I like digital art and paintings. I want to create my own.

Which software/tools do I need to accomplish this?

  • 2
    fyi if by tools you mean peripherals, I just bought a Wacom Intuos (previously the Bamboo) and think it's fantastic for the price.
    – OGHaza
    Apr 22, 2014 at 9:57

6 Answers 6


Three popular digital art applications used by both amateurs and professionals alike, in order of price (low to high):

  • ArtRage - I've never used it, but I've heard good things about it from people who are exclusively interested in simulating painting and drawing digitally. Price: $30-$60
  • Sketchbook Pro by Autodesk - This is slick and does a great job of balancing simulating traditional tools well, having a clean friendly interface, and lots of advanced options for when you start to master it. Price: around $60 I believe.
  • Photoshop elements - Has most of the digital art tools of Photoshop with a beginner-friendly interface. It's surprsingly good, almost everything it lacks compared to full Photoshop is to do with productivity and the speed and efficiency of your work, so it's good for someone doing it for fun or starting out. It's less pitched at people wanting the look and feel of traditional tools: people with a love for traditional tools may find the other options more intuitive and friendly (though personally, I like that it's not pretending to be something it's not and places less of a layer of overbearing metaphors between me and my ideal digital brush settings). Price: around $100

And of course Photoshop you clearly already know about. As others have said, get a good graphics tablet early and get used to it early, and a Wacom Bamboo tablet is pretty much perfect for beginners in price and quality.

Also, since practicing often is key, consider mobile devices:

  • The Samsung Galaxy Note is a giant Android phone with a pressure sensitive Wacom pen digitizer built into its screen. It's got digital art features that are close to comparable with a regular computer with a graphics tablet and the above software, at about the size of a Moleskin pocket notebook. (and it can make phone calls!). App recommendations:
    • LayerPaint is my personal recommendation - great all round full featured drawing app that can export proper photoshop files if needed. It's the only one that lets you calibrate the pen so the pointer lines up with the pen tip at whatever angle you naturally hold the pen.
    • Infinite Painter and Infinite Design make a nice combo: Painter simulates painting, with fun features for blending colours like you might on a real canvas, Design is a vector drawing app with some Illustrator-like features - because each shape it makes can be adjusted into shape, it's great for getting the composition of a drawing or painting right, then exporting to a different app to use as a guide.
    • Sketchbook Mobile (Autodesk again) is very similar to Sketchbook Pro (you have to turn pressure sensitivity on in a hidden options menu).
    • Zen Brush offers less advanced features but also works really nicely with the pressure sensitivity and is good for no-fuss simple sketches.
  • A lot of people rate iPads for convenient digital art practice. I've never really understood this but I can't argue with its popularity. If you already own one, the quality of the touchscreen makes it worth trying it out, but I wouldn't buy one specifically to do this (my personal view is that with no pressure sensitivity it's basically digital finger-painting, and since it doesn't fit in your pocket anyway, you can get Windows 8 Pro slate PCs that run full Photoshop with built in wacom digitizers that are only a little less portable). Tip: Get a stylus so you can more clearly see what you're doing - but don't spend too much on it (iPad styluses are essentially plastic finger-shaped sticks with extra marketing, even/especially the wacom ones...). I know that Autodesk have a version of Sketchbook for iPad that is well rated, I don't know about other apps but I know there are plenty to try.
  • fine. what about adobe illustrator? Jun 25, 2012 at 7:25
  • @PavanKumar I love Illustrator - but it's not so ideally suited for the painting style like you link to. It's great for accurate work, for work that can then be re-purposed, edited or blown up to any size, and for crisp, clean illustrations, and I would use it for draft studies for digital paintings (getting the composition just right), but it's not a natural choice for actual painting. You could create digital paintings in illustrator, but it's not what it's best suited for. Think of illustrator as a tool for building a design or illustration, and the above as more like digital painting Jun 25, 2012 at 8:56
  • +1, very comprehensive writeup for a number of applications. More comprehensive than my answer. Jun 25, 2012 at 17:09

MyPaint is a nice open-source digital painting application. The results look fairly realistic, but it doesn't have some of the nice media and brushes that paid applications have. But it sounds like you want to get your feet wet, and for that, this would be a great project. I've produced works-for-hire with it, and the clients loved the results.

One tip: get a Wacom tablet, of course. Bamboo tablets only cost $80 CAD nowadays. It's pretty much essential for painting, because of the pressure-sensitive pen.


Digital art can be created with hundreds of different programs. Many tutorials for photoshop etc can be found with a simple google search.

One such tutorial site is www.psd.tutsplus.net


I would go for Free Software tools like GIMP or Krita. Krita is more specific to digital painting, and is somewhat simpler.

However, if you can put your time in it, GIMP will give you more power in the long run, but there is a lot more to learn, too.


Free alternatives to Adobe products

  • Inkscape (vector graphics)
  • GIMP (bitmap)

For professional work, I'd strongly suggest you get a Wacom. Although the portability of a tablet (iPad/Touch) may come useful for sketches, they do not have the level of control or refresh rate. With a Wacom, in addition to better pressure control, you also have brush angle (tilt) and can use it within professional software that doesn't run on a portable tablet.

Software wise, I'd recommend Photoshop or Corel Draw. Corel Draw may be better (although I've barely used it myself several years ago). Looking at the Corel website, they have a program called Painter X3, which looks like a stripped down digital painter focused version.

I remember Corel Draw having a lot of digital paintbrushes that mimic real world mediums like charcoal, oil, pastels etc. I believe it also allows you to mix together (affect/blend to the 'wet paint' underneath) as you paint. It also allows you to easily rotate your page/document. This is really handy because it is hard to create long, smooth brush strokes in some directions, so you can rotate the page to your natural hand movements.

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