the other, however, as if you subscribe to even the basic level Adobe creative apps plan, you can have both Photoshop and Illustrator together.

Sketchup (opens in new tab) is more focused on 3D design rather than general painting and drawing, but is worth considering if that's the main reason you need software for drawing. Even better is that there's a free version, but even the paid-for versions are relatively cheap by comparison to some of the above, with an annual cost varying according to how many features you want to unlock. 

GIMP (opens in new tab) is a dedicated art program specifically built to run on Linux operating systems. While it may not be as powerful as some of the software listed, it makes a big effort to do a lot of things, from photo editing to sketching to design. Anyone who already works with Linux has probably heard of it and even has a copy, but if you were thinking of moving to Linux but weren't sure what creative software was available, you could do a lot worse than try out GIMP.

Microsoft Paint (opens in new tab) is a basic art package that comes with every Windows install, and has done so since at least Windows 3.x. The release of Windows 10 has seen 3D editing tools added to it, but let's be fair-it's still a simple program that isn't going to rival anything else on this list. However, because of the easy availability of MS Paint it's worth mentioning - if nothing else because it does have a basic toolkit that is expanded on by other software.

What is digital art & drawing software?

Digital art & drawing software transforms your computer monitor or mobile device screen into a blank canvas. Offering a vast array of tools, brushes, and color pallets, artists will enjoy a realistic creative experience.

These sophisticated programs can emulate a variety of mediums, modeling paint effects with great accuracy. However, digital art software also allows you to break away from traditional methods. Layers, effects, filters, and many other tools allow you to manipulate your art in ways not previously possible.

Which type of digital art & drawing software is best for you?

When deciding which of the best digital art & drawing software to download and use, first consider how many features and tools you may need, not just for drawing but also editing. If you’re just trying to make simple image, such as a logo, you may find a free software program will suit you fine. However, if you plan to create a piece of art from scratch and/or plan to make a series of complicated edits using advanced tools and filters, it may be better to aim for one of the higher range and more expensive programs on our list.

How we tested the best digital art & drawing software

To test for the best digital art & drawing software we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, whether as a download or as an online service. We then tested the service by creating a handful of images to see how the software could be used for the editing and development of each image. The aim was to push each software platform to see how easy it was to use different features, tools, and filters where available.

See how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar.  

We've also picked out the best graphic design software.

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing, technology, and marketing titles. He has been interviewed multiple times for the BBC and been a speaker at international conferences. His specialty on techradar is Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, covering everything from office suites to IT service tools. He is also a science fiction and fantasy author, published as Brian G Turner.