Introducing the best drawing software, as recommended by Japanese professionals!

Introducing the best drawing software, as recommended by Japanese professionals!

At Anime Art Academy, our students often ask for advice on what software to use for the best results in their digital drawings.

Because there are so many great programs out there, and so many that look the same from the outside, it’s difficult to know which one is right for you.

We didn’t want to leave our students lost and confused in a sea of unknown products… so we asked our pro artists for their personal recommendations!

We’ve listed them up here, with pros, cons, and other advice that will make choosing the right software a breeze!

(Please note that we haven’t been sponsored by any of the following software providers – this is just our honest opinion!)


1. PaintTool SAI

URL: https://www.systemax.jp/en/

Price ¥5,500 (Approx. 48 USD)

Up until recently, this was the number one most popular digital illustration software among Japanese artists.

The biggest selling point is how easy it makes linework – it’s gives you the most clean and beautiful linework out of all the software we’re introducing today!

Recommended for…

Artists who want a simple program that’s easy to learn
Artists who have a lower spec PC, but still want some great digital drawing tools

Pros

  • It’s super lightweight – even lower spec computers should have no problem running it
  • The UI is simple and easy to use
  • Helps produce excellent linework

Cons

  • The simplicity of the program also brings some negatives – namely a lack of tools
  • No way to add text, so you would need to use another program for that
  • No gradient fill option
  • No circle or rectangle tools, meaning artists have to draw freehand, or copy and paste from other sources

2. CLIP STUDIO PAINT PRO

URL: https://www.clipstudio.net/en/

Price: 49.99 USD

With an impressive array of brushes, tools and functions, you might say there’s nothing this software can’t do!

Clip Studio recently overtook SAI, and is now without a doubt the reigning champion of the illustration software industry in Japan.

This is also most of our Anime Art Academy lecturers’ software of choice, so you’ll see it used in many of our lectures.

If you’re in the market for a premium drawing software, you can’t really go wrong with Clip Studio!

Recommended for…

Not just illustrators, but anyone who wants to create manga and animation too

Anyone who wants to get started using the same tools as many Japanese professionals

Pros

  • Inbuilt 3D mannequin models to use as reference for character poses
  • Automatic colouring tool, and technology to prevent going over the lines when colouring, which makes colouring work much quicker
  • Many brushes, textures and resources available, with endless extras available online, so there’s plenty of freedom of expression
  • Loads of great features that allow for professional level manga creation – including screen tone options and panel layout tools

Cons

  • Takes much longer to learn and get used to, because of all the tools and features
  • Older computers with lower specs may struggle to run it

3. Krita

URL: https://krita.org/en/

Price: Free

Looking at all the great tools, and the well-designed UI, it’s hard to believe this software is totally free!

There are plenty of tools available, but it’s also very user-friendly, and suitable for beginners.

It can get laggy at times, and you do get the occasional bug.

Recommended for…

Artists who aren’t ready to commit to a paid drawing software yet, but want to try out some professional quality tools and features.

Pros

  • Plenty of great brushes
  • Animation tools available
  • Loads of useful shape drawing tools
  • Very user-friendly UI

Cons

  • Feels laggy at times and can be slow on older computers
  • Beware of occasional bugs

4. FireAlpaca

URL: https://firealpaca.com/en/

Price: Free

A simple program with all the right tools to start off with digital illustration!

Great for beginners, especially those looking to write and draw their own manga.

Recommended for…

Artists who have just made the move to digital colouring, and want some free software to start out with.

Pros

  • Great brush tools
  • Useful 3D perspective drawing tools that make drawing backgrounds easier
  • Manga manuscript options available as pre-made templates

Cons

  • Ads popping up when opening the program can get annoying
  • Can’t select multiple layers without grouping them first

5. Painter 2022

URL: https://www.painterartist.com/en/

Price: 429 USD

This pricier software comes with some tools that allow artists to achieve beautiful results that look just like traditional, analogue art

Recommended for…

Artists who want their digital art to look more “realistic”, like analogue art

Artists want to start out using the same software as many professionals use

Pros

  • Not only are the results very natural, it feels natural to draw with (this isn’t something easily achieved in the digital medium!)
  • Endless brush choices give plenty of creative freedom
  • Automatic retouch function allows very easy editing and tweaking

Cons

  • Much pricier than all the other options! We recommend trying out the free trial before committing to a purchase.

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