The Five Best Digital Art Apps for iPad Artists


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On its own, the iPad has a lot of potential for artists, but it needs some really good apps to really make it shine. Here’s how to turn your iPad into your new favorite sketchbook with our favorite digital art apps.

The iPad is a fantastic device for digital artists. Not only is it very portable, but the Apple Pencil is one of the best styluses you’ll find on the market.

Of course, software is just as important as hardware. Ideally, a great app should be intuitive, highly customizable, and offer enough functionality to make your art stand out without bogging you down too much.

Here are some of our favorite art apps to use on the iPad.

procreate

If you’re looking for one of the best, easiest-to-use raster illustration apps, you can’t go wrong with Procreate. Not only is it super cheap (just $10 on the App Store), but it’s incredibly intuitive to use.

Procreate is lightning fast, has an advanced layering system, and only takes a few hours to recover. If you like 3D art, there is also 3D painting feature with Lighting Studio and Animated Export.

The main selling point is Procreate’s brush system, which is similar to Photoshop’s brush system, only better. Procreate comes with hundreds of brushes and has 100 customizable settings to fine-tune your brushes for the perfect result. Of course, you can also create your own or grab tons of community-created brushes from websites like Creative Market and deviantART.

It’s no surprise that many digital artists have gone iPad-exclusive with a program as good as Procreate.

There’s also an iPhone-exclusive version of Procreate, Procreate Pocket, which is great for quick sketches on the go — it costs $4.99.

Adobe Fresco

Image credit: Adobe

Image credit: Adobe

Those who have used desktop Photoshop for digital artwork will immediately pick up the app, but appreciate that the app is pared down to the tools most used by painters and illustrators.

We love its sketchbook feature that lets you experiment with tools and techniques before dropping artwork onto the canvas.

Adobe Fresco is free, but the premium version – which you can get as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription – is far more preferable.

The premium version offers an expanded brush library with over 1,000 brushes, the ability to import new brushes, 1,000 fonts you can use in your designs, and quarterly brush drops from illustrator Kyle T. Webster.

Clip Studio Painting

Clip Studio Paint is a very popular desktop application used by millions of artists around the world, but it also has an iPad version.

Image credit: Clip Studio Paint

Image credit: Clip Studio Paint

This app is geared more towards comic artists, cartoonists, and animators, which the other apps we reviewed fell short of. It allows artists to draw, animate, add sound and create comics easily from their iPad. Additionally, artists can import and export PSD and vector files, allowing them to work between other applications.

It also features unique tools, such as a smart fill tool to help artists quickly lay flats and an auto colorizer for coloring inspiration. There are even poseable 3D models for nailing poses as you work.

Clip Studio Paint offers tens of thousands of free and premium brushes through the official store and has a very active community of artists to interact with.

Clip Studio Paint is available for iPad and plans start at $4.49 per month or $24.99 per year. Users can also purchase the app for a one-time fee of $49.99 for the Pro plan or $219.00 for the Ex plan.

Affinity Designer

Maybe you don’t do raster illustrations, and that’s fair. With the iPad you can also do vector art. Although several apps allow you to do this, our favorite is Affinity Designer.

One of the first vector design apps to take off on the iPad, Affinity Designer is a powerhouse. Its metal acceleration, ultra-fast, allows you to zoom to more than 1,000,000%.

It also offers amazing Apple Pencil integration with pressure, tilt and angle sensitivity.

It also offers live pixel and retina views of vector work, wireframe views, and live effects.

Of course, you can also use Adobe Illustrator on the iPad, but Affinity Designer has a huge advantage: it doesn’t require a subscription. You can buy it from the App Store for just $21.99.

Sketchbook

If you’re looking for a fantastic app that costs nothing, you’ll want to check out Sketchbook.

Image Credit: Sketchbook

Image Credit: Sketchbook

Sketchbook is intentionally lightweight and tries to recreate the feeling of drawing in a real sketchbook. The tools are simple, with brushes designed to mimic traditional material markers, pencils, crayons, and paints.

Built-in guides and rulers make it easy to lay precise lines the way you want, and a robust layer system mimics those in premium apps.

If you’re new to drawing on the iPad – or iPhone – we suggest hooking up Sketchbook to see what you can come up with.

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