Artists and illustrators have a new super-tool in their arsenal - Drawing Apps. Tech-savvy creatives are making the switch from paper to digital and reaping the benefits that drawing apps and art apps offer - powerful drawing tools, special effects, the ability to create vectors or raster images, and even 3D models.
There are a ton of drawing apps, art apps, painting apps, and sketch apps available now to creatives, each with its own USP. Some excel in vector drawings, others in graphic illustrations. There are dedicated apps for image manipulation, mimicking hand drawing, and 3d modeling.
While several apps come only in paid versions, there are plenty of free drawing apps available as well. If you google drawing apps, an extensive list of good drawing apps with their popular features and website links comes up.
We have curated a list of the best drawing apps and art apps for 2021 to express your ideas in the form of digital art. Here are our best picks:
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Photoshop Sketch
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Illustrator Draw
- Autodesk Sketchbook
- Astropad Studio
- Affinity Designer and more
The Best Drawing Apps For 2021
No list of creative apps would be complete without listing offerings of Adobe draw apps. Adobe has led the pack for decades, and Adobe Photoshop is still the professional's choice for raster art creation. Photoshop is one of the best drawing apps for Mac and PC; they also provide accessory apps for mobile devices and tablets.
The biggest drawback of Adobe’s offerings, especially for beginners, is that you must purchase a subscription to use these apps. For established pros with stable cash flow, this presents a little problem, but for aspiring amateurs and beginners, there are plenty of good editing apps that offer good functionality at a fraction of the cost.
If you’re looking for an app that combines the ease and simplicity of drawing on your mobile device with the power of Adobe Photoshop, check out Photoshop Sketch. When combined with your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, Photoshop Sketch allows you to fine-tune images created on your tablet later on your computer.
Just as Photoshop is the industry standard for raster pictures, Illustrator is the go-to for vector art. Illustrator is used to creating everything from basic graphic design tasks like logos to elaborate and beautiful landscapes and portrait photos. With a little practice, you can make nearly anything into a vector in Illustrator.
Similar to Photoshop Sketch, but for vector drawing, Illustrator Draw allows you to create vector drawings on the go easily. You can then save them to your creative cloud account and fine-tune them in the full program later. Both Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw are free downloads, but if you want to export the images for later editing, you’ll need a Creative Cloud subscription.
Sketchbook from Autodesk is one of the most robust raster drawing programs you will find. Compared to Photoshop, Sketch is a purpose-built platform for artists on the go. It’s not meant for photo editing or other tasks, so the program focuses on just what you need to draw on your tablet easily. The program is available for Macs, PCs, iOS, and Android devices. Unlike many apps that stick to proprietary or generic formats, Sketchbook conveniently has the option to export to Photoshop PSD format with layers intact. The best part? Autodesk has now released the full-featured drawing program for free.
The Astropad Studio is a different sort of app that can be a great help to folks looking to create digital drawings. For Mac and iPad users, Studio allows you to connect your iPad wirelessly to your desktop and use it as if it were a drawing tablet. The interface is pretty smooth, but make sure you have a clean system with plenty of free memory to avoid lag. You’ll also want a great stylus like the Apple Pencil.
The Affinity set of art apps is poised to take a significant bite out of Adobe’s market share. These programs are full-featured to the point of having things you have to buy aftermarket in Adobe. Designer is Affinity’s answer to Illustrator. It is a desktop vector art program with every feature you could ever want. Designer is available for Mac desktop or iPad.
Affinity is also ready to answer your raster art needs. Photo by Affinity is analogous to Photoshop. Its user interface is a bit smoother, however, with cleaver skin changes based on the type of task you’re looking to complete.
Both Affinity apps are inexpensive when compared to Photoshop and Illustrator. If you’re looking for a great application for editing or raster drawing with, look no further than Photo and Photo for iPad.
For all the painters out there, Inspire Pro turns your iPad into the ultimate painting canvas. This is one of those simple raster drawing apps that can produce some really fantastic artwork thanks to super realistic brushes and massive canvas sizes. You can download Inspire Pro from the Apple App Store.
A few key features make Medibang’s apps the best drawing app for some artists. The app is available on any platform you can think of, from Windows and Mac desktops to Apple and Android tablets. They all have a cloud feature, which allows you to easily store, share, and open your work from any device. This is one of the best free drawing apps you really should check out if you are looking at an affordable and easy way to start drawing.
Procreate is an iOS-only app designed to fully harness the power of Apple’s popular iPad Pro and Apple Pencil combination. More than just a drawing app, Procreate combines many of the powerful tools you’d expect to find in a much more robust program like Photoshop. Layers, custom brushes, and all sorts of special effects are available on your tablet. You can export images, with intact layers, straight to PSD format to open in Photoshop. For on-the-go art, check out the drawing app iPhone version as well.
Zen Brush is a simple ink brush app for mobile devices. A drawing app for free, it’s super inexpensive and fun to use, but it is pretty limited. However, ink and paper are limiting too, but that hasn’t stopped artists from making amazing artworks with them for the last thousand years.
Pixelmator Pro is a Mac OS app that combines many features and functions of the best editing apps all into one tidy app. Pixelmator features many of the best features for drawing and the standard photo editing functions of other editors. It also features a "layouting" mode for publishing and graphic design work. Their iOS app for mobile is really more of a photo editor rather than an art app.
Those in the graphic design world know that there’s a lot more to digital art creation beyond hand sketching. Illustrator and other vector programs use shapes to “assemble” designs, and this is the idea beyond the Assembly app. By simplifying this process, the app allows users to create logos and design elements with ease quickly. Assembly is made for iOS devices.
Formerly iDraw, Graphic is a full-featured vector design program for Mac, iPhone, or iPad. The program has all of the features of its more popular competitors, and it allows for the creation of anything from portraits to technical layout and CAD style drawings.
Inkist is a super basic drawing app that is available for Mac computers and iOS devices. The mobile app is currently free. It’s not flashy, but it has all the right features to make your artwork pop.
Luckyclan’s ArtStudio is a full-featured raster art app for iPad or iPhone. It features multiple canvas sizes, layers with masks, over 400 brushes, unlimited undo/redo, and even over 40 filters.
Rizer’s Pixaki has a bit of a limited audience, but if you’re into pixel art, you’re going to love it. Export your creations to GIFs and other simple animation formations. The program can open and save to all the popular formats, including Photoshop, PNGs, and ZIP archives. Start with a sketch or photo, and soon you are rocking it retro style like it’s 1990.
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