Best Free Drawing Software 2021
Drawing is fun. But drawing is also part of business. Today’s brands need recognizable aesthetics and icons. So, many artists turn to graphic design in their professional lives.
Meanwhile, new and budding digital designers are hitting the scene all the time. If you’re one of them, and looking to get started with drawing software, chances are you’d like to try out some free versions.
This article will go over the kinds of drawing tools out there. Then we’ll compare the 12 best open-source or free drawing software, and even give a shout out to some premium versions with free trials.
Drawing Software Features
Drawing software is divided into two main kinds. One of them is all about points, lines and shapes. That’s called vector graphics. The other is about pixels. That’s called raster images. Most industry-standard drawing software combines a bit of both.
Vector graphics let you instruct the program about the relationship between points, lines and shapes on a canvas. The program knows the digital information connecting these things. This lets you enlarge up a vector image without losing quality. That’s because the program can just accordingly scale up the data between vector assets.
Vector drawing software often also includes a freehand drawing tool. This gives artists more freedom than with just points, lines and shapes. It lets artists be more expressive and creative.
Vector graphics are great for logos, icons and other symbols. It’s useful for designing websites and mobile apps too.
Raster images are images broken down into individual square units called pixels. The individual pixel can only be changed as a whole. The smaller the pixels, the finer the detail of the image. The proof is that when you zoom in enough on a raster image, you can see the individual pixels, lines become jagged, and the image becomes blurry.
Raster drawing is a more common tool to begin with if the artist wants to create totally original drawings. In other words, it is more common for freehand illustrators. But as some vector software can include some freehand drawing options, raster software can include some vector tools.
Raster editing is also the main method of photo retouching. Photos are captured by software as they are. You can not change the underlying data that describes the image as you can with vector assets. But you can zoom in and edit or touch up large swathes of pixels at once.
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MediBang Paint Pro
good free drawing software for iPad
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Boxy SVG Editor
best free drawing software for Linux
Free drawing software 2021
Krita (best free drawing software overall)
“Krita” comes from the Swedish word meaning “crayon.” This is a popular open-source tool that does raster graphics. You can use Krita without a subscription and there are no trial limits.
The Krita dashboard is customizable. You can choose from 100 brushes. There are also brush stabilizers for shaky hands. Brush engines give you even more customizable brush options. There are wrap-around tools for textures. While this is mainly a raster tool, it does include vector and text features as well. You can also share and import brushes and textures among artists.
Krita runs on Windows, macOS, Linux. Android and Chrome OS.
Krita is best for:
SketchBook (best free raster image editing software)
Sketchbook is made by 3D software giant Autodesk. Sketchbook Pro used to cost money but has since become free drawing software for personal use. You will need to create an Autodesk account though.
Sketchbook is mainly a raster drawing program. It has a very clean user interface. It hides the controls while you aren’t using them so it feels like a pure blank canvas. The drawing engine is powerful and can zoom in to very precise detail. You can use your mobile camera to scan hand-drawn line art. These you can import to Sketchbook on transparent backgrounds. There are loads of very professional tools here.Sketchbook by Autodesk uses these operating systems: macOS, Microsoft Windows, Android, and iOS. For those who want an upgrade there is also a paid version at $85 per year.
Sketchbook is best for:
Raster image editing
GIMP (top free open-source graphics software)
GIMP is part of the Gnu collection of free software. It stands for “Gnu image manipulation program.” It’s been around since the 90s.
GIMP is good for image manipulation. This often means touch-ups and restoring. You can use GIMP to do composites of other existing images. There are raster tools for original drawings. As for basic graphic design, GIMP is a good choice for beginners. It’s useful for making logos and icons. It can also be used for designing simple user interfaces for apps.
GIMP runs on Linux, macOS, and Microsoft Windows.
GIMP is best for:
Logos and icons
FireAlpaca (best free drawing tool for comics and mangas)
FireAlpaca is made by the Japanese software company PGN. It is a totally free software and according to their site will remain free forever.
FireAlpaca is very easy to learn and use. It’s also a light program so it runs fast even on older computers. This is a popular free drawing tool for creating comics. You get many templates for comic book page layouts. Drawing tools include pencil, airbrush and watercolor tools. Pens are also customizable. There are also some brush effects to play with. FireAlpaca has tools for 3D perspective.
FireAlpaca works on both Mac and Windows operating systems.
FireAlpaca is best for:
Comic book artists
MediBang Paint Pro (good free drawing software for iPad)
MediaBang is a Japanese company. They’ve been around since 2014. MediaBang Paint is a free drawing tool that works on desktops, tablets and mobile devices.
MediaBang comes with a lot of helpful tutorials. These show you how to use the features but also give general drawing tips. You get the standard list of paintbrush tools including blur, finger and edge pens. MediaBang also has a library of materials you can download. These include icons, effects, textures and color materials. They also include objects like buildings and nature. Stylus support makes it ideal for iPads.
MediaBang Paint runs on the operating systems of Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.
MediaBang Paint Pro is best for:
Inkscape (top free vector graphics software)
Inkscape is a free and open-source graphics program. It specializes mostly in vector graphics in SVG format. However, it isn’t limited to this.
You have many options for object creation. These include vector shape tools as well as freehand drawing tools and text tools. Object manipulation lets you do moving, scaling, rotating, and skewing. There is a gradient editor for more color options. There is bitmap pattern filling. You can render and export to many formats like PNG. This preserves transparent backgrounds. Overall, this is a very basic but good free version of a drawing tool.
Inkscape is best for:
Multiple file formats
Vectr (good free graphics tool for beginners)
Vectr is a free vector graphics editor. It scores points for being very simple and intuitive. It’s developed by the same company that makes Pixlr.
Even though it is free and easy, Vectr has a gorgeous user interface. All Vectr projects get their own URL. This makes it easy to share and collaborate on projects in real-time. Or others can watch in real-time while you create. Because this is vector technology you can zoom in a lot and never get blurred lines. That’s why it’s great for logos and other simple graphics.
You can use Vectr online or download it to desktop. Vectr auto saves and syncs your projects.
Vectr is best for:
Logos and icons
Pixlr (good free photo editing tool for beginners)
Pixlr is the raster drawing tool made by the same software developer that makes Vectr. There is a free version which can be used online.
Pixlr is a photo editor, like a simple version of Adobe Photoshop. Whereas the sister program Vectr is like a simple version of Adobe Illustrator. Pixlr includes some AI-powered tools. You can save in many file formats like PSD, JPEG, PNG and more. There is one-click background remover. Effects are done with simple drag sliders or on/off toggling for instant comparisons. There’s even a library of content including clipart, stickers and overlays.
Pixlr has released two new editors: Pixlr E is advanced. Pixlr X is lighter and easier. Both are part of the free version. There are also paid plans starting at $4.99 per month billed annually.
Pixlr is best for:
Photoshop Express (best free online Creative Cloud SaaS)
Adobe Photoshop offers Photoshop Express. It can be used as a free online photo editor. There are also mobile versions you can download from the Apple App Store, Google Play, or the Windows Store.
This is a lighter version of Photoshop, which many people know as a pro industry-standard photo retouching tool. The online version lets you instantly upload a photo. You can resize, crop, change aspect ratio and apply filters. It’s also got advanced retouching tools like the spot healing tool which removes blemishes. The mobile version has fun options like stickers and collages. It also has intelligent editing tools. You can do instant uploads to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Flickr. And instant sharing to Email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Line.
While this is mainly a free version of Photoshop, the mobile app has in-app purchases. The regular Photoshop starts at $20.99 per month.
Photoshop Express is best for:
Social media sharing
Aspiring professional photo editors
Artweaver (top free drawing tool for small teams)
Artweaver is a German software company. There is a free version of Artweaver with its most basic functionality.
Artweaver is a raster painting tool. The look and feel have an old school Windows appeal. It has a big selection of pens and brushes. These you can customize a bit too. It’s a solid app for saving versions of a workflow, which they call ‘events.’ Artweaver projects are great for team collaboration. People can work together remotely in real-time. This is a powerful platform. It can manage many layers and filters.
Artweaver only runs on Microsoft Windows. You can always use Artweaver’s free version. There is a pro option for €34 (Euros). This you can use for commercial stuff with no restrictions.
Artweaver is best for:
MyPaint (good free drawing software for tablet users)
MyPaint was first released in 2005. It is a free and open-source raster graphics software. MyPaint updates and fixes bugs regularly, with version 2.0.1 published in May 2020.
You can download MyPaint from their website without much paperwork. You get them from their GitHub page. You can also download a user’s manual and there are a lot of other tutorial materials. As for drawing it has pressure-sensitive tablet support. There’s also a dynamic brush library. The MyPaint canvas is also unlimited in size. MyPaint supports Wacom devices like a stylus.
MyPaint works with Windows, macOS, Linux, and many BSD operating systems.
MyPaint is best for:
Ease of use
Wacom device users
Boxy SVG Editor (best free drawing software for Linux)
Boxy SVG is pretty decent standard vector software. There is a free version, but it is only for Linux.
There are good tutorials for Boxy SVG Editor. It’s a good platform for beginners in vector software. You can launch a project with one click from their website. But even more pros can use it for graphics, icons and logos. The interface is all self explanatory. You can also create your own keyboard shortcuts for your favorite tools. There are also freehand drawing and text tools.
Boxy SVG can be used online. It also has apps for Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, and Linux. For non-Linux people, paid versions begin at $9.99 per app, or per year subscription to the web version.
Boxy SVG Editor is best for:
Logos and icons
Bonus: Best drawing tools with free trials
Corel is a leading graphic design software company. They have many products.
CorelDRAW is a vector illustration and photo editing software. This is a good tool for anything from web design to brochures. There’s lots of royalty-free content you can use like clipart and templates. You also get lots of text tools.
Corel Painter is a very advanced illustration tool. It has loads of customizable brushes that are industry-acclaimed. There are AI editing tools to achieve new styles. These include Impressionist or Charcoal.
There are free trials for some of Corel’s products, including CorelDRAW and Painter.
Corel is best for:
Professional graphic designers
Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint used to be called Manga Studio in North America. It’s developed by the Japanese software company Celsys.
Clip Studio Paint is ideal for creating comic books, which explains the old name of Manga Studio. Firstly, it has specific illustration tools for creating comic characters. There’s also concept art which includes 3D design. There are vector drawing and perspective ruler tools. It’s got good manga effects like saturation and line streaming. There are many great templates for comic page layout. You can collaborate with teams using this tool. Finally, it also has animation tools.
Clip Studio Paint runs on macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Chrome OS. You can download a free trial from their website.
Clip Studio Art is best for:
Manga and comics
It’s too bad there isn’t an Illustrator Express like there is one with Photoshop. But as far as drawing software goes, Illustrator had to be in this bonus section.
This is a leading vector graphics tool. It’s used by many web design and mobile app design professionals. For text tools, you can create your own typography. For drawing, you get freehand tools and tracing features. You can work on Illustrator projects on any device. It will sync projects automatically. There are also sets of features for infographic and wallpaper design.
You can download free versions of many products in the Adobe Creative Cloud. Otherwise Adobe Illustrator costs $20.99 per month.
Adobe Illustrator is best for:
Mobile app design
So, to wrap things up, we like Krita as one of the best free drawing tools overall. But if it’s more photo retouching you’re looking at, Photoshop Express is a great place to start. Autodesk’s Sketchbook is also a top software for digital art. And for aspiring comic and manga artists, FireAlpaca is wonderful.
Now, it’s up to you to pick a tool and get creative. Who knows if one day your creation will make it to the list of the world’s most recognizable logos?
What is a good drawing program for free?
Some good free drawing programs from 2021 include:
What is the best free drawing app?
The best free drawing app is Krita. It is considered the best overall. Krita is a design tool for digital drawing and painting. It has many brush tools which are customizable. Other good free drawing tools include MyPaint, SketchBook and Inkscape. Some free tools also offer premium versions.
How can I draw online for free?
Boxy SVG Editor is a free online drawing program. Anyone can visit their website and launch the app for free without signing up. It has many drawing and painting tools including shapes and freehand drawing. Other free online tools include Sketchpad by Sketch.io, AutoDraw and Pixilart.
Is Sketchable free?
Sketchable is free. You can download Sketchable for Windows from the Microsoft website. Sketchable is a good tool for scribbles, doodles and random note-making. But you can also use it for digital art. There is a premium plugin of Sketchable for $24.99, but for current prices check Microsoft.