The Apple iPad offers artists and designers an incredibly versatile tool for creating digital art. With a large, high-resolution touchscreen and thousands of drawing apps available, the possibilities are endless.
Choosing the right drawing app can be overwhelming with so many options. The ideal app depends on your specific needs as an artist, including the type of art you create, your skill level, and your budget.
In this guide, we review the top 7 best drawing apps for the iPad in 2023. For each app, we cover key details like pricing, main features, and ideal users so you can determine which is best suited for you.
1. Procreate – Best Overall Drawing App for iPad
|App Developer||Savage Interactive Pty Ltd|
|Released||March 16th, 2011|
Procreate is consistently ranked as the best overall drawing app for the iPad. With its immense collection of realistic brushes, layers, filters, and easy-to-use interface, Procreate enables artists to create stunning illustrations and paintings.
The 125+ customizable brushes are designed to mimic real artistic tools like pencils, ink pens, markers, and paint brushes. Artists can adjust settings like brush size, opacity, and jitter to get the exact look they want.
Procreate‘s layer system allows you to organize different elements of your artwork. You can edit each layer individually and view layers in different blending modes like multiply, overlay, and color dodge.
With filters like gaussian blur, sharpen, and crystalize, you can apply effects to enhance your creations. Procreate makes the entire drawing process easy with intuitive gestures to undo, erase, select, and fill areas.
Importing and exporting high-resolution PSD and PNG files is seamless. For artists accustomed to Photoshop, Procreate uses many of the same keyboard shortcuts for an easier transition between desktop and iPad.
With its professional-quality tools and simple interface, Procreate is the best iPad drawing app for artists and designers of all levels looking to create custom illustrations and paintings.
2. Adobe Illustrator – Best for Vector Graphics
|App Developer||Adobe Inc.|
|Price||Free download, subscription required|
|Released||October 21st, 2020|
Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard vector graphics editor. The iPad version provides the same powerful tools that have made Illustrator ubiquitous for design and art worldwide.
Illustrator on the iPad allows you to create logos, icons, book illustrations, product packaging, and any other vector art with precision.
With six different pencil tools, you can sketch and draw seamlessly. The reshape and pathfinder tools make manipulating vector shapes intuitive on the iPad‘s touchscreen.
Illustrator‘s large collection of fonts, icons, and graphics integrate seamlessly into your vector illustrations. The app supports up to 1000 layers to help keep your artwork organized.
Files sync automatically between the iPad, desktop, and mobile versions via Adobe Creative Cloud. This continuous editing workflow sets Adobe Illustrator apart from other iPad drawing apps.
For vector artists accustomed to Illustrator on desktop, the iPad version will feel familiar. With the same robust features, Illustrator is the best iPad app for designing scalable graphics and illustrations.
3. Art Set 4 – Best for Realistic Art Media
|Price||Free download, in-app purchases|
|Released||July 10th, 2019|
For artists looking to recreate the tactile experience of real-world art materials, Art Set 4 is the best iPad drawing app option. The tools are designed to mimic the look and feel of traditional media like paint, pastels, pencil, and charcoal.
Art Set 4 features an expansive set of tools including 140+ brushes, color palettes, canvas textures, and more. Each tool has customizable settings like brush size, opacity, and blending to match real-world physics.
Oil paints blend and smear, watercolors diffuse and bleed, and pencil sketches smudge just as you‘d expect. The thick texture of canvases and paper is visible with each stroke.
Art Set 4 replicates the tactile sensations missing from many digital art apps. The realistic tools make this the best iPad drawing app for artists focused on traditional fine art.
4. SketchUp – Best iPad Drawing App for 3D Modeling
|App Developer||Trimble Inc.|
|Price||Free download, subscription required|
|Released||September 15th, 2021|
Most drawing apps focus on 2D media, but SketchUp provides easy 3D modeling tools for iPad. Architects, construction professionals, and 3D artists can create detailed 3D models intuitively on an iPad.
With simple shape and line tools, you can draw in both 2D and 3D space. Push/pull tools make it easy to turn 2D shapes into 3D forms. Advanced tools like arc, circle, and sandbucket allow precise 3D modeling.
The model style palette gives you control over visual settings like shadows, edges, and texture. Customize these settings to achieve a hand-drawn look or photorealistic rendering.
SketchUp has an expansive 3D model library to bring furniture, vehicles, plants, people, and more into your designs with drag and drop simplicity.
For architects, designers, and 3D modelers, SketchUp is the best iPad drawing app for constructing detailed 3D models with an intuitive modeling workflow.
5. Nomad Sculpt – Best iPad Drawing App for Sculpting
|Released||August 4th, 2020|
Most drawing apps focus on 2D illustration, but Nomad Sculpt brings realistic sculpting tools to the iPad. For clay sculptors and 3D modelers, it provides an intuitive interface and clay-like 3D modeling.
The modeling toolkit includes clay sculpting tools, deformation tools like push/pull, powerful selection brushes, and smoothing tools. With the brush chisel tool, you can chip away clay just as you would in real life.
A drying tool simulates the clay hardening process by allowing less manipulation of model areas. You can also import reference images or 3D models to sculpt over.
Nomad Sculpt‘s realistic sculpting experience makes it the premier iPad drawing app for manipulating 3D models like clay. The tactile sensation of sculpting digitally makes it ideal for fine artists focused on 3D sculpting.
6. Sketchbook – Best Drawing App for Concept Art
|Price||Free download, in-app purchases|
|Released||April 2nd, 2010|
Sketchbook is the best iPad drawing app for quickly sketching out new ideas and concepts. The simple interface and customizable sketching tools make it fast and intuitive to get ideas down.
Sketchbook offers a wide range of customizable pencils, pens, markers, and airbrushes. You can create your own brushes and save them to easily access your favorite sketching tools.
It includes perspective, symmetry, and vanishing point guides to assist with composition while sketching. Sketchbook‘s blend mode lets you tweak your color palette after finishing a sketch.
While it can be used for finished art, Sketchbook shines as a lightweight iPad drawing app for blocking out concepts before moving work into a more advanced program. The focus on fast sketching makes it ideal for creatives brainstorming new ideas and iterations.
7. Affinity Designer – Best Advanced iPad Drawing App
|Released||June 27th, 2019|
Affinity Designer provides one of the most robust digital drawing and painting workflows on the iPad. Advanced artists will appreciate its expansive toolset and many customization options missing from other apps.
It includes over 120 customizable brushes with advanced settings like tilt, pressure, and highly detailed texture. Affinity‘s vector drawing tools are also extremely precise for illustrations.
Comprehensive layer support allows complex compositions with groups, clipping masks, adjustment layers, filter layers, and more. Affinity handles extremely large canvas sizes – up to massive 16k x 4k pixels – with pixel precision.
With robust workflow-enhancing features like non-destructive adjustments and vector convert to pixels, Affinity Designer offers incredible control for professional artists.
For iPad users seeking a powerful desktop-class drawing and painting app, Affinity Designer is the best choice. The customizability and refined interface make it ideal for artists and illustrators doing professional production work on the iPad.
How to Choose the Best iPad Drawing App
With hundreds of drawing and illustration apps available for the iPad, it can be difficult to determine which is right for your needs. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing an iPad drawing app:
Drawing Medium and Skill Level
First, consider what type of art you want to create and your current skill level. Beginners will want an app with tutorials and guides, while experts need advanced tools and customizability. Determine if you‘ll be sketching concepts, sculpting 3D models, or painting traditional artwork.
Price and Subscription Model
Look at the app‘s pricing and subscription model. You‘ll find options ranging from free downloads to paid apps over $20. Some provide full functionality forever, while others require a monthly or annual subscription after a trial.
Compare features like available tools, brushes, layers, filters, and import/export formats. Look for features specific to your medium like symmetric perspective guides or customizable canvas textures.
User Interface and Ease of Use
Download trial versions when possible to test the user interface. Look for simple interfaces if you‘re new to digital art apps and advanced customization options if you‘re an expert user.
File Sharing and Cloud Syncing
If you‘ll work across multiple devices, ensure the app has robust cloud libraries and file sharing. This allows seamless workflows between an iPad and desktop computer.
Tips for Mastering iPad Drawing Apps
Here are a few tips to help you master any of the best drawing apps for the iPad:
- Invest in an Apple Pencil for pressure sensitivity and precise control. Most drawing apps are designed to work seamlessly with the Apple Pencil.
- Take advantage of layers to easily erase and make edits non-destructively. Lock transparent base layers to paint on.
- Use the appropriate brush for your artistic goal. Try round oil brushes for painting or technical pens for precision lines.
- Customize brushes by adjusting settings like size, opacity, scatter, texture, and smoothing for desired effects.
- Use non-linear brush modes like radial or image to create interesting brush strokes.
- Export your work as transparent PNGs or high-res PSD files to retain layers for future editing.
Transform Your iPad into a Digital Art Studio
The iPad‘s large touchscreen, Apple Pencil support, and fantastic drawing apps make it an incredible digital art platform. Finding the right drawing app for your artistic needs is the first step to creating your ideal mobile studio.
With the right app choice based on your budget, skill level, and preferred medium, you can start making amazing digital art on your iPad. Each of the seven apps reviewed above excel for particular drawing and illustration tasks.
Procreate, Art Set 4, and Affinity Designer provide realistic painting and drawing tools. Illustrator and SketchUp are great for precise vector and 3D work. Nomad Sculpt brings clay sculpting to life, while Sketchbook makes quick sketching intuitive.
No matter what type of art you’re looking to create on an iPad, one of these seven excellent apps will provide the ideal digital environment. Download a few to find your favorite and unlock your true artistic potential with digital drawing tools.