In an increasingly digital world, artists are always finding new ways to express themselves. While art can be defined as any form of creative expression from sculpture and sketching to acting and dance, the modern world’s technology is enabling the expansion and redefinition of one of the most traditional and widespread forms of art: drawing.
As someone who has been painting, sketching and drawing for many years, I’ve watched my own process and style evolve over time. Part of that evolution had to do with the increasing popularity and allure of digital art. After all, what artist doesn’t wish they could take back a poorly-placed brushstroke with a simple click of a button, or erase a big mistake without getting little bits of graphite-covered plastic all over the place?
For artists of the digital world, there are plenty of resources to make the dive into digital art smoother and more exciting. Unfortunately, many of the best programs, like Adobe Photoshop and 3D Studio Max, cost hundreds of dollars, making them unaffordable for many artists. However, there are plenty of free or lite versions of popular programs that, while not quite as fancy or professional as Photoshop, allow artists to fully immerse themselves in the wonderful world of digital art.
1. Photoshop Sketch
For Apple and Android users, Photoshop Sketch is the best free art program out there. With its huge range of different brushes, pencils, markers and eraser tools, Photoshop Sketch makes it possible to craft incredibly realistic or fantastically stylish new portraits, landscapes, objects and characters using just your finger or stylus and a screen. With the power and style of Photoshop packed into an app, this sketch program is exactly what a phone-wielding digital artist needs.
In addition to its variety of tools, Photoshop Sketch allows you to import your favorite brushes and create layered works of art. If you want, you can save your digital masterpiece and upload it as a layered PSD file to Photoshop CC or Adobe Illustrator CC. For artists on the go, Photoshop Sketch provides the perfect platform to draft pieces that will later be professionally touched up and completed on the computer in programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator.
2. ArtStudio Lite
The self-proclaimed “most comprehensive sketching, painting and photo editing tool in the App Store” is the perfect program for digital artists wishing to draw on their iPhones, iPods or iPads. While it is also available for Android users, the app was originally designed to run on iOS devices, meaning that it runs much more smoothly on Apple phones and tablets.
The latest version available on the App Store is compatible with the iPhone 5 and includes sixteen different tools, including select, paint fill, eraser, heal, smudge, eyedropper, dodge/burn and one-hundred-and-fifty different wet and dry paint brushes. In addition to a broad selection of drawing tools, the ArtStudio Lite app also includes customizable brushstroke size settings, a selection of pre-drawn geometric shapes to add to images, symmetric or mirrored drawing, layers and a multitude of photo editing tools such as forty filters and adjustable brightness/exposure/shadow settings. Although it’s nowhere near as fancy or complex as Photoshop or even Photoshop Sketch, ArtStudio Lite is the perfect introductory tool for artists just getting into digital art.
3. Microsoft Paint 3D
A combination of Microsoft’s 2D Paint and 3D Builder digital art programs, the newly-introduced Microsoft Paint 3D application is an incredible free tool for artists working in two and/or three dimensions. The only reason this program isn’t ranked higher on the list is that it is only available on Windows devices running the Windows 10 operating system, making it more selectively accessible than programs such as ArtStudio or Photoshop.
Despite its limited availability, Microsoft Paint 3D is certainly the best free 3D drawing program for anyone running Windows 10 on their computer or phone. It has a variety of cool tools and menu options, including the option to select and instantly draw a geometrical 3D shape (such as a sphere, cube or even a basic human form) right on the drawing grid. Using the “magic select” tool, you can cut out objects or pieces of a 2D picture and then “wrap” those images around 3D objects; for instance, if you want to make your own virtual Rubik’s cube using pictures from your last vacation, 3D Paint lets you plaster those pictures directly onto the sides of a 3D cube with very little effort.
In addition to allowing you to edit shapes and images in 2D and 3D, Microsoft Paint 3D also contains a large menu of different brush, fill, filter and eraser tools. With an easy-to-learn interface and tons of great, intuitive tools at your fingertips (literally, if you’re drawing on a touchscreen), this program is ideal for any digital artist looking to edit photos and create 3D models on a Windows 10 device.
Microsoft Paint 3D is available as a free download on the Windows Store.
Krita is an art program created by digital artists for digital artists. With the aim of providing professional-grade art tools to everyone free of cost, the team behind Krita designed the program to work on a touchscreen phone, pod, computer screen or tablet. To draw in the program, artists can use a stylus pen, a mouse or even their own fingers to create new works of art. It is especially useful for users interested in producing digital paintings and/or animations. It can also be used to create professional concept art for storyboarding films, comics and graphic novels.
Its highlighted features include brush stabilizers for people with shaky hands, a pop-up palette for easy color selection and a helpful, easy-to-navigate user interface for professionals and amateur digital artists alike.
Krita is available for download on devices running Microsoft Windows, Linux or MacOS.