11 creative free iPhone apps for designers

free iPhone apps

Just because you don't have your Mac in front of you doesn't mean you can't be creative. Apps for mobile devices are getting better every day, and while there are plenty of paid options available, you don't need to spend your hard-earned cash to get hold of a great creative iPhone app. 

Whether you're into 3D, illustration, graphic design, animation or photography, there's a free iPhone app to help you stay creative on the go.

This article explores the best free iPhone apps. For a comprehensive list, including paid options, take a look at our roundup of the best iPhone apps. Don't have an iPhone? Check out our list of the best Android apps.

01. Assembly

We kick off our list of the best free iPhone apps for creativity with an app that takes all the pain out of creating vector-based designs. Rather than laboriously building all of the shapes yourself (which is especially tricky on a small screen), Assembly provides a set of over 180 basic shapes for you to work with. You can layer, stack and position these shapes to create your own designs. With the latest version you can also create and share animated videos of your work.

02. Paper

You've probably heard of Paper. It's used by over 25 million people, and scores 4.5 stars in its 2.2k reviews on the App Store. This free iPhone app is designed to provide  a space for its users to capture their ideas freely, offering ways to draw, handwrite notes, create diagrams, or sketch. Its gesture-based navigation is intuitive and it's easy to rearrange your pages, annotate your photos and group notes with sketches to keep things organised.

03. Adobe Illustrator Draw

Illustrator Draw

Illustrator Draw is one of many free apps from Adobe...

Adobe offers a range of free iPhone apps, and almost all of them are well worth a download. All you need is a Creative Cloud ID. Illustrator Draw is ideal for creating vector art on your phone. Like Assembly, it includes shape stencils for you to start with, and boasts several configurable pen tips and brushes, merge options and layer blend modes. You can work on canvases up to 8k, and send your layered files straight to Illustrator CC with just a tap.

04. Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketches

This free app prides itself on having the most realistic drawing tools

The team behind Tayasui Sketches have worked tirelessly to offer the most realistic drawing tools possible, in a free iPhone app. There are over 20 tools, including impressively realistic watercolour brushes. It uses a layer-based workflow, and makes it easy to import and export PSD files. Tools are hidden away to keep the UI as clean as possible on the limited screen space. Find out more on the Tayasui Sketches website.

05. PhotoScan

PhotoScan

Turn old photo prints into pristine digital files

Many of us have a load of pre-digital photos languishing in drawers somewhere. Scanning and cropping photos is typically a bit of a laborious task, but this free iPhone app from Google makes it a whole lot simpler. Just shoot each print from a few different angles (the app ensures snaps are glare-free), and PhotoScan will automatically crop, enhance and rotate your image, giving you a pristine digital copy.

06. Prisma Photo Editor

Prisma Photo Editor

A simple way to create artistic masterpieces

This free iPhone App boasts 120 million users and picked up Apple's App of the Year award back in 2016. Its main function is to apply photo effects to your snaps – specifically, ones that make them look like paintings. There are over 300 art styles in Prisma's effects library (and a new one added each day), so you can make your photos look like paintings by everyone from Picasso to Dali. Enhancement tools help you tweak the result.

07. Brushes Redux

Brushes Redux

Classic creative iPhone app Brushes gets a modern revival
  • Developer: Christoffer Hoel

Brushes was the original poster child for creative iPhone apps, and although the original developers have long given up on it, Christoffer Hoel decided to keep it alive with a completely rewritten, new version. Brushes Redux features a responsive OpenGL painting engine, records every stroke so you can replay your process, and is packed with all the brushes and settings you need to create amazing artwork at up to 4096 x 4096 resolution.

08. Snapseed

Fix your photos and learn how to take better ones that need less fixing

Fix your photos and learn how to take better ones that need less fixing

Another great free iPhone app from Google, Snapseed is designed to be a complete and professional photo editor. It comes packed with 29 tools and filters, all of which can be stacked and tweaked to help you get the perfect result. There's also an Insights feature with tips and tricks about both Snapseed and photography in general, so you can take better photos to start with. It works with both JPG and RAW files.

09. Adobe Spark Post

Create graphics for a range of occasions

Create graphics for a range of occasions

Also from Adobe, Spark Post offers a fun and fast way to make stunning graphics. Templates help you get up and running quickly, then you can add photos, text and filters to create the style you want. The app makes it easy to share your creations via social media, text or email. The latest update sees big improvements to the app's snapping tools, so you can be sure your designs are aligned perfectly.

10. 3DMark Sling Shot

best free iphone apps

The real fun lies in running the benchmarking tests

3DMark's a benchmarking tool that's been putting PCs through their paces since the 1990s, and this iOS version will give your iPhone (or your iPad) a proper 3D workout and award it a no-nonsense score.

The real fun lies in running the benchmarking tests, which are beautiful mockups of a detailed and action-packed 3D game. They're a delight to watch, and once they're done you can find out how many frames per second your device can manage and just how good it is at simulating 3D physics. Sling Shot is aimed at up-to-date devices; if you want to give your old iPhone 5 a bit of a workout then go for 3DMark Ice Storm instead.

11. Behance

Unlock inspiration on the move

Unlock inspiration on the move

Short on inspiration? Here's a better way to browse Behance when you're on the move. This free iPhone app enables you to explore millions of projects of all kinds, with high-quality images you can view full-screen. There's also a new Work in Progress feature that shows designers' unfinished works for 24-hours only.

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