Mac attracts creatives for a couple of reasons. It’s either the typical standard for certain niches, or it has high performance standards. While other operating systems are certainly capable of offering the same, creatives still clamor for a Mac. With that reputation, it has some great drawing apps, but they don’t have to be complex. Here we look at some simple drawing apps for Mac, along with some more advanced solutions.
1. Preview’s Markup
Before diving into a pool of drawing apps for Mac and testing each one, you’ll want to take a look at the simplest drawing app built in to macOS Preview: Markup. In fact, it’s available across all Apple devices and is technically more of an annotation app. Still, you can draw with it, and it may be perfect for your needs.
Once you open an image in Preview, you can find the Preview toolbar icon at the top of the pane.
This opens the Markup Toolbar, which covers a bunch of ways to annotate your image.
You get two modes in Sketch and Draw, alongside the other tools (such as Shapes, Text, Sign, and more). You’ll also get the option to use open Markup in the right-click context menu. The option you’ll need is under the Quick Actions menu
You may find that Preview and Markup is enough for you, though (of course), there are more drawing apps for Mac to consider.
If you want a certain level of power from your drawing app, yet simplicity at its core, FireAlpaca is the solution for you.
It looks dated, as it uses an older macOS style rather than the new guidelines. Still, this doesn’t detract from its functionality.
You’ll find that navigating the interface is familiar, yet there’s much you can do with the app. If you use Adobe or Affinity products (more of which later), you’ll feel at home with FireAlpaca.
Also, a nice touch is that you can select the brush shape if you need a different style than the default. It’s not something you see in free and simple drawing apps, so it’s a plus point you’ll want to look into.
3. Tayasui Sketches
In our opinion, Tayasui Sketches is the definition of a simple yet cool drawing app for Mac. It’s uncluttered and focused on quality drawing.
You have a panel of brushes on the left, and each type has a distinct visual representation – a nice touch. Color swatches sit on the right, and you can add more (or alter the existing swatches) using a dedicated panel:
Given that we’re looking at simple drawing apps for Mac here, it’s great to see the functionality pared down yet still have quality. What’s more, you can choose one of several digital papers – not something you find in free, no-nonsense drawing apps.
Paintbrush is a veteran drawing app for Mac, though it’s similar to the classic Microsoft Paint in terms of functionality. It also offers a great “freehand” experience.
While it doesn’t have high levels of complexity or specifications compared to other apps, that’s a plus point. If you only occasionally have the need to pick up a digital pencil, this drawing app for Mac will fit the bill.
This drawing app for Mac has had a storied history as well. For a long time, Sketchbook was part of the Autodesk line of products, but it’s now flying on its own.
The app itself has a reputation of being great and super simple to use. It looks much like Tayasui Sketches in places and has a similar vibe.
You have a number of floating windows that let you choose pen and brush types, colors, and other functions. It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that Sketchbook can be a professional tool in the right hands, given the wealth of drawing options at your disposal.
Though, the one drawback compared to other drawing apps for Mac on this list is that it’s a premium only solution. For $19.99, you’ll get everything Sketchbook has to offer, without the need for a subscription. As far as we’re concerned, that is a good deal.
Advanced Drawing Apps for Mac
A simple app is all well and good, but you may want something with more power. Some of the apps in our list have premium upgrades, such as Tayasui Sketches. Though, in most cases, you’re going to want to consider a different solution.
If budget is an issue, Inkscape is a oft-mentioned app that’s an open-source (and free) alternative to Adobe Illustrator. The developers admit that the macOS version is in need of enhancements. It’s tough to use due to how the app runs on Mac.
Of course, Adobe Illustrator is an industry-standard solution, and we don’t need to wax lyrical about it because it’s so popular. Affinity Designer gives almost every app a run for its money. It’s a stellar solution that has 99 percent of equivalent tools, with a better subjective User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).
If you want the feeling of drawing on paper, Rebelle is arguably the very best you can buy. You choose a paper and work with watercolor-style brushes to create artwork that looks as though it’s on a physical medium.
Finally, you may want to consider Sketch. It’s a professional tool to create artwork, draw and design websites, and much more.
It’s a vector-based application with several features, such as a toolbar, canvas, editable shapes and so much more. While Sketch is more of a Desktop Publishing (DTP) app – and wins praise with graphic designers – it has a healthy set of features to help you navigate your drawings. It’s a beginner-friendly tool that you can scale with.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are there any simple Adobe Drawing apps for Mac?
No, unfortunately there are no Adobe-branded drawing apps for Mac desktop machines. Illustrator is the nearest you can get for desktop. Though, smaller devices have a range of Adobe Photoshop products that let you manipulate images. Adobe Comp is a fantastic and feature-rich app, for example.
2. Do you need a stylus, drawing tablet, or Apple Pencil to use these drawing apps for Mac?
Not at all. While a drawing tool is ideal, especially if you want to create finer lines and gradients, you don’t need anything other than the Trackpad.
3. Is it important for my app to be cross-device?
This all depends on your goals. If you see yourself flitting between different locations – for example, if you move between home and school – you may want to consider a cross-device app. Though, it’s not obligatory, and you may get just as much functionality using a desktop-only app.
You should also consider storage. If you work on large-scale projects, you may max out the storage on a smaller device. This is where an iCloud account becomes valuable.
We’d suggest that if you’re at the stage where you need the power of a desktop app that other devices can’t provide, you’ll also need more than a simple drawing app on your Mac.
Digital artwork is a booming industry, and there are many people who like to doodle regardless of their ability. If you’re in this group, a simple drawing app for Mac, such as Sketchbook or Tayasui Sketches, is going to be on your “watchlist.” You could even use Apple’s Markup feature across your devices. It works well as an annotation app and can handle simple sketches too.