What is good digital painting software

The best drawing programs for free

Simply paint or draw on the PC for free

Marianne Westenthanner

You no longer need paper and pens to draw - many famous artists and illustrators now work exclusively digitally. In the article, CHIP shows you which free tools you can use to paint and draw on the PC.

1. Autodesk Sketchbook

With Sketchbook, Autodesk has launched one of the best free painting programs on the market. Originally for a fee, anyone can now download the tool for free. Above all, Sketchbook is characterized by its tidy and intuitive interface, which even beginners can quickly find their way around. Nevertheless, real professional tools are on board here.
The software includes all the important tools you need for drawing. A decent palette of brushes is available to start with, and the individual brushes can also be easily adapted. Shapes, grids and symmetry tools are also integrated. The color tool is particularly exciting: as a color wheel, it integrates well into the user interface and also brings the complete color palette of the well-known Copic markers, which can be digitally reproduced.
The brush engine is convincing, but it doesn't offer quite as realistic brushes as some professional tools do. However, there is an archive at Autodesk where you can download hundreds of different brushes - there is the right digital alternative for almost every tool. The tool is not only available for Windows, but also for Android and iOS, so you can use it to paint on your tablet. A Windows 10 app can also be found, which only offers scaled-down functions compared to the desktop version.

Download: Autodesk Sketchbook (full version)

2. Krita

Anyone who wants to paint digitally in the long term will at some point look for extended functions. Then tools like Krita come into play: The open source program was developed by artists and offers a wide range of functions for everything to do with painting. The UI of the tool is not nearly as tidy as with Sketchbook, but all the tools have to be located somewhere.
In addition to freely configurable brush and palette tools, Krita gives you everything you need for sketching and painting. In the toolbar you will not only find symmetry and vanishing point tools, but also various shapes, selection tools and professional level management including various mask and transparency options. However, Krita is fairly understandable even for beginners and lost users can find a lot of tutorials and instructions on the manufacturer's website to introduce them to the software.

Download: Krita

3. MediBang Paint Pro

MediBang Paint Pro was originally developed for manga artists, but now many illustrators use the freeware. The tool moves from the range of functions between Sketchbook and Krita. You can see that on the surface: It is not quite as clear as with Sketchbook, but it is much simpler than with Krita. At MediBang, the brush engine is particularly praiseworthy: brush strokes are displayed faster and more realistically than with the competition.
There are not many brushes on board, but the ones included are more than sufficient. However, Photoshop brushes cannot be used. This tool is also available not only for desktop PCs, but also on Android and iOS. If you want to paint on your smartphone or tablet, you can easily do so, and with a cloud service you can easily draw on multiple devices.

Download MediBang Paint Pro for free

4. GIMP

GIMP is actually not a drawing program, but is used for image processing - but competitor Photoshop does that too. Nevertheless Photoshop and also GIMP are used by many digital artists. The reason: In addition to image processing tools, both tools also have professional painting tools on board, and as far as the range of functions is concerned, no program can easily fool the two direct competitors.
Another big advantage is the freely configurable UI. This allows you to put your tools exactly where you need them. Photoshop brush files can also be easily imported into the GIMP and if the functions are not enough for you, you can retrofit more with plugins.
The advantage is, however, also GIMP's disadvantage: Anyone who gets into the subject and has not worked very much with such programs has to be prepared for a steeper learning curve than, for example, with Autodesk Sketchbook. Pros who are looking for a free replacement for the quite expensive Photoshop have definitely come to the right place.

Download GIMP for free now

The top program: Adobe Fresco

Graphics giant Adobe only published its own drawing program in 2019: Adobe Fresco. Here, too, painting enthusiasts will find a clear interface, which, however, hides a lot of functions. In addition to excellent digital brushes and vector brushes, the live brushes are especially exciting: the software uses AI to create extremely realistic replicas of oil paints or watercolors. This is so far unique and makes for a fascinating painting experience.
However, Adobe Fresco has two significant disadvantages. On the one hand, the software is only available free of charge for six months, after which a subscription has to be taken out for just under 12 euros per month. Photoshop or Creative Cloud subscribers can use the software for free. In addition, the list of supported devices is not that long. In addition to the Surface series, only a few models, including an HP Zbook, are supported; Adobe is still working on other devices. The complete list of compatible devices can be found on the tool's FAQ page.