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10 Best Free Drawing Software Programs

10 Best Free Drawing Software Programs

Dwight Pavlovic
Free drawing programs are the perfect way to learn the basics of digital drawing. Whether you’re hoping to create a masterpiece or need to design a flyer to share on social media, you may not need paid applications like Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 popular digital art programs – all free to use. Some are open-source programs with no paywalls, while others offer paid versions. Many of these options are solid training programs for beginning digital artists and full of features for casual drawing, photo editing, and small graphic design projects.


According to the developers, “GIMP is not designed to be used for drawing,” but it’s still one of the most powerful options on our list if you know how to use it. GIMP brands itself as an image editor – and the name is actually short for GNU Image Manipulation Program.
GIMP boasts its own effective tools for digital painting and drawing. You can adjust or customize your brushes, and because GIMP is open source, you can even download new ones. These extensive supporting features make it a standout alternative to paid software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.
Key features:
  • Great for professionals and businesses
  • Open-source software
  • Tons of options to customize
  • Windows, macOS, Linux

2. Krita

Krita is a dedicated digital painting software that prides itself on its artist roots. Built by professional artists, it features an intuitive interface and integrated guides to help with routine drawing tasks like drawing straight lines and smoothing out shapes. Krita has lots of painting tools and a huge variety of brush strokes to choose from, too.
A well-rounded editor in its own right, Krita’s biggest advantages are heavily targeted at active animators and illustrators. That’s apparent in its workflow features and its colour and brush selection. Plus, there are plans for a mobile version in the near future.
Key features:
  • Tailored for illustration and concept art
  • Open-source software
  • Extensive built-in brush options
  • Windows, macOS, Linux

3. Microsoft Paint 3D

Microsoft Paint 3D is a little different from most of the options on our list. While it does feature a basic 2D drawing system, Paint 3D is designed to animate your drawings in three dimensions. Typically, 3D applications require resource-intensive software, so it doesn’t hurt that Paint 3D’s software is lightweight and easy to run.
With a streamlined interface and basic drawing tools, Paint 3D is a great way to nurture a budding interest in the art without the costs of professional digital art software. For the same reason, it’s also a fun way for practising artists to experiment.
Key features:
  • Perfect for kids
  • Supports 3D modelling
  • Streamlined interface and software
  • Windows only

4. Artweaver 7

Artweaver 7 is an artist-centric option designed to replicate some of the most popular features of Corel Painter. As a result, it provides extensive brush and stroke customization options to finetune. It also includes a useful recording feature and dedicated tools for collaboration.
Artweaver offers a free or paid version to download. The free option is streamlined with plenty of functionality. Artweaver Pro adds new brush types, better software integrations, and tons of manageability options. It’s also much more affordable than other paid editions.
Key features:
  • Great for professionals and businesses
  • Free and paid versions
  • Integrated collaboration
  • Windows only

5. Astropad Studio for Windows

It may be primarily associated with iPads and macOS, but Astropad Studio is a tablet-based drawing software with an ongoing free beta (Project Blue) for Windows users. While you have to pay for the actual software, there is a beta option that only requires an email address.
Studio for Windows allows you to mirror your Windows desktop from your iPad, with support for the Apple pencil and touch interactions. It includes most general features, but Astropad says there are upcoming developments for shortcuts, customization, and overall operating efficiency.
Key features:
  • Ideal for tablet users
  • Offers paid versions
  • Still in beta
  • macOS, Windows coming soon

6. Sketchbook

Unlike most drawing apps, Sketchbook splits its offering based on platform: free for mobile and paid for desktop. The mobile version is free to download from Google Play and the App Store, and the desktop version requires a one-time payment (£16.74).
In terms of features, Sketchbook is another artist-centric option with a straightforward user interface and plenty of ways to customize your brush. Both free and paid versions are great for sketching and designed to provide more dynamic sensory feedback. This ensures that individual brushes feel more realistic to use.
Key features:
  • Perfect for mobile users
  • Also features a paid desktop version
  • Emphasis on realistic user experience
  • Pro support for Windows, macOS

7. Adobe Fresco

Adobe Fresco is a powerful free drawing tool originally designed for iPads, but it eventually expanded to Windows and some mobile platforms.
Given Adobe’s extensive roots in illustration and design software, its free software is a fantastic way to acquaint yourself with the industry standard. It also means lots of built-in functionality tailored to artists, like a vast brush selection.
You can use Fresco for free or pay for the premium subscription (£10.42/mo), which includes additional content and customization options.
Key features:
  • Perfect for tablet users
  • Huge brush selection
  • Subscribe for premium
  • Windows, macOS

8. Inkscape

Released nearly two decades ago, Inkscape is an open-source, free drawing software with an emphasis on creating vector graphics. Typically compared to Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape has the advantage of no subscription cost. Plus, it has a sleek interface and build.
Inkscape is an efficient way to create and edit vector graphics, making it a great option for designers. It’s also scalable so that you can reproduce your work in a variety of sizes.
Inkscape is perfect for logos and marketing material or anything you create that needs to be print-ready.
Key features:
  • Ideal for design professionals
  • Open-source software
  • Vector graphics editor
  • Windows, macOS, Linux

9. Sketchpad

Sketchpad is an efficient and easy-to-use program, thanks to its existence as a browser-based experience. Just click through to the website, and you start creating almost immediately.
One of the biggest advantages of Sketchpad is its streamlined user experience. You can access numerous customization options and popular features you’ll recognize from most drawing programs from the left sidebar. It offers the simplicity of beginner’s software, with most features (like brush types and blend effects) just one or two clicks away.
Key features:
  • Good for on-the-fly sketches
  • Straightforward interface
  • Quick workflow
  • Browser-based

10. Paint.NET

Paint.NET is another great option built for efficiency, particularly with image handling. The interface is a breeze to use, even when handling multiple files, and it has a full slate of features for photo editing or image creation. You can also install community-made plug-ins to expand functionality.
While Paint.NET is always popular for its straightforward, easy-to-use interface, the workflow isn’t always perfect. In particular, users can’t edit text once it’s been placed. Fortunately, even that obstacle is easy to overcome, as long as you make sure to edit your text before applying any new effects.
Key features:
  • Great image editor
  • Straightforward interface
  • Donation supported
  • Windows only

Summary: the best drawing software for digital illustration

Choosing the best digital art software, free or otherwise, comes down to a number of factors. Your skill level, style, and intended use are the most important. Microsoft Paint 3D and Sketchpad have the fewest hurdles for beginning users, but Paint.NET is an accessible way to start learning more about complex functions.
When it comes to pure functionality, GIMP and Adobe Fresco are well-rounded options for professionals. Krita and Artweaver aren’t far behind, thanks to their thoughtful workflow design. Inkscape is a solid option for freelance designers, and Astropad’s free Project Blue beta delivers near-pro functionality at no cost.
There are so many things you accomplish without resorting to paid software. Whether you’re an artist in training or creating marketing materials for a new small business, you can find free drawing programs to improve your skills and tackle projects.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.

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