Equipped with the best free drawing software, you can sketch, ink, and paint without never-ending subscriptions stifling your creativity.
Whatever your medium, your skill-level, or desktop platform, free drawing tools offer an accessible entry-point for beginners (and they’re an absolute blessing for artists working to tight budgets).
When it comes to choosing the best digital art and drawing software, it can sometimes feel like Adobe dominates the creative apps space. The industry standard Photoshop and Illustrator are often the go-to tools for designers.
But the premium graphic design software and its photo editing counterpart aren’t without their critics. Some users, particularly beginners, can find Adobe’s interface a bit daunting (though it won’t take long to master). Others take issue with the fact that most Adobe tools are locked behind a Creative Cloud subscription.
To help you find the tool that’s right for you, we’ve tested out the best free drawing software for PC, Mac, and Linux. Many offer exactly the same advanced features found in premium programs, including 3D modeling software. Others deliver simple, streamlined experiences for those new to the art. All of them let your imagination run wild.
We’ve also tested, reviewed, and rated the best Adobe Photoshop alternatives and the best free Adobe Illustrator alternatives.
Adobe Illustrator is the best drawing software overall.
If you're a professional designer or illustrator, there's no beating the industry-standard vector editing software. Adobe Illustrator runs on Windows and macOS. There are also apps for iOS and Illustrator Draw for Android. It's available as a standalone subscription or as part of the Creative Cloud suite.
The best free drawing software of 2023 in full:
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Krita offers professional-quality free drawing software, created by a team of artists with the noble aim of making creative tools within everyone's reach.
You can use Krita for any kind of drawing and illustration, and even animation. But it's particularly great for comics and manga. There are panel templates, halftone filters, and perspective tools in addition to the usual brushes, fills and pens. Each brush is totally customizable, and you can save your bespoke brushes to use again later.
Right-clicking anywhere on the canvas in Krita will bring up a selection wheel that lets you pick a new tool and select a color in seconds – a system that's much easier than trawling through menus and settings
Krita was created by artists for artists, and it shows in the dozens of thoughtful little touches that make it easier to create great paintings. There are handy drawing aids for creating straight lines, vanishing points and smooth shapes. You also get layers, masks, various transform tools, HDR support, and advanced selection functions.
Krita is an incredibly powerful drawing program, and it's yours to download and use completely free.
Artweaver Free enables you to create beautifully realistic digital drawings by taking input – from your mouse, a stylus or, if you have a touchscreen PC, from whatever you feel like tapping the screen with – and applying ultra-realistic brush effects.
In addition to familiar brushes such as conte brushes, calligraphy pens and airbrushes, this free drawing software also gives you a huge range of patterns and pens, enabling you to produce very complex images with the minimum of effort. It’s layer-based too, so you can build up your masterpiece in layers without losing the ability to change anything.
Artweaver Free is designed for artists of all ages, but we’ve found it particularly useful for children. Kids love experimenting with all the different brushes, and with this top free drawing app, we love not having to clean up any mess afterwards.
Like the classic Microsoft Paint (which it was originally intended to replace), Microsoft Paint 3D serves up a blank canvas to let you doodle to your heart's content.
But don't underestimate one of the best free drawing software tools just because it's probably already on your desktop.
It may seem like a modern take on an old program. However, the real fun happens when you click the 3D Objects button. Here you can pick a model to import (current choices include people and animals), or better yet, draw your own shape and ‘inflate’ it to turn it into a three-dimensional model that can be rotated and viewed from different angles.
You can choose a finish for your shape (options include matte, gloss, dull metal, and polished metal), paint its surface, and apply lighting effects. There’s no way to control the thickness of the 3D effect, so your object will always resemble something created with Puff Paints, but as free drawing software it’s great fun for kids of all ages.
Multiple models can be positioned at different depths and combined to create a scene, and you can even bring doodles into the real world if you have access to a 3D printer.
Fresh Paint is another top free drawing app from Microsoft – this time designed to replicate the feeling of putting brush or pen to paper.
The interface really goes to town with skeumorphism, with a plastic palette of colors that splatter when you dip your virtual brush, showing which shade you’re currently using and making a pleasing splat. You can wash the bristles in a cup of water before picking a different color, or use one immediately after another to blend them together on the brush.
Fresh Paint can simulate watercolors, gouache, and all kinds of other material. As the name implies, you can interact with your work as though it’s not yet dry, smearing it and mixing colors together on the canvas.
Experienced artists will be able to achieve great results with tools that behave like their real-life counterparts, while kids and novices will make an equally realistic mess. it's a grand example of one of the best free drawing software solutions that everyone can enjoy.
MyPaint is the brainchild of artist Martin Renold, who was frustrated by the limitations of his Wacom tablet’s proprietary software and decided to take matters into his own hands. Today, the open-source program is one of the best free drawing software tools for serious artists.
Its background as a Linux app means MyPaint works a little differently to most Windows apps, and it’ll take a little while to master its interface, but it’s well worth the effort if you’re a hobbyist illustrator and Krita’s focus on comics means it doesn’t quite fit your needs.
MyPaint works best when used with a graphics tablet, but you can also use it with any other input device, including touchscreens.
There’s the usual selection of customizable brushes, plus support for layers, and a handy scratchpad for creating sketches. You can also download and install additional brush packages created by other users – a perk of the source code being publicly available.
How to choose the best free drawing software for you
When deciding which free drawing software is best for you, first consider how many features you may need, not just for drawing. This might include free photo editor capabilities, or the necessary logo designer tools.
Also consider your current experience with digital art - some offer entry-points that are too basic for professional artists; others may be too complex for a first-timer to grasp.
Finally, make sure the best free drawing software fits your creative workflow as well as it fits your budget.
How we test the best free drawing software
When testing the best free drawing software, we look at what matters to users: interface and experience, platform availability, tools and features on offer.
We assess how the features deliver what the user really needs - from sketching to watercolors to 3D models and animation.
We evaluate tools based on accessibility for the intenhded user - whether a veteran artist or a novice designer, whether on Windows or Mac.
Most importantly, we check that free means free. No hidden costs or subscriptions, no time-limited trials disguised as free tools. Any payment should be optional and clearly communicated to users.