The best new art apps of 2016

2016’s been a golden year for new and newly updated digital art apps. Here we bring together the pic of the crop.

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When it comes to apps for making digital art on your mobile, tablet or laptop, the landscape couldn’t be more exciting right now. 

With new apps appearing all the time, and old favourites adding new functionality, digital artists can get creative in ways that couldn’t have been dreamed of just a few years ago.

In this post we round up the best new apps for digital artists in 2016. But if there’s a favourite app of yours we haven’t included, please let us know in the comments below.

01. Corel Painter 2017

The leading digital art tool saw a number of significant updates in 2016
  • System: Windows/Mac
  • Price: $429/£314 (upgrade $229/£159)

Corel Painter may be the granddaddy of digital art apps, but with every new release they seem to bring something new and exciting to the table. Corel Painter 2017, released this August, is no exception. Highlights include the brand new Texture painting tool; the addition of glazing brushes (squarely aimed at the creation of Manga art); and a sparkling new, cleaned-up interface. Learn more in our review of Corel Painter 2017.

02. Affinity Designer 1.5

Serif’s rival to Illustrator went from strength to strength in 2016
  • System: Windows/Mac
  • Price: £29.99

Serif’s game-changing rival to Adobe Illustrator has continued to add features and garner fans. In June the latest version, 1.5, beefed things up considerably, with new features including the Symbols feature, enabling you to synchronise multiple instances of the same element and edit them all simultaneously. 

The other big news was that the previously Mac-only app landed on Windows, along with its sister tool, Affinity Photo; we’ve also been given sneak peeks of the forthcoming iPad version. Read more about version 1.5 of Affinity Designer here.

03. MediBang Paint

Focused on comic creation, MediBang is one of the best free painting apps around
  • System: Android, iOS, Windows, PC
  • Price: Free

There are a lot of free painting apps for the iPad and Android tablets, but MediBang Paint is one of the best, and that’s not just because it’s free from annoying adverts. Firmly focused on comic creation, there’s an impressive range of tools on offer, you can save your creations to the cloud, and you can add handy shortcuts to said tools. Learn more in our review of MediBang Paint

04. Amberlight 2 

Create exotic swirling patterns with Amberlight 2
  • System: PC, Mac
  • Price: $59.99

Developed by the team behind Flame Painter, Amberlight is a user-friendly tool based on particle field algorithms that enables you to generate wonderfully exotic swirling patterns. It’s ideal for space backdrops, motion graphics, illustrations and more. Out this year, Amberlight 2 doesn’t add any extra features, but just improves the experience of using this very focussed tool. Learn more in our full review of Amberlight 2.

05. Hexels 2 

Hexels 2 is the perfect tool for pixel art creation
  • System: PC, Mac
  • Price: $38 ($19 upgrade)

Fancy making your own pixel art? Hexels is a quirky grid-based painting app that enables you to choose what sort of polygonal shapes you want to be constrained by, helping paint isometric images with ease. Released this year, Hexels 2 beefs up the software considerably, with more professional functionality including the ability to create animated GIFs. Learn more in our full review of Hexels 2.

06. Paintstorm Studio 1.5 

Paintstorm is cheap but surprisingly capable
  • System: PC, Mac, iPad
  • Price: $19

Paintstorm is a cheap but surprisingly powerful painting program for the desktop that allows you to customise your brushes to a high degree. There are a plethora of tools within the app, although the interface is a little clunky so we’d recommend following the in-app tutorials to get the most from it. Learn more in our full review of Paintorm Studio 1.5.

07. Pixelmator 2.2

Pixelmator is a photo editor that works very well as a painting app
  • System: iPad
  • Price: £3.99

Pixelmator is technically a photo editing app but works great as a painting app too. It’s a very impressive app for the price, offering great pressure sensitivity and responsiveness. Learn more in our review of Paintorm Studio 1.5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he's worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.