I review the free open source drawing and painting program Krita. At the time of writing: this is my first ever time opening and running the application and I’m curious to see how it stacks up. I am keen to see how this little free program compares to the big players.

I am using version 4.1.1 for Windows (64 bit). My graphics tablet is a very old Wacom Intuos 4 (My pen is held together by electrical tape).

What is Krita?

Krita is a free open source digital painting and drawing program. It began life as a free photo editor but since 2009 the team has focused their efforts on digital drawing and painting.

First impressions

  • The program loads up quickly
  • Very nice modern looking UI with a good layout.
  • Cool brushes panel with nice thumbnails
  • Very similar UI layout to photoshop
  • Nice zoom slider
  • Clearly designed for drawing and painting
  • It has a few basic vector tools which are nice an easy to use.

It also has some basic animation abilities. It can produce classic cell animation with onion skinning and key-frames. Onion Skinning allows you to see the next or previous frame of an animation. The frames are visible but semi transparent, this allows you to trace over the previous drawing.

In general, the program feels very much like Photoshop, the layout is similar and the keyboard shortcuts are very close. This is a good thing because if it had too steep a learning curve it would put some people off.

This is my first time using it and I jumped straight in with no confusion. It feels like an imaginary lite version of Photoshop like Adobe Paint or something.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing for reviewing a program. But I have not actually done any proper drawing or digital painting for over a year. So I am rusty, to say the least, this is my pre-emptive way of saying it might suck… I guess this is a good thing because it will demonstrate the usability of the program.

Drawing

As far as drawing goes is it feels fantastic. The pressure sensitivity is great you can do big heavy outlines and fine shading using the same brush with no adjustments. The feedback is great I didn’t experience any lag or unwanted straight lines. Overall the performance and feel of the drawing are great.

It’s fun and intuitive.

What is great is that by default Krita loads up with 2 layers. One layer is the white background and the next is a new layer for your drawing. This is great for painting under the lines of a drawing. Which is often something you have to plan in advance with other programs.

A nice touch any illustrator will appreciate.

Painting

Above is a quick 10-15 minute speed painting I put together. First one in over a year I might add, but I am not going to be putting this one in the portfolio… The entire process was easy and very smooth. The brush feels great and Krita performs extremely well.

I created this painting by using one big brush on one layer, I alternated between 50% opacity and full opacity. I sampled the colours using the eyedropper tool as I would in other programs, in Krita this is done with the Ctrl key held down and then clicking.

Random things that I really liked:

  • You press E to toggle erase mode on or off
  • Right-click brush options
  • Starts with two layers by default – love this.
  • Easy and quick access to different brushes
  • Default brushes are well-thought-out

Krita’s Brushes

Krita has a huge range of brushes and smudge tools inspired by real brushes. The brushes can all be fully customised and you can customise the smudge effect of each brush to create a wet blending effect. For a beginner, Krita is perfect because you probably won’t need to make any changes to these brushes. You have almost everything you will need.

[Update] 09-11-2018

Having just finished writing the same digital painting tutorial in both Photoshop and Krita I can offer you a side by side comparison of the same painting created in the same time-frame with the same hard brush in both applications.

Krita Vs Photoshop

First Krita

Second Photoshop

Very similar quality, in my opinion, the second image has a bit more pop but this could be down to my colour sampling, a quick contrast tweak would fix that.

It’s not a perfect comparison because my composition is a bit off this is because they are both very quick speed paintings. The crop ratio is a bit more square in the Krita version too, widescreen (16:9) tends to make landscapes look better. I am also far more experienced (15 years +) with Photoshop which could affect the final outcome.

There is no doubt that Krita is fully capable of producing paintings of the same quality. 

Below is the video of the painting: tutorial page.

Krita for Image Editing

Krita has a good selection of filters and filter layers which allow you to non-destructively edit a photo. These work in much the same way as Photoshop’s adjustment layers. Krita features the fundamental filters you would expect like: levels, Hue and saturation, blur, sharpen and many more.

Check out my tutorial on editing a photo with Filter Layers: Using Filter Layers in Krita

Can Krita Edit Raw Files?

Yes but the Raw toolset is very limited, the Raw Editing window only has some basic Highlight, Exposure and colour correction tools. So you cannot non destructively edit your photos like you would with Lightroom.

However, it did read my camera Raw format (Nikon D3330) and then import the file for editing easily. I was very impressed with this because Raw compatibility is something even Adobe can take a while to get up to date with.

Yes, you can import and edit Raw Files but it is a bit basic.

I haven’t used Krita long enough or intensely enough to comment on any bugs or crashes. No crashes yet though.

Krita can do some cool stuff…

Review Conclusion

Krita vs Photoshop

If you are solely interested in drawing and digital painting and you are justing out, Krita is more than enough. Photoshop is a beast and it would take 2 or 3 free programs to match all its functionality. Krita is not a complete replacement though as it lacks some heavy duty image manipulation tools a Photographer will certainly miss.

Photoshop has a surprisingly robust vector tool set despite Illustrator being Adobe’s flagship vector program. Photoshop is a half-decent vector program. Krita’s vector tool set is of similar use but is missing some useful vector tools.

If you are all about drawing and painting then Krita will absolutely get the job done. Krita is a program focused on drawing and painting primarily this means it isn’t bogged down by unnecessary functionality. It runs very smoothly and the pen input is very responsive.

If you are looking for an awesome free drawing and painting program Krita is for you. Its slick, it performs well, it is easy to use and I really liked it. It is also set up with a tonne of great versatile brushes by default.

Thumbs up!

Best of all It is free, so go give it a try.

Link to Krita Website

All MonstaBot Krita Tutorials


More…

If you would like to discover more free software check out my gigantic list of free programs:

My Epic List of the Best Free Design Programs

Digital Landscape Painting for Beginners with Krita

How to Edit a Photo with Filter Layers in Krita


David

Works part-time as a Graphic Designer and Website Designer. Studied Animation and has been using and learning design software for over 15 years.