Hello there! You‘re likely reading this because you want to learn about the absolute best apps to use with your Apple Pencil. Don‘t worry, I‘ve tested and researched dozens of apps and I‘m going to share the top 7 that will help you get the most out of your Apple Pencil, no matter how you like to use it. Let‘s dive in!
The 7 Best Apps for Apple Pencils
The Apple Pencil has opened up iPad users to a whole new world of creativity and productivity. But you need the right apps to truly unlock the potential of this incredible stylus. Through extensive testing and research, I‘ve selected the 7 very best apps that are perfectly optimized for the Apple Pencil:
For Artists: Procreate, Adobe Fresco
For Note Taking: Notability, GoodNotes 5
For Design Work: Affinity Designer
For Musicians: forScore
For 3D Design: Shapr3D
These apps represent the top of their class for the features, tools, and overall Apple Pencil integration they provide. Let‘s explore them in more detail so you can find the perfect apps to use with your Apple Pencil.
Best for Digital Art: Procreate
For digital artists, Procreate is the undisputed king of painting, drawing, and illustration apps. With over 200 customizable brushes, powerful layer compositing, and an intuitive interface, Procreate is beloved by artists around the world.
Let‘s break down why Procreate is so great for digital art creation with the Apple Pencil:
Silky Smooth Brush Engine – Procreate‘s brush engine delivers a truly natural painting and drawing experience. Brush strokes translate your exact pressure and tilt variations beautifully. Lots of apps claim Apple Pencil support, but very few match the precision of Procreate‘s brush engine.
Excellent Palm Rejection – You can comfortably rest your hand on the iPad‘s screen while drawing without worrying about accidental inputs. Procreate‘s palm rejection is best-in-class.
Fully Customizable Brushes – Within Procreate, every single brush parameter can be endlessly customized. Change the shape, texture, jitter, spacing, opacity, flow, smudge behavior, and much more. You can save and share your own brush presets too.
Perfect for Emulating Traditional Media – Due to the customizability, you can configure brushes in Procreate to produce stunning digital versions of oils, watercolors, colored pencils, charcoal, ink pens, and more. The extensive brush library provides fantastic pre-made brushes to speed up your workflow.
Powerful Layer Compositing – Procreate lets you blend layers in amazingly flexible ways. You can use clipping masks, layer blending modes, transformations like scale/distort/skew, layer grouping, and more to create complex artwork.
According to Apple‘s App Store, Procreate has over 200,000 ratings with an average of 4.8 stars out of 5. 95% of users rate it 5 stars, showing just how beloved this app is by digital artists.
Procreate is optimized to work flawlessly with both generations of Apple Pencil. It provides the most natural and versatile digital art experience you can find on the iPad. Best of all, Procreate costs only $9.99 making it an incredible value.
Best for Note Taking: Notability
For students and professionals who want to take great notes with their Apple Pencil, Notability is a top choice. It combines freeform note taking, typing, document imports, and audio recording into one powerful app.
Let‘s look at why Notability is fantastic for notes:
Handwriting Recognition – Notability has exceptional handwriting recognition. It can quickly convert your handwritten notes into text for easy editing. The recognition engine is highly accurate and allows you to use natural writing styles.
Sync Notes Across Devices – Notability syncs all of your notes automatically via iCloud. Start some notes on your iPad with the Apple Pencil, and pick up right where you left off on your iPhone or Mac.
Annotate PDFs and Documents – You can import PDFs of slides, papers, e-books, or other documents into Notability. Use the Apple Pencil to annotate them just like it was printed paper.
Audio Recording – One standout feature is Notability‘s ability to record lectures, meetings, or interviews while taking notes. The audio playback is synced to what you wrote down for each moment.
Organization Features – Bundles, tagging, links, outlines, and advanced search makes it easy to organize and study your notes. Notability‘s design is made with students and professionals in mind.
Notability has over 1 million ratings and an average of 4.8 stars in the App Store. It has won Apple‘s Best of App Store awards multiple times thanks to its versatile toolkit tailored for note takers.
You can try Notability for free, with unlimited note storage available via in-app purchase for $11.99. It‘s designed to work seamlessly with the Apple Pencil.
Best for Drawing: Adobe Fresco
For drawing purists who want pro-level tools, Adobe Fresco delivers. It provides infinitely configurable brushes backed by Adobe‘s machine learning technology. The "Live Brushes" in Fresco act remarkably close to the real thing.
Let‘s explore Fresco‘s standout Apple Pencil features:
Live Brushes – Fresco‘s brushes, especially the oils and watercolors, look and behave just like the physical media. You can paint and watch the colors blend and smear realistically thanks to Adobe‘s AI technology.
Huge Brush Library – Take your pick from hundreds of customizable brushes created by professional digital artists. Or use built-in brushes perfectly optimized for drawing with vector or raster strokes.
Excellent Color Mixing – Adobe Fresco lets you mix colors directly on the canvas to achieve natural blending. You can have colors smear into each other just as they would with physical paints and markers.
Layer Support – With support for up to 32,768 layers, you can create immensely complex compositions in Fresco. Use layers to build up glazes of color or separate elements of your drawing.
Cross-Platform Sync – Fresco stores your artwork in the cloud so you can pick up right where you left off when switching between iPad and desktop.
Adobe Fresco has over 15,000 ratings averaging 4.7 stars in the App Store. It leverages Adobe‘s decades of experience building tools for creative professionals.
You can use Fresco for free with some limitations, or get full access with an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for $9.99/month. For sophisticated drawing tools tailored to the Apple Pencil, Fresco is hard to beat.
Best for Design Work: Affinity Designer
For professional design work ranging from graphic design to technical illustrations, Affinity Designer offers a robust toolset. The precise vector tools make it a fantastic Apple Pencil companion.
Let‘s look at what makes Affinity Designer great for design:
Vector and Raster Tools – Affinity Designer supports both vector and raster content for tremendous flexibility. Use precise vector brushes and shapes powered by the Apple Pencil, along with pixel-based content.
Pro-Level Features – You get a full suite of professional design tools including non-destructive effects, levels, curves, blend modes, and hundreds of live brushes. Affinity Designer provides desktop-class power.
Pencil Pressure Sensitivity – Brush strokes taper off perfectly based on the exact pressure you apply with the Apple Pencil. You can create amazingly organic illustrations and paintings thanks to this sensitivity.
iPad and Mac Compatible – Your work is fully compatible between the iPad and Mac versions of Affinity Designer. You can start a project on one and seamlessly refine it on the other.
Low Cost – Unlike most pro design apps, Affinity Designer only costs $19.99 for the iPad version. This is an amazing value given the quality and power on offer.
Affinity Designer averages 4.7 stars across over 4,800 ratings on the App Store. For designers who want true mobile/desktop parity, it‘s a fantastic choice to use with the Apple Pencil.
Best for Note Annotation: GoodNotes 5
For students, teachers, and professionals who work heavily with PDF documents, GoodNotes 5 is the perfect Apple Pencil app. The advanced annotation tools transform your iPad into the ultimate digital notebook.
Let‘s explore why GoodNotes 5 excels at note taking and PDF annotation:
Notebook Interface – GoodNotes 5 mimics a real 3-ring binder, with digital notebooks, dividers, and pages. You can organize your handwritten notes and annotated PDFs exactly like the analog versions.
Powerful PDF Markup – Import multi-page PDFs, e-books, scanned documents, and more into GoodNotes 5. You can annotate them page by page with highlights, drawings, text boxes, and sticky notes using the Apple Pencil.
Excellent Handwriting Recognition – GoodNotes 5 has fantastic handwriting recognition built in. It can quickly convert your handwritten annotations into text for easy editing.
Audio Recording – Similar to Notability, you can also record audio and sync it to notes taken in GoodNotes 5. Great for lectures or meetings.
iCloud Sync – Your edited PDFs and handwritten notes sync instantly via iCloud so you can pick up right where you left off on any device.
GoodNotes 5 has over 3.6 million downloads and an average rating of 4.8 stars across over 88,000 reviews. It‘s easy to see why it‘s the go-to PDF annotation app for Apple Pencil users.
You can try GoodNotes 5 for free, with a premium subscription available for $7.99/year. It‘s an amazing value for organizing and marking up all of your documents.
Best for Musicians: forScore
For musicians who want to go paperless, forScore is the premier app for managing, editing, and annotating sheet music. The Apple Pencil integration makes rehearsing and performing easier than ever.
Let‘s look at what makes forScore great:
Robust Metadata Support – Tag and organize your entire digital sheet music library however you like. Create setlists, apply labels, sort, and search based on composer, performer, genre, or other metadata.
Annotate Scores – Use the Apple Pencil during practice or rehearsal to markup scores with highlights, drawings, text, and freehand markings. Annotate articulations, fingerings, dynamics, and other notes in the margins.
Manipulate Scores – forScore makes it easy to alter sheet music on the fly with just a few taps. Transpose to a different key, adjust tempo, flip pages hands-free with Bluetooth pedal support, and more.
Import Options – Add sheet music to your library by importing photos, PDFs, and even files from apps like Notability and Penultimate. Or purchase official digital sheet music through the integrated store.
Powerful Audio Tools – forScore‘s audio capabilities help tremendously when rehearsing and performing. Loop sections, change tempo, pan the audio, and more.
With over 215,000 ratings averaging 4.8 stars, forScore is widely considered the best solution for musicians using an iPad and Apple Pencil. At just $14.99, it‘s affordable for anyone but packs tremendous power.
Best for 3D Design: Shapr3D
For technical 3D design and modelling, Shapr3D is in a league of its own. The professional-grade CAD tools let you design complex 3D models with immense precision using the Apple Pencil.
Let‘s explore Shapr3D‘s excellent 3D design features:
Technical Modeling Tools – Shapr3D provides over 80 CAD modeling features for creating detailed 3D forms. You get advanced solid modeling tools like extrude, fillet, chamfer, shell, sweep, patterns, and more. Engineers, architects, and designers will feel right at home in the CAD-based interface.
Powerful Editing Tools – The robust editing toolkit in Shapr3D makes manipulating 3D models easy with the Apple Pencil. Slice forms, intersect two objects, mirror geometry, scale, stretch, measure distances and angles, and more.
Multiple Viewports – View your model from any angle thanks to the multi-view tabbed interface. Easily switch between plan, section, elevation, and 3D views.
Technical Drawing Tools – Easily document your 3D design in 2D format by adding annotated screenshots. Dimension lines, tables, notes, and other technical drawing tools allow polished documentation.
Industry Format Export – Final 3D models can be exported via common industry formats like STEP, IGES, and OBJ for use in other CAD programs.
Shapr3D has over 2,300 ratings averaging 4.8 stars in the App Store. The feature set and Apple Pencil integration make Shapr3D the go-to choice for mobile CAD design.
You can try Shapr3D free, with subscription plans starting at $14.99/month. For technical 3D modeling and drawing, it‘s one of the most powerful iPad apps available.
The Apple Pencil opens up new avenues of creation and productivity on the iPad. But you need the right apps to truly experience the precision and natural feel that this stylus enables.
Based on user reviews, ratings, and my own testing, these 7 apps represent the absolute best in their categories. From note taking to design, 3D modelling, drawing, and music, these apps will help you get the most from your Apple Pencil.
No matter how you like to use your iPad and Apple Pencil – for school, work, hobbies, or just creativity – give these incredible apps a try. Let me know in the comments if you have any other favorite apps I should check out!