10 Best Free Online Drawing Software – 2023 – painting and sketching tools for your research

In an era where data and scientific research are more intertwined than ever, visual representation has become a cornerstone of effective communication. Diagrams, schematics, and other types of scientific illustrations play a pivotal role in conveying complex ideas in an easily digestible format. 

We’ve sifted through the maze of online drawing tools to bring you a curated list of the 10 Best Free Online Drawing Software for Researchers in 2023.

Each tool on this list offers a unique set of features designed to cater to the specific needs of the scientific community. From creating intricate molecular structures to crafting flowcharts for data analysis, these platforms provide a range of functionalities that make the daunting task of scientific illustration not only manageable but enjoyable.

Whether you want a freehand drawing or doodles that are turned into perfect icons we have it all for you here. 

1. Biorender – best app

BioRender is a revolutionary tool that helps scientists to create professional scientific figures in a matter of minutes. It provides an expansive library of scientifically accurate, high-resolution images designed specifically for researchers. It enables users to customize a variety of items, such as membranes, cell layers, and DNA structures, making it a handy asset for illustrating complex scientific concepts.

Here is the list of features that you’ll love:

  • More than 50,000 icons designed by certified science illustrators.
  • Over 5,000 premade templates for a quick start.
  • All content is peer-reviewed for scientific accuracy.
  • Customizable designs that are complementary for scientific imagery.
  • Drawing tools specifically built to help scientists save time.
  • Integration with PDB to visualize and customize 3D protein structures.
  • Option to auto-align to grids or other objects for a clean and professional layout.
  • Easy collaboration tools, including sharing and co-editing of figures in real-time.
  • Creation of a full-sized research poster with the Poster Builder.
  • High-resolution exports available in multiple file formats (JPEG, PNG, and PDF).
  • Automatic scaling features to easily adapt figures for any purpose.
  • One-click publication licenses for easy submission to any journal.

BioRender is thus, a comprehensive and user-friendly tool that lets researchers focus more on their science and less on figuring out ways to represent their science.

2. Edrawsoft – best professional flowcharts

Edrawsoft, positioned as one of the best free online drawing software tools of 2023, is an optimal choice for researchers thanks to its broad-ranging functionalities. It offers a platform for creating professional-looking diagrams such as network diagrams, flowcharts, UML diagrams, fashion designs, floor plans, workflows, science illustrations, charts, and graphs, with ease. Making it suitable for both scientific and artistic projects.

Here are some features that may appeal to the scientific community:

  • Scientific Illustration Templates: Edrawsoft includes diagram templates that cater to different branches of science- physics, chemistry, and mathematics. These presets help users create accurate and communicative images effortlessly.
  • Physics: The platform covers multiple physics-related visual notations, like circuit diagrams, mechanics physics, and lenses.
  • Chemistry: Offers a variety of tools to create illustrations from molecular diagrams to chemistry tests, laboratory equipment, and organic compounds.
  • Mathematics: Users will find tools for rendering illustrations in 3-D Geometry, Analytical Geometry, and more.
  • Cross-platform Compatibility: Edrawsoft supports all major operating systems including Windows, MAC, and Linux OS.

Edrawsoft empowers researchers to create precise diagrams and schematics, making it an exceptional tool for scientific research and presentations.

3. Gimp – free photo and drawing software

GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a top-tier software for creating and editing scientific diagrams and schematics. As a free and open-source drawing tool, it caters extensively to researchers across various domains, providing a robust platform to design, refine, and publish scientific illustrations.

Notably, GIMP allows you to create intricate diagrams from scratch or modify imported images with a diverse array of editing tools. Whether you’re creating anatomical sketches, molecular structures, or technical schematics, GIMP’s versatile functionalities grant you complete creative control.

The following are GIMP’s key features that would be of interest to researchers:

  • Extensive Customization: GIMP offers a highly customizable interface that adapts to your drawing and editing needs.
  • Quality Renders: With a full suite of painting tools including brushes, pencils, and clone tools, you can create high-quality renders no matter how complex.
  • Multi-Layer Editing: GIMP’s layers feature allows researchers to construct complex scientific diagrams, giving the ability to work on isolated parts of a project without disturbing others.
  • Advanced Filters: It boasts plenty of advanced filters and effects, enabling researchers to improve the visual appeal and clarity of their diagrams.
  • Image Formats: GIMP supports a multitude of image formats, aiding in compatibility across different platforms for data publishing.
  • Open Source: That it’s free and open-source ensures that it stays updated with user-driven improvements, furthering its utility for scientific illustration.

Conclusively, for researchers seeking a competent and comprehensive solution for their drawing needs, GIMP stands out for its blend of advanced features and user-friendly design.

4. Inkscape – best free vector graphic sketching tool

Inkscape is a powerful, open-source drawing tool that can create intricate scientific diagrams and schematics. It is particularly effective for technical users, such as researchers, who need to draw detailed, precise figures for their work. With the ability to create and manipulate vector graphics, Inkscape enables users to shape and details diagrams using mathematical expressions, offering a perfect blend of artistry and precision. These qualities make Inkscape a top choice for the creation of scientific diagrams in research papers and presentations.

Key features of Inkscape that would be of interest to a researcher include:

  • Vector Image Manipulation: Since it is a vector graphics tool, Inkscape allows for detailed and precise designing, perfect for intricate scientific diagrams.
  • Advanced Manipulation Tools: From complex path operations to node editing, these features provide users with detailed control over their work.
  • Broad File Format Compatibility: It supports various formats, allowing users to save their design in a format compatible with other graphics and publications tools.
  • Open Source: Being a free tool, it is accessible to all researchers, promoting equitable access to high-quality resources.
  • Extensive Documentation and Community Support: The tool’s large user base ensures robust community support. The plentiful online resources make for easy troubleshooting and learning.

In conclusion, Inkscape, with its extensive toolset and community support, makes the intricate task of creating scientific diagrams a smoother process, suitable for researchers across various fields.

5. Bioicons – free icons

Bioicons is a unique online drawing software that caters specifically to individuals and researchers operating in the scientific ecosystem. The software hosts an extensive library of over 2300 free-to-use scientific icons. These icons cover wide-ranging scientific fields making the software ideal for creating scientific diagrams and schematics.

Researchers can utilize Bioicons in numerous ways, especially in representing and visualizing complex scientific concepts, processes, and structures. It provides a highly intuitive interface which makes the creation and customization of diagrams a seamless experience. Moreover, the software operates in sync with the latest tools like Inkscape and Draw.io, enhancing overall user experience and design efficiency.

Key features of Bioicons that would interest a researcher include:

  • An extensive library of over 2300 scientific icons
  • Icons categorized into areas such as microbiology, machine learning, oncology, genetics, and more
  • Availability of advanced tools and design elements for customization
  • Every icon can be downloaded as an SVG for further manipulation
  • Compatibility with Design software (Inkscape, Draw.io)
  • Icons under Creative Commons license, ensuring free use and distribution
  • Dark mode feature for enhanced viewing

In a nutshell, Bioicons serves as an essential tool for researchers and scientists dedicated to producing visually-engaging and scientifically-accurate models and designs.

6. Draw.io – unleash your creativity

Draw.io is an exceptional tool for those seeking a free, user-friendly online software ideal for creating scientific diagrams and schematics. It enables researchers to produce professional-grade diagrams with ease, from flowcharts and process diagrams to simple illustrations and complicated schemas.

This software is designed, keeping the user’s convenience in mind. It offers an expansive library of templates that can be utilized as a starting point to reduce unnecessary work. Draw.io also provides the ability to import your projects meaning you can use it in conjunction with other software for enhanced seamless productivity.

Key features of Draw.io that may intrigue researchers are:

  • User-friendly interface: The clean and intuitive design makes it easy to use even for novice users.
  • Import and export options: It allows you to import from various formats and export your diagrams in a variety of formats such as PNG, JPEG, SVG, or XML.
  • Library of shapes: A rich collection of shapes and connectors are available to construct your diagram.
  • Collaboration: It allows multiple users to collaborate on the same project, immensely useful for team efforts.
  • Cloud-based: The automatic saving feature ensures your work is never lost, storing your projects in popular cloud platforms like Google Drive and OneDrive.
  • Cross-platform availability: This software is accessible from any web browser, offering consistent performance across all platforms.

With Draw.io, researchers can focus on representing complex data and ideas in clear, comprehensible graphical formats, helping them efficiently share and present their groundbreaking work.

7. Sketchpad

Sketchpad is a versatile online drawing platform that offers an intuitive interface for creating detailed scientific diagrams and schematics. A boon for researchers, it facilitates an easy transforming of data or concepts into visual narratives.

The platform supports drawing geometric shapes, lines, and free-form sketches, making it an ideal choice for diverse scientific fields. Whether you need to design a clean-cut physics diagram, or an intricate molecular structure in biology, Sketchpad simplifies these tasks, freeing up valuable research time. Its utility isn’t limited to scientific diagrams, it is equally effective for infographics and flowcharts, presenting research data and processes in an easily digestible and visually appealing manner.

Key features of Sketchpad that would interest a researcher:

  • Easy-to-use interface with a minimal learning curve.
  • Versatile drawing tools accommodating both geometric and free-form sketching.
  • Layering feature allows complex, multi-level diagram creation.
  • Brushes of varying sharpness and thickness offer a high level of precision.
  • Incorporation of text within the drawing for labeling and annotations.
  • The ability to import images to support and enhance work.
  • Color palette with plenty of options for distinguishing different diagram components.
  • Saves artworks in popular formats like JPEG, SVG and PNG for easy sharing.
  • Works in any modern web browser, eliminating the need for software downloads and installations.

Sketchpad proves a handy tool, destined to become an indispensable part of a researcher’s visualization toolkit.

8. AutoDraw – best browser ai tool

AutoDraw is an ideal tool for generating simple and clean scientific diagrams. Developed by Google Creative Lab, the software differentiates itself by using artificial intelligence to guess and perfect your drawings, making it incredibly user-friendly, even for those less artistically inclined.

Researchers dealing with data visualization or requiring illustrative figures will find AutoDraw immensely beneficial. It’s simple to use – you start drawing a basic shape or a line and the AI predicts what you’re trying to create, offering you a range of icons to match your drawing. Users can of course add text and colors, making it easy to create comprehensible scientific diagrams.

Features researchers would find appealing include:

  • Ability to draw on any device and platform. The software is browser-based and doesn’t require installation.
  • AI-integrated drawing tool which enhances your drawing based on prediction.
  • A palette for coloring that allows detailed customization of diagrams.
  • Text inclusion, allowing for integrative diagrams complete with explanations.
  • Wide-array of suggested icons to match your intended image.
  • Completely free to use with no hidden charges.

Whether you’re crafting schematics, flow charts, or complex scientific diagrams, AutoDraw’s user friendly tools combined with Google’s AI prowess make it a top choice for free online drawing software in 2023.

9. TikZ

TikZ is an exceptional software package within the LaTeX typesetting system designed specifically for creating graphics and diagrams. Its full integration with LaTeX allows what you see is what you mean (WYSIWYM) interaction, which is highly beneficial for technical or scientific diagrams. It’s no surprise why it has made its place in the top 10 free drawing software of 2023.

Here are some notable features that make TikZ an incredibly interesting option for researchers:

  • Comprehensive Graphics: TikZ provides the ability to make detailed graphics composed of lines, curves, and points, among other elements.
  • LaTeX Integration: TikZ operates seamlessly within LaTeX documents. Meaning, researchers can include their diagrams directly in their papers without conversion or additional software.
  • Customizable: It provides complete control and customization options for detailed scientific diagrams.
  • Code-based Drawing: With TikZ, drawing is done with programming constructs, letting you automate repetitive tasks, create custom shapes, and ensure consistent results.
  • Documentation: TikZ has extensive documentation and a large online community, where users can find many tutorials and examples. It’s a crucial feature, especially for beginners or those facing issues.

TikZ, with its control and accuracy, is an ideal choice for researchers looking for a scientific diagram and schematic drawing tool. Its compatibility with LaTeX makes it even more desirable within the academic community.

10. Chemdraw

ChemDraw, the premier drawing software within scientific research domains, is a versatile platform that helps researchers to craft detailed and precise chemical structures and diagrams. This online software is an indispensable tool for chemical, biological, and medicinal researchers who need to present their data visually and accurately.

Some of the notable features making ChemDraw a go-to tool for researchers include:

  • Extensive Chemical Structure Drawing: Researchers can generate 2D and 3D structures seamlessly, aiding in molecular study.
  • Biological Artwork: ChemDraw offers a wide range of bio-templates for creating complex bio-chemical sequences and pathways.
  • Predictive Tools: The software offers an advanced predictive tool that foresees the researcher’s intent and hastens the drawing process.
  • Data Analysis: It provides comprehensive analysis tools that help in understanding pattern, trends, and correlations in the data.
  • Safety by Design: It provides a collection of hazard and safety information for easy risk evaluation.
  • High-Quality Graphic Export: Users can export their completed diagrams in a variety of file formats such as .eps, .svg, .pdf, and more for high-quality outputs and publications.

With these features, ChemDraw undoubtedly earns a spot among the best free online drawing software for researchers, enhancing productivity, accuracy, and workflow in one’s research process.

Wrapping up

e trust that these platforms will serve as invaluable resources for those in need of science diagram creators, free scientific figure drawing applications, and specialized scientific drawing software.

These solutions are geared towards crafting various types of scientific diagrams, including experimental setups and vector diagrams.

If you’re specifically looking for alternatives to BioRender for drawing biological figures, some of these free figure maker tools for scientific and biological diagramming should suffice.

These online utilities are designed to assist you in generating online figures, creating graphs for research papers, constructing scientific flowcharts, and producing diagrams through no-cost figure drawing software.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.