10 Paint Apps and Color Tools

Painting apps and color tools have become indispensable for artists, designers, photographers, and anyone who wants to create digital art or edit images. With the right apps, you can turn your mobile device into a portable art studio. In this article, we will explore the 10 best paint apps and color tools available today. Whether you’re a professional artist or just experimenting with digital art, these apps offer robust features for sketching, painting, drawing, and photo editing.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch

Adobe Photoshop Sketch is one of the most popular and full-featured drawing and painting apps. As part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, it is designed to integrate seamlessly with Photoshop and other Adobe apps.

Some key features of Photoshop Sketch:

  • Offers a wide range of customizable brushes including pencils, pens, markers, and natural media brushes for watercolor, oil, and acrylic paint effects. Brushes can be tweaked for size, opacity, and blending modes.
  • Layers allow you to build up complex artworks by stacking and blending different elements.
  • Supports Adobe Color CC library for capturing and sharing color themes.
  • Export high-resolution images to PNG, JPG, PSD, etc.
  • Intuitive user interface and tools perfect for sketching, drawing, and precision painting.

Photoshop Sketch excels at line drawing and painting effects like watercolor and oils. The natural media brushes mix and blend colors realistically. For professional digital painting, Photoshop Sketch is hard to beat.


Procreate is one of the most fully-featured painting apps made exclusively for the iPad and Apple Pencil. It is optimized to take advantage of the Apple Pencil’s pressure and tilt sensitivity for natural drawing and painting.

Key features of Procreate:

  • Huge variety of customizable brushes – over 200 brushes for simulating oils, acrylics, watercolors, pencils, inks, and more. Brushes can be tweaked extensively.
  • Onion skinning feature is great for animations.
  • Excellent color picker and color management tools.
  • Intuitive user interface with flexible canvas zooming and rotation.
  • Support for multi-page documents and animation timelines.
  • Powerful layer controls for masking, adjustments, filters, and more.
  • Export high-res images up to 16k canvas size.

Procreate is the closest thing to a virtual art studio on the iPad. The incredible brush engine and canvas controls make digital painting feel real and engaging.

Autodesk Sketchbook

Autodesk Sketchbook is a free drawing and painting app with a clean, minimal interface. It offers all the essential tools for digital sketching and painting in an easy-to-use package.

Key features include:

  • Clean, intuitive interface that stays out of your way.
  • 160+ customizable brushes with drawing aids like predictive stroke smoothing.
  • Layer controls for opacity, blend modes, and grouping.
  • Excellent Pencil and Ink pen tools with pressure sensitivity.
  • Perspective and symmetry guides for technical drawing.
  • Onion skinning for animations.
  • Customizable canvas and ruler tools.

Sketchbook is great for practice sketching, product design, architectural illustrations, and concept art. The Predictive Stroke technology makes inking lines smooth and easy. Overall, it’s one of the best free drawing apps available.

Adobe Illustrator Draw

Adobe Illustrator Draw is a vector drawing and sketching app designed to integrate with Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite. It focuses more on draftsmanship and technical drawing tools compared to Photoshop Sketch.

Key features of Illustrator Draw:

  • Create resolution-independent vector artwork.
  • Draw perfectly straight lines and geometric shapes with integrated vector tools.
  • Layers let you build up complex illustrations.
  • Customizable brushes and pens for sketching.
  • Integrated image search and libraries.
  • Export as SVG, PDF, etc.
  • Sync assets through Creative Cloud Libraries.

The vector drawing tools make Illustrator Draw perfect for graphic design, diagrams, typography, logos, and technical drawings. It has a learning curve but is extremely capable for precise illustrations.


Pigment is an adult coloring book app for stress relief and meditation. It transforms the coloring experience with endless customizable pages and artistic tools.

Key features:

  • Huge library of intricate coloring pages and mandala designs.
  • Create your own coloring pages and import images to colorize.
  • Mix paints on a color wheel to match any hue.
  • Brushes simulate markers, pencils, paint brushes, and more.
  • Relaxing ambient music and soundscapes.
  • Share and import pages with the community.

Pigment’s coloring book templates push the craft into new artistic territory. The color mixing wheel makes it easy to color precisely. For coloring book enthusiasts, Pigment is simply the best app available.

Adobe Fresco

Adobe Fresco is a next-gen painting and drawing app designed for the latest stylus devices like the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. The app simulates natural oil and watercolor paints seamlessly.

Features include:

  • Live brushes blend and interact with colors like real oils and watercolors.
  • Wide range of customizable brushes available.
  • Import Photoshop brushes and use them as starting points.
  • Excellent vector drawing tools and layers.
  • Intuitive, touch-friendly interface.
  • Integrates with Adobe Creative Cloud.

For digital artists who want to paint with lifelike realism on mobile, Fresco is a game-changer. The live brushes push the boundaries of what’s possible in digital painting.


Artflow is a feature-packed painting app designed specifically for Chromebooks that support Android apps. It turns Chromebooks into powerful digital sketchpads and canvases.

Key features:

  • Simulates natural media like oils and watercolors realistically.
  • Supports wet surface effects for blending and smearing colors.
  • Imports photos to use as references and painting aids.
  • Onion skinning for simple animations.
  • Custom brushes and multiple brush modes.
  • Records painting timelapses.
  • Exports timelapses and high-res images.

For Chromebook users, Artflow unlocks new creative potential. The wet surface effects allow for very realistic blending techniques. It’s an excellent app for practicing digital painting skills.

Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketches is a professional drawing and painting app made for the iPad. It focuses on delivering realistic simulation of artistic tools including pencils, markers, pens, and watercolors.

Key features:

  • Highly realistic tools like watercolors and oil pastels. Colors blend wet-on-dry.
  • Custom brushes can be tweaked extensively.
  • Onion skinning and symmetric drawing aid.
  • Powerful selection tools and masks.
  • Imports photos as painting references.
  • Records stroke replay for animations and timelapses.

The wet-on-dry blending of the watercolor and oil paint tools is extremely realistic. Tayasui Sketches is great for practicing real world painting techniques digitally.

Rebelle 3

Rebelle 3 is a realistic watercolor and acrylic painting app for Windows and Mac. It simulates the natural behavior and blending of watercolors wet-on-wet.

Key features:

  • Real-time wet diffusion and drying effects.
  • Paint bleeds into dry areas creating blooms.
  • Highly customizable brushes available.
  • Color smudging, lifting, and mixing effects.
  • Support for layers and masked areas.
  • Exports timelapses of entire painting process.

Rebelle 3 takes a uniquely physics-based approach to simulating watercolor effects digitally. The results look amazingly lifelike and organic.

Adobe Color

While not a drawing app, Adobe Color is an indispensable tool for digital artists to capture color themes and create color palettes.


  • Extract color themes from reference images to generate color palettes.
  • Browse thousands of popular color themes.
  • Create your own color swatches and palettes.
  • Match colors and identify shades by hex code or RGB values.
  • Integrates with other Adobe Creative Cloud apps.

Having all your saved color themes in one place makes the painting process more harmonious and efficient. Adobe Color is great for inspiration and maintaining color consistency across projects.

Canva Color Palette

Canva’s color palette tool helps you create the perfect color scheme for any design project.


  • Intuitive color wheel to preview harmonious color combinations.
  • Browse professionally designed color palette ideas.
  • Extract colors from uploaded images.
  • Color blindness simulator shows how palettes appear to those with color vision deficiencies.
  • Integrates with the Canva design app.

With its excellent color extraction tool and vision simulator, Canva Color Palette is ideal for creating accessible and aesthetically pleasing color schemes.

Key Factors for Choosing Painting Apps

With so many options available, it can be tough deciding which paint apps are right for your needs. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing digital painting apps and color tools:

Supported Platforms

The first consideration is which platforms you want to use the app on. Many painting apps are designed specifically for the iPad and Apple Pencil. Others are made for Windows, macOS, Android tablets, or Chromebooks. Consider which devices you own and want to create art on.

Drawing vs Painting Focus

Some apps cater more towards drawing and sketching like Adobe Illustrator Draw, while others are focused on painting like Procreate. Think about whether you’ll be doing more precise drafting or painting artwork.

Brush Customization

Look for apps that allow you to customize brushes rather than only using stock presets. The ability to tweak settings like size, opacity, and blending modes makes a big difference.

Realistic Natural Media

If you want to simulate painting with real watercolors, oils, etc. then seek out apps that put extra effort into making brushes behave realistically for blending and mixing colors.

Advanced Features

Consider if you need features like layers, perspective guides, animations, 3D capabilities, etc. Advanced creation tools provide more room to develop your skills.

Cloud Syncing

Some apps can sync your work across devices or share color themes and assets. This can be handy for working across multiple platforms.


Digital painting apps range from free to subscription models up to $10/month. Factor in how frequently you’ll use the app and if the features justify the price.


Make sure the app runs smoothly on your device without lag, crashes, or glitches, especially if working on complex multi-layered artworks.

By weighing factors like these, you can zero in on the best paint apps and creative tools for your needs and budget.

Painting App Techniques, Tips and Tricks

Mastering painting apps like the ones discussed takes practice. Here are some helpful techniques, tips and tricks to take your digital artwork to the next level:

Understand Brush Dynamics

Each brush has different settings like opacity, flow, smoothing, etc. that affect how it blends and lays down color. Learn which settings work best for blending, details, dry brushing, etc.

Use Layers Strategically

Use multiple layers to apply adjustments non-destructively and build up paintings in stages. Keep them organized with grouping into folders.

Customize Brushes

Take basic brushes and customize them by tweaking settings like texture, scattering, dual brush, tilt,etc. Save the brushes for later projects.

Sketch Out Compositions

Use basic sketching brushes to block out your basic composition first before diving into details. This will improve proportions.

Study Color Theory

Understanding color relationships, harmony, values, and contrast is hugely helpful for creating appealing palettes and color mixing.

Use Reference Photos

Use life drawing, landscape photos etc. as references to observe light, perspective, proportions, and detail more accurately.

Import Real Media Textures

For realistic painting effects, import paper, watercolor, or canvas textures to use as brush textures.

Record Timelapses

Many apps can record your painting process to create engaging timelapse videos to share online.

Experiment with Layer Blend Modes

Blending modes like multiply, overlay, and color burn can create interesting mixed media, textured effects between layers.

Mirror and Flip the Canvas

Flipping the canvas helps spot proportional errors. Using symmetrical drawing aids can speed up the process.

Spend time learning the tools and techniques specific to your apps of choice to unlock their full potential. Combine digital and traditional art techniques for best results.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When starting with digital art, it’s easy to pick up bad habits that hold back your artistic growth. Here are some common mistakes to be aware of:

Using Only Default Brushes

Don’t limit yourself to the stock brushes. Customize them to suit your painting style for a more personal touch.

Forgetting to Save Progress

Apps can crash. Save your artwork frequently to avoid losing hours of progress with one slip. Set autosave to be safe.

Using Pure Black for Shading

Pure blacks look harsh and amateurish. Use blues and browns to shade instead for a more natural, dimensional look.

Overusing Undo

Flipping the tendency to excessively undo trains more decisive brushwork. Learn to incorporate “mistakes” into the artwork.

Not Zooming In Enough

Don’t be afraid to zoom in close to refine details and avoid sloppiness. But also zoom out to check overall composition.

Ignoring Color Theory

Understanding color schemes, values, and shadows results in more appealing and dimensional coloring overall.

Overblending Details

Avoid muddying up your paintings by overblending everything perfectly smooth. Allow some texture and brushwork to show.

Forgetting Real World Observation

Use life drawings, photo references, and real media as guides to practice realistic light, physics, perspective, etc.

Being mindful of these bad habits early on will help develop good artistic practices right from the start. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Recommended Courses and Resources

Here are some excellent courses and resources to study to take your digital painting skills to the next level:

Proko – Digital Painting Courses

Proko offers fantastic digital painting courses breaking down techniques step-by-step. Recommended for beginners.

Schoolism – Advanced Digital Painting

Schoolism has courses like Advanced Digital Painting taught by industry professionals. Great for intermediate learners.

CtrlPaint – Digital Painting Videos

Matt Kohr’s CtrlPaint has 100s of free videos teaching all aspects of digital painting clearly and concisely.

Aaron Blaise – Creative Courses

Former Disney animator Aaron Blaise creates high quality tutorials teaching advanced techniques.

ImagineFX Magazine

ImagineFX is one of the best magazines for digital art techniques and inspiration. Check your local library.

The Color Scheme Designer

A handy web tool for generating color schemes if you need guidance exploring color theory and palettes.

James Gurney – Color and Light

James Gurney’s book Color and Light is a must-read for understanding realistic use of color in painting.

Don’t be intimidated to try digital painting. With deliberate practice and study of these resources, your skills can reach new heights.


The paint apps and color tools covered in this article represent the most versatile, realistic, and full-featured options available today. For nearly any style of digital art, you’re sure to find apps that fit your needs.

Keep in mind your target devices, experience level, desired features, and learning objectives when deciding where to devote your efforts. And don’t forget to customize brushes, utilize layers, and apply artistic color theory for best results.

With a commitment to steady practice, reviewing educational resources, and learning from artistic masters – no technical limits can stand in the way of bringing your creative visions to digital life. Just dive in, experiment often, and let your unique artistic voice shine through.

The digital canvas awaits. Let’s start painting!