Best drawing and painting software of 2018

Adobe Photoshop CC
Best drawing and painting software

For thousands of years, art has remained an important part of human culture and expression. But, of course, it has undergone a great deal of transformation as new technologies have emerged.

If you’re a professional artist or designer working in today’s interconnected world, you don’t necessarily need access to a physical notepad and pencil to get your creative juices flowing. With your trusty computer, it’s possible to create amazing masterpieces with a mouse or indeed stylus, when used in conjunction with a software package replete with all manner of virtual tools and paintbrushes.

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Many of these applications work alongside electronic sketchpads and other hardware, making it even easier to develop amazing artwork. Another obvious benefit is that these apps come with built-in effects, filters and editing features so you can really jazz up your creations.

Here’s our pick of the best drawing and painting software which is currently available.

1. Adobe Photoshop CC

A very well-known drawing tool from the creative masters

Cloud-based suite
May not be advanced enough for some

When it comes to creative software, Adobe has dominated the scene for decades, and 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 about editing photos. 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. Photoshop CC costs £19.97 ($28) per month with an annual subscription.

2. Autodesk SketchBook

An art app which is bristling with brushes

Multi-platform support
140 pre-designed brushes
Monthly and yearly plans

Autodesk SketchBook is a drawing app targeted specifically at designers, architects, concept artists and other creative professionals. If you fit into any of these categories, the software will give you the tools to sketch and create stunning illustrations easily and quickly.

It sports a minimalist interface that works across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, as well as 140 pre-designed brushes. Should you not be able to find the brush you need amongst that lot, you have the option to tweak them and import your own. Another neat feature is the ability to add an unlimited amount of layers to your creations, all of which come with blending nodes and grouping abilities.

The software costs £12 ($16) monthly or £90 ($126) yearly, but whichever package you choose, there’s a lot of support on offer. For instance, you can schedule a call with Autodesk’s customer support team if you have any questions about the software, or indeed chat online or via email. You also get access to the company’s knowledgebase, which contains extensive documentation, tutorials and training videos.

3. Corel Painter 2018

A painting solution that can create breath-taking results

Custom brushes
Support for third-party apps and hardware
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.

As for the price, you can download Painter straight onto your PC for £159.99 ($225) currently (or the Education Edition, which can’t be used for commercial purposes, can be had for £79.99 – that’s $112).

4. Rebelle 2

An expert-developed art tool

Designed by a pro artist
Lots of customization options

Developed by artist Peter Blaskovic, Rebelle 2 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. It currently costs $89.99 ($126), but you can give the app a spin via a free trial.

5. Artweaver 6

A nifty drawing app with collaborative chops

Collaboration features
Lots of brushes
Only available on Windows

Artweaver is one of the oldest painting tools out there, and the software is now on its sixth 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 at €39 (£34, $47) – and there’s also a free version available (for non-commercial use).