Welcome to our ultimate pick of the best digital art software in 2020. In recent years, the number of digital art options has exploded, which can make it hard to pick the right one for you. However, this competition has meant many of the best digital software creators have continued to up their game, adding new features and tools and continually upgrading their existing tools. As a result, the digital art software market is stronger than ever.
When it comes to deciding on the best digital art software for your needs, it can be difficult to make sense of the different options on offer. Some digital art software is free, while some has a one-off fee, and others are subscription-only. There are options for Windows, Macs and iPads, and a few Linux tools, too. Here, we've reviewed the best digital art and illustration programs to help you make an informed decision.
For a long time, Photoshop was the unquestioned king of digital art tools, but increasingly, competitors' offerings have been challenging its reign. However, Photoshop remains a hugely capable and powerful tool and recent updates have seen its capability expanded further. Add to that the complementary iOS app that's only set to get more powerful (see our Photoshop for iPad review), and the photo-editing giant becomes even more attractive.
Because it's part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, 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 to the program. Find out more in our Photoshop CC review.
Affinity Designer has everything you need to create custom designs and illustrations. With Affinity Designer, you have precise control over curves, brush stabilisation options, advanced blend modes, and best of all: one million+ per cent zoom (no, really – this might just be our favourite feature).
Not only that, a recent upgrade (here's our Affinity Designer review) saw Affinity add support for the Apple Pro Display XDR monitor, and tweak the program to run faster than ever on new Macs. While this is a dedicated vector tool, you can switch to a pixel environment if you wish. There's a companion app for designing on the go, too: read our Affinity Designer for iPad review.
Rebelle 3 claims to provide a true-to-life painting experience, and it doesn't disappoint. Described as "one of a kind" paint software that mimics the way paint behaves in the real world, you can simulate a drop of colour being blown and running in different directions. Blow length, drip size and the amount of water being 'used' can all be specified, while the Tilt option lets you decide which direction your colours will run in.
It's an excellent, affordable piece of software that feels absolutely authentic. The only real drawback is the limited number of brush presets included. But you can create your own with the built-in Brush Creator tool, so it isn't tricky to overcome the issue. See our Rebelle 3 review for more info.
This isn't digital art software as we know it – Procreate is for iPad only. However, it's such an impressive tool that we're starting to see more and more digital artists integrating it into their workflows, which is why we've included it in our list. This app packs in most of the capabilities you'd find in a desktop tool, including precise colour picker tools, a text tool, the ability to work with hundreds of layers, and industry standard tools such as masks, Blend Modes and groups.
Choose from over 130 Procreate brushes (or make your own using the brush engine), to mimic different traditional art effects easily and effectively. There's also full PSD support.
Clip Studio Paint is quickly becoming the go-to tool for manga art and comic creation. If you're looking for a natural and traditional feel that's wrapped up in a digital drawing and painting app, this is it. Clip Studio Paint uses advanced pen pressure detection for natural, realistic-looking pen strokes.
This tool comes in Pro and Ex versions – the latter offers more advanced features, and is considerably more expensive. You can try either for free for 30 days, to see if you get on with it. Check out the best Clip Studio Paint tutorials to get you started.
Loaded with a large selection of preconfigured brushes, Artweaver will have you creating your masterpiece in no time. You can either use the brushes as they are, or customise and save them to your liking. Its easy-to-use interface is also highly customisable, although out of the box, it's set up quite nicely.
Artweaver 7 is a full-featured digital art tool available in two flavours: Artweaver Free and Artweaver Plus. Take a look at the comparison chart to help you decide which is right for you.
ArtRage has always been a favourite among digital painters and illustrators. It offers a level of realism for traditional paint texture and colour that not only looks incredible but is also a lot of fun to play with.
Although ArtRage is primarily focused on natural media and painting, it's flexible enough that digital artists who are used to Photoshop will find it useful too. With ArtRage 6, 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.
Krita seems to be one of the most underrated free and open source painting apps on the market, despite the fact that it's been publicly available since 2004. Krita has an intuitive and customisable interface, where the dockers and panels can be set up to maximise your workflow.
The tool offers over 100 professionally made, preloaded brushes and nine unique brush engines, including a Color 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.
Corel Painter's latest version has plenty to offer artists of all levels. Performance improvements and new tools make the 2020 version more tempting than ever. The Brush Accelerator tool means that you'll always be working with optimal settings, and this makes painting in Corel Painter a decidedly lag-free experience. Improved options for selecting colours also make Corel Painter easier to use than previously versions.
Painter is suited to a range of styles, and there are suggested workflows to create photo art, fine art, manga, concept art and illustration. There are also over 900 brushes, and plenty of customisation options to play around with.
All this does come at a cost: Corel Painter 2020 costs $429/£359.99 or $229/£180 to upgrade, but when you consider that there's no subscription cost to content with, and that discounts on the software do pop up every now and again, it doesn't seem so steep. See our Corel Painter 2020 review for more info.
TwistedBrush Pro Studio comes packed with more than 9,000 brushes. Yes, you read that correctly – 9,000 brushes. But don't worry, you can still create your own brushes too. Like other digital art tools, TwistedBrush has everything you'd expect: layers, transparency, masks, extensive options for import and export, image filters, and more. It also has drawing tablet support with high precision sampling and pressure sensitivity.
However, this tool will set you back $99 for a version-specific license, or $189 for a perpetual licence. For that price, it might be worth considering one of the bigger names.
If comics or manga art are your thing and you don't want to shell out for Clip Studio Paint, have a look at Paint Pro from Japanese company MediBang. This free, lightweight digital drawing tool comes loaded with 800 free pre-made tones and backgrounds, more than 50 brushes, easy comic panel creation tools and a huge selection of free fonts.
It's all about realistic brushes, right? Not always! Black Ink has a different approach when it comes to brushes. Instead of trying to mimic traditional physical art tools, Black Ink embraces its digital strengths and uses a Controller system that opens a whole new world of possibilities in brush creation and customisation. Using a simple node-based language, you'll be able to create any type of brush imaginable, which you can then save and share with the community.
Paintstorm Studio is another easy-to-use digital art tool that's worth a look. Some of the major benefits of Paintstorm Studio are its brush selection and customisation options (these include spacing jitter, texture, angle, and more). It also supports stroke post correction, which is a handy feature when you're doing linework.
The interface is easy to navigate and laid out exactly how you'd expect (and the default colour scheme is fantastic). However, if you're not a fan, it's completely customisable.