The idea is that you can sketch in 2D – optionally making use of 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 and jittery, your lines are smoothed into flowing curves, and with practice we can see that it would be possible to create some elegant, organic forms at speed – and the precision of the Pencil’s tip will make this whole process simpler than with any other stylus.
Using the Pencil rather than a dumb stylus or your finger gives you a more expressive line since it’s pressure sensitive, but more importantly the palm rejection means that you can lean your hand on the screen like you would with paper, and Evernote won’t get confused and make marks where your hand is resting.
The main idea of Artrage is to make painting as real as possible on the iPad. You can mix paints with one another as though you were blending them on a real canvas. This app works with layers, and if you’re already familiar with Photoshop, you’ll feel right at home with the blend modes. Artrage also allows you to record your drawing for later viewing on the desktop. It not only supports the Apple Pencil, but also has support for Wacom, Adonit, and Pogo styli.
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.
Although nothing can truly replace a traditional piece of paper or sheet of canvas, the iPad Pro comes incredibly close to bringing digital art up to the same level as analog art. The larger screen opens the iPad Pro to new levels of artistry and turns a fun sketching tool into a serious platform for creativity. Designed from the ground up with the promising Apple Pencil in mind, the iPad Pro is the ultimate digital canvas. Luckily, there are scores of drawing apps in the App Store, and many of them have already been optimized for the Pro’s enlarged screen and the Pencil’s fine-point tip. Below are 20 of the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro, so you can become the Michelangelo of the mobile world.
It’s worth familiarising yourself with all the different gestures for aligning, grouping and so on so you can work quickly and efficiently. You could do all this with just your finger, but using the Pencil feels delightfully like drawing in a notebook with a magical pencil, where birds you draw come to life and fly off the page.
Even if you’re not a professional artist, you’ve probably heard about Sketchbook by Autodesk. It is definitely one of the most popular apps for artists. The layout is everything when it comes to design programs, and Sketchbook’s toolbars are laid out in an easily accessible way — and you can even pin them to the screen. Great features include import/export from and to Photoshop, and the ability to zoom in as much as 2,500 percent to let you work on those fine details. It supports the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, along with some of the better styli available for other tablets.
The Adobe Comp CC iPad pro app is a revelation, and makes the process of wireframing or mocking up designs a cinch. The idea is that rather than pulling out your notebook and drawing dumb rectangles for pictures or a few horizontal lines to indicate where text would go in a layout, with a few simple and intuitive sketched shapes you can actually start building those layouts for real – and then pass them into InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop.
In part this is down to the Pencil’s fine tip, in part the low latency and double-speed sampling rate, and in part because the palm rejection is nearly flawless. But all that technical stuff just fades away into the background when you’re faced with the joy of sketching with a 6B pencil, turning it flat to block in big areas of shade, or mucking about with paints.
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.
Notes Linea Paper iWork Procreate Graphic Affinity Photo Animation Desk Cloud UMake Pigment Astropad
Brushes took the stage when the Apple iPad debuted back in 2010 and showed the world that an iPad could be a tool for artists. Since then, the app has grown to support the iPad Pro. Because this app is an iOS exclusive, it has been written specifically for iPad. It supports OpenGL and takes advantage of the 64-bit processing on the iPad. Not only is it very fast, but it has the typical iOS interface design language that iOS users are comfortable with, so finding your way through the very simple toolbar is a breeze. It has layers support, but unlike other more robust professional apps, you can only create up to 10 layers.
Create production-ready layouts as smoothly and easily as drawing on paper
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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.
The newly released Procreate 4 boasts a significant technological overhaul, along with a litany of improvements including the introduction of wet paint options and an intuitive redesigned menus.
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Making stickers, icons, and other graphics with Assembly is easy. You can create crisp and professional-looking work in no time at all with this app. There’s also a vast selection of shapes, symbols, and stickers for you to manipulate and layer. You can save your work as a high-resolution JPG or PNG, as well as in vector formats like SVG and PDF. The app is free, but if you want 21 themed shape packs, a text engine with 25 custom fonts, the ability to combine and intersect fonts, or even import vector images, you’ll have to pay for a Pro subscription that costs $3 per week, $5 per month, or $30 per year.
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!)
iPad Pro app Pixelmator makes the most of the Apple Pencil’s features
Happily, though, Paper by FiftyThree is easy to love. At first glance it might look like a reasonably simple drawing and diagramming tool – and on one level, for sure, that’s what it is – but there are some smarts here.
Paper doesn’t demand the kind of precision you get from the Pencil, but it’s certainly welcome, and the slightly, delightfully cartoonish media work great with its sensors.
It’s fast, fluid and easy, and while sure, pro designers are likely to work from these wireframes like they would with one drawn in ink in a Moleskine – that is, merely referring to it but building from scratch, rather than importing it from Comp – but it can still be a boon to your productivity to be able to quickly mock up your designs using real live assets and styles.
This app is one of the most intuitive ones when it comes to drawing and sketching. Taking advantage of the iPad’s multicore CPU and OpenGL, it can draw and render images quickly, which is one of the things you want when you’re drawing on a tablet to help it mimic real drawing. The app saves your favorite colors for quick access and fully supports the Apple Pencil.
If we’ve one criticism it’s that we’d like the option of pressure-sensitivity to affect the size of an eraser rather than its opacity, but nevertheless this is the closest thing you’re going to find to Photoshop on the iPad – and the Pencil just makes it better.
The Pencil is mightier…! Best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil The age of the digital sketchbook is here.
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.
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.
Similar to Graphic, Adobe Illustrator Draw allows you to create vector-based designs. This app, however, is a lot more simple, with a less intimidating UI. It’s geared toward someone who wants to quickly start working on ideas. The app lets you take your work on the go, and you can easily transition your latest project to Illustrator on your desktop or laptop when you’re back at the office.
Procreate may be the king of natural media apps on the iPad, but if so Adobe is like a deposed Ancien Régime monarch, plotting, in its exile, to win back its crown. And Sketch is genuinely really good, with not only some lovely natural media types built-in (and the option of adding more brushes via Capture CC), but also some features that might quickly endear it to you.
If you remember when the iPad Pro was announced, it was touted by Apple as being a replacement for your PC. Graphic is like having Adobe Illustrator on your iPad. This app used to be called iDraw, and because it is available for your Mac, you can go back and forth between your desktop and your iPad designing and drawing. It features different brushes and full support for the Apple Pencil but also is an app that lets you create vector-based technical drawings. If you’re into graphic design, you will be amazed how Graphic can push the capabilities of the iPad.
There’s no doubt that the Apple Pencil is an impressive design and digital art tool, but to make the most of it you need the right iPad Pro apps – ones that truly take advantage of its power and flexibility.
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.
It’s built for a professional workflow, with support for raw and PSD files as well as full cross-platform performance and file compatibility in case you feel the need to add some final polish on your desktop. But the fact is that you probably won’t need to.
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.
Dragging the Pencil over text instantly selects it (rather than having to tap-and-wait with your finger), pressing harder selects any part of the document as an image, and dragging across text with the Pencil held at a flattened angle selects and highlights it. Smart.
Draw a rectangle, slash it with a diagonal cross and it becomes an image box that you can populate with assets from, say, your Creative Cloud Library. Draw a box and scrub a few horizontal lines in it, and boom, it’s a text box, which you can style manually (there’s also a handy, quick slider control for point size) or apply styles to from your CC Libraries. Rough squares snap to perfect geometric shapes.
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MediBang Paint is a very easy to use painting program that may remind you of Photoshop, in that it allows you to work with layers. It has a very good brush editor, and offers the ability to add styles to your layers. This program has so many tools that it feels more at home on the larger iPad Pros, but it is also compatible with the fourth-generation iPad and above, or iPad Mini 2 and above. If you like to draw comic books, this app gives you a lot of comic book fonts to get the professional look you want. You can save your projects locally or to the cloud.
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.
Ah, Evernote. Now, this definitely isn’t for everyone. For some, this uber-notebook has become an indispensable place for gathering websites, sketches, notes, to-do lists and more – the detritus of modern life as well as inspiration and creative work – but for others it’s just a bit baffling and never quite clicks.
But the pairing of Pixelmator and the Pencil really shine if you want to do some 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.
Here are nine great apps that make the most of the Apple Pencil – and with iOS 11 just released, they’re sure to be even better than ever.
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.
Voice-changing apps will have you punking friends and family like a pro
Happily, as this list shows, there is already a strong roster of iPad Pro apps from companies big and small, which really let the Pencil shine. All you have to supply is talent! (And an Apple Pencil. And an iPad Pro.)
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.
For starters, it can push layered PSDs directly to Photoshop on your Mac or PC, and you can add either a flat grid or even a configurable 3D plane grid to the background, plus preset geometric shapes, to help keep you on the straight and narrow. When you want to go on the wide and sinuous, there are French curves that you can trace against.
Bring out your inner Michelangelo with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro By Carlos Vega @carlosmcse — Posted on February 7, 2018 – 3:16PM 2.7.18 – 3:16PM
Sketch Club has something unique, and that is a community of artists with whom you can share your art. You’ll also be able to comment on everyone’s work and get inspiration. The app even lets you create 64 layers in total, and you can create your art on canvases that are up to 4K in resolution. With a wide selection of brushes and vector tools, this is a full-fledged drawing app. It has full support for the Apple Pencil and the ability to record in 1080p.
Digital art 9 iPad Pro apps that make the most of Apple Pencil 9 iPad Pro apps that make the most of Apple Pencil
Astropad and Astropad Studio: Use the iPad to draw with your Mac
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.
Serif’s Affinity Photo has quickly become the go-to Photoshop alternative on Mac and Windows machines thanks to its solid tool set, amazing performance and one-off price instead of a subscription fee, and its iPad version – used by Apple to demo the iPad Pro and Pencil – is no less impressive.
Astropad pairs your iPad Pro with a Mac and turns your tablet into a dedicated drawing slate. It’s meant for professional creatives who use applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator. The app is even optimized for the iPad Pro to showcase improved image quality, reduced latency, a custom pressure curve specifically designed for the Apple Pencil, and support for tilt with the stylus. The latest update offers advanced stroke tuning for removing stray points and providing strokes with the Pencil, which means you only see what you intend to draw. It’s the ultimate drawing app for professional illustrators, comic book artists, and anyone who’s ever wanted a Wacom tablet. It does cost $30, but that easily beats the price of professional drawing slates.
What drawing apps do you think are fabulous? What programs aren’t worth your time? Let me know in the comments.
But that would be for naught if the natural media tools themselves were rubbish, but in fact they’re generally very nice. Pay attention specifically to the watercolour tool, which has colours bleed into one another in a most pleasing manner.
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As well as offering some (frankly a little underwhelming) natural media drawing tools that work with the Pencil, it gives you the ability to tweak the colours either by applying Instagram-style filters, or with sliders for brightness, contrast, saturation, RGB and white balance – or indeed by tweaking the curves.
This PDF document reader lets you annotate and excerpt texts
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.
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.
It might get frustrating for highly technical engineering work, but you can always use it as a tool for getting an initial concept down before exporting to IGES or OBJ files so you can work it up in other apps.
For specific projects, you can even create your own tools, as my pal Jessie Char did for her makeup blog:
None of the brushes on Procreate looked enough like lipstick, so I made my own pic.twitter.com/0VFPZzjnVg
Even without a Pencil this is a handy tool for reading and annotating PDFs, Word and PowerPoint documents, and web pages. It’s designed to support ‘active reading’, so as you’re reading you can be highlighting and snipping out sections to refer to later, collapsing sections of a document down so you can refer to disparate bits of it at once, and more.
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.)
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.
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.
Affinity Photo: The nearest thing you’ll get to Photoshop on iOS
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.
While it’s compatible with earlier iPad models, it’s when you pair it with an iPad Pro and Pencil that Affinity Photo really comes alive. Already engineered to make the most of the iPad’s hardware and touch features, on the iPad Pro it’s also built to take full advantage of the Pencil’s pressure and angle sensitivity. It’s great for tasks from painting with its professional brush engine or applying realtime lighting effects.
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It’s definitely rich and capable, though, and the ability to record audio – during a briefing meeting, say, while you sketch ideas for a client – using its simple but effective drawing tools is great (though this isn’t the only app to offer that, of course). It’s pleasing how the eraser tool creates nicely rounded ends to the ink strokes rather than just slicing them into sharp points.
We’d love to be able to recommend Noteshelf here, which is overall a richer notebook app (albeit one that’s not quite as pretty or simple) but although it has recently added support for the Pencil, it’s very basic – there’s no tilt- or pressure-sensitivity.
This is the king of natural media apps on the iPad, and it is completely transformed with the addition of the Pencil. Sure, you can use your finger with it, a simple stylus, or even one of the increasingly complicated and expensive third-party styluses from the likes of Adonit, but none of these give you the fluidity and analogue-like experience that the Apple Pencil does.
What’s even nicer is that you can tap an icon – which looks like fan blades – to ‘dry’ the paint so that new colours added on top don’t bleed, giving you some terrific flexibility. The tools are Pencil-aware, so react wonderfully to pressure and tilt differences.
We’ll come clean: despite its assurances that it ’empowers anyone to create 3D designs easily and intuitively’ we don’t have the chops to produce anything remotely impressive in this 3D drawing app, but we can nevertheless see that it makes great use of the Pencil.
We could have recommended Adobe Photoshop Mix here in place of this stalwart iOS bitmap editor – and certainly, the former’s cut-out tools, layers, and paintable filters are generally quite nice – but Pixelmator just feels like the more mature and useful app.
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.
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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.
Add in the Pencil, though, and it becomes even faster to use, and it’s a great example of how the Pencil’s pressure- and tilt-sensitivity can be used not just to mimic real-world drawing tools.
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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!)
They are frustratingly difficult to discover, but again it’s worth poking around the support files online to understand how the apparently simple tools can be used to create graphs, org charts and Venn diagrams, can easily duplicate shapes, link shapes with lines (with optional arrows at one or both ends) and much more.