Compared to Photoshop, Krita is one of the new kids on the block. Krita is a powerful (and free) digital painting software designed for artists, illustrators, and animators. Developed by artists themselves, Krita provides a more streamlined set of tools and features that cater specifically to digital artists.
Photoshop, on the other hand, has set the benchmark for digital image creation for decades. Unlike Krita, it was not designed with digital drawing and painting as its primary purpose, but it is such a versatile piece of software with such a broad set of tools, that digital painting is just one of the many things that can be done with it.
Which is better, Krita or Photoshop?
There’s a short answer, and a long one. Here’s the short:
Krita is better for hobbyist artists who just want to draw and paint digitally. Photoshop is probably better for those with plans to become professional artists, but in that case there’s also no harm in starting with Krita and transitioning to Photoshop once you start getting commissions.
Now let's get started on the long answer, beginning with a lovely table comparing the features of Krita against Photoshop.
Krita is free; Photoshop is a $19.99+ monthly subscription
Krita is completely free! You can download it for free, and anything you make in it can be sold commercially. Frankly, it’s a miracle that Krita exists. Most software requires active and continuous funding for development, but Krita has managed to pull it off just with the donations and contributions of its community.
Adobe Photoshop, on the other hand, charges a subscription. It used to be a single payment to own the software outright, but a few years ago they decided to include cloud-based services with their software and attach the whole lot to a subscription.
Adobe has a few different subscriptions available that include Photoshop, but the cheapest one I know of is their Photography bundle, which costs $19.99 per month. For that price, you get both Photoshop and Lightroom, and 1TB of cloud storage.
If you’re a student, for that same price of $19.99, you can actually get Adobe’s whole Creative Cloud set of apps.
Both support the main Operating Systems
Krita works with Windows, Linux, macOS and ChromeOS. It’s also available on Android, though it's designed primarily for desktop platforms.
Adobe Photoshop, on the other hand, is available for Windows and macOS. With some magickery, apparently it can work with Linux too, though I have no experience there.
There are also Photoshop apps for iPadOS and Android, but I’ve tried it and was not particularly impressed with its stripped-down functionality.
Both have confusing, intimidating UI’s
Here’s Krita’s default UI:
And here’s Photoshops default UI!
Neither make much sense to a beginner, but at least they both look equally nonsensical.
But it doesn't get better after you learn one of them; after you’ve learnt one and then try to switch to the other, it’s still overwhelming to figure out this new, unfamiliar UI. It seems similar at first glance, but none of the buttons are in the same place, or have the same names, and often the functions work slightly differently. It’s like accidently walking into your neighbours house instead of your own. Probably.
Every time I’ve had to learn a new painting software, I’ve felt the same way, and I’ve been painting digitally since 2009.
In my opinion, Photoshop and Krita are as intimidating as each other. But once you get stuck into one of them, you slowly learn what this button does, which menu that setting is hiding in, which parts to ignore or hide completely; you slowly figure it out.
You can safely ignore 90% of the functions inPhotoshop, and probably 75% for Krita. You only really need to learn a few basics - Brush tool, Colour Palette, Layers, Selection tool…that’s about it really! And they basically work the same way in both programs.
The Drawing and Painting experience is very similar
Alright, here’s the important bit! Which one is better to draw and paint in! You’re dying to find out!
To be honest, painting and drawing in Krita and Photoshop are very similar. Krita was developed to give digital artists an alternative to Photoshop, so a lot of its functionality was based on Photoshop.
Krita is, however, stripped down. It only focuses on the specific functions needed for drawing and painting, and not much else, where Photoshop can do so much more.
Krita has a very strong brush engine that Photoshop doesn’t really hold up against. The amount of flexibility and power you have over brush settings is even a little overwhelming. This is the main area in which Krita has a massive edge over Photoshop, as Photoshop frankly has very basic brush customization; you can make all sorts of brushes in Krita that you simply can’t put together in Photoshop.
Krita also has much better natural media emulation, like oils and watercolor painting. If you want your art process to feel more like traditional art, and for the end results to look more like it as well, then Krita will likely be more comfortable for you.
Photoshop can do it all—image retouching, filters, manipulation and transformation—but because of that, its digital painting functionality isn't its priority. If you’re a digital artist though, all of Photoshop's extra stuff might be completely unnecessary and go untouched. I certainly didn’t use 90% of the tools and options available in Photoshop.
Other types of art - 3D, Animation, Text and Vector
You’re probably here because you want to draw and/or paint in these programs, but just in case you end up needing to know this stuff:
Photoshop is much more capable with 3D than Krita is. If you want your 2D work to be part of a larger 3D pipeline, then Photoshop is definitely the better choice here.
Krita handles animation better than Photoshop - it’s got frame-by-frame animation, onion skinning, a timeline, and more.Photoshop has only the most simple animation tools. It’s very barebones.
Text and Typography
You might not think text or typography would be important to an artist, but I’ve found it especially important when working on book covers and maps.
And Photoshop is way more capable than Krita. It’s more capable than all of the other digital painting software I’ve tried.
I have book cover and map projects I’m working on as I write this article. My primary software is actually Clip Studio Paint on the iPad Pro, and I take them into Photoshop to finalise them since it’s just so much better than the others with text.
Krita just has the text basics, as most painting softwares do.
Photoshop is much more accomplished at vector images than Krita. Obviously neither are as competent as a dedicated vector program like Adobe Illustrator, but if you find yourself in a pinch and need to use vector a little, as I have found myself a few times over the years, Photoshop will be more useful than Krita.
Is Photoshop optimised better than Krita?
This can be highly dependent on what machine you’re running them on, and the kinds of things you’re trying to do when you’re drawing and painting.
Both of them slow down when working at high resolutions, or when working with large, complicated brushes. I think Krita has worse slowdown on the machines I’ve tried it on, but Photoshop seems a heavier program that requires a better minimum PC.
Both are at risk of crashing when things get too large and complicated.
This is sort of just how it is with digital painting softwares. Most programs choose to give you a lot of freedom so you can create what you want and how you want, but that means you can crash them if you try.
Do they integrate well with other programs?
If you want to use a multi-software pipeline, or work as part of a professional team such as in a game studio, you’ll have an easier time with Photoshop than Krita.
Adobe has a whole ecosystem of softwares, all synced up together within the Creative Cloud. It’s been around for decades, and for that whole time it’s been the industry standard 2D image creator. Most softwares that might want to integrate with Photoshop, or import a Photoshop file, have built in the functionality by now.
Because of this, if you’re working in a team, sending your art to someone else to import into a 3D program for example, it’ll be easier with Photoshop. The rest of your team will be familiar with the software, its file types, etc.
Krita is just too new and too small to be integrated well into multi-software workflows.
If you’re just a lone artist creating digital art jpg’s and sending them to your clients, like me, then all of those integrations, that Creative Cloud snazzery that Photoshop has, can pretty much be thrown out of the window.
How about their Communities?
You might not realise how important this is, but let me tell you, this is a big one. Since Photoshop is a much more established piece of software, it has a far larger online community. You can find tutorials and discussions online for just about every tiny little thing you might want to achieve in Photoshop.
The same cannot be said for Krita. While its online community is passionate and knowledgeable, it is much, much smaller. And because the software is much newer, the amount of online tutorials out there pales in comparison to Photoshop. That means if you get stuck in Krita, you might not be able to find the answer online, and you'll have to either try to solve it without help, or ask around in the Krita communities and hope someone has the answer.
With Photoshop, the answer is usually just a single Google away. It’ll make learning Photoshop faster, and easier.
Which one should you choose? Photoshop or Krita?
This is going to come down to what your plans are for your artistic future.
If you want to draw and paint digitally as a hobby, Krita will serve you brilliantly, arguably better than Photoshop.
If you’re low on free time to learn digital art, but have spare money, Photoshop will be faster to learn because of the massive catalogue of tutorials out there.If you have plans to eventually go professional, and work as an in-house artist for something like a game studio, Photoshop is probably the smarter decision. It’s the industry standard and plays nicer with all of the other softwares these companies are using.
That’s not to say you can’t become a professional without Photoshop. Like I said earlier, I started in Photoshop, but for a few years now I’ve worked with Clip Studio Paint on my Ipad Pro. The transition from one software to another was annoying, but the pain was short-lived.
So with that in mind, here’s my ultimate advice:
Since it’s free, start drawing and painting in Krita. Once you start getting art commissions and job offers, then consider switching over to Photoshop.
Oh, and here’s that table again.
Hey, I’m Christopher
I started making digital art in 2009, became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, and now I’m able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.
I created this blog to help other artists make the same journey.