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Update: 5/2/2014 - Added Mischief. Dogwaffle, Krita, and SmoothDraw coming soon. Any other suggested programs are on my list to test, thank you for your thoughts.

Photoshop is a great program, but despite it's many features it's a bit pricy at $999. I created this list for people with smaller wallets and certain art needs.

The programs are listed according to what type of art they are best suited for.

Don't know what program will be best for you? Most of the paid programs have trial versions available, download them and see what you like best.

Programs:

DRAWING/SKETCHING/PAINTING

openCanvas | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: 59 USD
Screenshot:
Pros: ability to customize brushes, ruler tools, user-friendly interface, some built-in screen tones. Can create "event" files, where others can watch you drawing long after the fact. Updated regularly.
Cons: Not as many drawing/painting tools as other programs, is somewhat limited out of the box.
More info here: www.portalgraphics.net/en/oc/
Recommended for: Artists who are used to Photoshop's layout, who can create their own brushes/functions with ease, who want a stable program with frequent updates.

openCanvas (Ver. 1.1) | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: FREE
Pros: Ability to network with other artists and draw at the same time.
Cons: VERY few tools, somewhat buggy, limited layers function. VERY old program, so it's no longer updated
More info here: wistinga.online.fr/opencanvas/
Recommended for: artists who want to collaborate together over the internet, in-program.

Easy Paint Tool SAI | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: 54 USD
Pros: Very small program size, thus making the program very fast and responsive. Has vector capability, lots of painting and sketching tools out of the box, with the ability to create custom brushes and textures.
Cons: Not always stable, can crash as well as be unable to save at times. Exporting to PSD is a good workaround for this issue. No longer updated.
More info here: www.systemax.jp/en/sai/
Recommended for: artists with slower computers, who want to emulate traditional drawing and painting.
ADDITIONAL INFO: Purchase the license from the official site, but this version is a much better English translation: sai.detstwo.com/sai/

FireAlpaca | Screenshot
Platform: Mac/Windows
Price: FREE
Pros: Simple user interface, meant to emulate more popular programs such as SAI/openCanvas, can save as PSD, other program files. Updated reguarly.
Cons: Very limited brush customization, has some bugs(usually fixed quickly, though). 
More info here: firealpaca.com/en
Recommended for: Anyone who wants something similar to SAI for free, Mac users in need of a more robust free program.
ADDITIONAL INFO: There is a suggestion box on their main site, consider telling the devs what features you want in future revisions. CloudAlpaca has been released, which, I believe, has similar networking features to OC 1.1. This isn't confirmed yet, though.

Mischief | Screenshot
Platform: Mac/Windows
Price: FREE | 25 USD
Pros: Simple, non-intrusive user interface. Raster brushes but ability to "endless zoom," much like what is seen in vector programs. Drawing is natural and snappy, and entire program is responsive. Has feature that allows one to lower the opacity of the entire program - useful for tracing/referencing pictures elsewhere on desktop/browser. Updated regularly.
Cons: Free version has no layer support. Both free and paid versions have very few brushes and no brush customization. 
Recommended for: Painters/doodlers on a budget. 

Sketchbook: Copic Edition | Screenshot
Platform: Mac/Windows
Price: FREE
Pros: Simple user interface, paint tools meant to emulate various Copic brushes and markers, ACTUAL Copic colors included.
Cons: Limited layers function, inability to make custom image sizes, extremely few tools, will ALWAYS ask user to buy the full Sketchbook program. Program design is more suited for tablet PC users.
More info here: copic.jp/en/sketchbook-ce.html
Recommended for: artists who want Copic markers and colors. (The full version, Sketchbook Pro, includes all the Copic functions and more.)

Sketchbook Express/Pro | Screenshot
Platform: Mac/Windows
Price: FREE / Pro: $60
Pros: Simple interface, very tablet-PC friendly with minimal windows and menus. Meant to emulate traditional materials like pens, pencils, brushes. Express version has limited tools and functions. Pro version has everything else. Upon opening, it immediately creates a new canvas to expedite workflow.
Cons: Designed around quick sketches, so there are limited layers (even in Pro version). Can be difficult to work with for finished images. 
More info here: www.autodesk.com/products/sket… Both the Express and Pro programs can be found in the Mac App Store and Windows Store, along with info.
Recommended for: people who need something light and simple (but robust) for sketching digitally.

TwistedBrush | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: Free / Pro: 99 USD
Pros: Brushes that imitate real tools such as pastels, paints, etc. Small program that is fast and responsive. Autosave feature is included for accidental closing of the program. Updated regularly.
Cons: Free version has a very limited amount of brushes. (The Pro version, however, has thousands of brushes to choose from.)
More info here: www.pixarra.com/
Recommended for: artists who need to emulate real-life tools to create art with a traditional feel.

Seashore | Screenshot
Platform: Mac
Price: FREE
Pros: simple, small program. A good Paint alternative for Mac.
Cons: Very few features for serious artists. No longer updated.
More info here: seashore.sourceforge.net/The_S…
Recommended for: Mac users who need a Paint-like program.

ArtRage | Screenshot
Platform: Windows/Mac
Price: Demo - FREE | Studio Pro - 50 USD
Pros: Program is stable and lightweight. Demo is seriously lacking in tools, but paid versions have many tools available for use. Tools emulate real tools (like paint and paintbrush, blending, etc) to an incredible degree. Updated regularly.
Cons: Program set-up appears more friendly toward tablet PC users, but is still easily usable on regular computers. OS X users will need to have an Intel computer in order to use this program.
More info here: www.artrage.com/
Recommended for: artists who want a simple program, that will emulate real tools.

NekoPaint | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: FREE
Pros: small program size, simple to figure out, responsive brush and eraser tools.
Cons: Not fully translated, buggy at times.
More info here: npaint.sakura.ne.jp/
Recommended for: artists who need a small and simple art program.

Deleter CG Illustrator NEO | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: 75 USD
Pros: a LOT of brushes and tools, photoshop-like filters, stable, easy to learn.
Cons: brushes are difficult to navigate through. No longer updated.
More info here: deleter-mangashop.com/goods_en…
Recommended for: artists who want a stable program for digital art, with SOME ability to emulate real tools.
Additional info: An older version of this program is available at a cheaper price. Note that it has less features and stability than the current version. See here: deleter-mangashop.com/goods_en…

GIMP | Screenshot
Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux
Price: FREE
Pros: Programs works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It has many tools and brushes. Simple to learn, brushes can be customized. Updated regularly.
Cons: Can be glitchy at times. (Reporting bugs to the main site and updating frequently can help.)
More info here: www.gimp.org/
Recommended for: Mac and Linux users, artists who want a feature-loaded but free art program.


COMIC-MAKING

Comicworks | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: 156.89 USD
Pros: Crisp inking lines, over 200 Deleter tones. There are useful features like the ability to generate speedlines. Panels are easily generated. Images can be exported to PSD format.
Cons: Very limited color functions. Not as many features as other comic programs, artists will need to work around the program when dealing with things like opacity, blending, blurring. No longer updated.
More info here: www.deleter.jp/eng/cw_english/
Recommended for: artists who want a very simple program with a lot of screen tones, who want to work in black & white only.
Note: COMICWORKS is no longer offered for sale! Deleter is currently in the process of localizing Comicworks NEO, contact them to express your interest in seeing it in English!

Manga Studio | Screenshot
Platform: Mac/Windows
Price: Debut - 50 USD / EX - 300 USD
Pros: A LOT of features. Tons of screen tones, brushes that imitate real pens and other drawing tools, ability to organize pages as projects, and much more. Updated regularly.
Cons: The amount of features makes this program difficult to learn and can overwhelm a new user.
More info here: manga.smithmicro.com/index.htm…
Recommended for: people who have the time to really learn the program, and want a TON of functions.
Note: Clip Studio Paint is a rebranded version of Manga Studio. Both programs have the exact same features/GUI, and both are similarly priced - but you can find Clip Studio Paint here if you're interested.

MangaLabo | Screenshot
Platform: Windows
Price: 59 USD
Pros: Rich with useful features for comic-making. Ability to make panels easily, various brushes and ability to create or download brushes. There are ruler tools and a 3D perspective tool which can help with backgrounds. No longer updated.
Cons: Very limited amount of tones. (You can create your own with an image, though.)
More info here: www.portalgraphics.net/en/cl/
Recommended for: people who want a middle ground between Comicworks and Manga Studio - not overloaded with features and hard to learn, but more potential than the very simple Comicworks.

PHOTO MANIPULATION

Paint.NET | Screenshot
Price: FREE
Platform: Windows
Pros: Lots of Photoshop-like features (clone stamp, text, etc), user-friendly interface. Updated regularly.
Cons: No pressure sensitivity, not suited for drawing at all.
More info here: www.getpaint.net/
Recommended for: artists who work with photos, people who just want a free program to edit personal photos in.

ANIMATION

Pencil | Screenshot
Price: FREE
Platform: Mac (Some Windows/Linux compatibility)
Pros: Simple, small program. Vector and bitmap functionality. Can export as several file types, including SWF files. Can import sounds and images into animation.
Cons: Vector drawing is limited. Windows/Linux versions lack some functions, like the ability to export as certain file types. No longer updated.
More info here: www.pencil2d.org
Recommended for: flash animators who want a simple, free program.

3D

Sculptris | Screenshot
Price: FREE
Platform: Mac/Windows
Pros: Made to work like digital clay. Built for sculptors who are used to working with the real thing. Sculptures can eventually be painted over in the program, as well as ported into other 3D programs.
Cons: May crash once in a while. Tools may be confusing to a new user.
More info here: www.pixologic.com/sculptris/
Recommended for: sculptors who want to try creating digitally.

-------------------

QUESTIONS? WANT ME TO REVIEW OTHER PROGRAMS? Then just comment in the journal with the name of the program you want reviewed.
  • Mood: Artistic
Add a Comment:
 
:iconcraftymaelyss:
CraftyMaelyss Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2015  Student Artisan Crafter
Cheers for sharing this :D I use GIMP 2 a lot but it can't make those lines that start of thin first, so hopefully firealpaca can fix that :)
Reply
:iconbloodcravingwolf:
BloodCravingWolf Featured By Owner May 25, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
That Improved version of sai or better trans, is malware. Just letting yu know
Reply
:iconmarzipankitty:
MarzipanKitty Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Thanks so much for pointing that out owo I was about to click it!
Reply
:iconbloodcravingwolf:
BloodCravingWolf Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I was lucky my antivirus was able to pick it up.
Reply
:iconfluffy-kawaii-catt:
fluffy-kawaii-catt Featured By Owner May 10, 2015  New Deviant Student General Artist
Thank you for posting this! I have needed a good art program for a while now. I have a really shitty one, so thanks a lot for posting this!
Reply
:iconclueful:
Clueful Featured By Owner May 7, 2015
I have a question with Comicworks

What are the tones? Like, the dots and stuff, do they do anything specific? I've been trying to learn the program but there really isn't anything there like tutorials or anything
Reply
:iconportergraphic:
portergraphic Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2015
Add to the sculpting :  stephaneginier.com/sculptgl/  
Free and Online.

Also for the painting programs:
Krita krita.org/
Mischief  www.madewithmischief.com/misch…

Great list though!
Reply
:icongarrett475:
garrett475 Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I found a program called artweaver, and for me it works very nicely. It's free as well.
Reply
:iconlefthanded:
Lefthanded Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2015
CloudAlpaca seems cool too. It's pretty much FireAlpaca but with extra stuff and it's still free.
cloudalpaca.com/
Reply
:iconblackiecoolio:
blackiecoolio Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2015  Student General Artist
do you know any free online ones?

i cant download at the moment...
Reply
:iconqaydoq:
qaydoq Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2015  New Deviant Student General Artist
SumoPaint is a lot like GIMP and is online. It's pretty good from what I remember.
Reply
:iconblackiecoolio:
blackiecoolio Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2015  Student General Artist
oh yeah i used that at one time...

but i don't know how to get... like... a pointy brush...

where i don't have to erase part of the end of the line so i can have painted edges and stuff...

ya know?
Reply
:iconqaydoq:
qaydoq Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2015  New Deviant Student General Artist
Oh, did it only have the pixely MS-paint type brush?
Reply
:iconblackiecoolio:
blackiecoolio Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2015  Student General Artist
yeah
Reply
:icondigitaldreama:
DigitalDreama Featured By Owner Edited Apr 13, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Other Animation Software: Flash, TVPaint Animation Pro, Toon Boom
Other 3D: Maya (Student Trial Version), ZBrush (not cheap but I think they have trials)
Reply
:iconkoicatcreations:
KoiCatCreations Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
This is absolutely fantastic! Love  I've been wanting to try out some digital art, it's something I've never done and have no training in so I don't want to spend a bunch of money (Just in case I completely and totally fail haha). I was just looking on my schools website (I get a student discount for a lot of programs) but I didn't know which one would be best. 

So in looking for an answer to that question I came across this journal and it's such a better alternative for me. Especially when I am just wanting to try it out and see if it goes well or is the type of art for me. 

Please keep this journal up if you find anything else because it's greatly appreciated :) 

Seriously though, this page just made my day! Hug 
Reply
:icontoxic-flow:
Toxic-Flow Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I've got a question about Gimp:

In the newest version I cannot figure out how to make it tapered/size with pressure-like. Would you know how?
Reply
:iconnickel-bug:
nickel-bug Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
for seashore there are two versions and the older one is said to be stable, but the newer version is supposed to have 'fixed' the bugsmon the stable version. Which one do you recommend to download?
Reply
:iconprincesslunalicious:
princesslunalicious Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2015  Student Artisan Crafter
Do they have any that is free and you don't have to download..:Sad Monkeys: 
Reply
:iconiamthealmightylorde:
Iamthealmightylorde Featured By Owner Edited Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
sketch.io/sketchpad/    You do not have to download this art site, And it is very easy to use.
Reply
:iconprincesslunalicious:
princesslunalicious Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Student Artisan Crafter
thanks
Reply
:iconiamthealmightylorde:
Iamthealmightylorde Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
You're welcome.
Reply
:iconmuzikhun:
Muzikhun Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
don't take the download link to openCanvas (Ver. 1.1). It's a trojan, (a virus).
Reply
:iconslendersanereality:
SlenderSaneReality Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Aiight. I have a huge glaringly obvious dilemma in my way. I cannot, for the life of me, get Autodesk Sketchbook Copic Edition to download! I don't know if it's a problem with my computer or with the website or what! Anyone else having this issue? It's really bugging me and I really want this program.
Reply
:icontraumalizard137:
TraumaLizard137 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Not sure if you still want to download it, but here's a link to the copy of the installer I used.

I actually downloaded this program ages ago, so I'm not sure if it would work for you ^^;
Reply
:iconslendersanereality:
SlenderSaneReality Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks a ton, I'll see how it works
Reply
:icontraumalizard137:
TraumaLizard137 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sure thing :]

I've seen other people say that they're not able to download it in the original site, so I don't think this is just an isolated incident.
Reply
:iconslendersanereality:
SlenderSaneReality Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Fair enough. I downloaded it on another computer and after a few tries I got it to cooperate.
Reply
:icontraumalizard137:
TraumaLizard137 Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Glad to hear that :thumbsup:
Reply
:iconkabocha:
kabocha Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Yay for updating the list!

You might also want to add MyPaint.  It works on Linux, and can run on Windows and Mac as well.
mypaint.intilinux.com/
It's a pretty nice open source software.  The only downside is that I haven't gotten it to work with my Intuos Pro.  Works fine with older wacom tablets as far as I've seen though.
Reply
:icontythedrawer:
Tythedrawer Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you for this but i got a question about gimp

it said that its being attacked so before i download it is this one a fake? 
Reply
:iconkikirini:
Kikirini Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I only link to the official sites, so no, it's not fake.
Reply
:icontythedrawer:
Tythedrawer Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
K thanks
Reply
:iconkirschchan:
Kirschchan Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Since GIMP is an open-source program, there are a lot of other, er... Versions of it (not the right vocabulary). GIMPShop is notorious for being Trojan-ridden, but the original should be fine. Where did you get the info from?  
Reply
:icontythedrawer:
Tythedrawer Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
the site and oh, i didnt know that there were more versions X3
Reply
:iconkirschchan:
Kirschchan Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, okay. If it's www.gimp.org, trust whatever they're saying. I haven't been there for a while, but they haven't done anything "bad", so to speak.
Ah! The "versions" are called forks. All (or most) open-sourced softwares are like that; the coding is free to use for the public, so people can take it and make their own tweaks. Are you looking for a PS alternative?
Reply
:icontythedrawer:
Tythedrawer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
sorry i banged my head today what do you mean by PS?
Reply
:iconkirschchan:
Kirschchan Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, Photoshop xD
Reply
:icontythedrawer:
Tythedrawer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ohhh XD i think that basketball hit me harder than i thought

and no i was just looking forsomething i can scan sketches on and color them in
Reply
:iconkirschchan:
Kirschchan Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Whoa, basketballs hurt. You okay?

I use Krita. Back when I first started digital art, I had this huge three-way debate between GIMP, Krita, and MyPaint. In the end, I chose Krita because it's the "artistic" one, with a ton of brush engines and everything. GIMP is more for photo-editing, but it does have drawing features. Its biggest downside back then was its UI, though I think they managed to fix that in the 2.8 update. Good luck with your art!
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconssherlocke:
SSherlockE Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014
which one would b great for editing a picture? i'm trying to make a digital copy of a drawing to add color so i can print it on a play mat
Reply
:iconsugargilder:
sugargIlder Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
photoshop.
Reply
:iconvulpinefury:
VulpineFury Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2014
What about Synfig? (synfig.org) An open-source wannabe-Flash.
Reply
:iconminervanight:
MinervaNight Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you for posting this!! I have been having trouble finding programs and these work very well for me. ^^ :heart::huggle:
Reply
:iconperfectchaos10:
PerfectChaos10 Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you so much for this! Hug I now have a different program to use other than DA Muro!
Reply
:iconkikirini:
Kikirini Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm glad it helped! That sucks that you only had Muro up until now. o.0
Reply
:iconperfectchaos10:
PerfectChaos10 Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
 I still like Muro! Brush Lover fella (Badges) It's really easy to use too!
Reply
:iconiamshiek:
IamShiek Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
THIS DEVIANT DESERVES A COOKIE.

Well, actually, I picked 2 and they're pretty good.  You should consider ComiPo (I used trial version and its REALLY limited but kinda cool)
Im afraid to install some stuff on here because my laptop is awful. (I share it with my mom but I always waste HOURS of my time installing art stuff so now it really slow and half of the programs I tried arent right for me ;.; )
Reply
:iconacosmicrose:
ACosmicRose Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I just want to poke in and share a software that might be good for pixel artists.

It's called PhotoFiltre: photofiltre.free.fr/

Supports transparency and is kinda like an upgrade to MS Paint. There's other nifty little features to play with. But for the most part I use it when I deal with anything pixel-related. Doesn't support animation unfortunately but if I recall you can make animated frames in GIMP.

If you need to make any templates MS Paint friendly I highly recommend using this. Select the Duotone option in the Adjust tab and adjust the threshold as necessary.
Reply
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