Review: Drawing Software – What Should I Use?

I’ve received a few questions in regards to drawing methods and software, and what programs I’d recommend. Before some of you run off, thinking that this post is going to turn into an infomercial or a shill session, take note that some of the software I’ve linked to is actually open-source and won’t cost you a thing. Here’s some of the programs I recommend.

Product: Inkscape
Price: N/A (Open Source)

Inkscape is an Open Source vector graphics software. Many of its toolsets and functions are similar to ones found in Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X. Your work is saved as a Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. It supports many of the advanced SVG features (cloning, markers, alpha blends and more), and is able to perform complex path operations, bitmap tracing and a ton of other functions you would find in the larger commercial software.  The best part of this vector software being open-source is the community support on constant tweaking that comes out of it.

Product: GIMPShop
Price: N/A (Open Source)

GIMPshop is a modification of the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). Its a free/open source program, developed to replicate the look and feel of Adobe Photoshop. If you’ve used Photoshop before, you will feel comfortable using this version. The only current drawback is that GIMPshop does not support Photoshop plugins, but all of GIMP‘s own plugins, filters, effects and brushes work just fine.

Product: Pencil
Price: N/A (Open Source)

Pencil is a free/open source animation/drawing software. You can create traditional hand-drawn animation (cartoons) using both bitmap and vector graphics. It’s easy to use, and requires minimal effort to make drawn characters come to life – rather than spending a ton of money on a program like Adobe Flash to create your animations, you can achieve the same result with Pencil.


Product: Serif DrawPlus X2
Price: $99 USD

DrawPlus X2 is a cost-effective program with easy-to-use drawing and painting tools and special effects you can use to create outstanding drawings and designs. You can easily import and export files in various popular formats (PSD, SWF, EPS, etc.) Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on ultra-pro software, you can achieve the same effects for a fraction of the price, and still function using those proprietary formats.


Product: Xara Xtreme
Price: $89 USD for standard / $249 USD for PRO

Boasting the world’s fastest graphics software engine, Xara Xtreme combines the use of flexible illustration tools with the ability to  handle photo manipulation and editing. The benefit of Xtreme is the use of a single application for all types of creative work – you can create vector drawings, DTP, photo composition, Website design or Flash animation. Xara offers two versions – the standard model, and an enhanced PRO model with more goodies such as tutorials, templates, example files and fonts. Another suitable option for those unwilling to spend hundreds to achieve professional results.


Product: Autodesk SketchBook Pro
Price: $100 USD for digital download

Autodesk SketchBook Pro is one of the best digital sketchpad programs on the market. You can easily use it in place of pen and paper and the transition from physical to digital takes less time with this product. The great thing about it is its artist-friendly, easy to use and reacts well to gestural movement when you combine it with a digital stylus and tablet. I highly recommend this product, as I’ve been using it for a few years for my own work.


Product: Adobe Illustrator CS4
Price: $599 USD / $149 USD Upgrade

Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for digital illustration, and has been for years. With its endless number of tools, filters, effects and settings, you can easily make any basic illustration come to life with ease. This versatile program is used for all types of scalable vector artwork, and you can export to a million different formats. If you haven’t used Illustrator, you need to give it a try to understand how amazing this program really is. It has a hefty price tag and a steep learning curve, but its well worth the dough, and there are plenty of resources to get you up to speed in no time.


Product: Adobe Photoshop CS4
Price: $699 USD / $199 USD Upgrade – Photoshop
$999 USD / $399 USD Upgrade – Extended

The highly regarded Photoshop is the other weapon in a digital illustrator’s arsenal – starting out as a simple photo-editing tool, artists around the world have been creating masterpieces with it for almost 20 years. Everyone and their dog knows about this program, but fewer can actually afford it. This is the digital artist’s main tool, and many of the amazing digital works you see all over the place owes its beauty to this program. If you havent used it before, you need to try it, just like Illustrator. You wont be disappointed. Its pricetag is high, but its payoff is huge.

There are many others which I haven’t mentioned, but will add in the future – like PaintshopPro, etc. I hope this short list gives you a bit of an idea on what is available. There are trial versions for all the paid licensed software if you’re interested on trying them out – I highly suggest you do.

2 thoughts on “Review: Drawing Software – What Should I Use?

  1. Pingback: How to Draw Wolverine – A Simple Tutorial | idrawdigital

  2. Pingback: How to Draw Comics - Tools of the Trade | idrawdigital - Tutorials for Drawing Digital Comics

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