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.
openCanvas | Screenshot
Price: 59 USD
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
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 VERY old program, so it's no longer updated.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
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 No longer updated.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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Comicworks | Screenshot
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
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
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.
Paint.NET | Screenshot
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.
Pencil | Screenshot
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.
Sculptris | Screenshot
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.