6 Simple Drawing Applications for Mac

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Mac has long been referred to as the “Creative’s workshop.” The idea that most graphic designers, interior designers, video animators, and architects are more drawn towards Mac may hold water to an extent. Mac attracts creatives for either of two reasons – as the traditional tool they’ve always used or its perceived high performance standards. Speaking of tradition, the first version of Photoshop was built exclusively for Macintosh users, giving Mac the first mover advantage.

And while the PC versus Mac might present an interesting discourse, I will be walking the safe lines, and a list of simple drawing apps for Mac is all we are talking about today.

1. Patina

Simple Drawing Apps Mac Patina

This sweet and simple drawing app is certainly closer to Microsoft Paint than Adobe Photoshop on the complexity scale, but lets you illustrate things that certainly wouldn’t have been readily doable on Paint. You won’t find any complexities like layers here, but within the one layer you do have you can do plenty.

You can use it for the basic things like cropping, rotating and making colour adjustments on images, but there are lots of other options here too when it comes to transparencies, brush types, sketching and so on.

The elegant interface makes Patina a delight to use, and it’s compatible with myriad file types like PDF and Photoshop files, alongside JPGs, PNGs and other usual suspects.

2. Markup Feature in Preview

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Before going ahead and downloading a bunch of apps you’ve never heard of, you should try out macOS’s secret paint feature, hidden right there in the trusty Mac Preview app.

When you open an image in Preview, click the icon next to the search bar at the top-right to open the ‘Markup Toolbar,’ which you’ll quickly find does a whole lot more than just marking up.

This toolbar pretty much functions like a basic paint program, allowing you to draw, scribble, make shapes and annotate the image you’re previewing. There are even some mildly more advanced functions, like Smart Lasso, which lets you accurately pick out shapes in your image.

It’s simple stuff, but it does the job when it comes to everyday tasks.

3. Sketch

Simple Drawing Apps Mac Sketch

This Mac drawing software holds all the aces when it comes to versatility. Sketch can be used to create professional artwork, draw and design websites and so much more. Sketch is a vector-based application with several features such as a toolbar, canvas, editable shapes and so much more. I have found Sketch a bit irregular, as it may require a little background knowledge and experience in basic designing. It’s nevertheless a user-friendly tool even for newbies. You can blob, warp, and twirl your way into anything.

4. Paintbrush

Simple Drawing Apps Mac Paintbrush

Paint Brush is a painting and illustrating application for Mac. Paint Brush is quite similar to Microsoft Paint on Windows in terms of functionality and build. Paint Brush offers some of the best freehand art experience in the game. It does not come with the complexity or spec requirements of other third-party applications, but if you need to get a few illustrations made up for occasional doodling, this drawing application tool is all you need to save the day.

5. Made with Mischief

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Made with Mischief is a unique, simple drawing app for Mac. This application is as easy and simple as you could ever imagine. After installation you are welcomed by a blank screen and can start drawing right away, creating the nostalgic experience of pen and paper.

Made with Mischief is neither vector-based nor pixel-based and works best on a desktop. Made with Mischief has other exciting features like allowing you to create and customize your set of brushes and pen tools. Made with Mischief is a pretty good application for beginners as it lets you draw without limiting your canvas size.

6. ArtBoard

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ArtBoard is a simple Mac drawing application that enables you to create minimalist and elaborate artwork for professional and personal purposes. ArtBoard offers so much in tools, features, usability components and flexibility. You can use any of its numerous backgrounds and layouts.

ArtBoard lets you work in layers, enabling you to work on different aspects of your drawings simultaneously. One of the most remarkable features of ArtBoard is the option of drag and drop which allows you to incorporate images straight from import. Although its lack of distortion tools and shortcomings in image conversion between vector and raster is noticeable, ArtBoard remains a top drawing tool for Mac.

Conclusion

There are certainly many simple drawing apps for Mac out there – free and paid alike. I wrote this list based on a cursory focus on the applications’ imitation of real-life drawing experience, availability of tools, simplicity, flexibility, and interface. I will not have the final word on this and earnestly look forward to your suggestions. Which of these drawing applications do you use? Kindly share your thoughts below.

This article was first published in September 2017 and was updated in June 2019.

11 comments

  1. I am trying to decide if a MacBook Pro is required for digital drawing for my 14 year old. Would using the drawing app on a MacBook or MacBook Air suffice?

    1. Hello Eva. Yes, you can use these apps for your 14-year-old.

      1. Drawing doesn’t put a lot of load on the CPU. It doesn’t really matter which MacBook you get.

  2. I just want something simple like the old Superpaint. Omnigraffle is driving me to distraction because I can’t put a line where I want it. That line will always connect to some other object. Even when I manage to get a line to stand by itself (not a simple task), if I try to move it or change it in some way, it will attach to another object. I just don’t get it.

  3. I’d point out that there is a difference between drawing applications and painting applications. Painting apps work with a canvas, a collection of pixels that can be modified, and once done the modification becomes a permanent part of the canvas. Drawing apps, on the other hand, use objects such as lines and rectangles. After being entered, these objects can be moved, modified or deleted.

    I think that lumping the two together under “Drawing Applications” is confusing to many.

  4. Very helpful article. Just bought Made with Mischief and it’s excellent with a Wacom pen.

  5. You might be interested in Seashore. https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/app/seashore/id1448648921?mt=12&app=apps

  6. Very confusing roundup. It would help if it was clearer which is paint (pixel) and which is draw (vector). Also even a rough idea of prices would help.

  7. I like this article but I have a different question. I wonder if I can use a stylus or pencil to draw on MacBook Air ? How can I actually paint or draw on MacBook Air 2018 if it’s not using a pencil? Ok I know that it’s impossible to draw on the screen but perhaps I can use a stylus on the trackpad . I would probably find it uncomfortable so I wonder how come people really enjoy drawing on a MacBook? I think. That the best option is to get an iPad to do that right? I hope you could guide me on this

    1. To draw on a MacBook you’ll need a graphics tablet. I just got a cheap one off of amazon for around £35, it seems pretty good although I’m no professional.

    2. Hey Kelly, I am a professional digital artist, & I can tell you that the MacBook Air will have no problem with drawing from quick scribbles to pro art. What you’ll need is a graphics tablet which is kinda like a large trackpad. Wacom are the best known, but quite expensive, recently though there have been huge advances & if you type ‘Wacom tablet’ or ‘Graphics tablet’ into Amazon or wherever, you’l find a plethora of options.
      My advice would be to try one of the cheap new Chinese tablets as they’re about a tenth the price of a Wacom, & though they’re not quite as well made they’ll likely last you years.
      $30-50 will get you started.
      You can use your mouse or even a finger on your Mac, but the tablet is waaaay easier. give it a try.

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