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Top 12 Art-Oriented Software Programs

The Best Software For Painting, Drawing, Coloring And Creating Original Art Work

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These art-oriented software programs are designed especially for painting, drawing, coloring, and creating original art work. Although some of them also offers tools for working with pre-existing images, the emphasis is on art and the creation process. Most of them have tools to mimic traditional artistic media such as oils, watercolors, acrylics, pencils, markers, crayons, chalk, pastels, and felt pens. Many of them also offer a variety of unusual, non-traditional tools. (Updated: Nov. 2011)

1. Corel Painter (Windows and Macintosh)

Corel Painter
© Corel
Corel Painter is like a well-stocked artist's studio, without the mess. With textured surfaces, brushes, and tools, you can mimic painting and drawing with chalk, pastels, watercolors, oils, crayons, pencil, felt pens, ink, and more. Painter also offers non-traditional tools such as image hose, pattern pens, cloners, and special effects. While its strong point is its artistic toolset, Painter also offers features for photo enhancement, Web graphics creation, animation, and working with text.

2. ArtRage - Free and Paid (Windows and Macintosh)

ArtRage
© Ambient Design
ArtRage is a fun, easy-to-learn program for experimenting with digital art in Windows, Mac, and iPad. The user interface is absolutely gorgeous and designed for ultimate ease of use. Children and adults alike will have a ton of fun painting and drawing with art tools that act and interact just like real-world paint, pens, pencils, crayons, and even glitter! If you're not sure if digital art is for you, give the free version a try. It's time unlimited but lacks a few of the tools in the full version. For just US$30 the full edition is totally worth it for the extra features. A Pro version is also available for a little bit more, and in 2010, an ArtRage for iPad was released.

3. Alien Skin Snap Art (Windows and Macintosh)

Alien Skin Snap Art
© Alien Skin
Alien Skin Snap Art is a collection of ten filters that can give your photos the artistic styling of colored pencil, Impasto, Pointillism, pen and ink, pencil sketch, pastels, comics, watercolor, oil painting, and Pop Art. Snap Art comes with hundreds of settings presets as well as manual controls, so users can transform photos into art work quickly and with the precise level of detail that they desire. Snap Art requires a host photo editor program such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo.

4. SketchBook Pro (Windows and Macintosh)

SketchBook Pro
© Autodesk
Autodesk SketchBook Pro (formerly from Alias) is an innovative freehand drawing and painting program for Windows and Macintosh. Although it does not offer the same variety as other artistic software, it is extremely easy to learn and use. If you've been frustrated or overwhelmed by the complexity of other painting/drawing programs, SketchBook Pro is a great way to sketch out ideas, annotate images, and explore computer-based drawing. Sketchbook is also available as a mobile app for iOS and Android.
Publisher's Site

5. Gliftex Random Image Generator (Windows)

Gliftex Example
© Sue Chastain
Have you ever been faced with a project and you just couldn't seem to get inspired? Sometimes the best thing you can do is break away from the project for a while and look to other sources for stimulating creative ideas. One way to do this is through the use of a random image generator such as Gliftex, a fun and interesting tool for developing ideas and unique graphic designs.

6. Corel Painter Essentials (Windows and Macintosh)

Corel Painter Essentials
© Corel
Corel Painter Essentials is a simplified, home-user version of Corel Painter professional-level art software. It's designed to help beginners or non-artists create digital art and turn photos into art work. Although it is certainly more limited than Painter, Essentials has a worthy set of tools and effects to allow users to explore digital art without being overwhelmed by too many options. It also provides an ideal upgrade path to Painter; buying Painter Essentials and then upgrading to Painter can often cost less than buying Painter outright.

7. ArtWeaver - Free (Windows)

ArtWeaver
© Boris Eyrich
Artweaver is a free painting and drawing program for Windows that will look very familiar to anyone who has used Photoshop or Painter in the past. Artweaver features a number of natural media brushes and tools such as chalk, pencils, charcoal, oil paint, felt markers, crayons, airbrushes, acrylic, sponges, pastels, and cloners. Each brush has a number of attributes that can be adjusted for even more variety. In addition, Artweaver offers a solid set of general image manipulation and enhancement tools.

8. Drawing for Children - Free (Windows)

Drawing For Children is a free drawing application designed specifically for children. It would be easy to think that any very basic drawing application would be ideal for children, but there's more to Drawing For Children than that. Tools and features have been included that offer a wide range of ways for users to draw, but they're not complicated by having various different options for changing the way that a tool works.

9. Project Dogwaffle - Free (Windows)

Project Dogwaffle, "the unnatural paint program," is a painting and animation program for Windows with many unique tools for creating pictures. The interface is quirky, but it looks like it has much to offer creative people who are willing to explore it. You can create your own brushes (including animated brushes), mix colors naturally, and apply a number of special effects. There is a free version of Project Dogwaffle which is quite powerful, or you can upgrade to the full version for US$67.

10. Deleter CGillust (Windows)

If you're into the Anime and Manga illustration style of Japanese comics, have a look at Deleter CGillust, a computer drawing software originally developed in Japan and designed for drawing in the Manga style. Use the "Event file" feature, users can save and play back all the steps of how an illustration is created. A trial version of CGillust is available for download from the Web site, and the software can be purchased for $60 US.

11. Pixarra TwistedBrush (Windows)

TwistedBrush is an art program that aims to be powerful enough for a professional artist but simple enough for the beginner. It offers a collection of realistic natural brushes for media such as watercolors, oils, acrylics, pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, pens, pencils, and markers. I have not used TwistedBrush, but based on my research, it offers a powerful brush engine, a familiar interface, and is often described as fun. You can try the program free for 15 days and it costs $70 to buy.

12. Studio Artist (Macintosh)

Studio Artist is an award-winning painting, drawing, image- and video-processing application for Macintosh. Called a "graphics synthesizer" by the company that produces it, it's based on the concepts of music synthesis, cognitive neuroscience and visual perception resulting in a software program that "knows how to paint and draw." Users can paint and draw manually with configurable tools, or they can use automatic painting actions to intelligently paint an image with artistic effects.

Suggest Your Favorite Art Software

Do you prefer an art software that isn't included in this list? Tell us about it!

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