The Most Powerful Features in Krita for Digital Painters

potion of flight by david revoy
Update (2016-18-04): This article has been writing at Krita 2.9.2. Krita is now v3.0, and get a lot of extra features that could have been showcased here, like performance optimization for very large brushes and canvas, traditional animation module, animated brushes, new blending mods dedicated to painting… Also, a lot of improvements on stability, performance, hardware compatibility and UI have been made, which is a very good thing!

I was reading an article about Krita, a free software for making digital painting, on my friend Yann Isabel‘s Graphyz’Art website, and I decided to take a closer look to this project. In less than 5 minutes, some things that it has to offer just blew my mind. I have showed what I found to my digital painter friend Victor and he became as excited as me on these tools.

Wanting to know the beast more deeply, I spend days and nights tweaking and testing all the functions of the software, while watching tutorials and reading articles about it.

I have the feeling that Krita could become one of the most respected digital painting software out there. For two main reasons : it’s free, so everyone will be able to test it and see how nice it is, and it is very powerful.

I don’t make a lot of digital painting myself (I made comic-strip colorization but it is not really the same thing as painting), but as a veteran Photoshop user since v5 (actual version is v15), I am pretty impressed by a lot of things in Krita. Sure, it could be considered more than a Corel Painter (which I don’t really know, honestly) alternative than a Photoshop one, which is more dedicated to photos, but these functionalities could be beneficial for any kind of work. That’s why recently Paris 8 Art University decided to decline their Photoshop Licenses and replaced it by Krita. And that’s why I will often talk about Photoshop as a reference in this article.

But what are these famous features ?

Here is a quick review of the best things I found in this software. I used basic shapes in illustrations for clarity, you will have to imagine this in a real detailed project.

I used the last beta (2.9 beta 2) to have a deeper look on what is coming.

Cool list! I’m the Krita maintainer, and blur-on-brush was new even to me 🙂

Boudewijn Rempt, Krita’s project maintainer

Multiple Mask Per Layer

Do you ever feel limited by the one pixel mask solution offered by Photoshop ? And by the way Photoshop let you save selections (with alpha layers, all at the same place) ? Sure you can put your layer into a group and add mask to this group but… not very optimized, is it ?

Krita allows you to have several selection masks and opacity masks per layer. At last !

Multiple Masks
Multiple masks per Layer is very useful if we want to apply filter locally.

Layer Inherit Alpha

Layers are able to be visible only on the sum of all the other layers below them (in the same group). It is just like advanced clipping mask !

inherit alpha
The Inherit Alpha function in action.

Color Wheel Format

It is very nice to have a color wheel in any graphics software, to allow faster color selection. In Photoshop, we had to wait until the last CC 2014 to have it natively.

In Krita, you do have one, and if you don’t like it, you will be able to choose other different color wheel format. Nice !

Color Wheels
Wheel, Square, Luminance based… You have the choice !

Color History

So you paint red, you paint green, then paint yellow, and you want to paint red again, but wait…. What was the red value ? Impossible to use the eyedropper, you used 20% opacity brushes… If only you had a color history…

Wait ! There is one in Krita !

Color History
Color history is a great feature.

Favorite Tools and Color Wheel with Right Click

Don’t waste your time in the menus ! Your favorite tools are accessible via a simple right click on the canvas ! This is a great way to stay focus on the drawing.

Right Click
Very convenient, especially if you are drawing in “canvas only” mode, which hide the toobars, panels and menus.

Transform Mask, Filter Mask

In Krita, transformations and filters are rendered in a non-destructive way. This means that you can add transformations and filters to your layers… and adjust them or delete them at any time, and going back to your source layer (just like smart objects in Photoshop). Perfect with clone layer (demo below).

Clone Layer

This is probably one of my favorite feature. You can create an instance of a layer, that will be updated in real time if the source layer is modified. More, you can add filters, masks and transformations to this copy. This is perfect for integrating objects in perspective, and still keep the possibility to modify it in a flat view !

Here is a nice demo by dimula73 :

Mirror mode and Multibrush Tool

I have spent hours just playing with these two features. Imagine that when you draw somewhere in the screen, your path is reproduced in real time at other places in the picture !

With symmetry activated, anyone is able to draw simple but credible faces, or object.

With the Multibrush tool, it is the power of complex geometrical pattern that become accessible to everyone !

Symetry Multibrush
Drawing faces (front view), object or roses become more easy.

Mouse Movement Smoothing

Drawing with the mouse is shaky. Drawing with a pen tablet could be shaky too,if you are not used to it. And Krita’s developer knows it: it is why you have a way to stabilize your mouse movement while drawing. Fantastic !

mouse smoothing
Very handy if your drawing is a bit shaky.

Drawing Assistants

Drawing in perspective is not easy in real life with rulers, and even more complicated with digital tools.

Until Krita’s drawing assistants came to play.

You will be able to set vanishing point, parallel points and other kind of assistants in order to set the perspective of your picture. More, your brush can be automatically snapped to this guide in order to help you draw your object in perspective. An incredible feature to explore.

Here is an complete video on this by Wolthera van Hövell tot Westerflier :

Brush Filter

All your brushes are loaded at the same time, no need to change brush sets. Fortunately, there is ways to find our brushes more easily.

To allow you to find brushes more quickly in the list, you have a filter just below the brush panel. Just type the first letter of what you are looking for and it will appear !

You can even set tag (labels) to your brush in order to have other way to filter them !

brush FIlter
A very convenient way to find your brushes !

Brush Editor

This is probably what it is the most powerful in Krita, so I will just overlook this feature that could have a whole article on it.

The brush editor is very powerful, you can adjust a lot of settings and have dynamic modifications for every parameters according to a whole set of adjustable variables, such as pressure, time, distance, speed and so on… Without a doubt, it is the most flexible brush editor I am aware of.

Nice thing : every brush can be turn into a burn/dodge brush, or into a transformation tool.

Brush Editor
A demo of what you will find in the Brush Editor.

Special Brushes

As you can see, some brushes in Krita have very unique behavior, such as the grid brush, which is based on a grid that will never change, no matter where you click in the canvas, if you keep the same brush size. It can be perfect for pixel artists !

Particle brushes and Sketch brushes are especially powerful too !

All the other brushes have some nice features too, but it would be a bit too long to list theme here.

You can see some of these on the demo above.

Lock Parameters

You can lock parameters that will not change from a brush to one another. Perfect with size and opacity, it will allow you to change brushes shape without changing their global properties !

You can lock parameters from brush to brush in the brush editor.
You can lock parameters from brush to brush in the brush editor.

Blur on Brush

The diffusion property of a brush is set via a blur on the original brush shape. This means that you can blur any brushes that you have. No more brushes stuck at 0% of diffusion !

Brush blur
It is nice to be able to manage the blur of any kind of pixel brushes.

Auto-Brush Orientation from Movement?

You can set you brush so that will be able to be auto-oriented with your mouse movement. A really nice thing for textured brushes !

Auto oriented brush
The auto oriented brushes are very nice with textures.

Mirror View and Wrap

You can preview your document in different ways. The mirror view would be nice for drawer, and the wrap (tile) view will be perfect for people who are making textures which need to be repeatable.

Real-Time Multiple View per Document

You can preview your document in multiple instance of Krita. For example, one close up on your screen 1, and the whole document and the screen 2, to keep an overall view on it. But what is even more cool with that is that this duplicated view is very well optimized. There is no “refresh time”, it is totally instant !

Multiple Views
Multiple views will allow you to see your picture at various zoom level at the same time.

Cage Tool (EDIT: 05/02/2015)

A really impressive warp tool, that preserves quality of your original picture.

Here a impressive demo on the Krita’s youtube channel.

Blending Modes (EDIT: 05/02/2012)

Blending modes are important: they define how the color are mixed together.

There is so much blending modes in Krita that I can’t take a screenshot of the list: it doesn’t fit my screen. You can imagine all the possibilities!

In practice, we just use few of them, that’s why you can set blending modes you like as favorite, to have a quicker access to these. Handy !

Color Smudge Brushes (EDIT: 05/02/2015)

There is other behaviors to mix colors together when using brush than just applying blending modes, in order to have more realistic (based on actual painting material) render.

That’s where Color Smudge Brushes, and their Smearing and Dulling capabilities came into play.

You will find great explanation of these brushes on Krita’s wiki documentation : Tutorial: Color Smudge Brushes!

Draw beyond Canvas (EDIT: 05/02/2015)

Imagine you are drawing something near the canvas border and suddenly you want a larger canvas. Usually… that’s too late. You should have think about this earlier, you should have anticipate.

Not with Krita.

Your layer are automatically extended if you draw beyond the canvas. Nothing is lost ! 😀 You can draw beyond the canvas if you want !

Conclusion

As you can see, Krita as a lot of good ideas in it’s core, and some of them have no equivalent on the market.

So yes, perhaps Krita is not as stable, as visually appealing and as optimized (in performance and OS compatibility) than it’s main concurrents. And sure, the leaders of the market have some incredibly powerful features, that Krita cannot reproduce at all (think of Photoshop 3D for example, or mask adjustment tool, and content aware replacement…). And yes, it is hard to switch when we are really used to a particular workflow.

But some of the tools of the future for digital painters are already in it… and free for everyone !

I can’t wait to see what will come in the next releases !

Thanks a lot to the KDE team for its awesome product, and to everyone that will make a donation or talk about it, in order to contribute to its promising development !

Good painting !

Contribute to Krita!
Update (06/05/2015):
Krita has just announced a new Kickstarter campaign: “Krita: free paint app – let’s make it faster than Photoshop!“.
The goal is to provide enough money to allow developpers work at full time new features (such as Animation), and performance optimization.

If you want to contribute to Krita’s developpement, and make it more awesome than it is already, please make donation: you will not regret it !

Credits

  • Boudewijn Rempt

    Cool list! I’m the Krita maintainer, and blur-on-brush was new even to me 🙂

  • I’m so honored by your comment 🙂
    It was a real pleasure to write this article, every time I added an item in the list, I remembered an other feature that surprised me hours or days ago and that needed to be shown!
    There is so much good ideas in Krita. I hope your project will continue to grow up, and I have to admit that… I’m pretty optimistic about it 😛

  • Leonid Deburger

    you mentioned Corel Draw(vector editor) instead of Corel Painter(painting tool)

  • Oh my bad! I must have been distracted, because I already used Corel Draw for projects ^^ Thanks for the report, it is corrected!
    I hope you like the rest of the article, anyway 🙂

  • Leonid Deburger

    yep, greate article! just shared on G+
    I’m watching krita for few years, testing new versions, pretty cool and promising.
    http://youtu.be/bGM6y0pN1Lg

  • Thank you very much 😛
    The 2.9 will came out in two weeks, and there is so much optimizations and bug fixes! We can predict that Krita will gain in popularity a lot at this time 🙂

  • Dmitry Kazakov

    Hi! I am a developer of Krita and the maintainer of Russian Krita community. Is it ok if we translate your article into Russian and publish it in our community? With the link to your original post of course 🙂

  • I’m happy you take the time to ask 🙂
    As long as there is a link to this page, and my name, it’s ok! I would not be able to maintain a russian version, and would not be able to answer russian comments, so yes, you can publish it on your website. You will tell me few days after publishing if russian community liked it!
    Good luck for the translator!
    and good luck with Krita’s developpement! 🙂

  • Dmitry Kazakov

    Thank you! I will let you know when the translation is published. If you decide to update your text and want us to sync these changes you can let me know by sending mail to dimula73@gmail.com 🙂

  • Can’t wait to see my article in Russian 😀 See you!

  • First of all, compliments for your article. 🙂 It’s very nicely written and lists a lot of impressive stuff in Krita. After many years of using and mastering GIMP, I think it’s time to learn something new, and your article gives a lot of reasons to do so. 😀

    Just one thing though:

    » not as stable, as visually appealing and as optimized (in performance and OS compatibility)

    Regarding the OS compatibility, well… it runs on *the* serious OS (GNU/Linux) so it’s no less than perfect in this regard. Everything else is not needed. 😉

  • Many thanks, Lazza, I’m very glad you liked it. If you came from Gimp, you will definitely like it, especially if you are into digital painting!
    For OS compatibility, I sadly didnt try on GNU/Linux. But maybe I could have tell this in an other way: Krita runs on all platforms. And this is awesome 😛

  • I am new in Krita user. It will help me more.

    Photoshop Clipping Path Service

  • I’m very glad to hear it 🙂
    If you want to have more detailed infos certain features, have a look at the user wiki and manual at : https://krita.org/learn/documentation/

    Cheers !

  • Arnvid Aakre

    As an professional artist I left most of the canvas work years ago, I ended up with Corel Painter some years ago. Two days ago I came over an article that mentioned Krita – and I have totally left my Corel Painter. Perfect? – well who is? Good enough? Well for me it’s pretty close to perfect, or more precise – it does what I need, as I’m a bit like some said in the punk period – three cords is enough (-:
    But thanks a lot for this article, after using yesterday much in reading KDE-manuals for Krita, but in your article ExtremRaym, I get a presentation instantly. Ok, I will most likely not use most of the options and features – but just knowing it’s there is great.
    Let me add a last part. ‘Krita’ in norwegian mean that you get something today, and pay for it later. Well I already made a small contribution to Krita – and will follow up later, as this tool is just blowing my digital pen away (-:

    Thanks again for your great presentation of Krita – I will use it when I present it for others!

  • Thank you very much for your positive feedbacks, it is good to know that months after its publication, this article is still relevant and useful to its readers !
    And thank you for your insights about Corel Painter, I don’t know it well so I was curious to know if these features could impress Corel users.
    The next big things for Krita are animations, and peformance / stability optimization, raccording to their Kickstarter campaign. These are very promising !
    I didn’t know about the norwegian translation. That’s nice 🙂

  • lensman1122

    Another Krita convert here. Have been using it for a few weeks now and love it. Just a note regarding your final few thoughts; I personally DON’T want Krita to evolve into another Photoshop alternative. We already have Gimp for that spot. I want to PAINT with the programme and if tools are added to make that easier without making it too cumbersome then fine, but if it becomes too complex with numerous “features” that never get used then it may head down the path of ruin like so many other programmes.

  • Nice that you like it !
    Don’t worry, it will not happen. Next Krita updates are all about Painting and Animation, contrary to Photoshop, which are more about Photography. 🙂
    I like the fact that Kritaks dev thinks about interoperability between the two softwares. So a software doesn’t aims to replace the other, but they all can be part of a an artist toolbox.
    Thanks for your insight !

  • Liz de Souza

    Great article! I’m a Krita user for 2 years now with no regrets. Try it with LinuxMint or Kubuntu — much better. Anyway I’d like to ask your permission to translate and share your article in Portuguese and English at my Art Pages (I’ll share first in English), and also have it as a base for my Krita Training Videos in Portuguese. Thanks a lot!
    Ps: do you have Facebook or Tumblr? Let me know

  • Hi Liz ! Thanks for your enthusiasm 🙂 Yes, I didn’t test it on Linux but I’m pretty sure it is far more stable and efficient on this platform. that said, The last v3 beta is quite performance optimized even on windows. Not very stable for the moment, but I have hope 🙂
    As I don’t plan to host a Portuguese version of my website (for only one article, it would be quite overkill), you are free to translate it to Portuguese for your website as long
    – You credit me X-Raym with a link to my homepage and with the title+link of this article on top of the article
    – You tell the date of my last update of this article from wich the translation is based (07-12-2015) (I could update it in the future)
    – You don’t sell the translation
    – You came back to me with a link to its translation (so I can credit you for your work !)

    Yes, I have few tumblrs, go check my About page, you will see them. 😛

    Good luck for the translation, and thanks for asking ! 🙂

  • Himenoririn

    coucou je sais pas si quelqu’un pourra me repondre mais voilà je ne sais pas comment utiliser les motifs sur krita
    je vois qu’ils sont dans la barrre en haut à droite mais helàs quand je clic sur celui que je veux il se passe rien ?
    en tout cas merci beaucoup pour cette article vu que je débute sur krita il m’aide beaucoup <3 ~~

    • Basiquement, tu peux faire une sélection avec les différents outils de sélection et faire Edition -> Remplir avec le motif 😛

      • Himenoririn

        merci beaucoup =D

  • Himenoririn

    hey recoucou je suis vraiment désolée mais je sais ou demander T-TJ’ai deux autres petites questions et il n’y a pas beaucoup de tuto krita sur le net
    seriez vous comment repasser sur le lineart avec une autre couleur ?
    et comme “clipper” un calque sur un autre pour ne pas les bordure de celui ci ?
    encore désolée T-T

    • Pas la peine de t’excuser ^^
      Pour coloriser les tracés eux mêmes (sans les remplir), cela dépend comment il a été fait, si le tracé est peint directement depuis Krita sur son propre calque, alors une simple retouche de Teinte/saturation/luminosité fera l’affaire, mais si celui-ci est fusionné avec un arrière plan, comme dans le cadre d’un scan, là il y a plusieurs méthode possibles, cela peut passer par des sélections du tracé (avec la baguette magique) ou plus complexe avec des masques basés sur la luminosité, appliqué à un calque d’effet type Teinte/Saturation/Luminosité… Faut voir, selon le contexte.
      Pour le clipping (masque d’écrêtage sur photoshop), l’équivalent sous Krita s’appelle Hériter Alpha. La logique est un peu différente mais le résultat est le même. https://docs.krita.org/Clipping_Masks_and_Alpha_Inheritance
      De manière générale pour les questions sur Krita, si tu trouves pas dans la doc ou sur les autrs tutos en ligne, tu as les forums, ou les réseaux sociaux, la communauté est très active. 😛

      • Himenoririn

        merci infiniment =3