I have always drawn with pencils and paper. I like drawing things that are just plain creepy. But I want them on my computer, but I don't want to just scan them on, so I've decided to draw them on the computer.

But I can't get Photoshop, and I really don't want to give Adobe a single cent. So what are my alternatives?

I use Paint.NET for when I do graphics for websites, and it's ok, but I find it very tedious to work with and wouldn't enjoy using it for what I want to use it for.

Are there any others that you would suggest? Please keep in mind that I'm only after free apps, or atleast fully-functioning trials (except Photoshop).

Also, another requirement is that the app has a lot of cool painting styles, like Highlighting and drawing shadows or "toning" for like, when you wanna add tone to body parts.

I hope this is the right place to be asking here.

Looking forward to your suggestions!


5 Answers 5


That's a tall order for a free app. A well developed app that is going to provide you with a viable/enjoyable alternative to natural media is unlikely to come cheap. That said, some people have said nice things about ArtRage -- not free but cheap.

Corel Painter is hard to beat for natural media look and feel and it's not owned by Adobe! It works very well with drawing tablets. Between the extraordinary support for levels of pressure and the specialty pen tips out there it's a pretty impressive workflow.

  • Many thanks Plainclothes, ArtRage looks awesome. I think I'll try the demo, I'm considering just buying it after reading through their site. I love the idea of having a Drawing tablet though.
    – Arrow
    Nov 8, 2012 at 23:39
  • Hey thanks @plainclothes. I ended up buying artrage, and am considering Wacom too.
    – Arrow
    Nov 9, 2012 at 16:17
  • Glad to hear it works for you. Definitely look into a pen tablet. Wacom's Bamboo entry-level models are a good way to get hooked. Nov 9, 2012 at 16:41

I know this is a bit of an old thread, but I thought I'd add Krita.

Krita is an open source (and free) app made specifically for drawing and painting. It's multi platform and can imitate real materials.

  • 3
    Krita is absolutely mind-blowing for a free software.
    – PieBie
    Dec 7, 2015 at 8:40
  • They just need to release it for Mac and now maybe even iOS
    – Ryan
    Dec 7, 2015 at 12:59
  • There IS a mac version, though somewhat unstable: krita.org/download/krita-desktop
    – spiral
    Dec 8, 2015 at 12:39

I would like to point out that ArtRage comes packaged with some of the Wacom Bamboo Stylus like the Bamboo Splash as seen here:



As others have said, tall order for free app. Whenever I design, I always use pen and paper first. I dont find it hard to scan in something and then use the pen tool in illustrator or even the livetrace functionality to get this in digital form.

If you want to draw direct to screen then the Wacom Cintiq is an awesome piece of kit but if you havent got a few grand spare then its useless. Alternatively, you can get a wacom bamboo tablet for about £40 nowadays.

There are some neat iPad apps that are good. 'Paper' by 53 is really good and well recommended! If its for PC then you can always use GIMP. Its like an open source photoshop and that's fairly decent for free.


Autodesk is an app that will do all the things you've listed. Very easy learning curve and simple to master. It works on Android devices and it's only 2.99!

Another option is Pixlr you can only use it online, it has all the functions of Photoshop. The learning curve is intermediate level, you'll want a basic knowledge of a graphics design program to use it though, (if you don't know the difference between a bezel and a dodge tool you'll be at this a while). Totally free!

Inkscape is the freeware version of Illustrator, it's very powerful and there is a very steep learning curve. However if you've had any experience with Illustrator you'll do okay. It has 3D modeling and most of Illustrator's functions. If you are not graphics savvy you will be spending days and weeks learning how to use it.

Gimp has been mentioned already as the alternative to Photoshop, it's a fairly large learning curve as well, it can be a bit overwhelming when you start. If you have the time and patience you'll have a good time.

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