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The Best Softwares/Apps for Illustrators—Free and Paid Options

Since the introduction of smart tablets and electronic pens and pencils, illustration has taken a whole different turn in the past decade where the classic pen and paper are replaced with more digitalized equipment. Now, there are more and more digital artists looking to get into the world of illustration and thankfully for you, there is a wide array of apps that mimic the experience of using a pencil or pen.

So which are the best? The answer is that there are a lot of options, but they will depend on your budget and what you want to do (aka what type of illustrations you want to try). Have said that though, it is important to have a good computer or device to be able to draw easily, and drawing skills will require time and practice to get good at it (so don't worry if you're not Picasso right off the bat with these).

Here is a list of some of the most popular softwares and apps for creative illustrators in the App/ Play store to try out now--some are even free!

Paper by WeTrasnfer online free digital app note taking and collage

Previously known as Paper by 53, this app is free to download and has some amazing creative tools to bring your ideas to life (in-app purchases are available if you want to go pro too).

It's trusted by over 30 million users and this immersive sketching app has features such as multiple layering, creating storyboards and moodboards, mindmapping, collaging and even sketchnoting for all your ideas and creative juices. If you're a beginner, Paper is a good way to start as its free tools make it easy to sketch, write, paint, and draw.

Sketchbook Online Free Sketching App For Illustration

Now if you're looking for just a pure drawing app without all the other features, then Sketchbook is your go-to free answer. Like the name suggests, Sketchbook is an online digital sketchbook that can fill all your drawing needs on a budget--plus, you can also access it via desktop, mobile and tablet.

It's a powerful free app that features over 100 brushes and pens, an intuitive UI design that doesn't get in the way of your process (eg. detecting pen pressure), various layering and blending modes as well and other cool tools such as gradient colouring and symmetry drawing. It's often called a close dupe to Procreate and while it may not have all the features Procreate offers, Sketchbook still stands alone as a very good free app for illustrators.

Bamboo Paper online free sketch app

Bamboo Paper is under WACOM, one of the world's leading manufacturers of pen tablets, interactive pen displays and intuitive interface devices--which means they know what they're doing when it comes to bringing a good experience for any digital illustrator. Available in the App and Play Store, Bamboo Paper uses their in-house ink technology, WILL, to give users the most natural and organic ink experience.

While the downside is that Bamboo Paper only offers 6 drawing tools which may not be enough for illustrators doing more powerful art, WACOM offers their unique digital ecosystem which allows any illustration from Bamboo Paper to be synced seamlessly across any desktop or mobile device with their other app, Inkspace.

bamboo paper online free note taking tool

So if you're an illustrator constantly on the go or frequently do collaborative projects, then you might want to give Bamboo Paper a go where note-sharing will be a breeze!

If you're an illustrator more into painting rather than drawing, consider the free software Krita. While it may look similar to Photoshop's userface, Krita offers completely customizable dockers and panels that can be saved as your workspace, over 100 pre-loaded brushes, built-in vectors and even powerful enough to support 2D animation with audio import features and colour coding.

...Yes, you knew this was coming. If we're talking about digital art, then we have to mention Procreate, the leading go-to app for professional digital artists. Up there with big names such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Procreate has become one of the biggest names pushing forward new innovations for illustrators in the creative sphere.

Procreate boasts having the world's largest brush library of over 200 handcrafted brushes that are completely customizable (you can also download ones made by others similar to Photoshop) and sell your specially designed brushes on Procreate too. The app also offers an intuitive interface such as their signature 'Double Tap' to undo, and their cult favourite ColorDrop feature that makes filling in colour second nature for creative professionals. Other features include FX support, a huge font library, filters, textures and more.

However, there are a few things you want to consider before heading to the App Store. Firstly, Procreate is not free and costs RM39.90 (but it is a one-time purchase). It is also an app made specifically for the iPad Pro so if you do not own an iPad Pro with an iOS of 11.1 or newer, then you will not be able to enjoy Procreate as it is not available for Android users too.

Apple Pencil is also the most compatible with the app so again, if you don't have one, you would have to invest in an Apple Pencil or an Apple-compatible stylus. All in all, the Procreate is a great tool if you are looking to next level your digital art and go down the professional route--just make sure to consider all your options before taking the plunge!

Having an app that works for you is great but know what else is just as good? Being a part of a community to share your works and be inspired by others--join the Beta Cult Creative app now to connect with other like-minded creatives and share your awesome portfolio online (you can even apply to jobs with it!).

Click here to download the Beta app now.


Bumped into us for the first time? Cult Creative is a digital platform and professional networking app for ambitious creative individuals to find work, network and showcase their work.

Are you creative looking for a thriving community to stay inspired and empowered? Or looking for opportunities to develop your career in the creative industry? Download our app today and get the full Cult Creative experience by clicking here. Or, discover more about our app by heading here.


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