Here are some great online drawing tools for those who like to draw and work online at the same time. Way back in 2006, online drawing tools were few and far between, especially anything with collaborative functionality for multi-user action. Back then, the choices were basically Groupboard and LiTha-Paint. But the scene is much improved, with some amazing single- and multi-user drawing tools available for getting creative and having fun. Here’s a round-up of our favorites..
Single-user drawing & painting tools
Easily our favorite single-user drawing tool, Mr. Doob’s Harmony makes it fun and easy to express your creativity with some pretty amazing brushes. I’ve seen similar (if not identical) drawing filters/effects used on the Motorola Xoom to achieve striking results.
- Pros: simple and elegant with some great effects
- Cons: perhaps too simple, only black-&-white
- Unique Feature: Longfur brush FTW!
Just like Mr. Doob’s Harmony but with some much-needed tools like color, brush size, and opacity, ptzonline’s Harmony is my new favorite online drawing tool :) Definitely fun and rewarding tool for solo art sessions. Update: this drawing tool is currently offline (404 link removed 2013/02/20).
- Pros: Just like Mr. Doob’s but with more features and tools
- Cons: weird “error” warnings if you resize the screen
- Unique Features: History/Undo, Save, Publish, and more
Pretty nice and simple online drawing tool. Reminds me a lot of an online version of the original MS Paint program. Not that it sucks, it’s actually pretty great for what it is: a basic yet useful tool for drawing online.
- Pros: custom canvas size (up to 800×800), zoom function, toggle “smoothing” feature
- Cons: better than MS Paint, but still pretty limited, max canvas size too small
- Unique Feature: clean minimal design, pencil tool with automatic fill (makes cool abstract designs)
Mudcube’s Sketchpad is an excellent drawing tool that gives users full-control over color, brush-size, and just about everything else. It’s super-well polished and brings tasty treats like Patterns, Swatches, History, and a healthy set of tools. Recommended with our highest rating for online drawing tools.
- Pros: feels like Photoshop, sweet interface, deluxe color-picker & brush-tuning, customizable/movable menu palettes, diverse set of tools
- Cons: single-user sessions only, small canvas area
- Unique Feature: spirograph brush, paint with “light”, and sleek UI
Even more like Photoshop than Mudcube’s Sketchpad, Queeky delivers a wealth of useful drawing tools, including filters, adjustments, customizable menus, and even layers to make it all good. Queeky is a remarkable drawing tool that’s a pleasure to use for solo-drawing expeditions.
- Pros: like having Photoshop online, layers, super-snazzy UI
- Cons: single-user only, limited canvas size (1000×1000 max), huge advertisement
- Unique Feature: includes a procedural brush tool with options (nice!)
Another incredible Photoshop-esque online-drawing tool, SUMO Paint feels like a slick iPad app with all the trimmings and features you could ever hope for.. one of the best online drawing/painting/creative tools currently available. SUMO Paint is definitely one of our favorites for online creativity. Also available in app flavor :)
- Pros: online version of Photoshop, many features, fully customizable UI
- Cons: no complaints, but would be better with multi-user functionality
- Unique Feature: must try the “symmetry brush” – so much fun!
Even more fun than Mr. Doob’s drawing tool, Flame Painter makes it easy (and addictive) to create beautiful light-based imagery using a variety of “fire” effects, colors, and more. It’s super fun to create your own “fire” art, but the canvas-size is too small for serious design work.
- Pros: easy to create beautiful imagery
- Cons: sort of a one-trick pony, but with plenty of options
- Unique Feature: fire-based graphics in the comfort of your browser
..into this (and beyond):
The Fluid painting makes it fun to splash and mix paint around on a swirling liquid canvas:
With the default settings it’s difficult to get any crisp results, but after some experimentation Fluid is like virtual watercolor or something. Wild.
Multi-user drawing tools
Open Studio (404 link removed 2015/04/21)
This is one of my favorites. The results are usually pretty abstract-looking, but you can get some great patterns and visual effects by experimenting with the settings. Don’t let the simplicity fool you — this one is worth checking out.
- Pros: nice interface, simple controls, fun to use
- Cons: small drawing board, chat window not visible at all times, mysterious “play” button
- Unique feature: brush tools with texture!
This drawing tool is pretty basic, just pick a brush size and color and go to town. We had fun with this one, but it’s probably too simple for more than casual sketching.
- Pros: full-width drawing area
- Cons: only 7 colors (no white!), only one drawing tool, no chat
- Unique feature: very dumbed down, but stylish and uncluttered
coSketch.com provides some great features to go along with its basic selection of drawing tools. While sketching, multiple users can chat, add stamps and backgrounds, and even add and draw on a custom Google Map for any zip code. There’s even a multi-user History feature and image uploader. Update: (2013/01/22) coSketch.com seems to be down so we had to remove the link.
- Pros: deluxe features such as chat, maps, import, history, and custom stamps
- Cons: limited to 3 brush sizes, small board size, menus tedious to browse through
- Unique features: large set of custom stamps, “snap-line” feature, undo history states, selective board clearing
Last but not least, Groupboard is one of the originals and has been online longer than any others. It’s pretty simple and basic, but that’s also part of the charm.. if you want to know what multi-user online drawing tools were like back in 2002, Groupboard is it.
- Pros: Java or Ajax versions, chat box, free use (or register for static board space)
- Cons: limited canvas size
- Unique features: longest running online drawing tool
Here are some more online drawing and painting tools for your enjoyment:
- Artpad (404 link removed 2015/09/15)
- Favicon Icon Drawing Program
- Online Drawing Board
- Rate My Drawing
- Scriblink (404 link removed 2016/01/19)
- Sketch Swap
Four bonus links that aren’t exactly drawing or painting tools, but within the same general category of “online creative tools” and worth sharing here:
- Ultimate Flash Face — it’z fun 2 make faces
- Piknik — full-screen color-picker slash awesome
- Vector Splatter Drawing — or something.. simple but SO fun
Props to my good friend Thane Champie for his help with the research for this article. 2050 Dude!!