When you have a tablet like the iPad that supports the Apple Pencil, one of the many uses that take advantage of this great combination is to get creative with the best drawing apps for iPad. After all, what beats a digital sketchbook where you don’t even need to spend money for the right tools, which eventually runs out of ink, and then you need to replenish your supply?
I’ll admit it — I’m not an artist. I don’t think I have the artistic ability to draw, but you know what they always say? Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to something like drawing. With the best iPad and an Apple Pencil, not only does it feel like an actual sketchbook and pencil, but you’ll want to keep drawing and sketching. This means you’ll only get better over time. Or if you’re already into art, the best iPad for artists and Apple Pencil allows you continue to hone your skills.
Regardless of whether you’re an amateur or a pro, these are the best drawing apps for iPad that’ll let you unleash your creativity effortlessly.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Procreate
Source: Savage Interactive Party Ltd.
If you’re looking for the best drawing app for iPad to rule them all, you can’t go wrong with Procreate. It’s one of the most powerful sketching, painting, and illustration apps that you can buy for your iPad, and it’s built for professionals and works flawlessly with Apple Pencil.
With Procreate, you’re getting access to exclusive tools, such as the dual-texture brushes and immediately responsive smudging tools to create the perfect masterpiece. And if you can’t find a tool in Procreate to fit your needs, you can just create your own tools. Procreate also has incredibly high-resolution canvases that allow you to print out your work in massive sizes, without ever skipping a beat. All of your work in Procreate can come out as PSD, native .procreate, TIFF, transparent PNG, multi-page PDF, or even web-ready JPEG file formats. Procreate also supports time-lapse replays, so you can send it directly to your favorite streaming service.
If the thought of Procreate intimidates you, make sure to check out our tutorial on getting started with Procreate for some helpful advice.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Linea Sketch
Source: The Iconfactory
For those who are overwhelmed by Procreate’s powerful feature-set, Linea Sketch is a better option that’s much more approachable, especially for those who don’t always draw.
Linea Sketch features a simple and intuitive interface while providing users with a variety of powerful tools that work great with Apple Pencil. Plus, it easily helps you make perfect circles and shapes to create the best drawings. It also shows you colors that complement your selected hue perfectly, so you don’t need to figure that out yourself. It can also do layers, split screen, and much more. Linea Sketch exports your projects as PSD, JPG, or PNG files so that they can be easily accessed from other devices, like your Mac.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Paper by WeTransfer
Source: WeTrasnfer BV
Paper by WeTransfer is a good option if you want something that’s free and accessible. With Paper, you can create numerous journals designed to capture your sketches and even notes. There is a nice variety of tools offered in Paper, and it’s very intuitive to use.
In Paper, you’ll get six basic tools that are great for drawing, outlining, and even writing. If you opt for the optional Pro subscription, which is $8 for six months or $12 for a year, you’ll get access to more tools like diagrams, collages, and cut-and-fill. There is also plenty of room for creativity in Paper, as you’re able to add multiple photos to a journal and cut, stick, and fix without the need for complicated layers. Paper also lets you customize your sketch journals as you’d like, and your work gets synced across devices, as long as you have a Pro subscription.
While you’ll need a Pro subscription to get the most out of Paper, you do get the basics for free, so it’s a good idea to give them a try before committing. Or if you can live with the basic feature set, then you won’t need to pay a dime.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Affinity Designer
Source: Serif Labs
For those who need to work with vector graphics, Affinity Designer is simply one of the best options available on the iPad. Think of it as the desktop app, but converted into the perfect mobile experience.
Affinity Designer is designed to take advantage of Metal, so it’ll give you blazing fast performance. When you pan the canvas or zoom in or out, everything is at a smooth 120fps, which is amazing. It also works flawlessly with the Apple Pencil, taking advantage of pressure, tilt, and angle sensitivity. You’ll also have the best pen, pencil, corner, curve editing, geometry operations, and smart shape tools available at your disposal, and the Apple Pencil means incredible accuracy.
If you need to deal with vector graphics for marketing materials, websites, icons, UI design, or concept art, then Affinity Designer is a must-have.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Adobe Illustrator Draw
Source: Adobe Inc.
While we highly recommend Affinity Designer, we get it—it’s still quite expensive. If you’re on a budget, or just prefer the Adobe Creative Cloud, then Adobe Illustrator Draw is another option to consider for best drawing apps on iPad.
In Adobe Illustrator Draw, you have customizable brushes that you can use for drawing, designing, and stylizing. There are even a ton of basic shape stencils for your perfect circles, squares, French curves, polygons, and speech bubbles for epic comics. Adobe even allows you to mix photos in with your vector drawings, which can result in some amazing effects. All of the canvases in Adobe Illustrator Draw can go up to 8K resolution, meaning you can get large prints of your work as well, in case you want to show it off.
All work can be stored in the Adobe Creative Cloud, which does have a free tier option. However, you can get another 20GB of storage space in Creative Cloud for just $2 a month, which is not too shabby. You’ll be able to access your work from any other device, including Macs, that have Adobe Illustrator on them, thanks to Adobe Creative Cloud.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Source: Adobe Inc.
If you’re not into vector drawing, then Adobe Photoshop Sketch is the way to go. This one focuses more on traditional drawing, sketching, and painting, rather than vector graphics.
In Adobe Photoshop Sketch, you’ll have access to 24 built-in brushes, all of them with adjustable sizes, colors, opacity, and blending settings. And if you can’t find the right tool for the job, you can import Photoshop brushes directly into Sketch as well, so the possibilities are truly limitless. Like Draw, you can mix photos into your drawing layers, and there are stencils to help you create perfect curves and basic shapes. Sketch also goes up to 8K resolution, so your work can be printed out on massive prints if need be.
And since Photoshop Sketch is part of Adobe, your work saves automatically in your Creative Cloud account. If you need more storage, you can opt for 20GB of storage for just $2 monthly.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Sketch Club
A lot of the premium drawing apps we’ve mentioned so far can be a bit pricey, but Sketch Club is a bit on the lower side while still providing a lot of nice features, whether you’re an amateur or pro.
In Sketch Club, you’ll find plenty of brush tools, along with blurring, filling, procedurals, selection, smudging, text, and vector tools. And if you’re worried about getting perfect shapes, don’t worry! There are shape tools with automatic ratio snapping to make sure that nothing looks off. There’s layer support in Sketch Club, and all of your canvases can go up to 16K with presets, and nice 300 DPI prints.
Sketch Club also has an integrated community, which is great for getting motivation and inspiration. The community has daily challenges, weekly competitions, monthly group events, annual awards, and more. The tutorials are also fantastic if you’re trying to improve your drawing skills.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Astropad Standard
Source: Astro HQ
Astropad isn’t just another one of the best drawing apps for iPad. Instead, it turns your iPad into a drawing tablet for your Mac. That’s right—if you prefer to use your image editors on your Mac, but prefer to use your iPad for the actual drawing, Astropad lets you do just that! Think of it like turning your iPad into a Wacom pen display. To get Astropad to work properly, you’ll need to get the free Mac companion app.
With Astropad, you’ll get a natural drawing experience with your iPad, with the results being delivered right to your Mac. It’s fast and will keep up with your drawing at 60 FPS, even over a Wi-Fi connection. Astropad can work wirelessly or just over USB with your computer. It supports Apple Pencil flawlessly and is pressure sensitive, just as you need it to be for accurate drawings.
The app itself can be a little pricey, but think about it—it’s much cheaper than going out and buying a Wacom tablet when you already have an iPad, right? This is also a good alternative if Sidecar isn’t enough.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Pixelmator
Source: Pixelmator Team
Finally, we have Pixelmator, which is a great option for those who want a full-featured, layer-based image editor. This works great for photo editing, but it’s also an amazing app for sketching and painting as well.
With over 100 brushes, which are designed by fellow artists mind you, the possibilities are pretty much endless in Pixelmator when it comes to drawing and painting. These tools are also specifically designed for various painting techniques, so chances are high that you’ll find what you need. They also replicate the wetness effects quite well, especially for watercolors and crayon brushes. Double-texture brush technology also means you will get the best detail as you paint, and the Pixel brush is quite fun to use too. Pixelmator also supports layers, has an eyedropper color picker, and is fully optimized for Apple Pencil.
Pixelmator can save your images as PSD, JPEG, PNG, and more file formats. Your work can be shared via social platforms, or you can upload and sync it right to your iCloud to be accessed anywhere.
Best drawing apps for iPad: Adobe Fresco: Draw & Paint
Source: Rebecca Spear / iMore
Adobe Fresco is a relatively new addition to the Adobe suite of graphic apps, but it’s the one that was built specifically for the iPad and Apple Pencil. Fresco is great for anyone who likes to draw professionally or just for fun.
With Adobe Fresco, you get a combination of user-favorite Photoshop brushes as well as vector brushes, along with the new Live Brushes — all of these are meant to help you express yourself however you see fit. There are also essential tools for illustrators, selection and masking tools, and the UI is flexible to work with your needs, not the other way around. While you can use Adobe Fresco for free, there are some premium features that come with a paid Creative Cloud account.
For a more in-depth look at Adobe Fresco, make sure to check out Rebecca Spear’s Adobe Fresco review.
What’s your favorite digital sketchbook?
These are some of the best drawing apps for iPad that we could find that work amazingly well with the Apple Pencil. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
Updated March 2021: Removed Autodesk Sketchbook because it hasn’t been updated for latest iPadOS. These are still the best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil.
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