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The 13 best iPad apps for designers

The iPad apps for designers that work best enable creatives to work just as well as they would on a laptop. But knowing which apps you should add to make your life as a creative professional better is key, which is why we've put together this list of suggestions. Download all these apps on the iPad and you'll have a formidable, hugely capable partner in your work.

Of course, there's a lot to be said for having the best drawing apps for iPad, but as you know, there's plenty more to the life of a creative pro than dreaming up ideas on a sketchpad. So although we do have a small number of drawing apps on our list, these really are the best iPad apps for designers to take care of all aspects of the job.

Want more model-specific software? Don't miss our roundup of the best iPad Pro apps designed for the Apple Pencil. 

01. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer ipad apps for designers

Affinity Designer delivers pin-point precision across many layers (Image credit: Serif)

Affinity Designer is one of the most ambitious creative apps for the iPad. Taking all of the power and precision that the desktop version is known for and migrating it to the iPad, this iteration of Affinity Designer has been specially upgraded to fit the device. Affinity Designer is perfect for any part of the workflow, and boasts over 100 brushes. Recent updates have pushed performance further still, Affinity Photo is also worth checking out, and an iPad version of Affinity Publisher is due for release later in this year. 

02. Pixelmator

best iPad apps for designers: Pixelmator

Create, edit and enhance images on the go with Pixelmator (Image credit: Pixelmator)

Packed with image editing and enhancement tools, Pixelmator contains everything you need for adjusting assets on the go. Thanks to Drag and Drop support, users can move images and graphics between iPad and other apps easily. Alternatively you can store images in the iCloud Drive and access them anywhere. By taking advantage of the latest iOS 12 technologies, Pixelmator offers best-in-class Photoshop file support, precision drawing and painting with the Apple Pencil, plus much more.

03. Trello

Trello on an ipad: iPad apps for designers

Trello helps you keep things organised, wherever you are

Whether you're coordinating a big design project or just trying to organise a cleaning rota, Trello is a great tool for getting stuff done and staying organised. It makes it easy to invite people to collaborate on projects, and you can create custom boards for whatever you're working on. The iPad app is optimised for iPad Pro with plenty of tweaks to take advantage of its larger screen, and if you absolutely need project updates wherever you are, there are also apps for Apple Watch and even iMessage.

04. Procreate

iPad apps for designers

All right, we lied a bit when we said no drawing apps (Image credit: Maggie Enterrios and Jill Gori on Procreate)

Procreate is a truly wonderful natural media app, and it's very fast – especially on more recent iPads where it can take advantage of their huge power. What's more, it's optimised for the iPad Pro, with massive, ultra-hi-definition canvases, and will work with the Apple Pencil too. Procreate has also recently had an upgrade, and now includes the much-anticipated Text tool.

Other drawing apps to consider include Tayasui Sketches, Photoshop Sketch and ArtRage.

05. Parallels Access

screenshots of Parallels Access

On a train and need those San Francisco financials? Sorted

However good an iPad app is, sometimes you just really need to use one of your full-fat desktop packages. And while there are plenty of remote desktop apps such as TeamViewer that you can use to get to your actual desktop from your iPad, they're heavy on bandwidth and there's something not quite right about wrangling a mouse-driven interface on a touchscreen.

Parallels Access does things a bit differently, giving you full access to your desktop and using its special 'Applification' technology to render your desktop apps as native apps, making them much easier to use on the go and also ensuring you can work without a fat internet connection. 

06. Noteshelf

best iPad apps for designers: Noteshelf

Turn your iPad into a digital sketchbook with Notshelf (Image credit: Noteshelf)

If what you want is the digital equivalent of a sketchbook, rather than a canvas – somewhere to write stuff down, doodle out a few ideas, take notes in a meeting – get Noteshelf. Its ability to mix typed, audio and handwritten notes – with beautiful ink effects – annotate documents and images, and even define custom paper designs to make it easy to create, say, iPhone wireframes for sketching app designs makes it an extremely handy iPad app for designers. It pairs with a range of third-party styluses too, for pressure sensitivity and wrist rejection.

07. Adobe Comp CC

Best iPad pro apps

Adobe Comp is perfect for mockups and wireframes

  • Requirements: iOS 9.0 or later
  • Price: Free

Adobe makes loads of apps for iOS, but this one is especially great on the iPad. With it, you can quickly and easily create mockups and wireframes for designs for web, print and more, and you can export them to Creative Cloud stablemates InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop to work them up further. It's a great way to make productive use of commute time, say – though of course just staring blankly out of the window can be just as effective!

It's worth adding Adobe Capture (which can create vector shapes from doodles) and Illustrator Draw, also from Adobe, to your iPad too.

08. Things 3 for iPad

best ipad apps: Things 3

Things occupies the sweet spot between Reminders and Omnifocus (Image credit: Cultured Code)

Apple's Reminders app is actually more useful than most people give it credit for – especially if you set up reminders lists that can be shared among a team – but there's no doubt a more accomplished to-do manager will help you keep on top of complex projects more easily. 

Some swear by OmniFocus, but for us it's just a little too daunting in its power. Things, though, lets you define some sensible groupings, makes it simple to add and sort new tasks, and lets you easily see what deadlines are imminent. 

09. OmniPlan 3

Best iPad pro apps

Big projects come together a lot easier with OmniFocus
  • Requirements: iOS 11.3 or later
  • Price: $99.99/£99.99 (Free trial available)

While we've rejected The Omni Group's to-do app for being a little too complex for the kind of to-dos we creatives want to track, it's precisely that complexity that makes its project planning app a must-have – though only for big projects, and only for senior folk (if you're self-employed, mind you, or work in a very small team, guess what? You're the senior).

With OmniPlan, you can create Gantt charts to allocate time and resources to specific parts of a project, and because each part is interrelated, you can keep focused on what the material effects will be of the wireframing process, say, taking longer than you had anticipated. Everything is live and shared, and it will help you resolve scheduling impossibilities. Basically: if you wanna hit deadlines for big projects, get this app.

10. Slack

iPad apps for designers: Slack

Slack's great for team communication (and sharing hilarious GIFs) (Image credit: Slack)
  • Requirements: iOS 11.1 or later
  • Price: From free

Hate how much time you spend on email? Us too. Make your team try Slack – it starts free, with some limitations – and marvel at all the time you get back. While it's ostensibly just a simple instant message tool, its become hugely popular in recent years (especially with remote working teams) thanks to the fact it integrates beautifully with a huge range of other services such as Dropbox and Google Docs, and so makes everything so much smoother.

11. Duet Display

Best iPad pro apps

Turn your iPad into a second display and become more productive

One of the easiest ways to be more productive as a designer is to add more screens to your computer, so you can have source material on one while working on the main display, keep an eye on email (or Slack!) while you work without switching between tasks, or just as somewhere to put your palettes so you're not covering up your work.

It's not always convenient, though – maybe you're rushing to hit a deadline in an airport departure lounge, or you're hotdesking in a co-working space. However, you can turn an iPhone or iPad into a second display for your Mac or PC with this app, which earns it a spot in our list of the best iPad apps for designers.

While earlier apps that did this worked wirelessly (convenient, but laggy and compressed), Duet Display works over the cable, whether Lightning or 30-pin, with full support for Retina and touch. You might also want to investigate Astropad, which turns your iPad into a Cintiq-like graphics tablet for your Mac.

12. Invoice2go

Best iPad pro apps

Invoice2Go is the ideal way to manage your invoicing

When the work is done, it's too easy to forget to invoice for it, but with your iPad (or iPhone or even Apple Watch), you can easily create, send and track invoices wherever you are. There are plenty of systems available, and if you already use, say, FreeAgent then get its app, but Invoice2go is a good option if you haven't got started with one yet.

13. Digital magazines

Probably the best design mags on the planet (unbiased)

Probably the best design mags on the planet (unbiased) (Image credit: Future)
  • Various iOS requirements
  • Various prices

You'd expect us to recommend reading more magazines, sure, but that doesn't mean to say it's not true. Your iPad doesn't have to be just a relentlessly practical workhorse; use it in your downtime too, to get inspiration and note new techniques you can use by subscribing to some digital magazines for your sector.

Of course we're going to suggest our own Computer Arts, net, Web Designer, ImagineFX, 3D Artist and 3D World titles, but there are plenty more to explore on the App store.

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