The iPad Pro‘s touch screen and generous dimensions make it a natural for drawing, painting, and photo editing. To take full advantage of the hardware’s attributes, you’ll need the right app. Whether you draw for fun or relaxation or you’re creating art as a professional, we help you find the app that best fits your specific requirements.
Adobe Fresco is a free drawing and painting app built for Apple Pencil and iPad and designed for artists. The free version offers numerous Photoshop brushes, vector brushes, and intelligent Live Brushes. It features powerful creation tools for selections, masking, layers, and layer groups. You also get automatic migration of Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Adobe Illustrator Draw projects, and time-lapse video. The premium version is available for $10 per month and offers access to Photoshop on iPad, a library of more than 1,000 brushes, and 100GB of cloud storage. New versions feature multi-layer drag and drop, new brushes, four-way Nudge, and oil texture on merged layers.
Ibis Paint X
Ibis Paint X is a multifaceted drawing app with a variety of tools, including fonts, brushes, filters, screen tones, blending modes, stroke stabilization, radial line and symmetry rulers, and recording ability. The free, ad-supported version facilitates smooth drawing at up to 120 fps with dip pens, felt tip pens, digital pens, airbrushes, fan brushes, flat brushes, pencils, oil brushes, charcoal brushes, crayons, and stamps. Brush parameters feature starting/ending thickness, starting/ending opacity, and initial/final brush angle. Sliders enable brush thickness adjustments and opacity previews. You can add unlimited layers with parameters for each layer. New versions add color-changing brushes, specific liquify and copy pens, the ability to use QR codes to share brushes, and new filters.
Trace is an architectural design app for interior designers, illustrators, and other creatives that lets you conceptualize your designs by drawing on top of PDFs, maps, photos, drawing sets, and background templates in high resolution with tools, brushes, and pens. An AR perspective finder sets grids in real space. You can draw and measure or draw over any site to scale, auto draw to vanishing points, mark up and share drawings, move paper as you would with paper tracing, and access photos from your camera or the cloud. A scale pen gives you smart line weights for precision drawing. The basic app is free but pro-level subscriptions range from $5 per month to $20 per month. A new Smart Hatch adds intelligent hatch patterns within any Smart Fill. The new 3D camera options in Drag’n’Fly include Classic, POV, and Orbital viewing.
MediBang Paint is an easy-to-use, layer-based painting program whose superb brush editor lets you add styles to your layers. This app has so many tools that it feels more at home on the larger iPad models, 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 plenty of comic book fonts to get that professional look. You can save your projects locally or to the cloud. Recent versions implement the Eyedropper tool in the long tap, added a reference window, and implemented Unsharp Mask. The color palette can now be rearranged, and Motion Blur and Lens Blur filters are now available. MediBang is free and ad-supported, but for $8 you can remove the ads.
The main idea behind ArtRage is to make the painting experience realistic on the iPad. You can mix paints as if you were blending them on a real canvas with a palette knife, airbrushing, or daubing oils. This app works with layers, so if you’re already familiar with Photoshop, you’ll feel at home with the app’s blend modes. ArtRage also lets you record your strokes for viewing on your desktop. It supports the Apple Pencil and Wacom, Adonit, and Pogo styli. Recent versions add gallery file sorting options and the ability to recreate lost painting thumbnails. It also changes file naming and storage, improved scripting support, and added a directional indicator to the canvas.
Even if you’re not a professional artist, you’ve probably heard about Autodesk Sketchbook. It’s one of the most popular apps for artists and the rest of us. The layout is everything when it comes to design programs, and Sketchbook’s toolbars are organized in an easily accessible way — letting you pin them to the screen. Features include import and export from and to Photoshop, and the ability to zoom in as much as 2,500% for fine details. It supports the Apple Pencil, along with some of the better styli available for other tablets. Recent versions feature 1-, 2-, and 3-point perspective guides, a snapping toggle, vanishing point lock, horizon line visibility, and curve ruler. Grid tools can be customized, infinite, or constrained.
Adobe Illustrator Draw
Adobe Illustrator Draw facilitates the creation of vector-based designs. The app is simple, with a non-intimidating user interface and is geared toward users who want to dive in and start working on ideas right away without a steep learning curve. The app lets you work on the go, and you can easily transition your latest project to Illustrator on your desktop or laptop when you’re back at home base.
Inspire Pro ($20)
Taking advantage of the iPad’s multicore CPU and OpenGL, this app can draw and render images quickly. The app saves your favorite colors for quick access and fully supports the Apple Pencil. It also supports Siri shortcuts or the Shortcuts app. Inspire Pro opens to a new canvas so you can get started painting immediately. The updated version offers full support for the new iPadOS, including all multitasking features such as Slide Over and Split View as well as enhanced performance to leverage Apple Pencil’s new lower latency for a smooth, precise artistic experience.
Making stickers, icons, and other graphics with Assembly is easy with the app’s vast selection of shapes, symbols, and stickers. You can save your work as a high-resolution JPG or PNG, as well as in vector formats like SVG and PDF. The app now features real-time color updates, full-screen color sampling with the eyedropper tool, hex color code support, easy toggling between Fill, Stroke and Shadow settings, and custom color palettes with up to 16 colors. The working color palette now keeps track of all the colors in your project and you can more precisely adjust opacity, access colors directly from the Shapes Tab, and get one-button access to remove color attributes. The app is free, but a Pro subscription that costs $3 per week, $5 per month, or $30 per year is available for added themed shape packs, a text engine and fonts, and the ability to combine and intersect fonts, or import vector images. You can now streamline your workflow and easily copy parts of a file into other Assembly projects, set exact dimensions for your output, crop without editing the original document, and pick from a wider selection of canvas sizes.
Sketch Club ($3)
Sketch Club has something somewhat unusual — a community of artists with whom you can share your art. You can comment on everyone’s work and find inspiration. The app lets you create up to 64 layers on canvases that are up to 4K in resolution. With a wide selection of brushes and vector tools, this drawing app supports the Apple Pencil and can even record an HD video. New versions simplify the recording process, share presets more easily, and provide the Procedural Scribble preset to create scribble art. The new Metal-based engine improves sketching, compositing, transforming, loading, saving, and exporting performance. Upgraded tools include the Smudge tool, import button, layer transform and thumbnails, Blur tool, and more.
Astropad — an app for creative pros using Photoshop and Illustrator — pairs your iPad Pro with a Mac and turns your tablet into a dedicated drawing slate. The app is 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. It’s the ultimate drawing app for professional illustrators, comic book artists, and anyone who’s ever wanted a Wacom tablet. Recent versions have re-engineered the data flow from your Mac to iPad to push data more efficiently. Performance improvements to the underlying video tech uses less CPU so your devices get longer battery life. Pixelation is significantly reduced when connected over Wi-Fi or USB.
Animation Desk is great for animating, storyboarding, and sketching, and is compatible with the Apple Pencil. It’s a relatively basic app, but one that will cost you nothing if you don’t opt for the in-app purchases. Recent versions have added rotoscoping and the ability to import video and files from iOS Files. The most recent versions can auto synchronize storyboard sequences. A timeline now shows an overview of a sequence of frames, while a new ruler helps to create perfect straight lines, circles, squares, and triangles.
Pigment is the ultimate adult coloring app. It actually feels like you’re using a coloring book and colored pencils. It supports the Apple Pencil — which makes it extra fun to color inside the lines — and offers more than 200 professional illustrations, along with eight different kinds of pencils, markers, and brushes. Your color choices are unlimited, and when you finish your masterpieces, you can instantly share them with family and friends or print them out to stick on the fridge. Paid add-ons are available for those seeking more options and designs. The new version debuts the Blur brush, new Vapor and Jewel Haze color palettes, and a dynamic new fill tool animation. You can now move the brush controls to the left- or right-hand side of the screen or hide it completely. The company has a Jim Henson Company partnership and color books and pages from the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Farscape.
Concepts is built with design in mind — home design, industrial design — you name it. The app supports numerous layers and can export in both SVG or CAD formats. You can now rotate the shape guides precisely via the angle metric in the status bar and disable rotation and scaling when adjusting the guides with the drag handles. You can change a layer while having an active selection, making it easy to switch between layers and add more strokes to the selection. Layers that contain selections are now highlighted and have a selection arrow icon on top of the thumbnail to make it easy to locate which layers have active selections. Layer options can now be used in focus mode and while you have an active selection. The app is free but offers in-app purchases.
This app is great for modelers and designers who create 3D objects or plans. With uMake, you can draw in two dimensions on an axis to render 3D images on the iPad Pro. You can make sketches revolve or extrude for a recursive effect and then export your creations in PNG, IGES, and OBJ file formats. Updated versions include a new layers experience, an area measurement tool, and Apple Pencil selection improvements. Now you can select different environment maps and change the look of your creation in seconds. Using your iPhone on landscape mode, the app works just like on the iPad. The basic app is free, but the full feature set costs $16 per month or $96 per year.
Pixelmator is a full-featured photo editor that lets you paint, sketch, and map out designs. From cropping to retouching, sketching to blending, Pixelmator does anything your art project calls for. The app includes a host of tools and monitors how you use your Apple Pencil. Dozens of the brushes included in the app feature full support for Apple’s stylus.
Procreate is a professional drawing app that will set you back $10. It comes with a full set of drawing tools that expertly imitate real creative tools, like soft pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, graphite pencils of varying hardness, acrylic, oil, watercolors, and more. You can even smudge, blur, and manipulate strokes just as you would on paper or canvas. Its 64-bit painting engine is fast and responsive, and on the iPad Pro with Pencil, drawing or painting on Procreate feels natural. You can add a number of layers and choose the resolution. The Pro version goes up to 16K resolution with 64-bit color, and you can export your artwork as PSD, PNG, JPG, or Procreate files. The app also helps you build a portfolio and share your work. You can now change color profiles after you have created your canvas and add layer and pencil filters to the QuickMenu.
Paper has long been one of the best iPad drawing apps. In addition to the standard creative tool suite, the app also showcases diagramming and note-taking tools. You can choose from a watercolor brush, calligraphy pen, pencil, marker, ballpoint pen, eraser, paint roller, scissors, and a ruler. You can even import or take pictures and mark them up with text or drawings. Using Apple’s Pencil and iPad Pro with the app is seamless and fluid. While the initial version is free, the subscription-based Pro version offers extra features and tools. You can customize journals with a cover image, including the color of the band on each one. Picking a page template for an entire journal — grid, lined, or storyboard presets – will be automatically applied to each page. Paper’s Private Journals use Face ID, Touch ID, or a numeric code to protect your personal journals from prying eyes.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Adobe Photoshop Sketch comes with a digital ruler, 14 drawing tools, and supports image uploading for working with stock photos or images. The app’s latest editions let you leverage Apple Pencil’s double-tap feature, swap between eraser and brush, use the color picker, and zoom in and out. You can also send your finished artwork from the app to Adobe Photoshop CC as a layered PSD file or blown up to four sizes larger in Illustrator CC for printing high-resolution prints. If your printer is Bluetooth compatible, you could also print artwork straight from your phone.
Zen Brush 3 ($5)
Zen Brush 3 is a new version of the Zen drawing app focused on the delicate East Asian ink brush style, which you can use for calligraphy, ink painting, and more. Rich background styles and Japanese paper templates let you create and share your work. The drawing system simulates a 3D model of an East Asian ink brush for varied works of art. An adjustable amount of water facilitates artistic expression ranging from powerful edge effects to bleeding and blurring of mixed colors. You can also create colored-ink and watercolor paintings with 30 selected traditional Japanese colors. The app includes an ink brush, color brush, water brush, eraser, and blotting paper, 10 levels of thickness and ink tone, five levels of water, 68 background style templates, ink editing, and more.
Tayasui Sketches is the ideal workspace for artists who prefer a clean, organized, straightforward platform for illustrations and artwork. You can pick from numerous professional brushes, such as a watercolor brush, pencil, Rotring pen, felt pen, and eraser. The app allows you to import photos, create organizational notebooks, and share completed works via email or social media. The Pro version unlocks even more features like multiple brush sizes, paper types, layers, and surface pressure. An automatic backup feature updates frequently to save your artwork. Brush editor enhancers give you more freedom over tool parameters for more specialized sketches. New tools include a color eraser with transform attributes, straight line, an Indian ink brush with ultra-realistic rendering, a Stipple brush to add textures and shadings, and more.