The 13 best apps for drawing and painting on your iPad

Whether you want to sketch, paint or draw on your iPad – here's our expert pick of the best iPad apps for artists including Procreate 3.2, Sketchbook Pro, Graphic, Comic Draw and more.


Whether you want to sketch a rough drawing to finish later on your computer or create a finished painting or artwork, there’s never been a better time to get creative on your iPad while you’re out and about.

Here we take you through the 13 best apps for drawing and painting on the iPad – whether you're putting stylus to iPad for the first time, or if you're an old hand looking for a new tool. We've checked out the latest versions of all of the leading apps – from the brand new version of leading painting app Procreate 3.2 to apps from companies best-known for their powerful desktop software – including Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for traditional-style painting and drawing, or Autodesk Graphic and Adobe Illustrator Draw for creating vector art.

Alongside these we've also included output-specific apps such as Comic Draw for creating comics (natch) – and the best painting tools from independent developers from Inkist to Tayasui Sketches.

It's worth remembering that when iOS 11 arrives later this year it will include a raft of iPad-specific features including drag-and-drop, improved split-screen, and enhanced Apple Pencil support, so keep an eye out for major updates to most of these apps in the autumn.

Read on to discover our favourite iPad apps for artists, to help you decide where to start, but do let us know what sketching and painting apps you depend on.

Image: Pete Fowler drawing on an Apple iPad Pro using Procreate. Read Pete's iPad Pro review.

Procreate 3.2.1

Procreate from Savage Interactive is a popular entry. It’s won the Apple Design Award and the App Store Essential, and its latest version is out now from the App Store.

Procreate lets artists paint, sketch and draw using the powerful 64-bit app for iPads. It's available for iOS 10 or later.

The latest update, Procreate 3.2.4, improves support for the latest iPad Pro models, while other recent updates have included fixes to taper, Rapid Undo (which was moving too fast for some users) and the amount of pressure on the beginning of strokes. 

Procreate 3.2's new features includes recording live videos or sharing pre-recorded ones, a more efficient workflow with layers and brush sizes as big as 1600px - up from 400px. Check out all the new features here.

The additional Streamline technology stabilises strokes in real-time, and you can add layers, colours and filters to your sketch. Export options include PDF and PSD. 

Procreate 3.2.4 is available for £5.99 or US$5.99 from the iOS App Store - or as a free update if you already have the app.


Comic Draw

Comic Draw, created by plasq, is designed specifically for aspiring comic artists to build an entire comic narrative inside the app - from concept sketches to colour and lettering.

The app features a digital sketchpad for original ideas, and also inking and colouring with a variety of brushes to finish your concepts. Lay out different panels on your page and use layers to build your drawings. Add as many pages as you want to create a comic strip, books or even graphic novel. To finish off, add words with Comic Draw’s lettering suite made up of different typefaces, balloons and design tools.

When you’re happy with the final comic, share it on the Comic Connect app and check out other talent. Both Comic Draw and Comic Connect support iOS 9.1 and higher, and Comic Draw requires a 64-bit capable iPad.

You can try Comic Draw and Comic Connect free for 14 days, and upgrade to the full version for £19.99 or US$19.99. Download it from the iOS App Store.

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Pixelmator

Pixelmator may be a photo editor, but it also comes with powerful and effective painting and graphic design features.

When sketching and painting, you can choose from more than 90 brushes (including double-texture brushes), watercolours, and the pixel brush.

Pixelmator iOS hasn't had a majoriPad update since July 2016, when Pixelmator 2.3 was released offering a quick selection tool, magnetic selection tool and improvements to the selection experience - there were only minor bug fixes in 2.3.1, released in July 2017.

This app works with the Apple Pencil on your iPad Pro, featuring palm rejection, pressure, tilt and acceleration sensitivity. 

Graphic design features include using blending layers, shapes and text, whilst adding features like shadows, outlines and gradient fills. 

Pixelmator is available for £4.99 or US$4.99 from the iOS App Store.


Autodesk Graphic

Autodesk Graphic is a professional graphic design and illustration app designed for artists on the go – working freely on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil.

Although it’s a little more expensive than other drawing apps in this list, it'll be worth the investment if you want polished graphics. 

The app allows you to create complex vector-based PDF and SVG files using the powerful pen tool for customised shapes, but also simple diagrams if that's what you prefer.

This app offers layer effects such as shadows, glow, multiple strokes and fills, as well as canvas scale, rulers and units to create dimensions with precision. You can also use classic brush and pencil tools for fluid drawing and sketching.

The latest update in November 2016 improved performance, stability and iCloud syncing on iOS 10.

This app is available for £8.99 or US$8.99 from the iOS App Store.


Inkist

Inkist by Tai Shimizue is a painting app that comes with customisable brushes and tools any artists would expect for advanced painting software.

The interface is simple, with minimal taps required to switch between tools, and the latest update supports the newest styluses such as Adonit, Wacom Intuos Creative and the Pogo Connect. 

The apps features three layers with blend modes, opacity, and opacity-locking settings. You can then export your work as a PNG, PSD, proprietary ISImage file format and as individual layer files. 

However it’s worth mentioning there are a few PSD limitations – such as no support of layer settings, layers above the bottom three layers will be flattened into the top Inkist layer, and Inkist may have trouble opening images significantly larger than their maximum canvas size – 2048x2048.

The app is free to download from the iOS App Store.

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Adobe Photoshop Sketch

Adobe Photoshop Sketch presents artists with familiar Photoshop drawing tools, including a graphite pencil, ink pen, blending markers and an eraser, as well as brushes including acrylic and pastel. Brushes saved previously in Adobe Capture CC can also be used. 

You can send sketches directly to desktop Photoshop CC or Illlustrator to perfect them even further.

Photoshop Sketch supports the latest styluses from Adonit and Wacom, as well as Pencil by FiftyThree, Adobe Ink and the new Apple Pencil for iPad Pro. 

You'll get access to Photoshop Sketch for free as part of your Creative Cloud membership. Adobe Sketch is available from the iOS App Store.


Adobe Illustrator Draw

You can create vector art with Illustrator Draw, with lots of handy tools at your fingertips to make the experience easier and more efficient. Launch Adobe Capture CC from within the app, create a new shape and have it appear on your Draw canvas. You can also send your designs directly to Illustrator to work on your desktop. 

Zoom up to 64x to apply fine details and customise your toolbar and brushes. Adobe Ink and Apple Pencil (with iPad Pro), Pencil by 53 and Adonit and Wacom styluses work alongside this app. 

You'll be able to create perfect lines and curves thanks to the Touch Slide digital ruler, and add images from multiple sources including the Creative Cloud market for tracing and collage.

2GB of complimentary storage for file syncing and sharing comes with the basic level of Creative Cloud membership.

As with Photoshop Sketch, Illustrator Draw comes included in your Creative Cloud subscription, and is free to download from the iOS App Store.


Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

Autodesk’s Sketchbook app is a tool for drawing, sketching and painting on your iPad. It's free, but we recommend paying for the Pro in-app purchase to get your hands on a wealth of additional tools. 

Downloading the free app will get you a selection of 10 preset brushes, synthetic pressure-sensitivity, a layer editor with up to three layers and 16 blending modes, and symmetry and proportional transform tools.

But if you're up for paying the £4.99 or US$4.99 for the in-app purchase of the Pro features, you'll get more than 100 brushes, the full Copic Color Library, more layers and blending modes, gradient fills and advanced selection tools.

You can also purchase a SketchBook subscription using your iTunes account on your mobile device. Subscribing grants you the SketchBook Pro features across all your Mac and iOS devices.

You can download Autodesk Sketchbook from the iOS App Store.

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Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketches offers realistic wet watercolour brushes, unlimited layers, acrylic brushes, colour mix, and gradients for depth. 

Using your iPad you can organise drawings into personalised folders. Tayasui also supports Apple, Wacom and Adonit Styluses.

You'll get a pencil, rotring pen, watercolour brush, felt pen, eraser and the ability to pick colours from a colour wheel. Only the bare minimum buttons are shown to make for a clean canvas.

You can also choose from a selection of paper types with varying textures, all of which result in realistic-looking strokes when combined with the tools available.

If you enjoy using the app, you can pay £4.99 or US$4.99 for the Pro version as an in-app purchase, which includes the additional ability to import photos, multiple tips for your tools, brush editor and pressure sensitive stylus support.

You can download Tayasui Sketches for free on the iOS App Store.


Inspire Pro

Canada-based SnowCanoe’s Inspire Pro lets you mix wet and dry oil paint brushes to create fast and realistic painting, drawing and sketches using Apple Pencil and iPad Pro. 

Add a subtle blur, use Canvas Playback to watch your paintings unfold, use dual textured brushes, customise your canvas size, 

SnowCanoe Inspire Pro runs with a 64-bit CPU and multi-core GPU capacity for iPad.

Inspire Pro has 80 different brushes to choose from, and all can be used as a wet brush, dry brush or eraser, with more brush packs released regularly - though some cost extra as in-app purchases.

Inspire Pro is available for £7.99 or US$7.99 from the iOS App Store.


ArtRage

Experiment with the ArtRage digital canvas by smearing, blending oils and watercolour. The app is smart enough to detect the roughness of your paper so your pencils can be used for soft shading.

Add layers to your work without damaging others with a range of Layer Blend Modes, import photos and convert them to oil for smearing or use as reference images, or trace over images. 

Oils, watercolours, paint rollers, pencils and crayons are all available on ArtRage, as well as the ability to apply textures.

The latest version includes a calibration slider for Apple Pencil users, allowing you to adjust how hard you need to press to get full pressure strokes. Just increase the value to increase the amount of pressure required. ArtRage also supports Adonit, Wacom and Ten One Design Styluses. 

You can download ArtRage for £4.99 or US$4.99 from the iOS App Store.

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Asketch

Here's one for those who enjoy sketching with charcoal. It's a simple app designed to make you forget about the tools and just draw, using intuitive multi-touch gestures to help you achieve the desired result.

After downloading Asketch, it'll open straight to a blank canvas. You can start sketching immediately, using the pinch to zoom gesture to get a bigger or smaller line. Tapping at the bottom of the canvas will bring up the tools menu, which is very basic. You can choose between a smooth or rough brush, and you'll also get an eraser. The undo and redo tool is handy, and you can also access your other sketches from there.

This app is not an all-rounder, by any means. It does one job, but it does it rather well. For producing charcoal sketches digitally, Asketch is a brilliant app that we really enjoy using. 

Asketch is available to download now for £4.99 or US$4.99 from the iOS App Store.


Concepts

Concepts is intended to pair the precision of Adobe Illustrator with the pixel-based brushes of Photoshop or Procreate, with all the simplicity you need from an iPad app.

The latest updates, 4.6, added two new pencils (one hard and one soft) that work with the Apple Pencil’s advanced tilt and pressure sensors. There's also a soft eraser, new paper types, and the ability to set custom gesture settings for your fingers on the iPad Pro.

The core app is free, though there are paid upgrades for pro features, along with a variety of other in-app purchases with extra content and features.

Concepts is available to download now from the App Store.


Are you looking for advice on styluses or creating artwork on the iPad Pro? Check out what we have to say. 

iPad Pro 2017 review: amazing for artists, less so for designers
Adonit Pixel iPad stylus review

Looking for other creative apps? Follow the links below to see our app round-ups.

Best iPad apps for designers
Best Android apps for artists
Best Android apps for designers
Best iPhone apps for artists

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