The best digital art software in March 2024

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A photo of an artist painting a wolf on the XPPen Artist Pro tablet

(Image credit: Abi Le Guilcher)

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1. Best overall: Photoshop
2. Best for iPad: Procreate
3. Best affordable: Rebelle 7
4. Best painting package: Corel Painter 2023
5. Best Photoshop alternative: Affinity Photo
6. Best for comic art: Clip Studio Paint Pro
7. Best for Android: Art Rage Vitae
8. Best free: Krita
9. Best free comic art app: MediBang Paint Pro
10. Best for beginners: Artweaver 7
11. Best for kids: Drawing Desk
How to choose
How we review
FAQs

When it comes to the best digital art software there is more choice than ever before, from paint simulation software and apps designed for photo editing that can be adapted to digital art and even drawing on the go using iPad. Whether you need the the best iPad drawing app or the best drawing app for PC, I've found something for you in my guide.

I have tested the software in my list and regularly use some of the apps for work and my hobby – I tend to use Procreate every day. Our reviewers have used and rated each pick against a range of criteria including easy of use, features, tools and more (see how we test software for more – and watch out for the links to full reviews). If we haven't tested a program, we have good reason for including it, and have done extensive research to back up our claims. 

Many of the digital painting software I've selected work well with the best drawing tablets you can buy, so you don't need to worry if you've already got a digital art setup. For drawing on the go, see our selection of the best drawing apps for iPad and the best 2-in-1 laptops for creatives. 

Best digital art software: quick list

Below are the main digital painting apps I rate, and use many of them myself either for work or pleasure. It's also worth noting that we're in the midst of an AI revolution and some of the top digital art software below are experimenting with generative AI. For example, read our feature on everything you need to know about Adobe Firefly, the new AI for Photoshop.

Best digital art software overall

Best digital art software, Photopshop; art by Rob Brunettecb badge

(Image credit: Rob Brunette)
Still the industry standard, for good reason

Specifications

Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS
Cost : $20.99/£19.97 per/month

Reasons to buy

+
De-facto standard
+
Complementary iPad app

Reasons to avoid

-
Subscription-based
-
No vector support

Adobe Photoshop is still the industry standard when it comes to digital art, and remains one of the best digital art applications. If you're working professionally, it's almost certain that you'll be expected to use it at some point and there's good reason for its dominance (I use this software everyday for creating images for CreativeBloq). Photoshop is basically good at everything, not just photo editing but also drawing, digital painting, and plenty more. It now also has an ethical AI, called Adobe Firefly for generative images.

Photoshop works across a wide range of devices, including smartphones and tablets as well as Macs and PCs. Check out our guide to how to download Photoshop to find out more. You can easily share your data and access all of your assets, including brushes, images, colours and styles, across all of your devices. There's also an impressive library of Photoshop plugins available to add extra functionality. And new features are being added all the time – we particularly loved the new neural filters in our Photoshop 2022 review, where we said "Photoshop 2022 is so good at so many things it’s hard not to recommend buying it".

The only real drawback of Photoshop is that it's not a vector editor, meaning you don't get smooth, scalable lines. Adobe of course offers its own vector editor in the form of Adobe Illustrator, and you don't necessarily need to choose between them, as getting a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud gives you both. If you know you're going to be doing a lot of digital art and you want the best software, a Creative Cloud subscription is probably the way to go (our guide to the best Adobe Creative Cloud deals is regularly updated with the best deals). 

Best digital art software for iPad

The best digital art software; Procreate on an Apple iPad

(Image credit: Procreate)
A powerful iPad drawing tool

Specifications

Platforms: iPad (iOS 11.1+)
Cost: $9.99/£9.99

Reasons to buy

+
Natural drawing experience
+
Impressive capabilities
+
Wide range of brushes

Reasons to avoid

-
iPad-only

Procreate is, without a doubt, the best iPad drawing app around at the moment. It's an impressive drawing tool that's gained a big following among artists, and it's packed with powerful tools that make it a delight to use. You can work with hundreds of layers if you need to, and there are masks, blend modes and over 130 customisable Procreate brushes to play with. The typography tools add a whole extra layer of creative functionality too.

Procreate 5.2 offers support for the M1 iPad Pro as well as 3D painting tools (which we particularly loved when we tested it – see our Procreate 5.2 review) and AR previews, plus an improved interface and audio feedback for a better experience all-round. Our reviewer was impressed, writing: "The fact that you can now create so many different mediums on Procreate, from animations to digital art, undeniably makes it one of the most powerful drawing apps on the market."

I use Procreate everyday on my iPad Pro and find it to be an incredibly approachable and yet powerful digital art app – in my mind, Procreate has the best UI and menu structure of any art software. Read our guide to learning some basic Procreate tips on how this app can be used.

Best affordable digital painting software

Rebelle 7 review; a painting of a golden leaf

(Image credit: Future / Hazel Mead)
Create realistic watercolour, acrylic, wet and dry media artwork

Specifications

Platform: Windows 10 (64-bit) or Mac OS 10.15 or newer
Cost: $149.99 / £129.99 (Rebelle 7 Pro ), $89.99 / £77.99 (Rebelle 7)

Reasons to buy

+
New features, including metallic paints
+
Authentic painting experience
+
Excellent resize and export tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Can slow down on older hardware

If Corel Painter is a little too expensive, Rebelle 7 could be your best alternative. Featuring more than 240 brush presets, it's designed to mimic the way that paint behaves in the real world. It's one of the best digital art software options for creating realistic-looking watercolours or oils with plenty of thick impasto effects.

I've been using Rebelle 7 recently and it's excellent, and features new metallic paints and ray-traced canvases for an even more realistic approach. In our Rebelle 7 review  our pro artist was impressed with this new editions metallic paints, easy to grasp AI and superb resize and export tools. The previous edition of this impressive natural media painting app offers plenty of useful upgrades, including new stabilisation and texture features, natural RYB colour mixing, layer groups and colour management. 

I especially like the real world colour pigment mixing and the brilliant watercolour and oil simulation as well as the new AI-based Warp and Liquify tools, and it's something our pro artist Hazel Mead loved too. Rebelle 7 is an affordable alternative to Corel Painter and it can do more than the iPad-exclusive Procreate, but if you do buy the Pro version be sure to have at least 16GB RAM and a good processor.

Best Photoshop alternative digital art software

The best digital art software; screenshot of Affinity Photo - man drawn in black and white on red background

(Image credit: Ben Brady)
The best alternative to Photoshop

Specifications

Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS
Cost : £48.99

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible value
+
Excellent Photoshop compatibility
+
Impressive tools and performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks Photoshop's high-end features

Affinity Photo is your best alternative to Photoshop. It's a one-time purchase, so once you've paid the initial cost of the software, you're set. In terms of power and performance, it's pretty much on a par with Photoshop, though it lacks some of Adobe's most advanced features like content-aware fill. (If you want an alternative to Adobe Illustrator, take a look at Infinity Designer.)

If you've already used Photoshop but want to move away from the subscription model, then Affinity Photo is certainly one of the best options since it offers full compatibility with PSD files, making it effortless to migrate projects over. It also has enough power even to cope with 100+ megapixel images, so you don't have to worry about working with super-high-resolution files. And if you prefer to draw on an iPad, Affinity Photo for iPad is also available. 

In our Affinity Photo review, we particularly liked how, unlike Photoshop, the tool isn't dependent on current OS and hardware – it runs equally well on older machines. Our reviewer really loved this app, writing: "speed and compatibility that should be the envy of other software providers." If you're torn between the Affinity and Adobe offerings, take a look at our guide to Affinity Photo vs Photoshop.

Best digital art painting package

Best digital art software, Corel Painter, art by Isis SousaCB endorsed

(Image credit: Isis Sousa)

05. Corel Painter 2023

Painter's annual update offers plenty of improvements

Specifications

Platform: Windows, Mac
Cost: $429/£359.99

Reasons to buy

+
Streamlined interface
+
Lots of brush options
+
Runs better than previous versions

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive up-front price

As its name implies, Corel Painter 2023 is especially good software for digital painting. The latest update improves on the paint flow and mixing system, particularly the new Fluid Brush system enables you to build layers of paint in a realistic manner.

Previous versions of Corel had a reputation for taxing computer hardware to an extent, but GPU acceleration was been tweaked in the 2022 edition, and while I found it hardware hungry, there was a definite improvement. Corel Painter 2023 goes a step further and has been enhanced for use on M1 Apple Mac, making it brushes 4.7X faster. 

Corel Painter 2023 is available for an up-front cost, though a considerably steeper one than Affinity Photo. It costs $429 / £359 new, or $229 / £180 if you're upgrading from a previous version. That's quite a lot of money but there are no ongoing subscription fees and Corel does occasionally offer discounts.

Best digital art software for comic artists

The best digital art software: Clip Studio Paint Pro

(Image credit: Graphixly)

06. Clip Studio Paint Pro

A great drawing and painting tool aimed at manga and comic artists

Specifications

Platforms: Windows, macOS, iPad, iPhone, Android, Chromebook
Cost: $49.99/£39 (PRO); $219/£168 (EX)

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
Cross-platform
+
Free trial available

Reasons to avoid

-
Confusing interface

For manga art and comic creation, Clip Studio Paint is one of the best digital art software programs. It delivers a natural, traditional feel, complete with pen pressure detection to give you realistic-looking pen strokes if you're working on a graphics tablet.

Clip Studio Paint comes in two versions: PRO and EX. If you need all the features and don't mind paying for them, EX is the way to go, but if you just want to see what it's all about you can get started with PRO. Both are available in 30-day trial versions; take a look at the best Clip Studio Paint tutorials to help you get started.

It's worth trying out, and has it's dedicated fans. I've dabbled with Clip Studio Paint and find it a little harder to get started with than something as simple as Procreate but for comic artists it features all the tools you need.

Best digital art software for Android

The best digital art software; a painting of a woman in ArtRage

(Image credit: Ian Dean)
A cross-platform digital painting with realistic tools

Specifications

Platforms: Windows, macOS
Cost: $79

Reasons to buy

+
Realistic-looking paint
+
Great for digital painters
+
Well priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow for larger canvases

ArtRage has been one of the best digital art applications for many years now and has built up a loyal following among artists and illustrators. It's easy to see why since this is another app that offers realistic paint texture and colour but at a price that's a lot more attractive than that of Corel Painter (see above).

Although ArtRage is mainly focused on natural media and painting, it's flexible enough to be useful for digital artists who are used to Photoshop as well. You can do everything you'd expect from a digital art tool: customise brushes, record your own actions, customise the look of your canvas and more.

What I love about ArtRage Vitae is how easy it is to use. The UI may look basic compared to some digital art software on this list but it's incredibly easy to grasp, ensuring you can focus on the art creation. In my ArtRage Vitae review I found I could get up and running in minutes, and the same UI transplants to the iPad too, so whether you're painting from a desktop or on your lap its all the same. I personally think Procreate edges our ArtRage, but I still have a soft spot for this classic app and if you don't own an Apple device then it's a must for Android tablets (It's actually free if you own a Samsung Galaxy device).

If you're on a tight budget and some of the best digital art software above seems too expensive, Artweaver 7 is a very attractive option. It features lots of customisable brushes for a real-world look, and it's easy to get to grips with, with a straightforward interface that you can customise to suit your needs.

Artweaver 7 comes in two versions: Artweaver Free and Artweaver Plus. Take a look at the comparison chart to help you decide which is right for you. Despite being free this digital art app is constantly being updated and improved, with refinements to brush handling and adjustments, for example.

Best digital art software for free

The best digital art software; a screen from the art app Krita showing a painted cartoon forest

(Image credit: Krita)
A free open-source painting program

Specifications

Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Cost: Free

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful brush selection
+
Free and open-source
+
Easy and fun to learn

Reasons to avoid

-
Less versatile than GIMP
-
No proper mobile version

Krita has been quietly doing its thing since 2004, and it's one of the best-kept secrets in the digital art world. Free and open source, it has a great set of tools as well as an intuitive and customisable interface that you can set up in the best way to work with your style of painting. 

This app has a semi-guerrilla nature means there isn't much in the way of customer support, so you may need to consult some online tutorials to get the most out of it – but our testing found it is pretty easy and fun to learn. However, when we tested it our writer was glowing, writing: "A powerful piece of free software for digital painters and illustrators, Krita is ideal for hobbyists and art enthusiasts who want a comprehensive toolbox without the price tag."

When we tested it this year, we appreciated the powerful new brushes – the tool offers over 100 professionally made, preloaded brushes and nine unique brush engines, including a Colour Smudge engine, Shape engine and Particle engine. You can also import brushes and texture packs or create and share your own. As an added bonus, you can use a brush stabiliser to help you get perfectly smooth lines. We would have appreciated a full mobile version, as our Krita review outlines.

Best free digital art software for comic artists

The best digital art software: MediBang Paint Pro

(Image credit: https://medibangpaint.com/en/pc/)
A free tool with everything you need to illustrate comics

Specifications

Platform: Windows, macOS
Cost: Free

Reasons to buy

+
Free
+
Great for manga artists
+
Works with Windows and Mac

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs more brush options

Looking for a free alternative to Clip Studio Paint for creating manga art or comics? Paint Pro from Japanese company MediBang is well worth investigating. It's a free and lightweight digital drawing tool that comes with 800 free pre-made tones and backgrounds, as well as over 50 brushes, easy comic panel creation tools and a massive selection of free fonts. 

In our MediBang Paint review we found this has a wide selection of brushes and materials and good Cloud sharing features for collaborating with friends; the large number of pre-installed fonts and easy interface was noted too. Above all, Mediband Paint is free.

Best digital art software for beginners

The best digital art software; a fantasy space person painted using Artweaver 7

(Image credit: Artweaver 7)

10. Artweaver 7

A full-featured painting tool that's great for beginners

Specifications

Platform: Windows
Cost: Free (basic); $41.16/£34.14 (Plus)

Reasons to buy

+
Customisable interface
+
Large brush selection
+
Free version available

Reasons to avoid

-
Some stability issues

If you're on a tight budget and some of the best digital art software above seems too expensive, Artweaver 7 is a very attractive option. It features lots of customisable brushes for a real-world look, and it's easy to get to grips with, with a straightforward interface that you can customise to suit your needs.

Artweaver 7 comes in two versions: Artweaver Free and Artweaver Plus. Take a look at the comparison chart to help you decide which is right for you. Despite being free this digital art app is constantly being updated and improved, with refinements to brush handling and adjustments, for example.

Best digital art software for kids

Drawing Desk app for iPad; a drawing of Spider-Man

(Image credit: 4Axis Technologies / Marvel / Future)

11. The Drawing Desk

A clever and easy way to learn to draw

Specifications

Platform: Windows, macOS, Oculus
Cost: Free (in-app purchases)

Reasons to buy

+
Clever guided drawing techniques
+
Works with Windows and Mac
+
Features Marvel drawing tutorials

Reasons to avoid

-
Confusing in-app purchases

Drawing Desk is a unique digital art app on this list as it's primarily aimed at kids to teach them how to draw using common principles of form, shape and perspective. The app has a clever training mode that first draws a shape or line which you then draw over, there's a degree or 'snapping' to these lines but with enough room for errors and your own artistic license. Gradually, a sketch takes place and colouring and painting is done in the same way.

When I tried out Drawing Desk's Marvel tutorials I found it fun and engaging, and best of all it teaches the principles of how to use a digital art app, from layers to masks, as well as how to build a sketch from primary shapes to get perspective and form correct.

There are a number of licensed tutorials, including Marvel, with more in-app purchases. Drawing Desk is a also a basic digital art app with the core tools you'd want and a decent simulation of paints and markers, but this isn't its real intent. One thing to note, within Drawing Desk are a number of sub-apps for digital art, and more, and it can be a little confused as to what is free and what needs to be purchased. But stick to the drawing tutorials and Drawing Desk is excellent.

Best digital art software: how to choose

You need to decide what kind of digital art you want to create and which system you're using, this can guide your choice. For example the best drawing app for PC users can be Photoshop, and this does everything you'll need. But it's quite broad and deep, and so daunting.

If you want to paint art digitally then you'll want to go for software that simulates paint and how it blends; apps such as Rebelle, Corel Painter and ArtRage are fantastic for this.

There are more specialist apps too, for example Clip Paint Studio is ideal for comic artists and anyone who wants to replicate the manga style; this app has templates and guides to help and you can plan panels and even create comics in the software.

Most of the best digital art software will offer free trial versions to test out, and it's worth deciding if you want to pay an upfront cost or sign up to a monthly fee.

Best digital art software: how we review

Most of the digital art software on my list has been reviewed elsewhere on our website or written about in hands-on tests. Where possible we've tried, reviewed and used every piece of software, often testing on both Apple and Windows laptops and devices as well as Android and even Chromebooks were applicable.

If we've not managed to review a software we have relied on our sister magazine ImagineFX for reviews, hands-on impressions as well as deep dive features and tutorials from professional artists. You can find more general information on our 'How we test software' page.

Best digital art software: frequent questions

Do I need a drawing tablet for digital art?

Ideally you will need a drawing tablet to get more from your digital art, but these needn't cost a fortune. If you're beginning its best to get a cheaper drawing tablet, such as one of the best Huion drawing tablets

As you progress in your skill level you'll want to upgrade to one of Huion's larger drawing tablets or try one of the best Wacom tablets; I personally love the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium Bundle as a great beginner to intermediate tablet.

There are also pen displays, which enable you to draw directly onto a tablet's screen but these still need a laptop or desktop computer to run the digital art software.

Finally there are the tablet computers, these are fantastic devices that can run digital art software and you can draw directly onto the screen, like an iPad, only these can come in large desktop sizes.

If you do own an iPad, then the iPad Pro or even the standard iPad, then this is a great way to get into digital art. Apple iPads run Procreate exclusively, and this is one of the best digital art apps around at the moment, and is great for drawing, painting and even creating animation.


Can I run digital art software on my mobile?

Yes, there are some fantastic digital art apps for mobile phones. For example Procreate Pocket for iPhone is a paired back version of Procreate for iPad while Android has versions of ArtRage and Clip Studio Paint as well as Adobe Fresco and Infinite Painter. 

You can now get small drawing tablets to connect to Android phones and iPhones too, and many of the main drawing tablet brands feature the right connections to paint and draw on the go. Two of my favourites are the Parblo Intangbo and the Wacom One.

Ian Dean
Editor, Digital Arts & 3D

Ian Dean is Editor, Digital Arts & 3D at Creativebloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his experiences to bring the latest news on AI, digital art and video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Procreate, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.