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cartoon design softwareFor years the personal computer has become an essential tool in making comics. While some traditional artists use computers mostly for coloring, more and more artists are switching to a completely digital comic creation process. Using high-tech graphic tablets and state-of-the-art image editing software, a cartoonist can mimic (and even surpass) anything which can be done via traditional tools.

If you’re ready to make the leap and start drawing your cartoons digitally, you’ll need to make two major purchases – a graphic tablet and a graphics editing program. This article will review some of the more popular graphic tablets and software in the market, and in light of today’s economy, budget has become a more important factor than ever. So we’ll list options for the professional high-budget user, the average low-budget user, and the broke user.

Graphic Tablets

cartoon design software

The first thing a traditional cartoonist needs is pen and paper. Digital cartoonists, on the other hand, use graphic tablets. When it comes to graphic tablets, Wacom is the most dominant company, so we’ll use their products for our comparison.

The Professional Option

Intuos tablets cost several hundreds of dollars ($229 to almost $800, depending on their type), and are intended for professional artists doing advanced digital painting. If you’re even more serious and don’t have any budget limits, you can go for the Cintiq – any digital artist’s dream.

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The Cintiq enables you to work directly on an LCD display, allowing you to closely replicate any work style and technique an artist is used to applying using traditional tools. $1,000 would get you the most basic Cintiq, while the 24 inch display palette will cost you more than $2,500.

The Basic Option

cartoon design software free

The cheapest option for a Wacom graphic tablet are the Bamboo family of Tablets. The Bamboo Connect for example costs less than $80, and serves as an entry level tablet, providing the basic needs of a beginning artist. It has a rather small work area and 1024 pen pressure levels, but it does the trick .

cartoon design software free

A better alternative would be the Bamboo Create (costs less than $200) which comes with a larger work area, better suited for professional artists and designer. Both tablets come with basic drawing and photo editing software (such as Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter Essentials).

Totally Broke?

Get some cash. Seriously, if you thought I’d recommend to use a mouse, think again. Producing digital cartoons with a mouse is like eating a steak with a toothpick.

Graphics Editing Program

The graphics editing program is the software the cartoonist uses with a graphic tablet in order to draw on the computer. For the sake of simplicity we’ll focus on software that specify in producing 2D raster art.

The Professional Option

Photoshop CS 5 and Corel Painter 12 are two examples of powerful tools used by professionals in the comics industry. They come with a wide array of brushes, effects, and plug-ins that provide digital cartoonists with all the versatility they need to produce great cartoons.

Additional features include support of layered editing and masks, professional text editing for typographers, and more.

The Basic Option

cartoon design program

Photoshop Elements is targeted at hobbyist cartoonists and the occasional user. It’s sold at a fraction of what Photoshop sells at, and may be given as a freebie when purchasing certain graphic tablets. It doesn’t include many of the advanced features that Photoshop has, examples being – advanced selection and editing tools, advanced text editing, “Save for Web“, support for CMYK coloring (which is a printing industry standard), etc.

Totally Broke?

cartoon design software

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a totally free, open source alternative to Photoshop . It works on all major operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, OS X), and is designed to work smoothly with Wacom tablets (although it’s recommended to do some online research before purchasing your tablet if you plan to work with GIMP).

GIMP offers most of the core functionality Photoshop offers (for 2D image editing), and is a true lifesaver for those of us who need basic functionality and want to save money.

Try Them Yourself

Why take my word on these image editing software when you can try them yourself for free?

Do you have suggestions for other graphic tablets or software? Are you a cartoon design artist who uses solely digital tools? Let us know in the comments section!

Image Credits : Adobe Elements, Wacom

  1. GiftedArt
    August 19, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Hi am a cartoonist but I notice that my painting on the image are not smooth and real after working on an image please can you tell me the app or tool to use to get a real and attractive cartoons on my work? I use samsung laptop for my work.. Please hint me on what to do!

  2. Michelle Chrisner
    June 26, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I am a screenwriter and author. I'm wanting to get into creating my own short animation/storytelling. I have researched it seems everywhere, trying to get an idea of what type of software and components that are needed. I am wanting to implement my own characters and have them rendered into a storyline. If I obtain the drawing tablet and use a 3D rendering software or something like Iclone, I will be able to create my own work rather than the software's template of their catalog of characters? I am using a Mac Pro. Thank you.

  3. Erika
    February 14, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Hello, need so advice I want to start a t shirt business . I'm creative , but I don't know how to draw well can anyone suggest a tablet I can use to enhance my drawing.

    • Joyesh
      May 28, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Tablets don't help to enhance drawing unless you're good at traditional art. If you're just starting out, then I recommend a Wacom One (small) CTL-471, It's the perfect size for artists, I don't know if it'll work for you. I chose the small because it was perfect for the digital art I do, but the large is better for longer continuous lines.
      Other than that, I suggest you get drawing lessons or something. I taught myself (I've been doing traditional since 2009, and digital I started early this year) so I've had plenty of practice. If you're still in school, I would recommend going to an art class there, that might help enhance your drawing.
      Other than that, I don't know what could help 'enhance' drawing other than tools like Smooth Stroke (comes in Gimp, Photoshop, paint tool sai, etc.) that makes your strokes lag farther behind your cursor so they can be calculated to be much smoother.

      • LCB
        July 26, 2016 at 10:43 pm

        I'd suggest the same as what Joyesh recommended, but I also suggest that if you want to draw better ( which you most likely do, unless you're not a fan of getting places in life ) you should create a drawing a day, and if you're willing to create characters for your shirts you should also try to create some character concept art and such before you do anything to your shirts.
        Then again, I'm only a 12 year old girl trying to live out my dream of becoming a professional artist, but I hope you take my advice, I'm always willing to help!
        - Leah ( leahcbooth on Instagram )

  4. Nikola
    May 17, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I used wacoom tablets, yesterday i bought Ugee M708 GT.
    i can say its great one, and not expensive.

  5. Blake Brady
    March 17, 2015 at 2:32 am

    I've noticed that if you're looking for a specific type of tablet (a specific size), the price varies from product to product, website to website. Honestly, I feel your best option would be to just search a little bit. Say you want to buy a certain tablet (my example tablet is a Huion H610 pro), you can go to Huion's offcial website right now an order one for around 80$. But, you can also go to, and find the SAME one, for almost thirty dollars cheaper. Like I said if you want to buy one, do a little research, find what you like, and look for a good price.

  6. Bajanlaxus
    January 10, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Robert,you forgot to mention Cinema 4D

  7. Gabrielle
    December 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    SO if get a bamboo tablet I wouldn't have to download any programs to be able to draw? Btw I'm a beginner at this so can you explain everything to me from set up to using it if you don't mind?

  8. lance burn
    September 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I have gimp with the paint plugging added

  9. Ralph Ivy
    August 1, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Are there android tablets for drawing directly on the screen and viewing it on the screen there, and battery powered? I am a life-long sketcher, doodler, and I want to carry a tablet or pad with me to "draw" or "sketch" on. Also, being able to create a slideshow on it to use displaying my work. I am not interested in using it to connect to the internet; just to my computer at home. Any info appreciated. I am a 73-year-ol' artist coot. And I love digital art. Thank you.


    • Tina
      August 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm


      I think you can do this with almost any tablet. You just need to find the right app for you. Here is a selection from Google Play:
      Pencil Sketch
      Sketch Free
      Paint Joy

  10. Cerese Minetti
    July 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I need to get my hands on some cash!!! A Graphic Tablet would be so convenient for me to use as a designer.

  11. Dave
    May 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I am interesting in finding out on what exactly is the best way to go as far as software. I recently purchased the Wacom cintiqu12x and do not have software for it as of yet. My computer operating system is Windows Vista. To my knowledge, the majority of web and digital comic artist use Mac. Are there any suggestions that anyone may have as far as what software would be a good choice for a rookie cartoonist without breaking the bank however, still creating great quality work? Thanks in advance for responses.

    • Robert
      June 4, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      Hi Dave,
      I do not know if you know anything about the Linux OS and the rest of the open source software community or not but in case you are unfamiliar with it you need to take some time and acquaint yourself with it because there are a lot of really good applications that are free and are under the GNU v2 or v3 software license that allows you to use it on as many pc's and give it away to friends as often as you like. I have been using Linux as well as Windows for a number of years and have run across software that I like, some of it may not be quite as capable as the commercial offerings but neither do they have the 300 to 600 dollar price tags. I will give you a list and their URL's so that you can check them out and they have Windows versions in case you do not want to use the Linux OS.

      The first is called GIMP, it stands for the GNU Image Manipulation Program, it is free software and is very similar to Photoshop. It can be found at There you will find the download links for the program but do not forget to check out the Documentation section, there you will find lots of info about using GIMP, it even has the capability to do animations.

      The next program is called Pencil, I think it was originally created for the Mac but it runs on Windows as well as Linux. It is a 2D cartooning and animation program. This is a fun program, and I have been using it for a few years.

      The next two I have only recently discovered and I have not used them very much but I intend to spend more time with them in the future. I believe that both of them started out on Linux but both have windows installers.

      My Paint "MyPaint is a fast and easy open-source graphics application for digital painters" This is the opening statement on their website. Once you check out this software it becomes apparent that Corel Painter is the target for this programs development and is definitely worth a look. They released version 1.0 back in November of 2011 which moves it out of the beta software category.

      Krita Krita is an application written for the KDE desktop (one of the popular desktops for Linux). It is similar to Photoshop and also will be like Corel Painter. Here are some URL's to check out, the first is its main page but note that the download link is not working, I think it is because Softpidea has it for download as well as the other url. It is still early in the development of this software so expect to find frequent bugs, crashes etc. However it definitely has a lot of potential and should be checked out often as it is undergoing heavy development.

      The next program is a vector graphic package similar to Corel Draw.

      I am not sure if you have any interest in 3D modeling and rendering but you might want to check out Blender a 3D content creation suite similar to Maya or 3D Studio Max.

      Also if you have a need for a free office suite similar to MS Office check out Libre Office.

      If you like any of these and use them check their websites every month or two because all of them are in constant development and new versions come out frequently with bug fixes as well as new features. All of them have active user communities so join their user forums. If you use GIMP there are a lot of tutorials on the web teaching you how to use the various features and tools that the Gimp has. Check out the galleries on their websites to see what other artists have created using these programs.

      Hope that this has been helpful, oh one last parting comment. I have a Wacom Bluetooth Intous 4 tablets that came bundled with Painter 11. If you can afford to buy Painter it is an amazing piece of software.

      good luck to you

  12. Harrison
    April 6, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Try smoothdraw- works nice.

  13. Pablo
    March 25, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Thanx! usefull information! i'm gonna get a bamboo one to start, the cintiq is only a dream for now

  14. Geri
    March 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm

     @Idan - Thank you!  I'll look into upgrading

  15. Geri
    March 9, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Do you know if Bamboo Create supports pen tilt and rotation when using CS5?

    • Idan
      March 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Hi Geri,
      To the best of my knowledge, none of the Bamboo tablets support tilt. However the various Intuos and Cintiq tablets do support tilt. If you want to be extra sure before making a purchase, you can contact a Wacom salesperson at their site or Facebook page.

  16. Jane
    March 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    @Henry keep your rubbish spam off this site please. Don't ruin posting easy posting options for others.

    Mods, a report option? Thanks.

    • Tina
      March 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm


      you can flag comments. Hover over the post, then the option becomes available. Sorry that Disqus isn't more intuitive!

  17. Chris Hoffman
    March 9, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Kind of off topic, but I loved the "How Smartphone Users See Each Other" comic. Very funny.

    • Idan
      March 10, 2012 at 5:21 am

      Thanks Chris, glad you like it!

  18. phone service
    March 9, 2012 at 6:11 am

    Intuos Tablets are very expensive but it is also worth buying. If you are a Graphic Artist and thinking to buy a tablet, Intuos tablet is perfect for you because it can provide you anything you need for your drawings.

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