The Best Drawing & Illustration Software 2017

best drawing & illustration software

What is the best drawing software? There are over 40+ different software solutions for drawing or doing illustrative work. Depending on who you ask you'll get a different answer to what is best.  Your choice depends on cost, style of drawing and willingness to put up with problems. In this article I've included a few of the best paid options (all relatively affordable) and a couple of free drawing software options.

Drawing & Illustration Software

1. Adobe Creative Cloud (CC)

adobe

fleshwerks.tumblr.com

Adobe Photoshop from CS6 is what I use with my graphic tablet. Photoshop allows me to sketch as if I was using a real pen or brush. It's also great for video or photo manipulation. The only downside with Adobe products is the monthly updates which might be annoying to some. Don't make the same mistake of assuming PS Illustrator is for drawing too (hint: it's not).

Operating system support: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X
Official Website: Adobe Photoshop
Who is it for: Artists, photo manipulators. Anyone really.

Photoshop CS6 - Rare 

Unlike Creative Cloud this is a one time purchase. You could buy it, that is if you can find a physical copy for a reasonable price, but since our operating systems are going to evolve eventually the software could in theory face problems? It's extremely rare and is almost sold like a collector's item. Adobe Photoshop Creative Suit 6 is the most revered edition of the software because it included at a bargain price ( by today's standards) Photoshop, Acrobat, Premiere Pro, After Effects, InDesign and Illustrator. That's probably why they went on to a monthly subscription. Wasn't sustainable for growth.

Operating system support: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 10 Mac OS X

autodesk sketchbook pro

As the name hints, Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro is designed for drawing. It has wider utility but is particularly good for sketching, character creation or comics. It's simple to use and has a lot of customization options .

Operating system support: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X
Official Website: Autodesk
Who is it for:  Comic book artists, industrial designers.

3. Clip Studio Paint

manga studio 5 pose

Don't think that this software is limited to just manga. It has a great variety of tools and layer functionality, a user-friendly interface and is quite affordable. If you're thinking of how to draw manga this is a part of the solution. The pose functionality is amazing. You can't touch this.

Operating system support: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X
Official Website: Smith Micro
Who is it for: Manga/Animation Artists

Painting software

If you're looking to get software for classic painting then painting specific software is the choice for you. Software such as Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop CC or ParticleShop

Viridis Caliandrum by Daniel karlsson

Viridis Caliandrum by Daniel Karlsson 

4. Corel Painter

Now if you're looking to get a realistic painting effect with digital art software. Corel Painter is the beast of burden for this job. I cannot stress enough how much I love Daniels work. I'm green with envy.

Operating system support: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X
Official Website: Corel.com
Who is it for:  Illustrators / Digital Painters

artrage2

TnArist (youtube)

It's easy to use. The UI and tools feel like they are made by another artist for artists.
Smooth control and great pixel precision. ArtRage is universally good painting software for artists working on a Mac. PC and Android devices.

Operating system support: Windows 10 Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X
Official Website: ArtRage
Who is it for:  Illustrators / Digital Painters

By Gabriella Germano

"Red" - By Gabriella Germano

If you don't have money you can still do great work unlike Photoshop.  A lot of customization. A lot.  Highly flexible for all your needs but might not be the best looking tool in the world. Definitely worth checking out. Did I mention it's free?

Operating system support: Windows Xp, 7,8,10, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X
Official Website: Paint Tool Sai
Who is it for: Illustrators / Digital Painters

7. Gimp

Free. Easier to use than Photoshop CS6. I think it's more intuitive? It might not be as powerful as the rest but it definitely gets the job done when you're just starting out and don't know any better and need any help in making it easier.

Operating system support: Windows Xp, 7,8,10, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X
Official Website: Gimp
Who is it for: Anyone

Conclusion

The truth is each piece of software has near endless possibilities. At the most basic level all of these digital paintings have pixels. So either test out or try out all choices or look at the types of artists the software attracts and make your choice based on that. I personally use Gimp and Photoshop CS6.  Your end goal should be able to draw what you want in the fastest time possible.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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