These 7 Apps Will Turn Your Computer Into a Creative Tool

Old-school methods like the paintbrush and canvas aren't going anywhere, but computers are expanding our creative abilities. Three-D animation, photo editing and graphic design are changing how and what we create. 

For the creatively inclined, computers are a powerful tool to make whatever the mind can imagine. You just need a few apps first. 

Here are seven apps that will transform any computer into an artist's workbook. 

1. Paint.NET


This powerful photo editing tool is a solid replacement if you don't want to shell out the money for Photoshop. Created as an alternative to the original Windows' Paint application, Paint.NET is now widely used by people with PCs to edit photos. The tool has layers, unlimited undo options and a number of special effects to enhance and edit images. 

2. AutoDesk SketchBook 

Autodesk Sketchbook

SketchBook will transform a computer into a much smarter and more sophisticated drawing pad than just a plain notebook. This application gives you the tools you need to draw and paint anything on a computer. There are 16 different brushes, and artwork can be created over three separate layers. The app has programmed the tools to be as close to natural painting and drawing as possible, so you feel like you're using the real tools. 

3. 3D Canvas

Spencer Green/YouTube

This tool lets anyone become a 3-D animator. The software creates 3-D modeling and animation, and it makes it easy for users to build and then drag and drop their creations within scenes. If you don't want to create complete 3-D models from scratch, 3D Canvas has pre-made ones available, or you can use the tools within the program to build your own.

4. Artweaver

This application is for those who prefer paintbrush and canvas but are looking for a technological alternative. Artweaver 5 is a fully fledged painting tool for the computer. It has a number of realistic brushes to simulate different styles painters prefer, and the user interface is fairly simple. One of the major perks when painting with this software is that you can interact with other artists online while you're working through the Artweaver community. Painting just became much more collaborative. 

5. GIMP 


One of the original image editing programs available on computers, GIMP has been letting people create and edit images since 1996. This isn't just a photo editor: GIMP lets you create new images on your own with features like airbrushing and penciling. You can also upload your own images and manipulate them by cropping, adding text or working with layers. More advanced GIMP users can create their own brushes and tools to use within the program. While this is an older tool, it's constantly being updated to stay useful.

6. Adobe Color

Adobe Color

From painters to illustrators, the colors you're choosing influences the entire piece of artwork. Adobe Color lets users create full color palettes online with a few clicks. The color wheel creates color schemes automatically, and it follows color theory to offer different combinations (triad, complementary and shades). The tool gives you the RGB and HEX code so you can easily transfer the color scheme to whatever tool you're using to design and create. 

7. Blender

This tool lets any user download an entirely free and open source 3-D creative animation suite. It has one of the best 3-D modeling programs out there. Outside of 3-D modeling, it also includes rigging, animation, simulation, motion tracking and video editing for advanced users looking to create a full 3-D animated piece. It's not easy to learn, but if you're committed to becoming a 3-D graphic designer, this is a great place to start.