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The 25 best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil

best iPad Pro apps - A photo of a woman drawing on an iPad
(Image credit: StefaNikolic via Getty Images)

The best iPad Pro apps for the Apple Pencil will enhance your iPad experience and will allow you to get the most out of the famous white stylus. Whether you're a digital artist, photo editor or even a passionate note-taker, the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro combo are an absolute must-have for a range of creatives.

We've gathered up the 25 best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil in this nifty guide. We've collected a range of apps suited to many forms of creativity, like 3D design, sketching and note-taking. And to make things just a little bit easier for you, we've even divided our list into sections, so you can dive right into the section that appeals to you most. 

Before you start though, it's important to make sure you invest in the right Apple Pencil to work with your iPad. You can find all the details about which iPad your stylus is suited for over on our Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 guide. The iPad you choose to buy will also have an effect on the performance of the apps. If you need a hand choosing the right iPad, then make sure you head over to our guide to the iPad generations or read up about the latest model in our iPad Pro 2021 review.

Just scroll down to check out some of the best deals on the Apple Pencil (or head over to our deals page where you can find a cheap Apple Pencil), and make sure you have a look at our roundup of the best iPad Pro deals if you're hoping to up your tablet game. Or if you've already got all the gear and were hoping to upgrade your workspace, then check out our guide on the best iPad stands and best iPad accessories

The best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil available now

The best iPad Pro apps for note-taking

01. Nebo: Take notes

Nebo: take notes iPad Pro app

(Image credit: Nebo)

Nebo is the go-to app for digital note-taking as it's praised highly for its handwriting recognition. Nebo has the ability to understand a whopping 66 languages and can even translate your handwritten notes into a format that can be sent as an email – how nifty is that? Using your Apple pencil, you can also create a range of shapes and sketches, making your digital notes feel just like the real thing. 

On Nebo, you can also insert images and diagrams, and also annotate external media. Then once you've finished all your hard work, you can save/export your notes as HTML, PDF and text formats that are compatible with Microsoft or Powerpoint and iCloud. This means that you have so much flexibility with the Nebo app, but if you ever find yourself stuck or need some guidance, there's a whole community of Nebo users ready to help you over on the Nebo tips and tricks videos (opens in new tab).

02. Noteshelf

Best iPad Pro apps: Noteshelf

Noteshelf is a great notetaking app that's improved on its original functionality

Noteshelf is jam-packed with features like pressure sensitivity, double-tap support and integrated Siri to make sure it's the best note-taking app it can be. With Noteshelf, you can record audio notes, mark up PDFs or images as well as accurate handwriting recognition and autoshapes. 

03. Notability

Best iPad Pro app: Notability

Notability is so good you might want to ditch the Moleskine

Notability is so much more than a note-taking app with its combination of handwriting, photos, typing and drawing tools. Meaning that you don't have to hop to a totally separate app to get your sketch on. One of the coolest features of the Notability app is the palm rejection feature. This means you can rest your hand on the screen without having to worry about it affecting your work. Notability will also straighten any lines you'd like to be ruled, so all your notes will look as neat as neat can be. 

04. Evernote

Best iPad Pro apps: Evernote

Evernote is a rich, capable iPad Pro app

Evernote is a notetaking iPad Pro app but it's a little like marmite because some people love it and others, well, not so much. It's a great app for collecting sketches, notes, to-do lists and websites, but some users find it a little difficult to navigate. 

One of the cool things about Evernote is that you can record audio while sketching, meaning that you can work as you listen. But the fun doesn't stop there, the Evernote app also offers automatic palm rejection, as well as pressure sensitivity, meaning that you can really fill your notes with expressive lines strokes.  

05. LiquidText

Best iPad Pro apps: LiquidText for iPad

This PDF document reader enables you to annotate and excerpt texts

LiquidText is the perfect app for reading and annotating. The app allows users to annotate PDFs, Word or Powerpoint documents and even web pages. LiquidText prides itself on its ability to support active reading, which means that you can highlight sections of what you're reading to come back to later, or collapse parts and sections of the document so you can refer to different parts at once. 

Again, having the Apple Pencil will benefit you greatly when it comes to using these iPad Pro apps. The Apple Pencil will make it faster to use the app with its pressure and tilt sensitivity features, making LiquidText feel similar to the real thing. And if you've bagged yourself the Apple Pencil 2 then you can also use LiquidText's adjustable double-tap compatibility. 

The best iPad Pro apps for digital art

06. Illustrator for iPad

illustrator

Adobe's vector drawing app for the iPad shoots straight to the top of the class (Image credit: Ben Brady)

Adobe's Illustrator CC is one of the industry-standard programmes for digital art, so it stands to reason that the vector art iPad Pro app is a great addition for the Apple Pencil, allowing you to design on the go with your Apple device. We tried it out it in our Illustrator for iPad review and found, though it is a streamlined version, it still works brilliantly as a standalone program (note: we tested a full version of Illustrator for iPad on the 11-inch iPad Pro (M1, 2021), using an Apple Pencil 2.)

We especially love how the Apple Pencil works seamlessly with the software and the fact it is way more accessible and simple to navigate than the desktop version. Illustrator for iPad lets you create lines, shapes, type, gradients, and effects, and you can use your Apple Pencil to merge and cut graphics with quick gestures, removing unwanted areas.

You can add effects such as point gradients, radial repeats, patterns, and symmetry, and invite others to edit your projects, too. There are over 18,000 fonts, as well as seamless cloud integration so you can work across your Creative Cloud apps. There's also a large community accessible via live streams on the app, including tutorials and inspirations from creative professionals. For the best current prices on an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, which includes Illustrator in all its versions, see the details below.

07. Inspire Pro

Best iPad Pro apps: Inspire Pro

Inspire Pro delivers professional results (Image credit: Snow Canoe)

One of the best iPad Pro apps for digital painting, Inspire Pro offers a surprisingly realistic art experience with an impressive feature set that can deliver truly professional results. With mediums such as oil, chalk, pastels and paint, the app offers multiple blending options (including blending paint with the dry brush), which are based on painting using real materials.

The software is intuitive, and the Apple Pencil works with it like a dream. Rendering time is super-fast, and the neat Canvas Playback feature lets you watch your process afterwards, stroke by stroke. 

08. Astropad

Astropad iPad Pro app

(Image credit: Astropad)

Astropad was built by former Apple engineers with the objective of turning the iPad Pro into a graphics tablet for the Mac. When we tested Astropad (See our Astropad 2.0 review), we found that downloading Astropad and its free Mac companion app allows you to treat your iPad just like a graphics tablet and couldn't come up with any downsides. You can use the Apple Pencil to draw directly in any Mac app, including Photoshop, Illustrator, Affinity Designer and so on. The result gives you the high-end experience of a Wacom pen display (without actually having to buy a Wacom tablet), and you can connect it to your Mac wirelessly or via USB. Neat!

09. Adobe Fresco

Best iPad Pro apps: Adobe Fresco

Fresco mimics apps like Procreate (Image credit: Phil Galloway)

Adobe's drawing app, Fresco, mimics other fine art drawing apps, bringing a natural painting and drawing experience to the iPad. It has a lot of strong features, including brilliant brush capability, an intuitive interface and super-smooth running, although when we tested it we found it does fall short in other areas and needs some depth to be added to make it truly great (see our Adobe Fresco review).

Its full integration with the Apple Pencil combined with its powerful brush features plus the ability to invite others to edit make it one of the best iPad Pro apps around, though. The basic version is free, it then costs $9.99 a month. See our full  for more details.

10. Procreate

best iPad Pro apps Procreate 5.2 screenshot

Procreate is the king of natural media apps for the iPad Pro (Image credit: Savage)

Procreate is the king of iPad Pro natural media apps, and the addition of the Apple Pencil offers a wonderfully fluid analogue-like experience. In part, this is due to the Apple Pencil's fine tip, its low latency and double-speed sampling rate, and in part it's because its palm rejection is nearly flawless. But all the technical stuff fades into the background when you experience the joy of sketching with a 6B pencil, turning it flat to block in big areas of shade, or playing about with paints.

When we tested Procreate 5.2, we were blown away by its new 3D painting features (including compatibility with other 3D apps like Zbrush and Blender). Find out more about those, and the other remarkable updates, in our Procreate 5.2 review

11. Photoshop for iPad 

Image of Photoshop for iPad in front of buildings

The first release of Photoshop for iPad is encouraging, and we can't wait for the rest (Image credit: Matt Smith)

Photoshop for iPad is included with all Creative Cloud (opens in new tab) subscriptions and can be downloaded from the App Store. While we're including it in our list of the best iPad Pro Apps for Apple Pencil, note that it's designed as a complementary companion for the desktop version of the photo-editing software, and it can't replace it. That said, it does offer some powerful features.

Our Photoshop for iPad review shows we weren't blown away because of the lack of features, but some have been added since then, including Curves and the Subject Select tools so it's clear that the app will only get better. It does allow you to composit and retouch workflows (making selections, masking, blend modes, painting and adjustment layers and so on), and the app can handle a heavy workload so there's no danger of overloading it. It also has the ability to invite others.

12. Affinity Designer for iPad 

Best iPad Pro apps: Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer for iPad is quickly becoming the new go-to tool for designers and artists on the go

Serif's Affinity Designer for iPad is right up there with the best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil for designers and artists that want to work on the go. It offers complete support for the Apple Pencil’s drawing capabilities in terms of precision, pressure sensitivity and tilt functionality. 

Fully optimised for iPad without compromising on power, we think the Affinity Designer for iPad offers the functionality of a professional desktop app, adapted to a tablet workflow. We especially like the seamless switching between drawing modes and the extensive import/export modes. See our Affinity Designer for iPad review for more details.

13. Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo iPad Pro app

(Image credit: Serif)

Another one from Serif, Affinity Photo is a fantastic Photoshop alternative thanks to its solid toolset and one-off cost rather than a subscription. The iPad version – in fact it's been used by Apple to demo the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. The app is compatible with earlier iPad models, but paired with an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, that Affinity Photo really comes alive, taking full advantage of the Pencil's pressure and angle sensitivity. 

It's great for tasks from painting with its professional brush engine, or for applying realtime lighting effects. Affinity Photo is also built for a professional workflow, with support for raw and PSD files. It offers full cross-platform performance and file compatibility in case you feel the need to add some final polish on your desktop, although you probably won't need to.

14. Pixelmator

Best iPad Pro app: Pixelmator

iPad Pro app Pixelmator makes the most of the Apple Pencil's features

The stalwart iOS bitmap editor Pixelmator is another of the best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil for creating digital art. It's a mature, well-developed app that offers natural media drawing tools that work well with the Apple Pencil. Pixelmator allows you to tweak colours either by applying Instagram-style filters, or with sliders for brightness, contrast, saturation, RGB and white balance – or indeed by tweaking the curves. 

Pairing Pixelmator with the Apple Pencil works very well when it comes to doing touch-ups or object isolation. The touch-up controls – repair, dodge, burn, sharpen, saturate and more – are easy to apply with the Pencil especially given its precision. When painting out backgrounds this precision, plus the various different eraser types available, are hugely welcome. If we have one criticism, it's that we'd like the option of pressure-sensitivity to affect the size of an eraser rather than its opacity. Check out our Pixelmator review for more info (we reviewed Pixelmator 2.2, which has been updated since then.)

15. Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint iPad Pro app

(Image credit: CELSYS)

Clip Studio Paint replaced the popular Manga Studio and inherited its legions of users thanks to its specialised features for drawing comics and cartoons. Instantly familiar to anyone who has used the desktop version of the app, it allows you to create full-colour comics and cartoons with ease.

The desktop-style UI means an Apple Pencil is virtually essential here unless you have particularly slim and pointed fingertips. But once you've familiarized yourself with the fiddly buttons and menus, you have a feature-dense drawing app to use. There are many cheaper apps, but if you specialise in this area of art and design, there are few better and with such a vast repertoire of tools. See our roundup of the best Clip Studio Paint tutorials if you want to improve your skills.

16. Paper

Best iPad Pro apps: Paper

Paper has a simple UI, but is surprisingly capable

At first glance Paper by WeTransfer (formerly Paper by FiftyThree) might look like a fairly simple drawing and diagramming tool, and it is on one level, but there are a few extra features here that can be difficult to discover but add a lot more possibilities

Take a look through the online support files (opens in new tab) and you'll learn how initially simple-looking tools can be used to create graphs, org charts and Venn diagrams, to easily duplicate shapes, link shapes with lines (with optional arrows at one or both ends) and much more. Paper doesn't demand the kind of precision offered by the Apple Pencil, but the stylus is a very welcome addition, and the slightly cartoonish media work great with its sensors.

17. Graphic for iPad

Best iPad Pro apps: Graphic

Graphic comes packing essential vector tools

Although Adobe's Illustrator is now available for the iPad (see number 6), some creatives still swear that Graphic is the best vector drawing app available on iOS. This app offers a host of brushes and tools, but it also packs in some other useful features including geometry settings pane with -/+ nudge buttons, three and four-finger tap gestures to undo/redo. You can also customise the screen tap gestures to perform whatever actions you find most help your workflow.

Graphic now has a larger drawing canvas (developer Picta claims 16k x 16k), pressure-sensitive drawing with the Apple Pencil, and document tabs. If you're looking to create professional desktop-like vector illustration on your iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil, Graphic is an alternative that's well worth trying.

The best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil for sketching

18. Sketch Club

Best iPad Pro apps: Sketch Club

Sketch Club is incredibly versatile (Image credit: Black Pawn)

Sketch Club is a feature-packed drawing app with a community aspect that aims to please both amateurs and pros. With great Apple Pencil integration, you can brush, blur, fill, sketch and more to your heart's content, and use all these effects to create a range of different types of artwork, from sketches (obviously) to animation and comic strips.

You can integrate and manipulate photos and create typography, too. The app holds daily challenges, annual awards and group events as a means to motivate both amateur and professional designers to advance in their art. There's a range of tutorials and classes to help you improve your skill set too.

19. Autodesk SketchBook

Best iPad Pro apps: Autodesk Sketchbook

3D specialists Autodesk has created a winning drawing app in Sketchbook

Autodesk Sketchbook isn't the most well-known Autodesk app – the company is more known for pro-spec 3D apps like 3ds Max and Maya (see our Maya tutorials), but Sketchbook is a powerful mainstream sketching application that offers a wonderfully natural drawing experience. The iPad Pro's ProMotion tech and, of course, Apple Pencil, suit it perfectly.

It offers 170 customisable brushes, full PSD layer and blending support, and switchable predictive stroke which transforms your hand-drawn lines and shapes into crisp, precise forms. Incredibly, this doesn't cost a penny, making Sketchbook probably the best free drawing app around.

20. Linea Sketch

Linea Sketch iPad Pro app

(Image credit: Linea Sketch)

The best iPad Pro apps include a sketching tool for everyone. Linea Sketch is one of the best for creatives that want something more powerful than a basic pen-and-paper app but more streamlined than fully featured painting and drawing engines like Affinity Designer or Procreate. Eschewing the infinite canvas of some of its rivals, Linea Sketch opts for a fixed canvas and familiar drawing layers that can be repositioned anywhere in an infinite layer stack. 

It doesn't go over the top with tools but still offers several pens, colour palettes and background textures, plus there's a transform tool, automatic ruler, grid tool, which gives you backgrounds for note-taking, drawing and user interface design, plus other useful additions. You can share work via the usual applications and export in Photoshop's PSD as well as JPG and PNG file formats. Some of the premium features have a cost but they're reasonably priced, making this is a pleasingly pared-back app that won't weigh heavily on your pocket or on your iPad's processor.

21. Concepts

Best iPad Pro app: Concepts

Concepts is a satisfying sketching and design app

Concepts is an award-winning, advanced sketching and design app. With infinite canvas and organic brushes, fluid and responsive vector drawing engine, and intuitive precision tools, it offers a wonderfully natural design experience.

Whether you’re an architect, product designer, illustrator or visual thinker, you can explore, iterate and share your designs anywhere you go. Double-tap tool switching is supported, and you can customise how the double-tap manifests itself, which can be very useful.

22. Tayasui Sketches

iPad Pro app Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketches is one of the cleanest iPad Pro apps for sketching with the Apple Pencil (Image credit: Tayasui)

Tayasui Sketches is a clean, elegant sketching app that claims to have the most realistic brushes around, including realistic watercolour wet brushes. You get a range of brushes and a distraction free area to draw in thanks to a UI that hides tools away leaving only minimal buttons as you create to present a clean canvas. 

Designs can be ordered into different notepads and synched across devices. The free version is ideal for quick ideas and illustration, but the paid-for pro version offers a more powerful professional tool with surface pressure, layers, different paper types and more brushes and brush sizes (you can demo the professional features for an hour before deciding whether to pay for it).

The best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil for 3D design

23. Shapr3D

Shapr3D iPad Pro app

(Image credit: Shapr3D)

Shapr3D is a professional-grade CAD modelling app based on the Siemens Parasolid geometric engine and HOOPS Exchange translation software. CAD has been difficult to translate to a tablet format because of the level of precision needed, but that limitation is overcome here thanks to the Apple Pencil's 9ms latency and the power of the latest iPad Pros.

Shapr3D is sensibly offered for free as an entry point so you can learn the ropes of the application. The free version is limited to low-resolution exports and a maximum of two designs but it still gives you access to all the modelling tools. The Pro version costs a fairly reasonable $25 per month (or $240 billed annually) to unlock features professional features, including import and export of images, and to desktop CAD formats.

Shapr3D competes with the much pricier Onshape (opens in new tab), a CAD platform that relies heavily on cloud processing, with interaction either via the web or tablet apps. But with Shapr3D, all processing is performed locally, and files are stored on the iPad, not in the cloud. It's one of the best iPad Pro apps for Apple Pencil if you're looking to develop your skills in 3D design.

24. Forger

Best iPad Pro app: Forger on the iPad

Forger has a wide range of brush tools (Image credit: Forger)

Forger brings most of the features of Autodesk Mudbox from the desktop to a tablet format, setting the standard for tablet-based sculpting software and showcasing how the addition of touch-sensitive hardware can make a real difference to 3D creativity. The brainchild of the artist Javier Edo, it offers a huge volume of brush, stroke and transform operations, which compare well to any desktop sculpting application.

You can move, pull, flatten, bend, twist, translate, rotate your model or even import an image to use as a brush. You can make intricate edits, moulding the geometry of 3D shapes using either your finger or a stylus, which provides a tactile connection to the 3D design that you don’t tend to get with a mouse.

Forger imports and exports OBJ and STL files and has a very intuitive interface tailored specifically for the iPad. There are left/right-handed UI modes and an easily movable camera. Panning, rotating and zooming is easy and sculpting can be performed symmetrically, using masks and layers, with the ability to apply clear, grow, shrink, invert, blur and sharpen masks. You can merge and split meshes, and reapply symmetry with multiple undo levels. 

You can light your models with Forger’s PBR shader then paint your mesh directly on the iPad (although this feature requires an in-app purchase). After export, final lighting and rendering can be completed on a desktop PC, creating a workflow in which the iPad is the creative tool while the workstation does the number crunching.

25. uMake

Best iPad Pro apps: uMake

This 3D drawing app makes great use of the Apple Pencil

uMake claims that it 'empowers anyone to create 3D designs easily and intuitively'. We're not quite sure about 'anyone'; you do need to have some existing skills, but the idea is that you can sketch in 2D, optionally using smart symmetry controls, and then extrude your designs or even draw entirely in 3D space, connecting points on different planes. 

Even if you're a bit clumsy, your lines get smoothed into flowing curves, and with practice, it's possible to create some elegant, organic forms at speed. The precision of the Apple Pencil's tip make this process easier. It might be frustrating for highly technical engineering work, but you could use this as a tool to get down an initial concept down before exporting to IGES or OBJ files to develop it further in other apps. You can also import and open .SKP files directly in uMake.

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