WILDFLOWER I by Julia Hirst

Review of the Best Digital Painting Apps for Up-and-coming Artists

Leah Cromarty November 08 2023


There are many factors that go into choosing a painting software that works for you and, for artists on a budget, finding quality, free art software is an even bigger challenge. Let’s check out some of the best free art apps that will elevate your sketches.

Digital painting has become an accessible and budget-friendly form of sustainable artwork; it’s no wonder why many artists are trying out this modern medium. If you’re an up-and-coming artist hoping to delve into digital artwork or sell your art, this article is here to help. We’ll be showcasing some of the best free tablet and phone apps for painting.

Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui is an app best known for its exceptionally realistic watercolour brush, though it offers an array of tools that support various art styles. The user-friendly interface simplifies the creative process and boasts a unique, simple method of copying and pasting patterns you design.

However, it’s worth noting that most of Tayasui’s advanced features are locked behind a paywall. The free version provides a limited selection of brushes and patterns, and restricted brush editing capability. With the one-time $10 pro fee, you’ll be granted access to an advanced watercolour mixing method, more brushes, and a large selection of graphic and realistic patterns; but make sure you experiment with the free version first.

IbisPaint X

This app is particularly popular with young emerging artists, and it stands out as the only app on this list that lets users explore sketches created by others on the platform. In the free version, you’ll have extensive control over dozens of brushes, including adjustments to blur, line thickness based on speed, and speckling of plot points in a stroke. It also includes various functional canvas presets such as postcards, manga manuscripts, and Twitter headers.

Surprisingly, the free version provides a liquifying tool for resizing and manipulating artwork, a feature typically reserved for paid software.

In spite of this, IbisPaint X features numerous advertisements, including short videos and rotating headers over the canvas. Users have the option to watch advertisements in exchange for access to additional brushes, which can be a great alternative to the one-time $13 pro fee.

Art Set

Art Set offers a diverse range of brush textures, simulating the thinning of paint as you apply a stroke. It responds well to pen pressure and angling, mimicking real tools and the process of painting. The app can also keep track of where the canvas is dry or wet, and your tools will respond accordingly. Despite its impressive capabilities, the interface can be quite confusing, as it mixes available tools with locked ones, which might lead to frustration.

If you are willing to purchase the pro version for $18, you will be granted more tools and capabilities than the previous applications. The pro version features an extensive collection of brushes, three-dimensional canvas simulation, and tools reminiscent of those found in software like Photoshop.


Sketchbook offers an impressive range of brushes, customization options, and layer modes for free. It features a unique “Predictive Stroke” tool that assists in drawing perfectly smooth lines, especially beneficial for those with shaky hands. Dynamic gradients can be created and customized to your preferences.

While Sketchbook’s interface may initially appear confusing, some exploration reveals just how many tools and brushes the app offers. The $3 pro version lets you import new brushes, extract colour palettes from images, and combine layers. Additionally, the pro version enables PDF exports, making it simpler to save and sell your art.

With digital art being an inexpensive way to create sustainable artwork, it’s worth your time experimenting with it. Of course, there is a wealth of digital art apps available, so take your time practising and exploring to find the app that suits your artistic needs best.

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