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The best drawing apps for iPad

A young person sat drawing on an iPad
(Image credit: Kilito Chan via Getty Images)

Getting one of the best drawing apps for iPad can take your digital art to a whole new level. We've tried out and rounded up some of the best free or inexpensive drawing apps out there, jam-packed full of tools and features that help you to get creative.

The brilliant thing about the iPad is that you can create wherever you go, and when you partner the iPad with some of these amazing drawing apps and the Apple Pencil, the creative possibilities are endless. If you're not sure which iPad to get, our iPad generations guide explains the different types available, while our Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 feature explains which stylus to use with which model. 

We've tested and gathered drawing apps suited to everyone, from beginners to pros, so we're bound to have exactly what you're looking for to kick off your next project. And once you've chosen your app of choice, why not check out our how to draw tutorials?

If you can't find what you're looking for in this roundup below, then why not have a look at our list of the best iPad Pro apps? Or if you'd rather work on your digital art on a desktop, then make sure you check out the best digital art software.

The best drawing apps for iPad

01. Procreate

Procreate 5.2 drawing app for iPad

Procreate is great for drawing, and has new 3D tools (Image credit: Savage)
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If you're a digital artist, then you've probably already heard of Procreate – and for a good reason. We've always been fans of Procreate's speed and power but when we tested Procreate 5.2, we were particularly impressed by its new 3D painting capabilities (including compatibility with Zbrush, Blendr and the like, and a dedicated lighting tab). Find out more about the latest features (like increased layers, stroke stabilisation and Page Assist) in our Procreate 5.2 review.

More generally, one of Procreates biggest selling points is its versatile and intuitive colour picker. It's easy-to-use and allows you to create your own colour libraries, so you never have to lose an exact shade again. The app as a whole is incredibly sleek with its fast and responsive zoom, blending options, swift undo functionality and the ability to add text to your projects. There are also easy access sliders that help you to adjust the size of your brush and opacity as you work.

02. Illustrator

hand drawing with stylus using illustrator for iPad drawing app

Illustrator on the iPad has plenty to offer artists (Image credit: Ben Brady)
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Illustrator for the iPad is incredibly popular among the digital art community. The app takes the best of the Adobe Illustrator software and reimagines it for iPad users and, although it doesn't have all the features of the desktop version, our Illustrator for iPad review found it works incredibly well as a standalone piece of kit (we tested a full version of Illustrator for iPad on the 11-inch iPad Pro (M1, 2021), using an Apple Pencil 2). 

The app is free with in-app purchases, but it still has features like radial, grid and mirror repeat. In terms of iPad-specific features, we especially loved the optimisation for Apple Pencil and the ability to use the iPad's camera to create instant palettes.

One of the other brilliant things about the Illustrator app is that you can seamlessly send files to and from the Illustrator software on your desktop (check out the best Adobe deals if you don't have it). 

03. Photoshop for iPad

Image of Photoshop for iPad drawing app in front of buildings

If you like drawing in Photoshop, you can now have the same (well, almost) experience on iPad (Image credit: Matt Smith)
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If you're a creative, then you'll definitely have heard of Photoshop, and you may well be using the app, too. We definitely had some reservations about the slimmed down app in our Photoshop for iPad review as there are quite a few features missing. Don't worry though, we're sure they'll be added eventually – we've already seen the addition of the Curves and the Subject Select tools.

Despite a few missing tools, for most drawing purposes it's very similar. And much like the Illustrator app, you can seamlessly transfer files between the software and the app. The app is free as part of your Creative Cloud subscription, so it's definitely worth the download. (If you haven't subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud, then check out some of the latest deals below).  

04. Inspire Pro

Digital painting of a girl and her dragon on drawing app for iPad Inspire Pro

One of the best drawing apps for iPad, Inspire Pro offers a fluid and natural drawing experience (Image credit: Inspire Pro)
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Inspire Pro sports one of the fastest and most realistic rendering engines on the App Store. What does that mean for creatives, you ask? Well, you get a fluid and natural drawing experience on the iPad. 

The app has a vast library of brushes, including oil paint, airbrushes, spray paint, pencils, crayons, markers, chalk, charcoal, pastels and paint splatters, as well as a variety of high-quality tools that you can customise as you wish. Got an Apple Pencil and an iPad Pro? Well, you'll love Inspire Pro's ability to react instantly to applied pressure, tilt angle and orientation that gives users another level of creative control. 

05. Adobe Fresco

Adobe Fresco drawing app for iPad image of woman

A leader among drawing apps for iPad, the new Adobe Fresco offers a buttery smooth user experience (Image credit: Phil Galloway)
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Fresco is another iPad app from Adobe's roster. Fresco supposedly is the digital equivalent of the traditional analogue drawing materials. When we tested it (see our Adobe Fresco review), we felt it's like Adobe's answer to Procreate (see above), but it's part of the Adobe Creative Cloud (opens in new tab) subscription. 

With the likes of the highly-anticipated Live Brushes that adapt to a variety of drawing styles (though we did feel they were a touch limited), Fresco gives users a sleek and smooth drawing experience. Fresco may not have text or animation options, but it is still one of the best digital art apps available. We especially liked its fantastic selection of pixel brushes, its smooth running and ability to blend brushes.

06. Affinity Designer for iPad

Affinity Designer for iPad drawing app for iPad

Affinity Designer is a powerful app for creating a range of art  (Image credit: Future)
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Built from the same back end as its award-winning desktop version, Affinity Designer for iPad is a vector drawing program that's fully optimised for iOS, including Touch controls and Apple Pencil support. Our testing appreciated the fact it can support huge multi-artboard canvases with as many layers as you could possibly want, and you can zoom to over one million per cent.  We also loved the UI – find out more in our Affinity Designer for iPad review.

Affinity Designer supports both CMYK and RGB, and has a full Pantone library in the colour swatch panel, meaning it's ideal for creating both digital and printed art. You can export to a range of formats, including JPG, PNG, PDF and SVG, and there are over 100 brushes available, in styles including paints, pencils, inks, pastels and gouaches. In short, this is one of the few drawing apps for iPad that's squarely targeted at the professional market. 

07. ArtRage Vitae

A painting of a woman in ArtRage

ArtRage Vitae is an easy painting simulation software (Image credit: Ian Dean)
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ArtRage Vitae is the newest edition of one of iPad first and longest-running digital painting apps. This app replicates the feel, flow and texture of real oils and watercolours. You can load your brush with paint and spread it about with joy, you can mix colours on the canvas and overall ArtRage Vitae does a great job of simulating lifelike paints.

A variety of canvas styles add texture beneath your paintings, with options to adjust paper settings and customise brushes easily using a set of sliders. There's a variety of canvas presets and paper options, plus a wide array of brushes, pencils, crayons, rollers, and pastels. 

In our Artrage Vitae review we loved the easy to navigate UI that hides many of the deeper functions behind easy sliders and selections, the unique layout ensures the screen is never cluttered and the canvas remains visible. This is an excellent app for those wanting to get a realistic painting experience.

08. iPastels

picture of a bridge made using iPastels drawing app for iPad

iPastels lets you create some realistic pastel artwork (Image credit: iPastels)
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No digital application and tablet screen will give you the real feel of working with pastels and charcoal, but drawing apps for iPad are not looking to replace feel – they are designed to mimic the effect, and that is what iPastels does so well. Plus, you don't get messy fingers.

It is impressive how well the app replicates some aspects of pastel drawing, including soft pastels, oil pastels, pastel pencils, and realistic colour blending using your finger on the screen just like you would on paper. One downside is that you have to stop drawing when you want to adjust the size and pressure of your tool, but there are plus sides – including the ability to correct mistakes quickly and simply.

For that reason and more, iPastels is a great app to use if you want to try out compositions before beginning a real painting – or just for a bit of fun. It has Apple Pencil support, and the upgrade to Pro features costs $4.99/£4.99.

09. MediBang Paint for iPad

Black and white city image on Medibang Paint drawing app for iPad

MediBang Paint for iPad is jam-packed full of handy drawing tools (Image credit: Future)
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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 for iPad. When we reviewed it, we found Medibang to be an easy-to-use program with similar features to Photoshop, including layers, with the ability to add styles and a handy brush editor. In fact, MediBang is full of brilliant drawing and painting tools – so much so that it's hard to believe it's free. See our Medibang review here.

Compatible with iOS 11 and above, if you want to create professional-looking artwork but you are on a budget, this is the iPad drawing app for you.

10. Zen Brush 2

Drawing apps for iPad Zen Brush 2 screenshot

Zen Brush 2 has a lovely ink dispersion effect (Image credit: Rob Redman)
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Zen Brush 2 is one of the drawing apps for iPad that emulates the feel of drawing with traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes. Our testing found it has a smooth and fluent drawing engine, and although our Zen Brush review describes its limited features, we also know it is par for the course with such a narrow usage and that's okay.

Zen Brush 2 has a gallery feature that enables you to save your work in progress, as well as a lovely ink dispersion effect to give your drawings an added feeling of depth. There's support for pressure-sensitive styluses, including Apple Pencil, and best of all you're no longer restricted to black ink –  you can use red ink too.

11. Concepts

Concepts drawing apps for iPad screenshot showing building plans

Concepts is a little-known app that is a big hit with pros
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Created specifically for professionals, Concepts is an advanced sketching and design app. It features infinite canvas and organic brushes, a fluid and responsive vector drawing engine, and intuitive precision tools, all tailored for a natural-feeling drawing experience. Whether you’re an architect, product designer, illustrator or visual thinker, you can explore, iterate and share your designs anywhere you go.

Concepts is compatible with iOS 12.4 and later, and supports the iPad Pro (2018) and second-generation Apple Pencil. Double-tap tool switching is supported, plus you can customise how the double-tap manifests itself.

12. Artstudio Pro

drawing of girl's face in Artstudio Pro drawing apps for iPad

Artstudio Pro offers lots of drawing options and an active community (Image credit: Artstudio Pro)
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Artstudio Pro for iPad is the successor to ArtStudio – a legacy version of which is still available for $4.99 (opens in new tab)/£4.99 (opens in new tab). The new version has been optimised for Apple Pencil, and claims to be 5-10 times faster than ArtStudio.

There are new and improved tools, which include 27 blending modes, over 100 built-in brushes and the ability to import all types of formats, including ABL brushes. There are also various different canvas sizes and options that include layers, layer masks, filters and effects. With an active community and plenty of features to play around with, we think this is a great choice for artists.

13. Comic Draw

comic strip on Comic Draw drawing app for iPad

Comic Draw is specifically designed for drawing comics and graphic novels (Image credit: ComicDraw)
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While some painting and drawing apps cover a broad range of abilities and creative disciplines, Comic Draw is single-minded in its purpose. Comic artists are its target, and in those terms it is a highly effective tool. The app features a tool that enables you to lay out the panels on your page, guides to help you keep a perfect perspective and layers to enable you to build your drawings.

You'll also find a digital sketchpad for experimenting with your concepts, and an inking and colouring interface to help you finish your design with various brushes. Comic Draw provides a lettering suite made up of different typefaces, balloons and design tools to add the all-important words, and you can add as many pages as you want to make everything from a comic strip to a full-length book. There's a free trial available before you buy (for $9.99/£9.99).

14. Assembly

vector drawing of hip office on Assembly drawing app for iPad

Baffled by Béziers? Assembly makes it easy to create vector art (Image credit: Assembly)
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Assembly is a great way to create detailed vector drawings, icons, logos, scenes and characters without all that fiddly mucking about with vectors and Bézier curves. Rather than painstakingly drawing 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 with this entry on our drawing apps for iPad list, 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.

15. Clip Studio Paint Ex

drawing of girl on Clip Studio Paint Ex drawing app for iPad

Clip Studio Paint Ex brings the feel of traditional drawing to the digital space (Image credit: Clip Studio)
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Another full-featured desktop paint app that's now on the iPad, Clip Studio Paint Ex is great for drawing comics and manga, and it can also be used to create any kind of digital art. It's also one of the few drawing apps for iPad 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 such as 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 linework perfect. Another bonus is when you sign up for Clip Studio Paint EX subscription, you get three months free. Check out our list of the best Clip Studio Paint tutorials here.

16. Graphic

drawing of woman riding bicycle on Graphic drawing app for iPad

Graphic is packed with tools to take your digital art to the next level (Image credit: Graphic)
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Offering a desktop-class standard of vector drawing, Graphic boasts variable-width brush strokes and pressure-sensitive support for the Apple Pencil. This easy-to-use addition to our drawing apps for iPad guide is compatible with both the Mac and iPhone versions via iCloud and Dropbox, enabling you to save your masterpieces on the go for straightforward editing across devices later down the line.

17. Autodesk Sketchbook

Autodesk Sketchbook drawing app for iPad running on an iPad

Artists of any skill level can create digital art with SketchBook (Image credit: Autodesk Sketchbook sketchbook.com)
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SketchBook by Autodesk is one of the most popular drawing apps for iPad among 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 (see our Sketchbook 4.0 for Android review if you have an Android device).

There's a wide range of digital pencils, pens, markers, and airbrushes to choose from, all accessed via a simple but intuitive UI that enables you to pin your favourite toolbars to the screen. 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. 

18. Art Set 4

drawing of girl and set of pencils on Art Set 4 drawing app for iPad

Art Set 4 has an easy to use interface and hyper-real tools (Image credit: Art Set 4)
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Art Set 4 has an easy to use interface and hyper-real tools for drawing and painting, so for example you can actually see your watercolour paint flow and run as you use it. Oil paint, watercolours, oil pastel, pencil, biro pen, marker, wax crayon and a few others are included for free, while an in-app purchase unlocks more than 150 brushes and further features.

20. Brushes Redux

drawing of an apple on Brushes Redux drawing app for iPad

The Brushes app is free and open source (Image credit: Apple)
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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 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 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.

21. SketchClub

Two iPad screens showing drawing on Sketch Club drawing app for iPad

Create cool digital art with Sketch Club's great toolset (Image credit: Sketch Art Club)
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Sketch Club has a great set of tools for creating beautiful digital art, which is why it's a valuable addition to our drawing apps for iPad list. The app has a unique set of flexible digital brushes (and 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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Rosie Hilder is Creative Bloq's Acting Editor. After beginning her career in journalism in Argentina – where her blogging prowess led her to become Deputy Editor of Time Out Buenos Aires – she moved back to the UK and joined Future Plc in 2016. Since then, she's worked as Operations Editor on art and design magazines, including Computer Arts, 3D World and Paint & Draw, and got the 'Apple bug' when working on US title, Mac|Life. In 2018, she left the world of print behind and moved to Creative Bloq, where she now takes care of the daily management of the site, including growing the site's reach through trying to please the Google Gods, getting involved in events, such as judging the Brand Impact Awards, and helping make sure our content serves ours readers as best it can. Her interests lie in branding and illustration, tech and sexism, and plenty more in-between.

With contributions from