The 11 best apps for drawing and painting on your iPad

Here's our expert pick of the best iPad apps for artists including Procreate 4, the newly free Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Graphic, Comic Draw and more.

Image: Artist Pete Fowler drawing using ProCreate on an iPad Pro

Whether you want to create a finished painting or artwork or just sketch a rough drawing to finish later on your computer, you'll find the right art app for you here.

Here we detail the 11 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 iPad-only wonder that is Procreate to brand-new, free version of apps from companies best-known for their powerful desktop software – including Adobe Photoshop Sketch and the newly free Autodesk Sketchbook for traditional-style painting and drawing, or Adobe Illustrator Draw for creating vector art.

All of the apps in this feature will run on Apple's 2018 9.7-inch iPad, though performance will not be as good as on the iPad Pro models.

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.

Procreate from Savage Interactive is a popular entry. It’s won the Apple Design Award – and is used by many Digital Arts contributors including Sam Gilbey and Pete Fowler.

Now on version 4, Procreate lets artists paint, sketch and draw using over 130 brushes – with the ability to create your own. It can create massive canvasses, work across multiple layers, supports 64-bit colour and multi-touch gestures.

Procreate 4 sees the debut of the Silica M painting engine, which uses Apple's Metal graphics platform. This, says Savage, makes the application much faster and responsive when you apply brushstrokes or change settings.

The UI has been redesigned to make the app easier to use.

Read more about Procreate 4, or follow our Procreate tutorial.

Autodesk has just announced that it's giving away the full version of Sketchbook for free – for both the mobile and desktop apps (it used to cost £4.99/$4.99 for the full version on phones and tablets, and the desktop version was via subscription). The company says it will still develop Sketchbook, which is an accomplished professional tool.

Features include the ability to snap-and-scan paper drawings using your iPad's camera. There are over 190 customisable brushes for those who like to paint – while those working in more geometric forms will appreciate tools such as Ruler, Ellipse and the Radial Symmetry tools for replicating lines drawn around an axis.

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Serif's Affinity Photo for iPad is more expensive than other drawing apps in this list, but it's worth the extra investment – and compared to desktop software its £20/$20 price tag is very inexpensive. 

As the name suggests, this is primarily a photo-editing app – but much like the desktop version, it includes a wealth of digital painting tools including over 120 customisable brushes with control over pressure, angle, tilt and velocity via the Apple Pencil.

Affinity Photo for iPad's main strength is its interface – which is touch and Pencil-based to its very core – and its performance, both of which contributed to it winning Apple App of the Year 2017.

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.

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. It used be owned by Autodesk, but it stagnated there, and its new owner Picta seems to be putting more effort into updates.

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.

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Pixelmator may be a photo editor, but it also comes with 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 major iPad update since October 2017, when iOS 11 support was added. It appears the company behind it is more focussed on its desktop software for Mac, Pixelmator Pro.

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. 

Version 4.5 was released in November, which added Photoshop brushes created by acclaimed brush designer Kyle T Webster (they're in the Sketch Brushes set), Fill Color layers and the ability to rotate the canvas with your fingers – which you can turn off if you find annoying.

Photoshop Sketch is free – but is designed to be used as part of a paid Creative Cloud subscription so you can share your creations to Photoshop.

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.

As with Photoshop Sketch, Illustrator Draw is free to download – but work best with a full Creative Cloud subscription.

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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.

While not as widely used as some of the other apps here, it's very regularly updated. The newest version, 3.6, was released in April with an interface that adapts to iOS 11's Slide Over and Split View.

Although most of the updates to ArtRage since version 2 shipped in October 2015 have been bug fixes and support for new iOS versions (and the Apple Pencil), this app is still well worth checking out. You can 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.

  • Price: Free, with multiple payment options for different features
  • Download from the iOS App Store

Concepts is aimed primarily at architects and product designer, and is intended to pair the precision of Adobe Illustrator with the pixel-based brushes of Photoshop or Procreate.

The latest update, December 2017's version 5.0, added a new interface with a Tool Wheel to make accessing pens and pencils easier

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.

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