The best painting software for digital artists

Sep 8, 2019
5 min read

In the previous article, we were talking about vector based software for graphic designs. But what if you don’t want to create logos? What if you want to paint landscapes, horrifying creatures, and monsters, mysterious people or snapshots from your fantasy book? Here comes raster based software on the scene. Unlike in vector art, you can really dive deeply into a huge palette of brushes, effects and texture feel. That’s why raster based painting apps are better for people who want to express themselves more freely and be closer to the traditional art touch. I prefer to do my artwork on iPad so many apps below will be more oriented on iOS users and I also do prefer to use just a few apps so I do have very basic experience or none of others.

Adobe Photoshop

Apart from photo editing and UI/UX design Adobe Photoshop is used by many digital painters all over the world. It is on the market for a very long time and can offer powerful tools. You can buy many assets and plugins on the internet but not always very cheap though. Because Photoshop is coming so well packed you need to have good computer and it requires a long learning curve. Do you have a graphic tablet? Not a problem to connect it to Photoshop for much better drawing experience.


  • Well packed - highly functional, extremely versatile
  • Working with many layers
  • Many external features available online
  • Freehand colouring, precision
  • Full customisation brushes and many more


  • Very pricey for students and hobbyists
  • Long learning curve
  • Good computer required to prevent crashes
  • Cloud-based system
  • Some tools and features are very hard to locate


  • Windows
  • macOS

Affinity Designer - Pixel Persona or Affinity Photo

We already know that Affinity Designer has more personas. Draw persona for vector art, Pixel persona for raster and Export persona for all kind of exporting settings of your art. If you are enjoying doing both digital design and painting, this is a very good combo in one app. The Designer is very friendly and fresh-looking and doesn’t need so deep and long learning curve as for example Adobe PS. There are some resources available on the internet to get or buy but still not as many as for PS. Affinity is kind of a newbie on the market.


  • A user-friendly and fresh look
  • Affordable price
  • Many free tutorials
  • Combo packed for your digital artwork
  • Precision, 1 million+ % zoom


  • Confusing interface for artists coming from different platforms
  • Lack of image organising features
  • Sometimes printer compatibility issues
  • Occasionally crashing with high res artwork
  • Missing some features (compared to other programs)


  • Windows
  • macOS
  • iOS (iPad)


Procreate is very famous within iOS users. It’s one of the best programs for iPad for sketching, painting, and illustration. It offers exceptional performance, powerful layers support, no painting-line lags, awesome precision, there are thousands of brushes available on the internet and its very easy to make custom ones. One big advantage is that you can capture the whole process of your artwork within the app itself and export it easily.


  • Work saved on the background automatically
  • Supports large canvases
  • Zero stroke lags
  • Many redo and undo
  • Recording videos in HD


  • No animation tools
  • No free version to test it out
  • iPad only (there is a less powerful Procreate Pocket for iPhone)
  • No rulers or stencils
  • Occasionally it can crash and then you need to repeat the last step


  • iOS iPad
  • iOS iPhone (Procreate Pocket)

Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint Clip Studio Paint is a professional graphics program for animation, illustration, and manga, comic art and storytelling. There are two different versions, a Pro and an EX version, and has quickly become one of the most popular programs in the manga and comic art industry due to its impressive features, capabilities, and affordable pricing.

One of its main competitors in the field is Adobe’s Photoshop, but many artists are starting to turn to Clip Studio because of affordable price and all the features it does offer.


  • Extensive materials library
  • Multiple brush Options
  • Extensive coloring tools
  • Enhanced 3D capability
  • Comic book panel creation, word bubbles


  • Lack of options to edit text and fonts
  • Paid monthly subscription for iPad (even though you have a version in the PC)
  • No audio support (for animation)
  • Long learning curve
  • For some artists the interface is a con


  • Windows
  • MacOS
  • iOS (iPad)

AutoDesk Sketchbook

Unlike other popular graphics software that claims to cover everything, SketchBook focuses on drawing and sketching and pays great attention to detail. Its user-friendly interface helps turn work into an enjoyable experience. The desktop version of the software contains all the advanced tools pros need to complete their projects faster and more intuitively. The Windows 10 app helps unlock the drawing power of tablets and is optimised for touch input, resulting in a more natural drawing experience. The Android and iOS apps offer a similar experience that travels with users wherever they go.


  • Now free for everyone
  • Cross-platform
  • Paper to digital in the snap
  • Very easy to learn
  • Simple interface


  • Sometimes too simple (lacking some features)
  • Not many official tutorials available
  • Some glitches may occur
  • Very limited in script tools
  • Word balloons need to be created hand drawn


  • Windows
  • macOS
  • iOS (iPad, iPhone)


My preferred programs are Procreate, Affinity designer and Clip Studio Paint, so these programs you will see here more often especially when it comes to painting.  I do use Photoshop but more with photo related adjustments and edits. If you love to work with iPad as I do, you will be probably drawn to use Procreate and Affinity designer as in my opinion these are the best apps available in the market for digital painting. But everyone has different needs so feel free to explore as there are many free or paid programs out there and sometimes they  just fit you better.

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