And there, now you have all the data required to make an informed chice about what tablet to buy, almost.... Tablet manufacturers use a lot of buzzwords like "levels of pressure" and "LPI" and "PPS" but in my experience they're just that, buzzwords, they don''t really mean much and are highly unlikely to alter your drawing experience in a noticable way, all drawing tablets made today have an acceptable 1024 or better levels of pressure, the other things effectively don't even make a difference so don't worry about them, all tablets, wacom or not will have sufficient levels of pressure, and you are extremely unlikely to notice the difference between 2048 and 4096 levels of pressure, seriously it makes like no difference to most people so don't worry about that shit until you have found a good reason to, e.g. already know what you're doing, have tested many tablets and are seeking the ultimate one, then yes, these sorts of details may start to matter and yes you may end up with a ridic overpriced intuos pro, but until then, give yourself some time to learn this stuff and see whether or not it really matters, make your own judgement before you start spending big bucks on buzzwords
Well, it's simple, for all beginners I recommend a medium sized tablet, this can be A5-A4 sized tablets although A4 is starting to be quite large. Really large tablets are like A3 or in that range.
get a small tablet first, preferably not ever. A small tablet limits you to only drawing with your wrist which may easily lead to wrist injury in the long term, a medium sized tablet however is just big enough to accommodate elbow and shoulder drawing techniques. A large tablet will be too large for most people to even fit on their desk leaving medium as the ideal sized tablet for the vast majority of people; therefore you should start with a medium tablet and then later decide if you want a smaller or bigger one
this is what I personally did and I do not regret it since medium was indeed the right size for me in the end. But I may want to buy a larger one later.
Before I move on to software, I'd like to recommend which tablets I think are optimal for beginners to buy today. These are:
(Note: These are the most affordable up-to-date and also verified as usable medium sized tablets from their respective brands, they are more or less the cheapest ones available in this size. If you spend a little more, you can get superior quality tablets for something around $100-$150 from non-wacom brands, good example products in that category are the huion Q11k and the XP Pen Deco-03. A distinct advantage of these devices for example is that they are wireless and overall higher quality hardware with greater specifications. They're made to compete with Wacom's Intuos Pro line which costs an absurd $380; essentially over 3x the price of these competitors.)
Ok so after that absolutely retarded wacom marketing video... time to wrap up my piece on tablets by giving you some tips and tricks. First of all, most tablet drivers will have a very important setting most people (surprisingly) don't know about that will force the drawing surface proportion to match the display's aspect ratio, this is actually super important and it baffles me that it's not enabled by default, in Wacom's settings it's called force proportions and I noticed in the Gaomon M106K it was called something like screen aspect ratio, basically tablet drawing surfaces sometimes aren't in a 16:9 aspect ratio, my Wacom Intuos CTH-680 for example is in 16:10 aspect ratio, drawing on a 16:9 screen with a 16:10 drawing surface will create an annoying horizontal distortion so if you for example draw a perfect circle on your tablet you will get an ellipse
so make 100% sure you look for and enable this option
Secondly, when you first start using a tablet it will feel weird and your lines will go all sorts of wrong, many people start immediately looking for things about the tablet to blame for this, like it feels too different from a paper (some people have even taken up gluing a piece of paper on top of their tablet to create a more paper-like texture and all kinds of crap) or it would be easier on a screen... don't do that. It's just your hand-eye coordination that's not used to working in this sort of way. To make it as easy as possible to get used to this I recommend lining the tablet up dead center in front of your screen, and on the table in front of the screen as opposed to the keyboard tray, when it's on the same surface as the screen is standing on you will be able to see your hands out the corners of your eyes. But remember this is essentially a training wheel measure and once you get good at drawing like this I highly suggest you actually put the tablet in something like a keyboard tray so that you can comfortably lean back at around 135° while working, I would also recommend you get an ergonomic monitor stand so that you can pull the screen closer to your face to avoid leaning forward
this is potentially the best ergonomic position an artist could possibly have, but your hand will be completely out of sight. So long-term this is way better for your body than say a fancy super expensive cintiq for which there's no way around it that you have to bend over it while you draw.
Speaking of which, thirdly, drawing screens like the cintiq are not superior devices, while they are more high tech(cus you know, LCD n stuff) and certainly easier to use for beginners, once you get used to drawing on a drawing tablet there will be NO visible difference in the quality of your work when you switch between a screen and a drawing tablet, to put this fully in perspective as I mentioned earlier I have a 22" tablet screen, a Yiynova MVP22U+RH, as reviews will say it's a superb quality tablet and I fully agree with that, but you know what? I decided after this year to go back to my intuos CTH-680 medium sized tablet and decided that overall I like the experience of drawing on a good old fashioned drawing tablet better than drawing on a screen, while the proportionally smaller drawing surface is taking some getting used to, the superior ergonomics and not having my hand obscuring my view of the image bit is a really massive perk and I'm definitely not the only one who thinks so
(yup, the super highly renowned stanley lau, aka the legendary
, prefers this style of device as well
) so a cintiq isn't really going to produce better art because it costs more, nothing does. As long as your tablet has working pressure sensitivity you will manage, everything else is just extra, just fluff.
And lastly I guess I should throw in, Digital Ink/Windows Ink is cancer, use Wintab, if your tablet drivers have like this tickbox for "support digital ink" or "support windows ink" untick that motherfucker right now
it's such bad shit, and it's very likely to get in your way when you paint without you even knowing it by being a slow piece of shit.
And there you have it, you absolutely do not have to spend a fortune to get a drawing tablet if you just buy smart
As for me personally since I have now decided to go all out on the drawing tablet route I may buy an intuos pro another year down the line because despite my distaste for wacom, it is the undisputed champion of non-screen drawing tablets and since I have drawing digitally for long enough, these extra "pro" features on it start to matter more and more to me as I go
as much as I hate to admit it. But I have no regrets for buying a cheaper model first, in fact my only regret is having bought a wacom and not a cheaper model like the ones I just recommended for you
seriously I coulda saved A LOT of money by not buying into the whole wacom thing
but such is life, hope you don't make the same mistake as me, or at least if you do, you do it with full knowledge that you didn't have to
The ever resounding beginner question "what drawing software should I start with?" well, I'm gonna give a complete answer to this question
but first operating systems. Disclaimer
: use whatever OS and Software you like!! this is just my $0.2, my experiences with them and resulting opinions of them.
The most widely used OS is Microsoft Windows
, the most popular variants being Windows 7 and Windows 10. Windows 10 has a lot of gimmicky mobile/tabletpc features that are likely to interfere with your drawing tablet drivers so be warned (these tablets as I mentioned earlier, are shaky enough without that shit), it's not digital artist friendly, you may be just fine but I would rather recommend Windows 7 if Windows is your thing. hopefully this gets better in a few years, but I wouldn't count on it considering wacom seems hellbent on not hiring a capable programmer, not now, not later, not ever. But one can hope. Maybe the other brands will do better but they may also do worse, so if in doubt stay with win7 if microsoft didn't force feed you win 10 yet.You can use any and all digital painting software on Windows.
The second most used OS is MacOS
, this is not a very good OS in my opinion due to it being unoptimized and thus having quite poor performance compared to the other operating systems (like coincidentally most digital drawing software
) but it's biggest benefit over windows 10 is that it gets out of your way while you work, and it's biggest benefit over all windows systems is that it is inherently more stable and less likely to crash or freeze or be a pain in the ass that breaks all your programs
so I guess it does have some merit, the problem with it however is that to use it you need to buy an exorbitantly priced laptop, do these guys even make desktops anymore? I don't think so
but basically this means due to being most likely confined to a laptop as a mac user you cannot set up a proper powerhouse desktop workstation, I bet apple does sell those, and I also bet it costs like 2x what a custom built one with slightly better parts would too
, so yeah... Don't buy Apple unless you're filthy rich and don't know what to do with your money is what I always say, still if it floats your boat then that's your deal.You can use a lot of digital painting software on MacOS
The third most used OS is Linux
with it's many flavors, I'm not gonna bother taking the time to tell you which linux flavor is the best (although if you want to get it as a workstation, ubuntu studio is like made for you so maybe work your way from there) this is in my opinion the ultimate workstation OS, it's rock solid, as stable as it gets, it almost never breaks
unless you actually break it yourself, usually when it breaks it's with an update and updates can be rolled back so it actually never irreversibly breaks, unlike Windows and MacOS which force updates down your throat all the time and give you no way to undo them. For the professional, e.g. person who knows what he's doing this is like the best thing since the invention of the screwdriver
as a consumer OS it has a lot more simillarities with MacOS than Windows (although this is starting to change with the Windows store) mostly because all software is distributed via a software center. So you don't go google program name and then download .exe to install, no it's more like... app store, also in Ubuntu's case the UI is even a lot like on MacOS (but this can be changed to suit whatever tastes you have, KDE is your friend windows user, you're welcome
) since most people are not using Linux already the downside to this OS is that it has some degree of learning curve, and how steep it is depends on how stuck you are in your windowsy ways
the other downside though and it's achilles heel...You can use very few digital painting softwares on Linux
(Prime candidates are Paintstorm Studio, Krita and MyPaint, no photoshop, no corel painter
There are other operating systems like BSD and Solaris but yeah, irrelevant to most people on the planet so I won't bother
Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk Digital Drawing software
Vector vs Raster
There are terms you will hear from time to time, vector and raster, raster is also known as bitmap and pixel (or pixel-based or whatever, raster is the official term for it) there are effectively 2 archetypes of programs, vector and raster based programs, the difference is that raster software creates a canvas with X amount of pixels aka tiny little boxes and when you paint on it the pixels underneath the brush get painted on, box for box, this is why when you zoom in things get "pixelated" as you start seeing these individual pixels, vector drawing software is a whole another beast, it uses programming algorithms to define and place each stroke, thanks to this no matter how much you zoom in or out, or upscale it to a bigger screen or downscale to a smaller one, it will never lose even the tiniest bit of quality
this is typically used in animations like these cute little flash games or flash animations that used to plague the internet a few years ago and still exist on places like newgrounds and miniclip
adobe flash, the program, is a vector drawing and vector animation software. So is corel draw, adobe illustrator and inkscape, I will not cover this software here because I am not a vector artist, I use raster because I find vector software to be lacking i.e. cannot paint the way I want to with it. I feel like the use of programming algorithms to define the strokes while a wonderful idea is just not done well enough to substitute it for raster painting yet, vectors are btw like the ultimate form of drawing for mouse artists since you can create 100% accurate smoooth strokes with like zero effort. Many raster based programs use vector based tools that are then converted to raster (rasterized) after using it, like for example the ellipse or rectangle drawing tools in photoshop as well as text writing tools, as a beginner digital artist you may want to look into vector illustration but for me it just wasn't the right fit as much as I wanted it to be. The 4 programs I mentioned, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Flash, Corel Draw and Inkscape(free
) are the most commonly used software for vector illustration and if you're interested I suggest you start out with Inkscape thanks to it being free but otherwise recommend you do your own research.
The vast majority of digital artists use raster software, even the ones that do cel shading which could quite easily be done in vector software, I don't know their reason for doing it but I'm sure if you ask around you'll find out
In raster based software the #1 tool for painting/drawing is normally called the "brush tool", so whenever you start a program that's the first thing you should look for and first thing you should try to use to draw
What Is the best program to start with?
The question everyone seems to have an opinion about, but instead of opinions let me give you one well known fact, digital drawing software tends to be SUPER complicated
open up Adobe Photoshop for the first time and you will have no idea what to do because there are just too many freaking choices, most of which are btw completely irrelevant to a digital artist, especially a beginner. Krita, a commonly recommended starter software that I myself in fact started with, has the same issue (I was just lucky enough to already have a photoshop background, so I knew my way around the vast majority of features in photoshop already and this carried over to krita quite nicely) and corel painter is certainly no easier. Medibang and firealpaca are also quite bloated with features but not as far gone as these others I've named, I've tried almost all digital painting software I could find on the internet, so with that said here are my winners for best beginner software, and my logic for recommending them.
- Painttool SAI ($50~)
- Paintstorm Studio ($20; Warning: You need a dedicated GPU to make full use of this software!!)
- MyPaint (Free)
- MediBang/Firealpaca (Free)
Now I have never actually been a SAI user, so before the Krita fanboys start harping on about how Krita is better, let me explain my reasoning. I think a beginner artist's software should always be one that's easy to learn or at the very least isn't bloated with features that they may not be interested in using, the fewer confusing features the better, there's no denying that krita is filled to the brim with "stuff" that most artists will rarely (if ever) use. Filters, animations, bunch of vector tools, and so on and so forth, same with photoshop, and although it's not the same with corel painter, painter has the issue of being fundamentally overcomplicated to begin with
(but for good reason) not to mention way overpriced. After mastering all features of a very simple digital painting software like SAI, the user is then and only then ready to move on to bigger, more complicated software like Krita or Photoshop if they so desire, because at this point they know the difference between what they "need" and what's "extra" e.g. cool, but not core to their painting experience. Getting too distracted by trying to learn all the complicated ins and out of a feature rich photomanipulation software will mean they spend less time drawing and more time on just learning how the damn beast works. And that's a situation no beginner should put themselves in. At least not without a dedicated teacher to show them the way
As a painter, the #1 feature I judge all programs by is their brush engine, because I spend over 90% of my time in any painting software using their brush engine (also known as just "brush tool"), so when I look for good software I look for the best brush engine experience, and out of all software I have tried (which is a lot) paintstorm is the one that suits my personal needs the best, this might not be the same for you, you may for example not want a fast brush engine as badly as I want it, but when you are testing painting software I encourage you to judge it first and foremost by the quality of implementation of the one feature you use the most.
This is how, after learning and preferably mastering the basics with a program like SAI or Paintstorm, I suggest you should choose the best software for you as you move forward from being an amateur digital artist to being an expert or even a professional who knows what they want and accepts no less. Every digtal artist has to do this on their own, but first you have got to learn the basics, otherwise you wouldn't know the best program for you even if it slapped you right in the face!
Paint Tool SAI - 5400JPY ($54~) (Has Free Trial)Works on: Windows only.
Personal opinion: The most beginner friendly general purpose painting software with a bite stronger than it's bark. Also possibly the mpst lightweight painting software weighing only 4.5 MB (most software is several hundred MB)
I know it's not exactly dirt cheap (pretty cheap though) but trust me when I say that for a beginner this is a worthwhile investment if only to streamline your learning experience and ease you more gently into the digital drawing experience
The reason I recommend this as the ultimate software for a beginner digital artist is simplicity, this program is very much straight to the point and doesn't have any features or weird unexpected buttons you won't know what to do with, the entire program is centered around painting and only painting and doesn't allow itself to get bogged down or overcomplicated by including features that not everyone would use, it has a clean and simple, intuitive user interface, making it easier to learn than all other digital painting software of comparable capabilities, there are many great
artists who use this software professionally so don't be fooled into thinking it's only purpose is to be your training wheels, you could end up loving it for decades
. It also helps that it's cheap with a 1 time payment of $50~ as opposed to say $10 a month for photoshop which would fast accumulate to $120 per year.
This program has a simple, to the point user interface, simple yet solid and fast brush engine, it is tried and tested, has been around and loved by it's users for years, it is lightweight and feature complete, it is the perfect starting point for any first time digital artist.
PS: Make sure to check out version 2, it's even better and you get a free upgrade to version 2 once it's out of beta when it gets released if you buy version 1 first.
Paintstorm Studio - Cheap $20 (Has Free Trial)Works on: Windows and Linux(Beta), MacOS Version is in development.
Personal opinion: Simple and elegant, this lightweight program specializes in painting and with it's simple UI, never gets in your way. It also has one of the fastest and most versatile brush engines I have ever seen, potentially competing with corel painter.
This program is my personal software of choice, I really like it. A brand new software originally released in 2015 still under active development and receiving lots and lots of new features and upgrades, it's already in version 2.0 of which the main feature was GPU accelerated brush engine which make this program the second-fastest digital painting software in the world IF
you have a dedicated graphics cards, if you do not it is actually quite slow, sadly. To check if you have a dedicated GPU just download and install it, and see if there's a gpu tickbox in the brush menu, if it's there and you can click it you have one, if it's not there, the program will be slightly slower but you may still have a good experience in it so I recommend you have fun with the free trial, the free trial allows you to run the program X many times before running out
I think 30 times.
The reason I recommend this software is that much like SAI, the program pretty much only has features directly related to painting and therefore is not bloated with features that will get in the way of your learning, HOWEVER the reason I could only give it second place is it's top tier and slightly complex brush engine. When you first open the program you will see a lot of buttons on the left side of your screen and ALL of these buttons
are the brush settings
these are the settings you use to configure or create brushes, and it's brush engine is quite advanced (much moreso than photoshop or krita, it can almost compete with Corel Painter
) but because of that the brush engine while super powerful, is not very simple, however all other parts of the program are super easy to learn and you can just take your time learning to use the brush engine over a few months since the program ships with quite good default brushes to use in the meantime
I believe for most artists this would pay off, because learning to make your own custom personalized advanced brushes is a necessary skill for every digital artist in my opinion, and paintstorm provides the ultimate experience for exactly that from a rather than beginner, intermediate level, this makes the learning curve steeper but all the more worth it
This software will only get better, and it's developers know what they're doing, the only possible alternative for me over this program would be the $400 Corel Painter, but I have to test that one more before I can be sure so until then at least, this is my favorite painting software
beginner or not. Works on: Linux, Windows and MacOS
Personal opinion: Probably the most grounded in simplicity from the first line of code to the last, this program was made with beginners in mind and many advanced artists swear by it as their go to tool for quick painting and sketching purposes.
MyPaint is a bit of an underdog, I've seen a handful of people swear by it and at a glance after you first open it it would seem like it's simpler than the above two... But it has a major flaw, the default UI setup is ridiculous, so unless you have the patience and know-how (e.g. to know that this is what you want) to set it up something like this yourself manually
, this is one of those programs where you will just open it up and have no freakin idea what to do not because there are too many buttons, but because there are too few
. I also noticed that the download links can be a bit wonky and you have to manually select the 32 bit or 64 bit installers when you download (if in doubt, select the 64 bit/w64
This program is perhaps the only one that was effectively designed in such a way that you can just open it up and paint, no hassle, from the moment you open it you have an infinite size canvas to work with, in other words you don't have to worry about setting your canvas size, it's already "as big as you need" without getting into any technical details
and I find that neat.
It's really not that hard to set up, in fact I'll walk you through it.
Open the "Window" menu at the titlebar
Now click the following in this order:
- Preview Panel
- Color Adjusters -> HSV Square
- Layers Panel
- Brush Groups -> Classic
- Tool Options Panel
If everything goes well, the first 3 should be on the right side of the screen and the last 2 on the left side and now you have a perfectly solid UI. If however something went wrong, you can drag these panels around by clicking and holding the icon in their upper-left corner
after setting this up and playing with the classic brushes you can start exploring more of the program and set up things like the "Favorites" Brush Group, creating your own Brush Groups and even creating your own brushes
just make sure you always select the "Freehand Drawing Tool" (aka brush tool) in the top menu bar.
Also be careful not to go too crazy on the zooming out, you'll end up with a humongous file hehe
(takes forever to save, and brushes will get slower if you make them too huge; note that this issue affects all software, not just MyPaint
If you use MyPaint as your first program, I would suggest making Krita your second program because Krita can open mypaint's open raster format files and so you can gradually ease yourself into Krita. Some artists like to use 2 programs and this is one such combination that I have seen before. Krita can do a lot of things MyPaint can't after all. (Another such combination I have seen frequently would be SAI+Photoshop)
or Works on: Windows and MacOS (Medibang also works on Android and iOS)
Personal opinion: While the UI design could be better, these programs are very well rounded general purpose drawing software with a very to-the-point feature kit and a hard to beat $0 pricetag!
MediBang is a relatively recent addition to the free software list, it started out originally as a program called OpenCanvas, MediBang as well as FireAlpaca and Jump Paint (a medibang derivative) are all effectively just 'lite' versions of OpenCanvas. FireAlpaca has animation support while medibang has some manga-creation features instead and Jump Paint is a customized version of medibang tailored towards mangaka and also has lessons on how to create pro quality manga by JUMP's editorial department
so if that's something you want then yeah, maybe go for Jump Paint instead of MediBang, that's bound to be some valuable data for you
MediBang and FireAlpaca don't do as good a job of being simple and to the point as my former 3 mentions, I'd say their UIs are rather unintuitive in comparison, but it's certainly simpler than most other alternatives, so there's that. MediBang or FireAlpaca would be a good starting points but their learning curve is steeper than of the above programs (with the exception being the brush engine part of paintstorm ofc
), and not due to how many more features it has but more due to poor design choices, however on a Tablet PC MediBang may possibly be the best choice you have, the only other option I know of would be (Corel) Painter Mobile (which is free but you need to pay a little for their brush engines, which is kinda retarded since it's the main part of the program but it was pretty cheap so meh, I really really liked painter mobile's sketch brush engine
) but MediBang is still a very sold program, so is FireAlpaca and I assume so is Jump Paint but the full experience is only available in OpenCanvas
what a confusing series of programs.
If you're confused by firealpaca vs medibang, read this
The industry leaders
There are two quite heavily disputed champions leading the industry of digital artwork, those are Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop. In my personal opinion the only one of the two that deserves to be called a champion of anything when it comes to digital art is Corel Painter, but nontheless I can't argue with the general consensus too much about photoshop's less disputed dominance over the market.
Works on: Windows and MacOS
Personal opinion: The best image editor, photomanipulation and post-processing software but with lackluster painting capabilities for it's price (it's brush engine while pretty nicely optimized, has too few customization options in my opinion)
Probably the most widely recommended digital painting capable software on the entire internet, used by professionals all around the world, personally I preferred Krita as while Photoshop's brush engine may be better optimized it's also less feature rich. But photoshop has reigned supreme since the 90s for a reason, even if that reason may only be because it reigned supreme in the 90s, it is however the completely undisputed champion of photo editing and manipulation
and many photomanipulation and post-processing techniques that are often more easily achievable in photoshop than rivaling applications are indeed potentially useful for many of the more advanced digital artists, which is why a lot of artists end up working with 2 programs, i.e. their favorite painting application (commonly this is corel painter) and after finishing up there they copy the image to photoshop for post-processing and final refinement
but there's no denying that this program is quite expensive in the long run. However there's also no denying that this is the most tried and tested program and most professionals by far use it, so you can't go wrong with this program as an intermediate-advanced digital artist, that's for sure. (Well, besides it's weird lack of built-in stabilizer which basically every other digital painting software since the beginning of time (or something
) has had... protip: lazynezumi
)Works on: Windows and MacOS
Personal opinion: The most expensive digital painting program there is, also quite possibly the best program ever for digital painting, with multiple SUPER advanced brush engines, you can usually find a way to make the brushes behave exactly how you want in this program which is the key to any digital painter's ultimate success.
is it just me or is that price so stuck in 2001 that no sane person that's not already a regular customer would EVER buy it in the modern market?
Even Adobe upgraded their pricing strategy, but here corel sits stuck with it's head up it's ass thinking it's still the only program in the world competing for the "professional digital painter" title, which given the large list of programs both above and below this line is obviously not the case
But there's a reason for this price because even if this may no longer be the case, ever since the freaking 90s up until the mid 2000s this was indeed the one and only program professional grade software targeting digital artists in the whole god damn world
the only digital painting program besides photoshop (and maybe the now pretty much dead GIMP) worth taking seriously, but unlike photoshop they weren't having any of that "image manipulation" bullshit, no their goal was to create a real, lifelike painting experience in the digital space and they got pretty damn close, with probably the best collection of brush engines the world has ever seen
this digital PAINTING
software is an industry standard for a good damn reason
But riddled with serious bugs many of which can be traced all the way back to the 90s
I don't think it lives up to it's price at all when it comes to code quality
but once you power through these bugs, or happen to be one of those rare species of artists (like me
) who likes to paint on just one layer and are thus unlikely to ever encounter them, this may very well be the best digital painter's software on the market, but is it a whole $400+ more worth than paintstorm? a whole $500+$100 per year more than photoshop? It's kind of a tough sell Corel. I mean you guys not only have had (the same) serious bugs for 2 decades but you're also so butthurt over how miserably your linux distribution in the 90s failed that you absolutely refuse to make a linux version
as nice as corel painter may be, I'm just not feeling any love from these corel guys, only greed and anger
but if there's any program I'd consider switching to over paintstorm it's corel painter, however at that price? I can't say I'm too thrilled to do so
to my great dismay. Corel needs to get with the times or get lost in my opinion, if nothing else, at the very least they need to get their head out of their own flappy butthole.
Right, so if you're not a beginner, and you don't wanna pay through the nose for some "industry standard because my name is adobe/corel" bullshit, what then? Well, I can still recommend Paintstorm if you have a GPU as a go to nice program, and honestly the rest of the recommended programs are all fantastic, even for an advanced user, except maybe mypaint, it struggles a bit to keep up at this point... And yes, medibang/alpaca has some shortcomings but SAI and Paintstorm are in it for the long haul, clearly
but what if you're not convinced you'd like any of them? What if you'd tried them all and still haven't found a glove that fits? Well I have some good news my friends, there's plenty of other software available
Works on: Linux, Windows, MacOS
Personal opinion: The current king of free painting software, it is by far the most feature rich free painting software, it's open source, and does it's best to compete not only with photoshop but also corel painter, it sadly does not fully beat either of them at their own game, but instead it beats both by offering features that corel painter doesn't and offering brush engines of superior versatility to Photoshop's. This program has room to grow and there's no telling if in a few years it'll be the next digital painting behemoth, or the next digital painting vaporware. It could afford to be more noob friendly though and lacks the capabilities to do clean rendering (hopefully due to a bug)
My lost love... Before paintstorm I used Krita, I used Krita because as a painter I preferred it over photoshop
but ultimately found some problems in how it handles soft brushes and blending with them
so I happily decided to switch to paintstorm because of that and paintstorm's indisputable speed advantage
but if/when that gets fixed, Krita will again be a solid alternative for me, and even without this, for rough painted looking styles Krita is rock solid, and no program besides photoshop that I'm aware of can beat Krita in post processing and image manipulation tasks
so Krita is undoubtedly one of Photoshop's by far strongest competitors, and if none of the previously mentioned programs sounded like a very good fit, either you need to look at vector illustration software or this is probably the right fit for you. It has many cool brush engines but overall I'd say nothing that really stands out (it's sketching brush engine is sublime tho) compared to formerly mentioned software, if the blending issue is fixed it's default brush engine would definitely be vastly more superior to photoshop's than it already is, but it's not even in the same ballpark as corel painter. Yet
Krita also has animation support and some minimal vector drawing capabilities as well as some manga/comic illustration features, besides photoshop it's basically the only "all-in-one" package software, and... it's free!
It's loaded to the brim with awesome features but it is definitely not noob friendly, so unless you have a background in Photoshop or GIMP, there is going to be some degree of learning curve here.Works on: Windows (MacOS and Linux versions in (SLOOOOOOOOOW ) development)
Personal opinion: A super fast and well coded (possibly the world's only well coded digital painting software
) program but it's achilles heel is lack of vital features and astoundingly slow development. Pick up the pace bleank, or this program will get left behind.
The one, the only, the KING OF SPEED!
this ladies and gentlemen is the highest quality (code-wise) digital painting software in the world as of this writing, with blazing fast GPU accelerated canvas and brush engine, support for H.U.G.E. Resolutions like 13K it can not only draw at those resolutions, it can potentially draw LAG FREE at those resolutions where most other software starts struggling before you even reach 4K, there is no faster software, this is it. Requires however (like Paintstorm) a dedicated GPU. I have never been as impressed with the promise of a digital painting software as this one, but I have also never been as disappointed, beside it's crazy brush engine it's almost completely void of features and basically the killer for me was the complete lack of a "flow" brush parameter (most programs have an opacity and flow setting for brushes, flow is more 'gentle' than opacity and blends the step between strokes where opacity won't) and this was the killer for me because nevermind poorly implemented smooth rendering in krita, this program doesn't even have the option for smooth rendering
however if it did, if it was feature complete it has the potential top be the one software to rule them all
With a brush engine that supports complex mathematical/arithmetic operators and literal programming of individual brushes
this crazy software knows no bounds... except the bounds of it's own depressing lack of features besides this half-finished yet super awesome brush engine
make sure to watch this tutorial first
if you wanna learn to use it. It is mandatory.
Clip Studio Paint - $50/$220Works on: Windows and MacOS
Personal opinion: Simple and elegant, quite likely the best software for manga and comic book creation, and painting in simple/cel shaded styles.
Previously known as manga studio, this little gem woulda probably made my top beginner friendly software list if it wasn't for it's manga drawing specialization.This software is as I just implied quite simple and elegant at first glance, instead of having one main general purpose brush engine like most, it has 7 different brush engines for different brush types (from watercolor and airbrush to pencil and special effects) all in the same simplicity tier as SAI, this often forgotten software which seems to be more strongly marketed in Japan is the only truly professional class manga illustration software, it does that job and it does it really, really, really well, so if that is your thing, this is quite possibly THE best software for you
and as it is really simple, you can also happily use it as your first software
my main reason for not putting it up at the top are it's plethora of manga/comic book creation features, it's animation support, and confusing (and honestly somewhat scary) pricing strategy. It is also all around quite feature rich compared to my first 3 recommended for beginner programs, but makes up for it by having a very elegant UI design making it a solid 5th place for most beginner friendly software. This program does everything it claims to do exceptionally well and is best for manga and comic book creation and works super well for cel-shaded (simple) drawing styles.
The clip studio paint EX version has some unique features including Animation, 2D to 3D conversion (
), multi-page management and multi-page files. It also costs like one kidney, but the pro version is quite affordable.
- ArtRage (A program that like corel painter tries to emulate the feel of painting with rl brushes, omitted due to the imo slightly unreasonable asking price of $80)
- Expresii (A very new (2016), GPU accelerated (blazing fast) painting application made to convincingly emulate real life watercolors I just found out about this one, omitted due to how highly specialized it is)
- Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (Costs $30 per year which is fairly affordable, I tried it but was ultimately unmipressed due to the programs complete lack of capability for working at high/custom resolutions. It is very simple, but as the name implies, it's decent as a sketching program and nothing more, I would have liked to expect more from a company like Autodesk. While some artists have managed to make quite impressive looking work in it, it seems ultimately unable to produce production quality work. Either that or the trial version is super dumbed down, which would be a very dumb way to try to sell me a program.)
- Studio Artist 5 (a rather new, AI Powered and AI assisted painting software, I've never seen anything like it and haven't had the chance to try it, it's quite expensive though at $200 right now... on discount, full price is $400)
- GIMP (free, omitted because krita basically does everything GIMP does better than GIMP does it, Krita started out as a rework of the gimp but grew fast into it's own separate, and superior program)
- Rebelle 2 (A program that like corel painter tries to emulate the feel of painting with rl brushes, omitted due to the imo slightly unreasonable asking price of $80, I also hear it's quite slow.)