15 apple with a leaf still life sketch original art graphite pencil drawing by elena whitman
Apple Sketch Pencil Painting Pencil Sketch

Apple Sketch Pencil Painting Pencil Sketch Apple Sketch Pencil Painting Pencil Sketch

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She’s a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau

If you need more tools than the average app can supply — even Procreate — check out Affinity Photo. The iPad version of Serif’s popular Mac app offers a truly staggering number of controls and options for drawing, vector work, gradients, perspective projection, and more. It’s a little denser to dive into than Procreate or Linea, but the $19.99 app is an excellent tool for pros looking to do some print-ready work on the iPad without compromise.

Sketch away How to learn to draw with iPad and Apple Pencil Whether you’ve drawn many things or this is your first digital sketching tool, make the most of your Apple Pencil with these tips.

  • How to Draw also doesn’t support pressure for Apple Pencil, but the app does offer a nice breakdown of drawing common animal shapes, and doubles as a cute coloring app for budding artists.
  • ShadowDraw doesn’t support tilt or pressure sensitivity for Apple Pencil, but it has a bunch of interesting tutorials to help show you how to draw in the style of various artists.
  • How to Draw Everything hasn’t been updated in a few years, but the library is a good step-by-step resource to learn how to draw popular anime and game characters, animals, and other elements. You can’t draw in it, though, and it’s not updated for Retina devices.
  • Calligraphy Penmanship has its quirks — it’s not the most well-designed app, and its pressure controls take some tweaking. But if you’re looking to practice basic calligraphy forms, it’s a neat option. (The app is free, though you’ll have to pay $3 to keep using it after the initial 80-hour trial.

When I was in high school, I had a pretty standard “keep myself from falling asleep in class” routine: I’d doodle vast webs of intercrossed dark lines, then slowly color them in. It was usually good for an hour of entertainment — and provided my brain with just enough stimulation to remain awake while listening to lectures.

If you drew digitally before the age of iPads, you probably used a Wacom tablet at least once in your life: The tablet and pen combination allowed users to draw naturally within apps like Photoshop, either by using a plastic tablet or drawing directly on the screen via the company’s more expensive Cintiq line.

In addition to being a great drawing implement, the Apple Pencil can be used to navigate your iPad in-between drawing programs.

Apple’s Pencil and Pencil 2 stand out from the rest of the stylus crowd for a number of reasons: They work in tandem with Apple’s display to create low-latency brush strokes, they’re both lengthier than your average digital pen, and they charge via Lightning connector.

But Graphic makes vector art fun for me again, and it does so in a completely approachable way. You can draw vector lines directly with the Apple Pencil or place nodes by hand, or combine both. You can change fills, colors, and group vector pieces. All of the fun of drawing with vectors, none of the Illustrator stress. Graphic isn’t perfect for professional work, but it’s a pretty darn good start.

While Notes, Paper, and Linea can help you flush out ideas and organize them, Procreate is the true master and commander of making those ideas reality. It’s one of the few apps that rivals the experience of working in Photoshop on the Mac, offering a truly ridiculous number of layers, customizable brushes, and templates.

Like animation, 3D modeling is not, shall we say, my forté. But if you want to build some 3D models on the iPad Pro, uMake has very quickly made a name for itself as one of the best programs on the App Store. It offers extensive tutorials on building custom 3D shapes or importing 2D images and making them into 3D models; while I haven’t had time to study more than a few of them, they’re incredibly detailed and helpful. If 3D modeling is a skill you’d like to learn, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better app for it on the iPad.

The Pencil is mightier…! Best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil The age of the digital sketchbook is here.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to add a free-standing clip or third-party sleeve. I originally adorned my first-generation Apple Pencil with a clip from one of my Micron pens: Once you slide it off the Micron top, you just have to slip it on, nib first, up the Pencil body. Easy peasy. You could also get Kaweco’s pen sleeve GRIP for Apple Pencil, which is gorgeous and comfortable if a bit expensive for U.S-based folks.

Kdan’s Animation Desk Cloud is the company’s iPad successor to Animation Desk, and it strips the clunky skeuomorphic interface while keeping a bevy of tools for animating pros. Like Graphic, there’s a huge opportunity for Kdan — or another company — to improve upon the app’s foundation and add key tools, but if you want to animate something by hand on your iPad, this is the app to do it with.

I’ve been wanting a true digital sketchbook ever since I first discovered you could (poorly) draw circles on the Newton. Almost two decades later, I got my wish: The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are just about the nicest tools for digital sketching I’ve ever tried. (And I’ve tried a lot of styluses, computers, and Wacom tablets.) And now that the base-model iPad has Apple Pencil support too, everyone can sketch up a masterpiece.

Affinity Photo: The nearest thing you’ll get to Photoshop on iOS

Even if you’ve never had an art background, the iPad and Pencil make it pretty easy to start sketching — and better, continue sketching. When I started doodling, one of my first friends in that industry told me that drawing “skill” essentially amounted to just doing it over and over and over and over again; the iPad is a pretty great tool with which to do that. (And you don’t have to spend continuous money on ink, pens, and sketchbooks!)

I really enjoy using the Pencil to scroll lists and swipe between views — its precision tip makes tapping and selecting certain items a whiz, and if I have to switch to another app while drawing, it keeps me from having to put the Pencil down to enter a task.

I also recommend moving your grip up closer to the nib when doing detailed lettering or drawing: It gives you more precision over those fine lines. (And don’t be afraid to pinch-to-zoom with your free hand — most great apps support it.)

If you’re just starting out, I recommend looking at some of your favorite artists, studying their styles, and trying to recreate them on your choice of digital canvas. It’s a fun exercise and should get you thinking about shapes and styles.

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Linea is truly best if you’re looking for a digital sketchbook replacement rather than a full-featured Photoshop clone. And because Linea can export to PNG, JPG, or layered PSD, it’s also the perfect app to start a project in before bringing it to one of the iPad’s heavier hitting graphics programs — or your Mac.

  • Learn how to draw from the masters
  • Add a clip or sleeve (and store that cap!)
  • Use your hands
  • Test the Pencil’s pressure
  • Shade with the sides
  • Tap and scroll
  • Numbers – Download now
  • Keynote – Download now
  • Pages – Download now

The iWork suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote were never high on my list for “fun apps to use with Apple Pencil,” but Apple’s most recent update changed all that: All the apps can now sketch with the Pencil in various ways, including making tiny drawings, annotating atop photos (and video!), and using new Keynote tools that allow for rudimentary animation using Line Draw and Match Move.

When you draw with Apple Pencil, your hand, arm, and fingers can rest on the screen thanks to the iPad’s palm-rejection technology. While previous third-party styluses have had variations on palm rejection in certain apps, they never quite worked perfectly; the Apple Pencil, in contrast, is about as perfect at palm rejection as you can be with a digital touchscreen (though its implementation in some apps can, admittedly, vary.)

Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this guide.

If you love the idea of an Apple Pencil but your drawing skills are lackluster, my best advice is going to be the advice of many artists before me: Practice! Drawing constantly is the best way to get better.

Because of bad stylus experiences in the past, I’ve seen dozens of first-time Pencil users awkwardly gripping the pen to hover their hand above the screen. Trust me: I did it too, but you don’t need to with the Pencil. Feel free to rest your hand against the screen while you draw. It’ll take a bit of getting used to, but once you do, it’ll feel as natural as resting your hand on paper.

Astropad essentially lets you turn your iPad and Pencil into a Wacom Cintiq — with or without wires. A wired connection to your Mac results in almost no lag and a supremely comfortable sketching experience, but going wireless is also fantastic: I have a couch set up across from my iMac and standing desk, and with Astropad, I can sketch in Photoshop on my retina iMac from 4 feet away. If you want to use your iPad on-the-go but also integrate it into your desktop drawing workflow, Astropad is an incredible resource to have in your app library. For true pros, there’s also a subscription-based version of the app available, Astropad Studio, which offers better Apple Pencil input, Magic Gestures, faster latency, and more.

None of the brushes on Procreate looked enough like lipstick, so I made my own pic.twitter.com/0VFPZzjnVg

If you want a variety of tools for doodling or taking notes, Paper is another excellent (and free) starting point beyond Notes. It offers an assortment of options for starting a pencil, ink, or watercolor sketch, and works beautifully when paired with the Apple Pencil. Better still, Paper can sort all these doodles in separate digital sketchbooks, and you can even share certain drawings to the public Paper feed, or to Adobe’s Creative Cloud or OneNote.

These apps won’t beat the more nuanced tools found in other sketching apps — they essentially use the Notes palette — but they’re an excellent option for anyone working on papers, slideshows, video presentations, and other multimedia projects. (And you can make hand-drawn ebooks, too!)

Shading also looks different in different apps and with different brushes — don’t be afraid to experiment to find which brushes and apps work best for your purposes.

That might be too complex for you — and that’s fine! If you truly want a 101 course, there are a couple of drawing apps and websites out there that offer great tutorials, videos, and PDFs.

But first! Let’s talk about the drawing apps you should check out. If you want to use your iPad to make some digital artwork, these are the best of the best.

  • Proko offers a bunch of great videos on drawing forms and anatomy shapes.
  • The Postman’s Knock is a website designed to teach modern calligraphy techniques with a dip pen, but their printable PDFs are also incredible tools for learning letter forms and figures.
  • Drawspace boasts the slogan “now everyone can draw,” and if its excellent step-by-step drawing lessons are anything to go by, that statement is the absolute truth.
  • Draw a Box offers some great active tutorials for drawing everyday objects, people, landscapes, and yes — boxes.
  • Learning in Hand has a great resource for starting to draw on the iPad, as well as some all-purpose tips for setting up your workspace and drawing.

For specific projects, you can even create your own tools, as my pal Jessie Char did for her makeup blog:

While I love Paper’s tools, the Iconfactory’s Linea app has supplanted it to become my favorite all-purpose sketching application. Linea offers similarly well-crafted pencil, ink, and marker options to Paper’s fare, but it builds on that by giving users a starting set of layers, split screen, easily customizable export options, a beautiful color palette, and my favorite eraser implementation of any drawing app out there.

Procreate can export truly large images as PSD, JPG, PNG, or in the Procreate file format, where you can then send or share them with your friends, clients, or web pals. It also offers a live-streaming option and print-ready export formats.

Disclaimer: I am a terrible, terrible animator. But the animation folks I trust suggest that if you want to try your hand at animating on the iPad, Kdan’s Animation Desk is one of the only half-decent options out there. Most of the other animation apps available on the App Store are too limited for budding artists — unless you want to make clip-art dance, that is — and the few that do offer traditional animation tools have user interfaces that predate iOS 7, or aren’t optimized for the iPad.

If you’ve got the second-generation Apple Pencil, there’s a lot less to worry about in regards to unwanted rolls, but you should still consider getting a case to keep it from getting lost in your backpack (or worse: not in your backpack) when it’s not in use.

I’ll be honest: Until Autodesk’s Graphic showed up on the scene, I hadn’t worked with vector illustration since the death of Macromedia FreeHand in the early 2000s. Illustrator makes me want to throw things at my computer, and since my art hobby was just that — a hobby — I left it well enough alone.

  • Drawing Apps
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It’s not just the tip of the Pencil nib that works on the iPad Pro’s screen: The entire cone of that nib is responsive. As a result, you can use the side of the Pencil to shade with your digital brushes — much as you might use the side of a graphite stick to color in a shadow on paper. Not only is it a cool effect, but it’s one I see early Pencil users miss out on when they’re first getting to know their new tool.

Equipped at the drawing end of the Apple Pencil is a beautifully responsive plastic nib for all manner of sketching and writing. It’s pressure-sensitive, too, so you shouldn’t be afraid to press harder and softer on the screen to see how your Pencil reacts. One of my first calibration tests with any new drawing tool — digital or not — is drawing a series of vertical and horizontal lines, to test how different pressure results in different line widths. I highly encourage everyone to do something similar — not only will it get you comfortable with the Pencil’s variations, but you’ll also get a better sense for how you need to hold the tool for optimal control.

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  • Apple Pencil

But when it comes to drawing or writing with one, there are only a few basic techniques you need to know before you can start mastering your new tool. Here’s everything you need to know about drawing with your Apple Pencil or new Apple Pencil 2.

Astropad and Astropad Studio: Use the iPad to draw with your Mac

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Pigment takes my high-school doodling to an extreme, offering thousands of pages of intricately-drawn shapes for you to color in — whether you’re listening to a lecture, or just want something to do with your hands while watching TV. The app is free to download and view, but you’ll need a monthly in-app subscription to actually sketch on the patterns.

The downsides to Paper aren’t many, but they’re worth noting: The Pencil’s lag time isn’t great when compared to some other apps on the market, and Paper lacks a good way to fill edge-to-edge on the screen without accidentally closing the application. It also doesn’t provide options for layered or transparent export.

What drawing apps do you think are fabulous? What programs aren’t worth your time? Let me know in the comments.

  • Graphic
  • Astropad
  • Notes
  • iWork
  • Animation Desk Cloud
  • Linea
  • Paper
  • Pigment
  • UMake
  • Procreate
  • Affinity Photo

Have other questions about your Pencil? Want to know something else about drawing on the iPad not covered here? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our round-up of the best drawing apps for iPad.

While the Pencil’s smooth, cylindrical shape may please the eye in the negative space of an Apple Store or design lab, in the real world… well, pencils roll. The second generation Apple Pencil, or Number 2 Pencil, as Rene Ritchie likes to call it, has a flat side, which keeps it from rolling off the table when not connected to your iPad. The first-generation Apple Pencil, however, is perfectly round. It does have a clever weighted magnet that stops slow rolls, but even that won’t help you when you want to store the Pencil somewhere.

Apple’s default Notes app is limited in both tools, canvas textures, and color picking, but it’s a nice starter app for anyone looking to have a little fun with their Pencil without picking out a paid application. It also offers the least lag time from Pencil to line of any app on the market, thanks to Apple’s implementation. (Surprising no one, it helps to have your app, device, and accessory all designed to work together from the start by Apple.)

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