What’s the best software for a Wacom drawing tablet?

This is a list with the top 10 best software for a Wacom drawing tablet:

  • Adobe Photoshop (image editing, digital art, sketching)
  • Adobe Illustrator (logo design, vector illustration)
  • Corel Painter (digital painting, sketching)
  • Clip Studio Paint (comics, illustration, 2D animation)
  • Autodesk SketchBook (digital art, sketching)
  • Affinity Designer (digital art, logo design, vector illustration)
  • Krita (digital art, sketching, 2D animation)
  • GIMP (image editing, digital art, sketching)
  • Inkscape (logo design, vector illustration)
  • ArtRage (digital art, sketching)
  • Corel Draw (Bonus) (logo design, vector illustration)

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop header

What does Photoshop do?

The most important software for image editing and art creation. Photoshop is the industry standard and always the first software to be studied by those who intend to work in the digital art creation.

This is a tool-rich application that allows its users to manipulate photographs and illustrations in great detail.

Most of the pictures and graphics currently being used on the internet today were created with Adobe Photoshop.

You may visit Adobe Photoshop’s website by clicking here.

Who is Photoshop for?

  • Photographers
  • Illustrators
  • Designers
  • Concept artists

Can be installed in which operating systems?

Is Photoshop free?

No.

Photoshop has a trial period of 30 days in which it’s entirely free. After the trial expires, the user is requested to pay for a membership.

Hint: Adobe Photoshop’s membership is very affordable, and those who accept to pay just a little bit more gain access to all of the Adobe Creative Suite, which includes professional software such as Adobe Illustrator (vector art), Adobe After Effects (animation), Adobe Premiere (video editing), Adobe Dreamweaver (web development) among others.


Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator header

What does Illustrator do?

The leading vector software in the market.

Adobe Illustrator is, without question, the main tool used by logo designers and vector artists.

While Photoshop is perfect for raster graphics (images made of pixels), Illustrator is completely vector-based.

Logos, illustrations and graphics made with Adobe Illustrator are infinitely scalable. No matter how much these images are increased in size, there’s absolutely no quality loss.

Hint: vector files are also the preferred format for printed materials.

You may visit Adobe Illustrator’s website by clicking here.

Who is Illustrator for?

  • Logo designers
  • Illustrators
  • Printing specialists

Is Illustrator free?

No.

Adobe Illustrator, like Photoshop, has a 30-day trial period in which it can be used to its fullest. At the end of the trial the user is requested to pay for a subscription.

Again, like Photoshop, the subscription is affordable and if the user accepts to pay a little bit more, all of the other applications from the Adobe Creative Suite becomes available.


Corel Painter

Corel Painter header

What does it do?

Best software for creating digital artwork that looks like it was painted with real paint.

Although many digital artists can create stunning illustrations with Photoshop, Painter goes a little further when it comes to emulating different types of brushes and painting materials.

Painter lets the user choose backgrounds with specific textures emulating different types of paper. The selection of brushes is also mindboggling, but what really sets this application from other is its set of paints.

It’s possible to pick oil paint, watercolor, spray paint, crayons among many, many others.

The difference between the materials is substantial and even the way these paints and brushed interact with each other affect the result.

Creating with Painter is like having an entire art store inside of a computer.

You may visit Painter’s website by clicking here.

Who is Painter for?

  • Concept artists
  • Illustrators
  • Painters

Is Painter free?

No.

Painter is the most expensive software from this list. Unlike Adobe, that charges a monthly subscription fee, Painter is sold for a fixed price.

Due to its price, this application is mostly used by professionals.


Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint header

What does Clip Studio Paint do?

It works very similarly to Adobe Photoshop. Some call it a knockoff version of Adobe’s most popular application.

One of the reasons why Clip Studio Paint became somewhat popular is the fact that it comes as a bonus to those who purchase a Wacom Intuos drawing tablet. As you must have imagined, there’s a catch. Only Wacom drawing tablets bought in the Americas come with the free software.

In case you purchase your Wacom Intuos from the United States, Canada, Brazil or any other country in the region, a license to Clip Studio will be provided by the company.

You may visit Clip Studio Paint’s website by clicking here.

Who is Clip Studio Paint for?

  • Illustrators
  • Digital artists

Is Clip Studio Paint free?

No, but it’s very affordable.

There are thee important aspects to be mentioned about this application’s price:

  1. There is a 30-day trial period
  2. A monthly subscription model is available (costs less than a dollar)
  3. Buying the whole software for a one-time fee is incredibly cheap.


Autodesk SketchBook

Autodesk SketchBook header

What does Autodesk SketchBook do?

It sits somewhere between Adobe Photoshop and Painter.

Truth be told, it’s not as good as the others, but it has one advantage worth mentioning.

This software works on regular computers (as the other applications from this list), but it can also be used in mobile devices like cellphones.

You may visit Autodesk SketchBook’s website by clicking here.

Who is Autodesk SketchBook for?

  • Students
  • Occasional illustrators

Is Autodesk SketchBook free?

Yes, it’s free for individuals. All it takes is creating an account and the user can access all the features available.

Only companies need to get a paid licence to use it. Regardless of that, the license is one of the most affordable ones within the digital art market.


Affinity Designer

What does Affinity Designer do?

Affinity Designer is one of the most promising design / illustration applications released within the last few years.

It has a characteristic that sets it apart from all the others. While other programs work either for raster graphics (pixel-based) or vector graphics, Affinity Designer does both really well.

Within the app it’s possible to switch between a raster and a vector mode, which gives the user creative and technical freedom that goes beyond what has been seen up until now.

Another amazing thing about Affinity Designer is that it works both on computers and mobile devices.

You may visit Affinity Designer’s website by clicking here.

Who is Affinity Designer for?

  • Illustrators
  • Designers
  • Digital artists
  • Concept artists
  • Students
  • Professionals

Is Affinity Designer free?

No. Even though the app can be used in different devices (Windows based / Mac / iPad), each one has a different license with a different price.

They are all affordable, but none is free.


Krita

What does Krita do?

Krita is a raster graphics editor for those who want to dabble in the digital art world.

It’s nowhere near as good as Adobe Photoshop or Painter, but it can be a good choice for someone who is just starting now.

Even though I strongly believe that beginners should first master industry-grade software like Photoshop, I understand that the price can keep some students away from getting started.

Krita has two features worth mentioning:

  1. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux (it’s rare to find this)
  2. It’s an open source project, the developers work entirely for free.

You may visit Krita’s website by clicking here.

Who is Krita for?

  • Illustrators
  • Students

Is Krita free?

Yes. Krita is entirely free and I deeply respect the developers who work on this project because through their hard work new artists are able to create without spending a single dime.


GIMP

What does GIMP do?

GIMP is probably the best free option for Adobe Photoshop. It can be used for picture editing and digital art.

This is the software I like to use whenever I’m unable to use Photoshop. I highly encourage everyone who works in the digital art industry to master at the very least two different applications for each skillset. Meaning, if you’re already familiar with Photoshop, take some time to learn GIMP.

Knowing how to use different apps is extremely important because sometimes, due to technical issues or simply bad luck, you may not be able to work with your favorite app. On top of that, every illustration / design studio considers this a desirable trait for a designer / illustrator.

GIMP is an open-source raster graphics editor with a very strong community behind it.

You may visit GIMP’s website by clicking here.

Who is GIMP for?

  • Illustrators
  • Designers
  • Photographers
  • Students

Is GIMP free?

Yes. Being an open-source application means that GIMP is entirely free.


Inkscape

What does Inkscape do?

Inkscape is a vector graphics application, just like Adobe Illustrator.

For someone who has been using Adobe Illustrator for a long time, adapting to Inkscape is not that easy.

In theory, this software can do virtually anything that Illustrator does, but the workflow is considerably different. The way the tools are organized also differs from Adobe’s app. Getting used to a different way of working can be frustrating and time consuming.

That said, for those who are not familiar with Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape can be a great option for logo design and vector illustration.

Inkscape is the result of a long and ongoing process of open-source, community-driven development.

You may visit Inkscape’s website by clicking here.

Who is Inkscape for?

  • Illustrators
  • Designers

Is Inkscape free?

Yes. Inkscape is entirely free. All the developers are volunteers who dedicate their time to improve everyone’s access to a high-quality alternative to Illustrator.


ArtRage

What does ArtRage do?

ArtRage is the most recent addition to this list and definitely the least-known application on this article.

By looking at illustrations made with ArtRage, it’s impossible not to think about Painter. Although this app is nowhere as feature rich as its more popular counterpart, it can be used to create amazing artwork as well.

While it’s true that ArtRage is substantially cheaper than other options out there, most people would be better off by investing their money in the already successful Painter.

You may visit ArtRage’s website by clicking here.

Who is ArtRage for?

  • Illustrators
  • Digital artists

Is ArtRage free?

No. Although ArtRage is not particularly expensive, it still is a paid software.


Corel Draw

What does Corel Draw do?

Corel Draw used to be the most popular vector software in the world. It was even more widely used than Adobe Illustrator.

As time went on and Adobe became increasingly more relevant, Corel Draw started a descending curve that has never stopped.

To be fair, although this application is nowhere near as common in design studios as Adobe Illustrator, it’s an extremely powerful software that has all the resources any vector artist or designer would need.

What really weighs against Corel Draw is that fact that virtually every single employer would rather hire someone who is well versed in Adobe Illustrator over someone who has dedicated their years to mastering Corel Draw.

You may visit Corel Draw’s website by clicking here.

Who is Corel Draw for?

  • Vector Illustrators
  • Designers

Is Corel Draw free?

No. Corel Draw is currently being offered on a monthly subscription base. It costs almost the same as Adobe Illustrator and it’s up to each individual to choose which software is more suitable to their needs.


Conclusion

Since the best artists and designers use the best tools, people tend to think that the tools are a fundamental part of the artist’s success.

This could not be further a way from the truth. Great artists are great not because of the applications they work with, but because of their dedication to learn their craft.

Learning to how to express ideas through colors and shapes is the real end goal, the software is just a tool.

Use this guide to help you pick the tool that best fits your needs but try not to worry too much about this. Instead, focus on developing core abilities, and, above all, practice as much as possible.

Remember to keep on creating!

Bruno Santos

Bruno Santos

Hi! My name is Bruno. I'm a web developer/designer based in Toronto, Canada. I've been working with drawing tablets for over 20 years and I'm among the Top 10 Most Viewed Writers on Quora in the Graphics Tablets category. Do you have any questions? Just leave a comment =)

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