The 10 best creative apps for tablets

The 10 best creative apps for tablets

Nikolai Lockertsen painted this on his iPad with Procreate.

It seems there really is an app for everything these days, and the popularity of smart phones and tablets have led to higher demands for creative tools for artists of all levels.

Whether looking for something to use while you're on the move or in need for a way to get your anatomy right, there are many apps out there that once discovered, may well become an integral part of your creative process.

Take a look at our guide and tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Drawing programs

Over recent years, many great drawing and painting apps have become available for tablets and smart phones. Here's our pick of the most comprehensive packages on the market.

01. SketchBook Pro

The 10 best creative apps for tablets

Mark Behm painted this Aboriginal bunyip using Sketchbook on his iPad, as part of a tutorial for ImagineFX magazine
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Autodesk
  • Price: iPad: £2.99, iPhone: £1.49, Android tablet: £3.11, Android mobile: £1.24

Autodesk's hugely popular SketchBook series continues to provide users with an accessible and satisfying creative experience (see what we think about the latest Sketchbook Pro 7).

Both tablet and mobile editions are easy to use, with the tablet edition offering fuller functionality than its mobile cousin. The tablet edition responds particularly well to stylus input.

02. Procreate

The 10 best creative apps for tablets

Procreate fan Nikolai Lockertsen paints with the tablet software on his way to work on the subway
  • Platform: iOS
  • Developer: Savage Interactive
  • Price: iPad: £2.99

Many artists agree that Procreate has a unique feel. "It has an intuitive user interface and is super responsive; rotating and zooming the canvas is easy and the tools feel natural," reader Matt Hubel explains. "It's the only app where I don't feel like I'm fighting the interface."

03. ArtRage

The 10 best creative apps for tablets

Illustrator Nick Harris has been a big fan of ArtRage for some time
  • Platform: iOS
  • Developer: Ambient Design
  • Price: iPad: £2.99, iPhone: £1.49

Many of ArtRage's signature features have made it into the iPad app, with one of its key strengths being the ability to create digital art with a traditional visual flair, thanks to its dynamic watercolour and oil brushes.

Likewise, the ability to customise your canvas means paint effects can differ depending on your choices.

04. ArtStudio

The 10 best creative apps for tablets

Concept artist Robh Ruppel uses ArtStudio, whether indoors or out
  • Platform: iOS
  • Developer: Lucky Clan
  • Price: iPad: £2.99, iPhone: £1.99

"ArtStudio is one of my favourites," concept artist Robh Ruppel tells us. He's not the only one. ArtStudio has become increasingly popular due to its image-editing capabilities as well as digital painting tools, making it a versatile creative package. While its interface may not be as clear as other programs, the painting results are well defined, and the ability to export PSD files is extremely useful.

05. Auryn Ink

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Auryn
  • Price: iPad: £2.49, iPhone: £2.49, Android mobile: £0.62

Auryn Ink is a unique painting program in the sense that its sole purpose is to create realistic digital watercolour paintings. It replicates many factors that watercolour artists utilise in real life, including water dilution, canvas wetness and paint dryness. It's a fun way to create stylised pieces with a traditional edge.

Creative tools

Along with drawing programs, there are many other useful apps that could prove to be worthy additions to your toolkit. Here are a few of our favourite creative apps for digital artists.

06. Adobe Collage

Collage is great to create moodboards of images that you can share
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Adobe
  • Price: iPad: £6.99, Android tablet: £6.99

For artists who prefer to gather heaps of reference material, Adobe Collage is a portable mood board that you can use to define the atmosphere and visual elements of your project before hitting the drawing board (or screen). Reference material can be imported straight from your tablet's camera, Google and even YouTube, and you're able to draw straight into your collage.

07. Pose Tool 3D

This is an easy-to-use app for constructing any pose you want
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Alien Think
  • Price: iPad/iPhone: £2.49, Android tablet/phone: £2.47

Developed by artist Riven Phoenix as part of his life-drawing course, Pose Tool 3D enables artists to manipulate a 3D male or female model into any kind of pose.

"On first glimpse it may seem a little bewildering, but once you get a feel for it, this is a great little reference tool for digital artists," says staff writer Nicola. It also includes an anatomy mode featuring detailed muscle maps.

08. Handy – An Artist's Reference Tool

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Belief Engine
  • Price: iPhone/iPad: £1.49, Android tablet/phone: £0.63

Hands are the bane of many artists' lives, but thanks to this useful app, Handy, drawing realistic hands can become a whole lot easier. With further updates on the horizon, the app comes with a selection of 24 different poses that can be applied to left and right hands, modelled in full 3D. Its three-point light system means the tool is also a useful source of reference for working out where light would fall across your character.

09. Color Pal

The nifty free app Color Pal presents users with a comprehensive colour guide
  • Platform: Android
  • Developer: John Veldboom
  • Price: Free

Choosing the correct colour combinations can be trickier than expected, especially when trying out an experimental new palate.

The nifty free app Color Pal presents users with a comprehensive colour guide, with all of the latest shades from

It also provides HEX, RGB and CMYK colour values, together with the ability to browse through related colour palettes.

10. MARA3D Facial Expressions Featuring Steven Stahlberg

Start out by choosing a specified emotion, and then tweak away until you're happy with the end result
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: MARA3D Inc
  • Price: iPad/iPhone: £2.49, Android tablet/phone: free (Lite edition)

At time of press, the full version of mara3D was only available for iPad and iPhone users, with Android customers only having access to the restrictive Lite version.

Where the full version is concerned, this app provides artists with a customisable reference tool for facial expressions.

Start out by choosing a specified emotion, and then tweak away until you're happy with the end result. The app also comes with a gallery of the works of fantasy artist Steven Stahlberg, which is a nice little bonus.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 92.