15 Best Digital Art Software for Graphic Designers in 2024

Are you a beginner in the world of illustration? Or looking to get some illustration work, but don’t know what you want? This list of the most vital styles of illustration is a good place to start.

July 3, 2024

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Are you a new graphic designer who wants to try out a few digital drawing apps before you choose to buy one? Or maybe you are a professional digital artist who wants to try a different digital art software.

Whatever the case, I will share the 15 best digital art software that are feature-packed and suitable for a wide range of designers. Most of these drawing software run on all the popular OS, i.e., Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Some of these drawing tools are free and open-source and can help you get started. Others are full of advanced features that can help you take your digital painting to the next level.

What should you look for in digital art software?

Image Source: Aaron Rutten

When choosing a digital art app for graphic designing, several key factors can significantly impact your experience and the outcome of your creative projects. 

Here are the main things to consider:

1. Pressure Sensitivity

Ensure the software supports pressure sensitivity, a crucial feature for digital artists. The lowest of the pressure levels that you should aim for is 1024, but several high-end stylus’ can offer pressure levels of up to 8192.

This capability allows for varied line thickness and shading based on the pressure applied with a stylus or pen.

2. Brushes and Strokes

Evaluate the diversity and quality of available brushes and strokes. A robust selection allows artists to explore different textures, styles, and effects in their artwork. For example, Photoshop and Procreate are popular among digital artists for their wide range of brushes and strokes.

3. Operating System Compatibility

Confirm that the software is compatible with your operating system (Windows, macOS, or Linux). Some software may be exclusive to a particular OS, limiting your options based on your device.

4. File Format Support

Check for compatibility with common file formats (JPEG, PNG, PSD, etc.) to ensure seamless sharing and collaboration with other artists or software.

5. Layering System

A sophisticated layering system is essential for complex compositions. Look for software that offers easy-to-use and powerful layer management tools.

6. Customization Options

Assess the level of customization the software provides. Artists should have the ability to tailor brushes, shortcuts, and other settings to suit their unique preferences and workflow.

7. Performance and Resource Usage

Consider the software's performance and resource requirements. Some software may demand significant processing power, so ensure your hardware meets or exceeds the recommended specifications.

8. Learning Resources

Check for the availability of learning resources such as tutorials, documentation, and a supportive community. These resources can aid in the learning process and troubleshooting.

9. Integration with Other Software

If you plan to use multiple software for different aspects of your creative process, check if the chosen digital art software integrates well with others. 

10. Updates and Development Roadmap

Assess the software's update frequency. Regular updates and a clear development roadmap indicate continued support and improvement.

11. Cost and Licensing Model

Consider the cost and licensing model that aligns with your budget. Whether it's a one-time purchase, subscription, or free and open-source, choose a model that suits your financial preferences

Best software for digital art in 2024

If you are wondering what is the best digital art software, then there is no one-size-fits-all answer for it. 

Since all designers are different, the best software for digital art would be the one that accommodates most of the design requirements of the artist.

The following list contains some of the most popular digital art tools . I will share some of the pros and cons that can help you make an informed decision about which tool to choose.

Best Overall: Adobe Photoshop

If you ask graphic designers, what is the best digital art software? More often than not the first name that they will mention is Adobe Photoshop. It is an industry-standard and is revered as the best overall digital art software. Its extensive feature set includes advanced tools for photo editing, digital painting, graphic design, and more. 

Photoshop boasts a versatile layering system, an extensive library of brushes, and exceptional color correction capabilities. The software's seamless integration with other Adobe Creative Cloud applications, such as Adobe Illustrator, enhances workflow efficiency.

Best Free Art App: Krita

In 2024, Krita is considered the best free digital art software, offering powerful features with lifetime free access. Tailored for digital painters, illustrators, and concept artists, Krita provides 100+ brush selections, 9 brush engines, and supports industry-standard file formats. 

Its user-friendly interface encompasses advanced layer management, animation tools, and a dedicated workspace for comic creation. The commitment to being free digital art software ensures accessibility for artists of all levels, be it a professional graphic designer or someone who likes to do digital drawing and painting as a hobby.

Krita also allows for animation at no cost, distinguishing itself from paid alternatives like Clip Studio and Photoshop. 

Best for Professional Artists: Corel Painter

Corel Painter 2023, a leading digital art software, stands out for its professional painting and illustration capabilities, closely mimicking traditional media. With a rich array of realistic brushes and customizable tools, artists can seamlessly emulate traditional techniques, while the RealBristle™ technology enhances the natural feel of digital painting.

Designers prefer Corel Painter for its authentic replication of traditional mediums combined with innovative digital features. The software's integration with tablets and stylus devices enhances the tactile nature of the creative process. In the latest version, hardware requirements have been optimized, and M1 Apple Mac compatibility ensures a 4.7X faster brush experience.

However, the upfront cost of $429 may be a drawback for beginners and intermediate designers, and the software has a steeper learning curve compared to others in the digital art domain.

Best for Beginners: Sketchbook

Sketchbook is a digital drawing and painting app developed by Autodesk. It's available for all platforms like Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. It has a free version as well. 

The software's minimalistic interface provides an uncluttered workspace, allowing artists to focus on their creative process. The extensive library of pre-loaded brushes coupled with responsive drawing tools, make it ideal for any skill level, from beginners to professionals.

In Sketchbook, you also get tools like Streamflow that determine how much of your brushstroke will be corrected. You have a layer structure and a color structure that’s similar to other software. You can even write words in the text box, tap out, and boom your words are on your drawing canvas.

Best Affordable: Rebelle 7

Rebelle 7, an award-winning online painting software that allows you to create hyper-realistic digital art with its intuitive interface and real-world painting experience.

The Pro version has exclusive additions, including a unique Metallic Material Layers system and an advanced brush engine, with over 250 brushes.

One of the most affordable digital art software, Rebelle 7’s standard edition comes at $89.99, while the Pro edition will cost you $149.99. However, the Pro edition needs a robust processor to create a seamless user experience. You also get a 30-day free trial, allowing users to explore its capabilities before committing to a full license.

Best for Comics and Manga: Clip Studio Paint Pro

Clip Studio Paint, by Celsys Inc., is another widely popular drawing and painting software for comics, illustrations, animations, and webtoons. Packed with features like Insert frame, Hotkeys, Auto actions, and more, it caters to diverse artistic needs. With flexible payment plans, it's accessible and budget-friendly. 

The Pro version suits single-page comics, while the advanced EX version excels in multi-page projects with features like Animation production, 2D/3D LT conversion, and specialized tools for Webtoon creation.

Clip Studio Paint EX stands out for those seeking advanced functionalities in motion graphics animation, multi-page projects, and specialized content creation.

Best Photoshop Alternative: Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo, a raster graphics editor and design tool for creative professionals, is available on iOS, macOS, and Windows. It excels in image rendering, metadata editing, HDR merging, and creating multi-layered compositions. 

Considered one of the most robust photo editing software, it's available for a one-time payment of $69.99 for Windows or macOS, or $164.99 for the Universal Licence covering all platforms. The iPad version can be purchased separately for $18.49. 

Affinity Photo stands out with features like non-destructive RAW development, Live Mesh Warp filter, and compound masks. It lacks a few features Photoshop has.However, many of these go unused by the majority of Photoshop users.

Best Open-Source Painting App: GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source raster graphics editor, ideal for image editing, manipulation, and free-form drawing. Available on GNU/Linux, macOS, and Windows, GIMP follows the GNU standards, released under the GNU General Public License. 

You can extend GIMP’s functionalities with its plugins. It excels in tasks like photo retouching, image composition, transcoding between file formats, and specialized graphic endeavors.

Best for Collaboration: Medibang

Medibang is one of the best free digital art software, along with Krita, where novice designers can start their digital painting journey. If you want to create comics and manga art but don’t have the budget for Clip Studio Paint, Medibang is a great free alternative.

Medibang is a free and lightweight digital drawing tool that comes with 800 free pre-made tones and backgrounds, 50+ brushes, easy comic panel creation tools, and a massive selection of free fonts. The software also comes with a cloud-sharing feature.

Best for iPad/iPhone: Procreate

Procreate stands as the premier iPad drawing app, with support for hundreds of layers, masks, blend modes, and over 130 customizable brushes.

The recent Procreate 5.2 update introduces M1 iPad Pro compatibility, 3D painting tools, AR previews, an enhanced interface, and audio feedback for an even better drawing experience

Best for Hyperrealistic Art: Realistic Paint Studio

Realistic Paint Studio authentically mimics traditional art processes, on Windows 10, macOS, and iPad. It combines the familiarity of traditional art with the convenience of digital platforms, featuring live liquid drops, step-by-step tutorials, and auto-selection of brush, color, and size, along with VIP content. 

Pencil brushes showcase robust support for pen tilt, allowing users to shade with the pencil's side. However, reviews note limitations, including poor brush cursor options and confined maximum brush size

Best Brush Engine: Paintstorm Studio

Paintstorm Studio is an interesting art application with a few tools and features that you won’t find elsewhere. The UI of this software is clearly inspired by Corel Painter. But, the main strength of Paintstorm Studio is that it costs just $19 for a lifetime license.

Paintstorm Studio has easy drag-and-drop custom panels and shortcuts, but its multi-touch support is not that good. Also, the software has an angle rotation that causes the stroke to revolve around the cursor. It also has an intuitive compass guide for drawing circles and multi-stroke symmetry. 

Best for Android: Infinite Painter

Infinite Painter, a top-tier painting, sketching, and drawing app, stands out for its award-winning design and rich features. With millions of users, it caters to artists at every level, be it a hobby, passion, or career. 

The app boasts best-in-class pencils, a minimal and intuitive interface, and a robust tool set. Diverse tools, such as symmetry, guides, and perspective features, help artists to bring their visions to life. 

While the free version includes essential tools and features, the Pro version unlocks HD canvas sizes, adjustments, layer groups, and over 40 powerful professional tools, making Infinite Painter a go-to choice for unleashing creativity on tablets, phones, and Chromebooks.

Best Procreate Alternative: Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketches, a mobile drawing app, empowers users to create sketches, paintings, and illustrations with an intuitive interface and realistic tools. Notable features include layer support, compatibility with Wacom Stylus for realistic brushes, and adaptive brush functions. 

Tools like folders, screen recording, and a unique knife-like tool enhance the creative process. It provides a good learning curve for novice digital artists adjusting from traditional pen and paper.

The interface may require patience and the free version lacks layering. It’s available on the App Store and Google Play. 

Best for Vector Art: Linearity Curve

Linearity Curve, previously known as Vectornator, is a versatile vector graphics design software, catering to graphic designers and marketing teams for various content creation needs. Its features include an intuitive interface for users of all levels, robust gesture controls, fully customizable graphic design templates, and AI-assisted tools like Auto Trace and Background Removal. 

Cloud features enable file syncing across devices and accessibility online or offline. Additionally, it offers an iOS vector editor for iPad and iPhone, further expanding its accessibility and usability.

Best for Innovative Design: Concepts

Concepts, a vector-based sketch app, revolutionizes thinking, planning, and creating. Available on Google Play, the App Store, and Microsoft Apps, it boasts features like an infinite canvas with editable vectors for easy copying, tweaking, and sharing. 

The tool wheel offers eight configurable tool slots, property sliders, and a color menu for a dynamic creative experience. With tools like Nudge, Slice, and Select, users can effortlessly modify any sketch element. 

The app's infinite zoom in both directions enhances precision, while the flexibility to write notes and doodle adds versatility to its capabilities. Concepts simplifies your ideation, which is an important step in any graphic design process.

Final thoughts

In this list of best digital art software, I shared some of the most popular tools out there that can help you start your digital art journey. Choosing digital art software will depend on your budget, needs, device, and comfort of using the software.

If you want to choose an app specific to your Apple device, go for Procreate. If you want to choose a drawing app for an Android device, go for Infinite Painter. 

If you are looking for free drawing software tools, then there’s nothing better than Krita. However, if you want all the tools and seamless workflow efficiency then go with the industry-standard Adobe Photoshop.

Of course, along with choosing the right digital art software, you must also develop the graphic design skills that will get you hired

Rohit is a novelist (not a NY Times Bestseller!), an avid reader, a passionate content writer, and does YouTube on the side as a hobby! When he is not researching and writing content, he loves to read books and watch movies, TV shows, and anime.

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