What did the designers of early 20th century have in the toolkit? Mostly, it was brushes and ink on paper. But designers of the 21st century have a lot of illustration tools at their disposal, ranging from drawing tablets and styluses to apps and add-ons. These tools make the illustration process seamless and a whole lot of fun.

So if you are a designer or want to become one, buckle up because I’m going to give you a list of the best illustration tools. It includes hardware, programs, and add-ons that every designer should know about.

Let’s start with programs.

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Programs

Vectornator

This tool lets you design on the fly. So you don’t have to lug your laptop around. Even if you have a phone or iPad, you can access your designs from either of them.

Here’s the best part: It’s not just limited to graphics. Lettering, brochures, and even UI designs can also be made using it – on the web or mobile, wherever you want. It’s also beginner-friendly. But at the same time, an expert would create designs on their level using it.

It’s also free. It works on MacOS, iPadOS, and iOS.

Procreate

Illustration of 12th Street, looking west, Wheeling, W. Va - Illustration Tools

For starters, its pricing plan is simple. In fact, you won’t even call it a pricing plan because you pay once and it’s yours forever.  130 preset brushes, vector and raster graphics, 4K resolution video export, and easy import to Photoshop are a few things that make it awesome. It’s kind of an all-in-one graphic design software.

Use it when you want a more hand-drawn feel to the strokes and fills. Its price is $9.99. iOS and iPad OS support it.

Inkscape

It is a popular vector design program. While using it, you may find a resemblance to Adobe Illustrator. It offers tons of advanced features as well.

Like Illustrator, an expert should go with it. It’s because you’ll find a steep learning curve. If you are a beginner, it’s not good for you.

However, it’s not a hard and fast rule. You can get started with it even if you are new to this field. Inkscape community will be willing to help you.

It’s free of cost. Platforms that support are Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Paint Tool Sai

Paint Tool Sai is for those creatives who are into drawing anime and manga styles. This tool has helped many people with their love for anime/cartoon/manga characters and scenes. And since its launch, it has turned from a strictly 2D design software into 3D software. Its price is about $50 (5500 JPY). And it’s a Windows-supported platform.

Stubborn Generator

This tool comes into action when you don’t want to draw a lot of illustrations by hand. Building unique characters and creating engaging stories are a couple of its major features.

It’s included in the craftwork.design library, a collection of illustration tools. Other tools in the library can help you with friendly-looking and engaging characters that can be customized for any graphic design project. Brands like Pinterest and Uber use them as well. You can do the same by licensing them for commercial use.

For the standard version, it’s free of cost. And it costs  $89/quarter for Craftwork Pro Access.

It’s supported by Mac and PC.

Hardware

Wacom Cintiq 22

Person drawing something on a tablet using a white pen - Illustration Tools

Wacom is known for making awesome products that designers adore globally. But I’m mentioning Cintiq 22 because Creative Bloq named it the best overall drawing tablet recently.

No matter if you are a beginner or pro, this tablet offers enough features for all skill levels. It comes with the Wacom Pro Pen 2 that accurately captures every single stroke.

It’s a premium tool with a price tag of $1,199. It’s compatible with both Windows and Mac.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch

Now, if you don’t want to go with the best overall tablet, go with the “best drawing tablet for iOS.” This versatile tool does more than just draw.

That said, you’ll do great with illustrations, especially with Procreate. Because of its compact size, you can carry it with you and draw quick sketches on the go.

It offers loads of apps for work and play. If you’re looking for an all-in-one option, this is the one.

Wacom Pro Pen 3D

Cintiq tablet comes with the Wacom Pro Pen, which is just fine. But if you want to take things up a notch, upgrade to the Pro Pen 3D. It has three buttons along the side of the pen’s body, making it great for 3D art. Plus, you can assign them to any function.

If you navigate a lot while illustrating, go with the Pro Pen 3D.

Add-Ons

Kyle’s Brushes

Are you a Creative Cloud subscriber? Then a collection of more than 1,000 unique brushes in Kyle’s Brushes collection will be free to you.

Famous illustrator Kyle T. Webster developed Kyle’s Brushes in 2014. And since then, this tool is widely appreciated by illustrators globally.

Grid Builder

Lettering can be hard for a lot of designers. Making the text a part of the illustration can be tricky; for that, you need to illustrate it by hand.

You have to consider a few things, including Coherent shape and straight and even lines.

Grid Builder comes in handy here. This tool makes it super easy to incorporate text into your designs by providing you with 35 unique grid shapes. Now, you can fit text into your design before you draw a single letter.

Have you ever used any of the above illustration tools? How was your experience with them? Let me know in the comments below!

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