iPadFeature

20 best iPad art apps for painting and sketching

Make stunning art on the iPad with these top tools! These powerful painting and drawing apps can help you start creating iPad art today!

When the iPad first launched it was pegged squarely as a media consumption device. To create professional art and design, you'd still need a fully-fledged laptop or desktop system running a full-fat operating system like Mac OS or Windows. Making art on the iPad was a crazy idea. Right?

Wrong. The best iPad apps for creating digital art selected for this list prove that Apple's tablet has moved beyond just being for media consumption and is fast becoming ripe for content creation. If you're an illustrator, artist or graphic designer, you can now work effectively on the move - sketching, painting, prototyping, and annotating photos. Invest in a good quality stylus and try one of these amazing apps for creating art on the iPad ...

01. Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui sketches joins the list of very capable drawing and painting iPad apps on offer

Tayasui Sketches is one of the most delightfully simple drawing and painting iPad apps that we've found. It features eight brushes along the left-hand side, ranging from pencil and charcoal to felt pen and watercolour brush, with a further two available in the pro version.

Each one exhibits its respective characteristics brilliantly, meaning it's simple to pick a brush and start sketching. Although limited in terms of editing options, they're a delight to use, and in the pro version you're at least able to increase the size and shape as well as edit the blend mode.

02. ASKetch

ASKetch is a simple black & white procedural sketching program, created by Andrew Kern. Bringing the experience of charcoal drawing to your iPad, this app is brilliant for both beginners and advanced artists.

An easy-to-use tool, with ASKetch you can create everything from figure drawings and cartoons to abstract masterpieces.

03. Inspire Pro

Choose from 60 high-quality brushes with Inspire Pro

Paint, draw and sketch on your iPad with Inspire Pro. Suitable for artists of all skill levels, this app includes 60 high-quality brushes to choose from, divided into 6 sets: oil paint, airbrushes, basic shapes, graphite pencils, wax crayons and markers. And these can all be used as a wet or dry brush or eraser.

Developed by KiwiPixel, the team say its creation delivers 'an amazing painting, drawing and sketching experience to your iPad.
While the strokes of a wet oil paint brush look beautiful on their own, the breathtaking blending effects of a dry brush will absolutely stun you'.

04. Art Set

This cool app is like having a virtual art set inside your iPad

This cool app is like having a virtual art set inside your iPad. Having made it to number one paid iPad app in over 30 countries since it's release, Art Set has all the tools an artist could possibly want, including chalks, charcoal, oil pastels, wax crayons, graphite pencils, coloured pencils and marker pens.

The multitouch pinch and zoom funtionality allows you to add fine detail with ease. You can also choose from different paper colours and textures, or import your own photos.

05. Inkist

This digital art app for the iPad is currently free to download

Inkist benefits from a simple but stylish interface that's been designed to be highly responsive and artist-friendly. The app is "free for a limited time" so hurry!

In the app, which is based on its Mac cousin, you build up layers of colour and flatten them down on the background rather than relying on multiple layers. Although it might not be to everyone's taste, for many traditional artists, this will be real benefit.

Support for pressure-sensitive styluses is available natively, and Inkist has a range of simple, customisable brushes. Support for pressure-sensitive styluses is available natively (accessible through the ever- present tool palette) so you do have some more flexibility with your strokes, although with a standard stylus we found simple, quick taps were not always tremendously effective.

06. Layers

Layers has all the features you need to help you on your way to making a digital masterpiece

The developers behind Layers for iPad says it 'packs in everything you need to be creative on the go. An art studio in your pocket'. And there's no doubt it features lots of great tools to help you on your way to creating a masterpiece.

As the name suggests, layers comes, as standard, with the option to add up to five layers to your drawing. In addition to a paint brush and eraser, Layers also includes a smudge tool with adjustable texture, size, and pressure. The standard version completes complete with five brush options, with an upgrade to the pro version offering 15 brush varieties.

The app also incorporates an easy-to use colour picker and eyedropper, giving you access to a full range of colors.

07. Bamboo Paper

From Wacom, the makers of the Bamboo Stylus, comes this great app that allows you sketch to your heart's content and then organise your work into notebooks.

Bamboo Paper can also import photos, offers different types of paper and notebook colors. It also has a range of pen types for fine writing, highlighting and more.

With an uncluttered and simple to navigate UI, Bamboo Paper is great little sketching tool, perfect for concept work. 

08. Adobe Ideas

Express yourself in vector format wherever you go with Adobe Ideas

Adobe Ideas is a digital sketchbook that enables you to express yourself in vector format wherever you go. The app has a simple UI, designed for quickly sketching out ideas and concepts.

It offers a range of features, including simple vector-based drawing tools with separate drawing and photo layers as well as being able to sync to Adobe's Creative Cloud. With this feature, you can also download Adobe Illustrator compatible files and work with them.

The latest update to the app allows you to choose from three new drawing tools, quickly fill entire sections of a design with color, duplicate or merge layers, and flip layers horizontally or vertically. An enhanced eyedropper tool also lets you easily compare and match colors in different parts of your artwork.

09. Draft

Draft can record and share all your early sketches instantly

Draft is not a tool for fine art. Featuring just one pen weight (meant to simulate that of a Sharpie) and just black, red and white colours, was developed as a 'just draw and share the damn thing quickly' tool.

The team behind it, developed it after getting tired of their original sketch, scan and email process. With the development of Draft, they and the rest of the world can draw a simple sketch and share it with colleagues instantly.

A great tool for brainstorming new ideas and early project development.

10. SketchBook Pro

SketchBook Pro by Autodesk is one of the most popular iPad art apps with digital artists. A smaller screen version, SketchBook Mobile, is also available for the iPhone and iPod touch.

As you'd expect from Autodesk, SketchBook Pro has all the swagger of a pro-grade painting program, but with an experience designed for those looking to create art on the iPad. There's a wide range of digital pencils, pens, markers, and airbrushes to choose from, all accessed via a simple but intuitive UI that lets you pin toolbars to the screen for easy access.

It's flexible and fast too, enabling you to work with layers, transparency options, annotations, and advanced blend modes. With Dropbox integration plus the ability to import and export Photoshop-friendly files, it's an ideal iPad art app for working on the move.

With a good stylus, a good digital artist can create a variety of art on the iPad, from a quick sketch to a more involved and detailed digital painting.

11. SketchBook Ink

SketchBook Ink is a more recent release from the same team that brought you Sketchbook Pro. However, it's by no means a replacement for it; instead, it's a much simpler iPad art app, with a very minimalist interface.

Consquently, SketchBook Ink lacks some of Sketchbook Pro's important features. For example, preset brushes aren't editable apart from their size, and there are no layers (besides the option to add a photo as a background layer).

Sketchbook Ink's big plus is its very high output resolution. You can export images to iTunes at up to 101.5 megapixels (8727 pixels x 11636 pixels) or your Photo app at up to 4096 pixels x 3072 pixels. Although exported files are flat PNGs, not editable vector files, the images are still very high quality.

However, it just seems too limited for us right now - especially the lack of layers - although we've no doubt extra features will be added if it develops a fan base with those looking to create art on the iPad.

12. Paper by Fiftythree

If you're looking for something to make quick sketches with, with the minimum of fuss, then Paper by Fiftythree is well worth checking out.

Its uncluttered interface - no menu bars or buttons here - strips back the sketching experience to the bare essentials and turns your iPad into a selection of virtual journals, with pages to thumb through for easy viewing.

Designed exclusively for landscape mode, this iPad art app is no good for creating polished pieces, but to get down quick sketch concepts when creating art on the iPad it's definitely worth a look.

13. Procreate

Procreate incorporates an unobtrusive UI with easy access sliders, which enable you to quickly adjust the size of your brush/opacity as you work. It saves time and lets you concentrate on what you're painting rather than getting distracted by pop-up menus.

Like many of the other iPad art apps here, there's an easy-to-use colour picker (with customisable swatches), layer options, a fast and responsive zoom, good smudging/blending options and great undo functionality.

Twelve pre-set brushes include advanced 'paint loading' and 'wetness' settings for a more realistic look. Plus there's a built-in a brush editor for creating custom brushes, which enable you to define brush shape and grain. Procreate is a powerful app. In the right hands, it will let you create some truly stunning digital art on the iPad.

14. ArtRage

Like the PC and Mac versions, the ArtRage app for iPad art is overflowing with options. There's a variety of canvas presets and paper options, plus a wide array of brushes, pencils, crayons, rollers, and pastels.

In its quest for realistic art on the iPad, you can paint directly onto the screen or apply a glob of paint with one tool and smear it around with another. ArtRage also features a dedicated watercolour brush option, which can produce some striking effects.

Once you've familiarised yourself with the interface, it's easy to change brush sizes, bring up the colour picker, work with layers and blend/smudge different elements together.

Unfortunately, there's some noticeable lag when moving and scaling your artwork. This takes the shine off what is an incredibly flexible painting program for creating iPad art.

15. ArtStudio

While its interface isn't as intuitive as some of the other iPad art apps here, ArtStudio for iPad rewards patient exploration of its features. And it's jam-packed with them.

There are over 20 different brushes, various different canvas sizes and options that include layers, layer masks, filters and effects. ArtStudio also includes step-by-step drawing lessons/tutorials plus the handy ability to export your artwork to Photoshop for further fiddling.

16. Auryn Ink

Auryn Ink is a dedicated iPad art app for watercolour painting, and it has a limited set of options when compared to many of the meatier apps here.

That said, it has most of the basics covered for watery art on the iPad. You can pick different tip shapes for the brushes and specify different bristle effects. You can also adjust the texture of the canvas and the amount of water on your brush.

The end result of using this iPad art app is a realistic watercolour, with paint that fades as you paint with it, mimicking the effect of the paper soaking up the ink.

17. Brushes

Legendary artist David Hockney has been spotted using the Brushes app when creating art on the iPad. It's an oldie, but a goodie, designed specifically for Apple's tablet.

Using a basic toolbar at the bottom of the screen, you can bring up a colour wheel/picker, work with layers and switch between various brushes. Best of all, perhaps, Brushes is fast and responsive to the touch so it's easy to work quickly.

A useful feature of Brushes is the ability to record each brush stroke, enabling you to play back exactly how you created each piece of iPad art via the Brushes viewer.

18. Zen Brush

Designed to be used with a stylus with a brush extension such as Nomad Brush Stylus, Zen Brush by PSofthouse enables you to make brush strokes on your iPad that mimic the feel of traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes.

It's perfect for calligraphy then - but any artist who prefers brush painting should check it out too. Zen Brush is minimalistic when it comes to features, but what it does it does very well indeed.

19. Inspire Pro

At first glance, it's difficult to see what Inspire Pro offers that its rivals don't. But play around with it and you'll soon discover that this is one of the more intuitive iPad art apps available.

Before you know it, adjusting the paint load and customising brushes (by rotating the bristle pattern) becomes second nature.

What we like most is the dynamic colour picker. Simply press and hold a colour you've already used and Inspire Pro will switch the current colour to the new selection. It's UI design elements like this that make for a fluid and fast experience.

20. Sketch Club

Create cool digital art with Sketch Club's great toolset

Sketch Club has a great set of tools for creating beautiful digital art. The app has a unique set of flexible digital brushes (44 in total, but more can be made), pens, vector tools, old school pixel art, and fun procedural tools.

Sketch Club has an uncluttered user interface, with lots of settings to customize the app to your own unique preferences.

A particularly great feature of this app is the integrated online community. Here you can upload your sketches to let others rate and comment on your work, as well as enter daily challenges and fun weekly competitions.

Like this? Read these:

Got a favourite app for creating art on the iPad? How about recommending a good stylus for your fellow designers? Tell us below.

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