How to use apps to draw on a computer with Chrome

If you want to draw in the Chrome browser on your Windows, macOS, or Chrome desktop or laptop, these apps are worth a try.

Screenshot of a drawing of a browser drawing program (e.g., Chrome Canvas) with browser and Chrome icon drawn (image drawn with a finger on a touchscreen Chromebook)

Illustration: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

When people mention drawing tools, they typically mean things like pencils, pens, markers, chalk, or more recently, tablets and styluses. That's appropriate, since people have used those tools to draw for years.

But the Chrome browser also can serve as an effective drawing tool when used with a well-chosen web app. All of the apps below let you use a mouse or touchpad to draw in Chrome on a computer; if your system has a touchscreen, these apps accept marks made with a finger or stylus as well. These apps let you sketch a process, capture a concept, or illustrate your thinking — all within a desktop web browser.

SEE: Multicloud: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Google and several developers offer drawing apps that work in a browser. Google makes at least five drawing apps, although no single Google drawing app includes a full set of drawing tools. The other browser-based apps below are listed roughly in order of ease of use, power, and price. (The two apps at the bottom of the list are both full-featured vector graphic design apps.)

1. Google drawing apps

Google Drawings, Chrome Canvas, Jamboard, Google Keep, and Autodraw offer distinct drawing capabilities.

  • Google Drawings works best to create diagrams, process maps, and other shape or frame-style layouts.

  • Chrome Canvas supports freehand sketching in four styles (pencil, pen, marker, and chalk) and lets you draw on up to 10 different layers.

  • Google Keep not only lets you draw a note, but also recognizes handwritten words in your drawn notes when you search in Keep.

  • Jamboard, a collaborative app meant mostly for meetings, lets people draw in one or more rectangle-shaped frames.

  • The AutoDraw app's primary purpose is to find a professionally created image that corresponds to the lines you draw.

For more details about Google's drawing apps, read Comparing and Contrasting Google's Actual Drawing Apps by Tom Mullaney.

SEE: How to use four Jamboard features on the web (TechRepublic)

GIF cycles through screenshots of the five Google apps mentioned.

Google offers at least five apps that include drawing: Chrome Canvas, Google Drawings, Google Keep, Jamboard, and AutoDraw.

2. Limnu

Limnu is the most elegant and simple drawing app that works in a browser. It provides a limited set of colors, shapes, pens, and pen sizes, among other features. The app supports both private and collaborative boards, and also includes video-conferencing capabilities.

You can subscribe to the Limnu Pro Plan for $5 per month (or $50 per year) or the Limnu Team Plan for groups at $8 per person per month (or $80 per person per year). Get more details about Limnu pricing.

Screenshot of Limnu, with colors shown, and video conferencing panel open on right side of screen.

Limnu provides a simple and elegant drawing experience.

3. Sketchpad 

Sketchpad supports a variety of pen types, shapes, text, and clip art. With support for layers, the apps lets you hide, duplicate, or delete any layer, in addition to moving a layer forward or backward, or to the front or back. Even better, Sketchpad is free to use online, although you may purchase a desktop version of the app ($4.95), which lets you save files offline.

Screenshot of Sketchpad, with main Pen menu open and word Sketchpad.io hand-drawn on screen.

Sketchpad offers many pen types and tools. The app also supports layers.

4. Boxy SVG 

Boxy SVG (scalable vector graphics) delivers a powerful vector design app. As the name implies, vector graphics scale, so the size of any images you create may be scaled up or down with no loss of resolution. The app includes a long list of drawing, text, object, and shape creation and manipulation tools.

You may subscribe to use the app from Chrome on Windows or macOS ($9 per month) or, on a Chrome OS device with access to the Chrome Web Store, buy the app for a one-time fee of $9.99.

Screenshot of Boxy SVG, here show in the browser-based version with a demo image from the Boxy SVG site.

Boxy SVG provides a powerful vector design app, available either as a subscription (in Chrome on a computer) or Chrome Web Store purchase (on Chrome OS).

5. Gravit Designer

Now offered from Corel Corporation, Gravit Designer (free) and Gravit Designer PRO ($49 per year) both provide professional vector-editing features. The paid version improves access to fonts, expands import and export options, and adds many other image edit options. The upgrade also adds cloud storage, with access to project version history.

Screenshot of Gravit Design, with vector points in a hand-drawn word "Designer" active and shown as small circles, which may be moved.

There is a free version of Gravit Designer that anyone may use and a paid version that provides professional-level vector graphics design tools.

Your experience?

Android apps also may be an option. Many Chromebooks and Chrome OS devices support the installation of Android drawing apps, such as Autodesk SketchBook or Adobe Illustrator Draw. And while you won't be able to access those Android apps when you use Chrome on another platform, such as Windows or macOS, Autodesk and Adobe offer drawing apps for those platforms.

Which of Google's drawing apps do you use most often? Which web-based drawing app do you prefer that works in Chrome on your computer? Let me know either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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