The iPad Pro ushered in a new era for graphic designers. Suddenly, you could use a tablet to create illustrations that look like they were drawn by hand—and for many iPad users, the Procreate app is a big reason why that’s a reality.
But what if you don’t have an iPad? And what if you prefer Windows devices? While Procreate is only available on the iPad, there are some compelling alternatives on the market for Windows users. We’ve curated seven of our favorites in this list. Bonus: Many of them are free!
Free apps tend to get people’s attention for all the wrong reasons. They’re usually packed with intrusive ads and are so unusable that you consider throwing your device out a window. Krita is open source, so it’s free—but it’s a great Procreate for Windows alternative.
While Krita is a fairly flexible application, it shines when you’re working on concept art or a comic book. Krita supports a variety of colorspaces like RGB and CMYK at 8 and 16 bits integer channels, as well as 16 and 32 bits floating point channels. As a bonus, Krita supports vector illustrations, which Procreate doesn’t. Krita doesn’t represent an exact clone of Procreate for Windows 10 users, but it’s widely regarded as one of the best alternatives on the market.
We’re about to wade into the waters of paid apps, but don’t worry—Clip Studio Paint is worth the low(ish) cost, especially if you’re looking for an app to paint with. Plus, you won’t have to pay anything for it for at least three months!
Some of Clip Studio Paint’s standout features include 3D functionality for drawing difficult angles, adjustable pen pressure, and a variety of rulers for precise drawing and painting. The adjustable pen pressure is especially worth noting. Clip Studio Paint gives users a ton of options to customize pressure on their pens and brushes, even if you’re using a sophisticated Wacom tablet with over 8192 levels of pen pressure. Its Clip Studio ASSETS library also gets up to 1000 new materials every month for artists to explore.
Want something lightweight that can still pull off incredible drawings? Look no further than PaintTool SAI. And when we say lightweight, we mean it. This app only requires a few megabytes of available space on your laptop. When was the last time you downloaded anything even remotely useful that came in such a small package? 1999?
Although PaintTool SAI is a lightweight app, it packs some serious pro-level features. In addition to its easy-to-use interface, this Procreate for Windows alternative also offers full digitizer support, 16bit ARGB channels, and support for Intel’s MMX technology. While this is a great option for Windows 10 users, it’s also compatible with desktops that are running older versions of Windows, dating all the way back to Windows 2000.
ArtRage is a great entry-point for children looking to explore graphic design for the first time. But that doesn’t mean grown-ups can’t get a lot out of the app, either. In fact, it’s one of the most highly rated Procreate for Windows 10 alternatives on G2.com—where all of the reviews are written by adults.
ArtRage is designed for graphing tablets or tablet PCs. This app might not look like much when you fire it up for the first time, but when you dig deeper, you’ll find drawing and painting features such as oil paint, spray paint, pencil, and acrylic. Additionally, ArtRage has tracing, smearing, and special effects such as custom brushes. Not bad for something that kids can use to doodle on, right?
SketchBook recently announced that it’s free for everyone—which is great news since so many users felt it was worth paying for. And when you take a closer look at everything SketchBook offers, it’s hard to imagine getting more features in a free illustration application.
Designers love how SketchBook’s interface is incognito when you’re not actively navigating it, which helps maximize the space on the screen that you have to work with. Sketchbook users also enjoy its 100 mpx canvases and the ability to use their mobile phones as scanners. And although it would be easy to rule out a drawing app that touts itself for its on-the-go features, SketchBook has serious features for illustrators such as ellipse guides for precise lines, 190 customizable brushes, and access to its exclusive Copic Color Library.
This list wouldn’t be complete without an offering from Adobe—you know, the folks responsible for Photoshop, InDesign, and Acrobat. Adobe Fresco isn’t as well-known as those apps, but Windows 10 users tend to agree that it’s one of their favorite options for illustrating on a digital device. It’s not a free option, but at $9.99 per month, it’s also worth considering—especially when you unpack all of its features.
Fresco is one of the more flexible applications on our list. Not only can you work in full-screen mode to eliminate distractions, but you can even customize the UI for left or right-handed drawing. And while it’s officially designed to be used on an iPad, it’s also available for desktop users. In fact, Fresco’s cloud functionality allows you to begin a project on a mobile device and finish it on your desktop. Plus, it’s Adobe we’re talking about—so you can count on constant updates and new features.
Here’s another one that comes to us from a well known tech company, Corel. There’s a lot to like for both emerging and established artists alike. But this is the part where we need to tell you it’s the most expensive option on our list at a whopping $429.
However, this is one of those instances where you really get what you pay for. Corel touts Painter’s selection of Natural-Media brushes and canvas textures as the largest you’ll find anywhere. Additionally, its most recent release packed features such as artificial intelligence, clone tinting, and new support for Core ML. Worried that your current desktop can’t handle the software? Corel Painter’s Brush Accelerator optimizes performance based on your CPU, GPU, and memory.
Design Your Own Poster
Put your design skills to the test with our Skillshare Original, “Demystifying Graphic Design: How Posters Work.”