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The best digital art software for creatives in 2022

best digital art software: MediBang Paint Pro
(Image credit: MediBang)

The best digital art software can unleash all kinds of creative possibilities but the best option for you will depend on several factors. Firtly, you need to think about what you want to create. There are general-purpose art programs that offer the flexibility to serve for various types of projects, while other options cater to specific niches like painting or manga drawing.

Then there’s the matter of cost. The best digital art software comes at all kinds of prices, from completely free options to professional-grade programs with price tags to match. So, in this guide, we’ve included the lot: both general and specialised programs, and both free software and fully featured professional packages. Whatever genre of art you want to create, you’ll find the best digital art software for you on this page, while our price-checking tool will also help you compare the best prices on many options.

If you're after more design tools, see our roundup of the best graphic design software. For drawing on the go, see our selection of the best drawing apps for iPad and the best 2-in-1 laptops for creatives. And if you're looking to expand your typography options, don't miss our roundup of the best free fonts.

The best digital art software available now

The best digital art software: Adobe Photoshop

(Image credit: Xavier Portela)

Still the best digital art software overall, for many good reasons

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. 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. Photoshop is basically good at everything, not just photo editing but also drawing, digital painting, and plenty more. It works across a wide range of devices, including smartphones and tablets (see our Photoshop for iPad review for more on this).

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.

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). Find out more in our Photoshop CC review.

Best digital art software: Affinity PhotoCB endorsed

(Image credit: Serif)

02. Affinity Photo

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

Not everyone wants to commit to a monthly subscription. If that's your case, Affinity Photo is probably your best alternative to Photoshop. It's a one-time-only 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'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. 

Best digital art software: Corel Painter 2022CB endorsed

(Image credit: Corel)

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 2022 is especially good software for digital painting. The latest update adds a new stamp-type brush customisation, providing fine control over the dab effects of your favourite brushes. Like many digital painting effects, the purpose is to make your work look as "real" and un-digital as possible, and it does that very effectively.

Elsewhere, the latest update to Corel Painter has completely reorganised the brush library, which may be unwelcome news for anyone who's used to the old system, but it actually provides a lot of useful functionality. Brushes are alphabetised in categories that are easy to remember, and there's a filter search system that makes finding the type of brush you need much quicker and easier. For individual favourite brushes, there's also a 'like' button that lets you create a custom palette. 

Previous versions of Corel had a reputation for taxing computer hardware to an extent, but GPU acceleration has been tweaked in the latest edition. The program will also examine your system on startup, and recommend optimisations to make itself run as smoothly as possible on your system.

Corel Painter 2022 is available for an up-front cost, though a considerably steeper one than Affinity Photo. It costs $429/£359.99 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. See more in our Corel Painter 2022 review.

Digital art software: Rebelle 4

(Image credit: Escape Motions)

04. Rebelle 4

Create realistic watercolour, acrylic, wet and dry media artwork

Specifications
Platform: Windows 8 or Mac OS X 10.13 or newer
Cost: $89.99/£71
Reasons to buy
+A wealth of new features+Authentic painting experience+Affordable, with free trial available 
Reasons to avoid
-Uses a lot of memory

If Painter 2022 is a little too expensive, Rebelle 4 could be your best alternative. Featuring more than 170 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.

The latest 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. If you need an affordable alternative to Painter that doesn't cut corners and feels authentic, be sure to take a look.

Best digital art software: Procreate

(Image credit: Savage Interactive)

05. 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

Want to draw and paint on your iPad? Then make sure you consider Procreate. 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 and AR previews, plus an improved interface and audio feedback for a better experience all-round.

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.

The best digital art software: Artweaver 7

(Image credit: Artweaver 7)

07. 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. 

The best digital art software: ArtRage 6

(Image credit: Steve Goad)

08. ArtRage 6

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 around for some time 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.

Best digital art software: Krita

(Image credit: Krita https://krita.org/en/about/press/)

09. Krita

A free open-source painting program

Specifications
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Cost: Free
Reasons to buy
+Intuitive interface+Customisable+Free
Reasons to avoid
-Not a lot of support

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. Its semi-guerrilla mature 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.

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.

The best digital art software: TwistedBrush Pro Studio

(Image credit: Pixarra http://www.pixarra.com/press_kit.html)

10. TwistedBrush Pro Studio

More custom brushes than you can ever need

Specifications
Platform: Windows
Cost: $99 (version licence); $189 (perpetual licence)
Reasons to buy
+Extensive brush collection+Good drawing tablet support
Reasons to avoid
-Windows only-Confusing interface

Need literally all the brushes you can get? Then take a gander at TwistedBrush Pro Studio because it comes with over 9,000 of them. That's probably more than anyone will ever need, but it means you should always be able to find precisely the brush you need. And if you can't, you can simply create your own brushes instead. 

On top of the multitude of brushes, TwistedBrush has everything you'd expect from a digital art package: 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. It's not a budget option, though. TwistedBrush Pro Studio will set you back $99 for a version-specific license, or $189 for a perpetual licence, and for that price, you might want to consider one of the bigger names above.

The best digital art software: MediBang Paint Pro

(Image credit: https://medibangpaint.com/en/pc/)

11. MediBang Paint Pro

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.

The best digital art software: Black Ink

(Image credit: Black Ink)

12. Black Ink

Explore your creativity with controller-based brushes

Specifications
Platform: Windows
Cost: $59.99
Reasons to buy
+Fast GPU rendering technology+Controller-based brush system
Reasons to avoid
-Not great for beginners-Brush tools a little confusing

Not everyone wants realistic brushes. If you're looking for something a little different for your strokes then Black Ink could be the answer. Rather can copying traditional physical art tools, it takes a more digital approach, using a Controller system to deliver all manner of possibilities in brush creation and customisation. Through 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.

The best digital art software: Paintstorm Studio

(Image credit: Paintstorm Studio www.paintstormstudio.com/)

13. Paintstorm Studio

A powerful digital painting tool for professional artists

Specifications
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iPad
Cost: $19 (desktop); $12.99 (iPad)
Reasons to buy
+Intuitive+Cross-platform
Reasons to avoid
-Slow on integrated graphic cards

Paintstorm Studio is a great-value digital art tool that's easy to use and capable of achieving impressive results. With a decent brush selection, complete with customisation options (including spacing jitter, texture, angle, and more) it's perfect for creating striking artwork, and it also supports post-stroke correction, which can come in really handy 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.

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Tammy Coron

Tammy is an independent creative professional. She enjoys working on projects from content creation – including books, tutorials, videos, and podcasts – to the design and development of cross-platform applications and games.