19 best painting and drawing apps for iPad

A quick look at the best iPad apps for creating digital art proves that Apple's tablet has moved well beyond media consumption, and is a genuine creative accomplice. The introduction of the Apple Pencil with the iPad 9.7 and iPad Pro with iOS 11 in 2017 turned Apple's tablet at once into a powerful creative tool to rival a desktop or pro laptop. 

The iPad Pro 2018 running iOS 12 with second-generation Apple Pencil took things a stage further, meaning that digital creatives trying to figure out how to draw on the go need look no further than the Apple Store. 

And thanks to a great choice of creative apps for all versions of the iPad, illustrators, artists and graphic designers can work effectively on the move – sketching, painting, prototyping and annotating photos. Try one of these amazing drawing apps for iPad users.

Digital art of a robot on an iPad screen

Adjust the Settings to match your painting style and workflow

  • Download Inspire Pro US: $7.99
  • Download Inspire Pro UK: £7.99

Inspire Pro has one of the fastest and most realistic rendering engines on the App Store, delivering a fluid and natural painting, drawing and sketching experience to your iPad.

Sporting 150 brushes – including oil paint, airbrushes, spray paint, pencils, crayons, markers, chalk, charcoal, pastels and paint splatters – Inspire Pro has a wide variety of high-quality and customisable tools for you to choose from.

With Apple Pencil and iPad Pro, the size and opacity of brush strokes react instantly to applied pressure, tilt angle and orientation for unprecedented creative control on a mobile device. Give one of the brushes from the Graphite Pencils set a try with Apple Pencil and iPad Pro and you'll quickly forget that you're not using an actual pencil and paper.

Watch Inspire Pro in action in this video.

01. Procreate

Vector illustration of a monkey in a tree on an iPad screen

Procreate received a significant technological overhaul under the hood with iOS 12

  • Download Procreate US: $9.99
  • Download Procreate UK: £9.99

The act of painting in Procreate 4 is even more delightful than previous versions of the software, making it one of the best drawing apps for iPad users. The app 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.

Procreate has over 120 brushes available by default, with 12 pre-set brushes featuring 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 powerful, fast and intuitive, and enables you to create large, complex works of art on your iPad Pro.

Read more: Procreate 4 review

02. Adobe Illustrator Draw

Illustration of a girl playing the keyboard on multiple devices

Express yourself in vector format wherever you go

  • Download Adobe Illustrator Draw US: Free
  • Download Adobe Illustrator Draw UK: Free

Adobe Illustrator Draw is a digital sketchbook that enables you to express yourself in vector format wherever you go. A sister app to Illustrator CC, this drawing app for your iPad 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 the ability to sync to Adobe's Creative Cloud. With this feature, you can also download Adobe Illustrator-compatible files and work with them.

The app enables you to draw perfectly straight lines and geometric shapes, rename layers, and use shapes from Adobe Capture CC. An enhanced perspective grid also means you can map shapes to a perspective plane.

03. ArtRage

Digital illustration of a woman pressing iPad screen with tools emerging

ArtRage is an incredibly flexible painting program

Like the PC and Mac versions, the ArtRage drawing app for iPad art is overflowing with options (we gave ArtRage five stars in our review). 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.

04. MediBang Paint for iPad

Illustration of a young girl on an iPad screen

MediBang is jam-packed full of handy drawing tools

  • Download MediBang US: Free
  • Download MediBang UK: Free

If you're new to digital art and so after a brilliant-but-basic drawing app for your iPad, look no further than MediBang Paint. An easy-to-use program, MediBang has similar features to Photoshop, including layers, with the ability to add styles and a handy brush editor. In fact, MediBang is full of brilliant painting and drawing tools, so much so it's hard to believe it's free. 

Compatible with the fourth-generation iPad and above, or iPad Mini 2 and above, if you want to create professional-looking artwork but are on a budget, this is the iPad app for you.

05. Zen Brush 2

  • Download Zen Brush 2 US: $2.99
  • Download Zen Brush 2 UK: £2.99

The sequel to the popular Zen Brush takes what its predecessor does best – emulating the feel of painting with traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes – and builds upon it, with a new drawing engine that's smoother and more fluent than before, making it even easier to lose yourself in the process of creating beautiful Zen art.

As well as the new drawing engine, Zen Brush 2 has a gallery feature that enables you to save your work in progress, as well as an ink dispersion effect to give your drawings an added feeling of depth. 

There's support for pressure-sensitive styluses (not to mention Apple Pencil if you have an iPad Pro) and best of all you're no longer restricted to black ink – now you can use red ink too.

06. Affinity Photo for iPad

Photo of a little girl playing on an iPad screen

Affinity Photo for iPad won the 2017 Apple App of the Year award

  • Download Affinity Photo US: $19.99
  • Download Affinity Photo UK: £19.99

Built from the same back end as its award-winning desktop version, Affinity Photo for iPad is fully optimised for iOS 11. Need to work with a Photoshop file? No problem! Affinity Photo supports importing, editing, and exporting of PSD files. It also supports PNG, JPG, TIFF, EPS, PDG, and SVG.

If professional brushes are your thing, Affinity Photo is a drawing app for iPad complete with more than 120 digital brushes including effects, dry media, inks, markers, and more. You can also create your own brushes and switch on dynamics, giving you complete control over pressure, angle, tilt and velocity.

07. Pixelmator Pro

Photo of a young black woman with her hands on her head

Pixelmator's the next best thing to a full Photoshop for iPad

  • Download Pixelmator US: $4.99
  • Download Pixelmator UK: £4.99

If you need a full-fat iPad alternative to Photoshop, Pixelmator is about as good as it gets. Whether you simply want to enhance or touch up some photography, or go the whole hog and paint detailed, layered images from scratch, it has you covered with a heavyweight set of tools, brushes and effects.

It'll even open layered Photoshop images, so you can start work on your desktop and then carry on with it while you're on the move. And if you have an iPad Pro you'll find full Apple Pencil compatibility, featuring palm rejection, pressure, tilt, and acceleration sensitivity.

08. Assembly

Images of Assembly software in action on a mobile device

Baffled by Béziers? Assembly makes it easy to create vector art
  • Download Assembly US: Free
  • Download Assembly UK: Free

Assembly is a great way to create detailed vector graphics, icons, logos, scenes and characters without all that fiddly mucking about with vectors and Bézier curves. 

Rather than painstakingly draw everything out yourself, you can choose from an enormous selection of ready-made shapes and stick them together to create your vector masterpiece.

You can layer, stack and position shapes however you want, and even create your own building blocks by cutting out, combining and intersecting existing shapes. If you need to prototype in a hurry, it's an ideal tool for getting professional results fast.

09. Photoshop Sketch

Illustration of a geisha on multiple devices

Photoshop Sketch ditches the heavyweight features

  • Download Photoshop Sketch US: Free
  • Download Photoshop Sketch UK: Free

Rather than try to recreate the full Photoshop experience on iPad, Adobe has instead focused on the platform's strengths to provide a powerful tool for sketching and painting. Photoshop Sketch features tools including a graphite pencil, ink pen and watercolour brushes, with adjustable size, colour, opacity and blending settings.

You can layer and rearrange your images, use perspective and graph grids to help align your creations, and there's support for pretty much any stylus you care to think of. 

And you can export your work to Illustrator or Photoshop CC. Naturally you'll need a Creative Cloud account (subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud here), but if you're planning on using Photoshop Sketch as a stand-alone app then you'll only need the basic free version.

10. Clip Studio Paint EX

  • Download Clip Studio Paint EX US: Free
  • Download Clip Studio Paint EX UK: Free

Another full-featured desktop paint app that recently came to the iPad is Clip Studio Paint. Clip Studio Paint is great for drawing comics and manga – however, it can be used to create any kind of digital art. It's also one of the few out there that brings the feel of traditional drawing to the digital space, making this the perfect app for creating your illustrations and sketches while on the go. 

This app comes packed with drawing tools like pencils, markers, calligraphy pens and air brushes. And because the drawing engine works so well with the Apple Pencil, you'll have a full range of pressure-sensitive dynamics to get your line work perfect.

11. Graphic

Drawing of a Japanese-style building on an iPad screen

Graphic is packed with tools to take your digital art to the next level
  • Download Graphic US: $8.99 
  • Download Graphic UK: £8.99

Promising a desktop-class standard of editing, Graphic has been touted as the iOS answer to Adobe Illustrator. As well as containing all of the drawing tools you need to create amazing art and detailed technical drawings, Graphic now comes with variable-width brush strokes and pressure-sensitive drawing support for the Apple Pencil.

Developed by Indeedo, this easy-to-use drawing app for iPad is compatible with both the Mac and iPhone versions via iCloud and Dropbox, letting you save your masterpieces on the go for straightforward editing across devices later down the line.

12. Tayasui Sketches

  • Download Tayasui Sketches US: Free
  • Download Tayasui Sketches UK: Free

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 just 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.

13. Autodesk SketchBook

Tablet showing image of a winter scene with a stylus

Artists of any skill level can create digital art with SketchBook

  • Download SketchBook US: Free
  • Download SketchBook UK: Free

SketchBook by Autodesk is one of the most popular iPad paint apps with digital artists. As you'd expect from Autodesk, SketchBook 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.

14. Paper by Fiftythree

  • Download Paper by Fiftythree US: Free
  • Download Paper by Fiftythree UK: Free

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.

15. Art Set

Portrait illustration alongside a set of brushes

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

This cool paint 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 its 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 functionality enables you to add fine detail with ease. You can also choose from different paper colours and textures, or import your own photos.

16. Inkist

Illustration of armoured troll

This digital art app for the iPad is currently free to download
  • Download Inkist US: Free
  • Download Inkist UK: Free

Inkist benefits from a simple but stylish interface that's been designed to be highly responsive and artist-friendly.

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 of real benefit.

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.

17. ArtStudio

  • Download ArtStudio US: $4.99
  • Download ArtStudio UK: £4.99

While its interface isn't as intuitive as some of the other drawing apps for iPad listed 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.

18. Brushes Redux

  • Download Brushes Redux US: Free
  • Download Brushes Redux UK: Free

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 and now updated with the 'Redux' suffix – and it's free and open-source.

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.

19. SketchClub

Three illustrations on iPad screens

Create cool digital art with Sketch Club's great toolset
  • Download Sketch Club US: $2.99
  • Download Sketch Club UK: £2.99

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 customise 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.

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