Paint like a pro with free digital art software

Updates to sketching and painting application Krita have thrust it into the big league.

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First released almost 10 years ago, Krita has always had lofty ambitions. The software was billed as an alternative to Corel's Painter, but with one major twist: it's free and open-source, in much the same way as GIMP.

A recent push to speed up development of Krita, beginning with a successful Kickstarter campaign, has manoeuvred the software back into the spotlight.

Professional touch

Fire it up and it's clear that Krita isn't half-baked or a amateur’s home project: it looks and feels very professional. The software comes packed with templates for US or Manga-style comic books, popular design ratios and DSLR camera resolutions.

There's support for CMYK and RGB colour models (among others) and a variety of predefined pixel-per-inch settings.

The highly professional approach continues when you're presented with the blank canvas. It adopts Photoshop's charcoal colour scheme, and the layout is intuitive and familiar to anyone who's used Photoshop or Painter: tools to the left, textures and gradients at the top, Painter-style colour selection triangle to the right.

As well as a large number of brushes, Krita comes with lots of useful paper textures.

Like Painter, Krita is all about the brushes. While they aren't quite as showy as Painter's, they're still remarkable digital versions of the real thing. It ships with over 100 brush presets, but there are many user variables and a community surrounds the software, enabling users to create and share brushes.

Open-source software Krita finally fullfills is promise

Better than the real thing: Krita’s brushes are as good as Painter’s, if less flashy.

Full package

There are lots of features, such as HDR painting and cage manipulation, that we'd expect to see in paid-for software, but in Krita they're completely free.

If you feel like chipping in you can donate, or you can buy Krita as an app via the Steam digital distribution service. This option will cost you £30, but you gain access to the app with free updates for life. Of course, you can simply download it for free, but it does feel good to give a little for a lot of software.

The only downside is a lack of Mac support, but this is being worked on right now. Otherwise Krita is a fine example of what's possible when enthusiasts work together on something they love, and all the better for being free and independent.

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