Express Your Creative Side
Whether you use the iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil, the Galaxy Note and its S Pen or a third-party stylus with your existing device, tablets and phones can be used to create real art. But it's not just about the hardware — it's the apps you'll use with it. Mobile device owners have a plethora of art and drawing apps to choose from, and it's tough to separate the gems from the fool's gold. Here are 15 of our favorite drawing apps, ranging from free and easy to use doodling tools, to high-end professional suites that can turn your mobile device into a handheld art studio. (Image Credit: Savage Interactive)
Astropad Studio (iPad Pro: $11.99/month, $79.99/year)
The first Astropad app did a fantastic job of turning your iPad into a video graphics tablet for your Mac, making for an excellent companion for anybody using Adobe Photoshop and similar software. Astropad has since upped its game with the new Astropad Studio, a subscription version of the app aimed squarely at graphics professionals using the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. Designed to work through Wi-Fi or a USB connection, Astropad Studio boasts improved responsiveness and features, shortcuts, gesture controls, and more. The app comes with a free 7-day trial, after which it will cost you $11.00 per month, or $79.99 for a year's subscription.
Pixelmator (iOS: $4.99)
Pixelmator's iOS port delivers a powerful image editing and digital painting tool to mobile devices that syncs well with its bigger OSX version. Pixelmator on iOS supports editing images of up to 100 megapixels in size, with numerous color correction and manipulation tools and effects, as well as handy presets for fast edits. On the painting end, the app comes with more than 100 different brushes, simulated paint effects, layers and layer effects, and support for a variety of active stylus devices like the Apple Pencil. You can import and export Photoshop files, JPEGs, PNGs, and other popular image and photo formats, and iCloud support means your projects can sync across devices and to your Mac.
Autodesk Sketchbook (Android, iOS: Free)
The Sketchbook app (Android, iOS) has all the power and ease of use you could need, as well as a unified the experience across Android and iOS. Sketchbook comes with a variety of drawing tools and brushes, all of which you can customize on the fly, pinch to zoom, a gallery organizer, and support for saving and storing your works to Dropbox or iCloud. In addition, users can create a free Sketchbook account to gain access to more features such as layer and symmetry tools. A premium subscription unlocks more pro tools such as an expanded brush library, and more powerful layer and selection tools.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch (Android, iOS: Free)
Adobe Photoshop Sketch (Android, iOS) is a free app that provides users with a set of expressive drawing tools. Users can choose from utilities that mimic a graphite pencil, ink pen or marker. The app supports a variety of Bluetooth styluses on the market such as Adobe Ink, Pencil, and others by Wacom and Adonit. Sketch aims to replicate the analog drawing experience, augmented with a few digital flourishes such as a color picker and an undo history. Users can import in assets from other Creative Cloud tools such as custom brushes and colors, and your creations can also be exported into Creative Cloud as layered PSDs to Photoshop, or flat images for Illustrator.
Adobe Illustrator Draw (Android, iOS: Free)
Adobe Illustrator Draw (Android, iOS) is a versatile vector graphics drawing app that can be further enhanced with Creative Cloud integration. Users can mess around with five customizable pens, stylus support for popular devices such as Adobe Ink, and the ability to create up to 10 layers to create images on the app. Users can import in assets from Color CC and Shape CC, and can export drawings straight to Illustrator CC on the desktop, or PNG files to Photoshop CC, allowing you to begin a creation whenever inspiration takes you, and then flesh it out fully on a desktop rig.
Pixaki (iPad: $24.99)
Pixel art has hit something of a renaissance, used in everything from retro art to computer games. Rizer's Pixaki turns your iPad into a full-on pixel art studio, loaded with a ton of features you'd expect from a proper professional art app. Don't let the retro look fool you, though: Pixaki comes with drawing, shape, selection and palette tools, and support for up to 50 layers, with the option to import images and photos as layers for you to draw over, as well as animation features. Images can be exported to a variety of formats, such as PSDs, GIFs, PNGs, sprite sheets and more.
MediBang Paint (Android, iOS: Free)
MediBang Paint (Android, iPad, iPhone) is a Japanese multi-platform art app built with manga and comics art styles in mind. The app comes with the features you'd expect from a solid mobile art app, including layers, rulers, a wealth of brushes, and snap guides and tracing aides. In addition, you'll find numerous tools for things like comic panels, screen tones, lettering fonts, and more. The app's multi-platform support also means you can create a cloud account to transfer works between platforms, allowing you to start a sketch on a phone or tablet, and then refine your work on desktop versions of the app or share it with a collaborator.
Concepts (iOS: Free)
Concepts by TopHatch is another really cool mobile art app that combines the ease of pen-and-paper-style drawing with the powerful tools of a vector graphics app. The free version is already a perfectly serviceable drawing tool, coming with five-layer support, an infinite canvas, vector brush tools, and support for a variety of Bluetooth active styli from Apple, Adonit, Fifty Three and more. A $7.99 in-app purchase unlocks the Pro Pack which adds a ton of new features, such as CAD-style tools, import and export options, transformation tools and a variety of object libraries that simplify work.
Infinite Painter (Android, iOS: Free 7-day trial)
Infinite Painter might not have the easy name recall of the Adobe or Autodesk brand, but it's garnered a well-deserved cult following among Android users. Infinite Painter features 80-plus natural brushes and the ability to create custom ones, infinite layer support, paper textures, a variety of transformation tools and perspective aids, color blending, pattern and gradient tools and more. Works can be exported into PSD, PNG or JPG. The app is free with a 7-day trial, after which premium features are available as in-app purchases. While originally an Android exclusive, Infinite Painter has since made the leap to iPad screens, operating under the same free trial model.
Art Set 4 (iPad: Free)
Art Set 4 is an iPad painting app designed to mimic the behavior of real-world art mediums such as watercolor, oil paints, crayons, pencils and more, all in an easy, touch-driven interface. Users can experiment with a variety of media, including watercolors with simulated fluid movement and even a 3D effect as you apply gloopy paint that you can etch on afterward. A $9.99 in-app purchase unlocks the full gamut of tools, such as layers, hires canvases, localized adjustment tools, premium brushes, and more.
Affinity Designer (iOS: $19.99)
A powerful vector graphics design and drawing program, Affinity Designer is built to work on mobile and desktop platforms, but the iPad version takes advantage of Metal acceleration and pressure, tilt, and angle sensitivity on the Apple Pencil to provide a capable mobile design and drawing suite. Affinity Designer lets you work with precise vector and raster modes as well as a wealth of selection, editing, history and workflow tools, all of which you can export to a variety of file formats and edit with the desktop version. Pricey and overpowered for someone who’s just dabbling, this app is definitely aimed more at the professional or hobbyist user.
Tayasui Sketches (Android, iOS: Free)
Previously an iOS exclusive and now available on Android, Tayasui Sketches (Android, iOS) is another app that aims to mimic the feel of pen and paint on paper, with a simple slide cabinet interface for its brushes. Painting tools handle quickly and naturally, from pencil to marker to watercolor. Numerous gesture controls allow you to easily undo, redo, zoom, move the canvas and more. In-app purchases unlock further features, such as layer editing, more drawing tools and stylus pressure support for a variety of peripherals.
Artflow (Android: Free)
The ArtFlow Android digital art studio comes packed with features and tools, both in free and paid tiers. ArtFlow's free version is already a solid drawing app, with nine customizable brushes, a symmetry tool, color picker, six-step undo and support for two layers. A premium version massively expands the tool selection, with more than 50 brushes, expanded history support, the ability to create up to 16 layers, stylus pressure support and custom palettes. ArtFlow's premium version has more features than any normal user would probably know what to do with, but it's great for seasoned and aspiring digital artists looking for an Android art app.
Procreate (iOS: $5.99)
More than just a clever play on words, Procreate brings a fast, feature-packed digital arts studio straight to your tablet. Procreate features support for ultra-high def 4K canvases, up to 128 layers, 250 levels of undo and redo, and more than a hundred customizable brushes. From transformative tools to video capture of workflow, multi-touch gesture commands and GPU accelerated filters, Procreate offers impressive performance to artists. It's overkill if you're just looking for something to doodle with, but if you're in the market for a robust, professional-quality art app on an iPad, Procreate deserves a look.
Artrage (Android, iOS: $4.99)
Where many apps try to take fullest advantage of the digital experience, ArtRage (Android, iOS) tries to do the reverse, delivering a set of drawing and painting tools firmly rooted in the analog art of applying graphite on paper or paint on canvas. ArtRage features a series of tools that aim to mimic real world painting tools and mediums, such as oil paints, watercolors, a palette knife, paint rollers, etc. The painting engine is designed to mimic the effects of paint thickness, thinner and other real-world behaviors of tools and media. That said, ArtRage doesn't totally eschew digital features, with layer control, a recording feature and undo/redo.