The age of the digital sketchbook is here.
When you have an iPad that supports the Apple Pencil, one of the best uses of this combination is to draw, sketch, or paint. After all, what beats a digital sketchbook where you don’t need to spend money on having the right tools that eventually run out before you need to replenish your supply?
I’ll admit it—I’m not an artist. I don’t think I have the artistic ability to draw, but you know what they always say? Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to something like drawing. With an iPad and an Apple Pencil, not only does it feel like an actual sketchbook and pencil, but you’ll want to keep drawing and sketching, which means you can only get better over time. Or if you’re already an artist, the iPad and Apple Pencil will let you continue to hone your skills.
Regardless of whether you’re an amateur or a pro, these apps let you unleash your creativity effortlessly.
- Linea Sketch
- Affinity Designer
- Adobe Illustrator Draw
- Adobe Photoshop Sketch
- Autodesk Sketchbook
- Sketch Club
- Astropad Standard
If you’re looking for the one drawing app to rule them all, you can’t go wrong with Procreate. It’s one of the most powerful sketching, painting, and illustration apps that you can buy for your iPad, and it’s built for professionals and works flawlessly with Apple Pencil.
With Procreate, you’re getting access to exclusive tools, such as the dual-texture brushes and immediately responsive smudging tools to create the perfect masterpiece. And if you can’t find a tool in Procreate to fit your needs, you can even just create your own tools. Procreate also has incredibly high-resolution canvases that allow you to print out your work in massive sizes, without ever skipping a beat.
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All of your work in Procreate can come out as PSD, native .procreate, TIFF, transparent PNG, multi-page PDF, or even web-ready JPEG file formats. Procreate also supports time-lapse replays, so you can send it directly to your favorite streaming service.
For those who are intimidated by Procreate’s powerful feature-set, Linea Sketch is a better option that’s much more approachable, especially for those who don’t always draw.
Linea Sketch features a simple and intuitive interface while also providing users with a variety of powerful tools that work great with Apple Pencil. Plus, it easily helps you make perfect circles and shapes to create the best drawings. It also shows you colors that complement your selected hue perfectly, so you don’t need to figure that out yourself. It can also do layers, split-screen, and much more. Linea Sketch exports your projects as PSD, JPG, or PNG files so that they can be easily accessed from other devices, like your Mac.
Paper by WeTransfer
Paper by WeTransfer is a good option if you want something that’s free and accessible. With Paper, you can create numerous journals designed to capture your sketches and even notes. There is a nice variety of tools offered in Paper, and it’s very intuitive to use.
In Paper, you’ll get six basic tools that are great for drawing, outlining, and even writing. If you opt for the optional Pro subscription for $8 for six months or $12 for a year, you’ll get access to more tools like diagrams, collages, and cut-and-fill. There is also plenty of room for creativity in Paper, as you’re able to add multiple photos to a journal and cut, stick, and fix without the need for complicated layers. Paper also lets you customize your sketch journals as you’d like, and your work gets synced across devices, as long as you have a Pro subscription.
While you’ll need a Pro subscription to really get the most out of Paper, you do get the basics for free, so it’s a good idea to give them a try before committing to it. Or if you can live with the basic feature set, then you won’t need to pay a dime.
For those who need to work with vector graphics, Affinity Designer is simply one of the best options available on the iPad. Think of it as the desktop app, but converted into the perfect mobile experience.
Affinity Designer is designed to take advantage of Metal, so it’ll give you blazing fast performance. When you pan the canvas or zoom in or out, everything is at a smooth 120fps, which is amazing. It also works flawlessly with the Apple Pencil, taking advantage of pressure, tilt, and angle sensitivity. You’ll also have the best pen, pencil, corner, curve editing, geometry operations, and smart shape tools available at your disposal, and the Apple Pencil means incredible accuracy.
If you need to deal with vector graphics for marketing materials, websites, icons, UI design, or concept art, then Affinity Designer is a must-have.
Adobe Illustrator Draw
While we highly recommend Affinity Designer, we get it—it’s still quite expensive. If you’re on a budget, or just prefer the Adobe Creative Cloud, then Adobe Illustrator Draw is another option to consider.
In Adobe Illustrator Draw, you’ll get customizable brushes that you can use for drawing, designing, and stylizing. There are even a ton of basic shape stencils for your perfect circles, squares, French curves, polygons, and speech bubbles for epic comics. Adobe even allows you to mix photos in with your vector drawings, which can result in some amazing effects. All of the canvases in Adobe Illustrator Draw can go up to 8K resolution, meaning you can get large prints of your work as well, in case you want to show it off.
All work can be stored in the Adobe Creative Cloud, which does have a free tier option. However, you can get another 20GB of storage space in Creative Cloud for just $2 a month, which is honestly not that bad. You’ll be able to access your work from any other device, including Macs, that have Adobe Illustrator on them, thanks to the Cloud.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
If you’re not into vector drawing, then Adobe Photoshop Sketch is the way to go. This one focuses more on traditional drawing, sketching, and painting, rather than vector graphics.
In Adobe Photoshop Sketch, you’ll have access to 24 built-in brushes, all of them with adjustable sizes, colors, opacity, and blending settings. And if you can’t find the right tool for the job, you can import Photoshop brushes directly into Sketch as well, so the possibilities are truly limitless. Like Draw, you can mix photos into your drawing layers, and there are stencils to help you create perfect curves and basic shapes. Sketch also goes up to 8K resolution, so your work can be printed out on massive prints if need be.
And since Photoshop Sketch is part of Adobe, your work saves automatically in your Creative Cloud account. If you need more storage, you can opt for 20GB of storage for just $2 monthly.
If you want something that’s powerful and free, then you need to give Autodesk Sketchbook a try.
With Autodesk Sketchbook, you get a distraction-free UI so you can focus on drawing, not a cluttered interface. Sketchbook is packed with dozens of various brushes, and you can pretty much pick from any color on the spectrum to use in your sketches. The app also has intuitive gestures and shortcuts to bring up various tools and quick access to the most common brushes that you may need.
It may take some time to get used to using Autodesk Sketchbook, but it’s a robust drawing app that works nicely with Apple Pencil. Plus, you can’t be the price tag of free.
A lot of the premium drawing apps we’ve mentioned so far can be a bit pricey, but Sketch Club is a bit on the lower side while still providing a lot of nice features, whether you’re an amateur or pro.
In Sketch Club, you’ll find plenty of brush tools, along with blurring, filling, procedurals, selection, smudging, text, and vector tools. And if you’re worried about getting perfect shapes, don’t worry! There are shape tools with automatic ratio snapping to make sure that nothing looks off. There’s layer support in Sketch Club, and all of your canvases can go up to 16K with presets, and nice 300 DPI prints.
Sketch Club also has an integrated community, which is great for getting motivation and inspiration. The community has daily challenges, weekly competitions, monthly group events, annual awards, and more. The tutorials are also fantastic if you’re trying to improve your drawing skills.
Astropad isn’t just another standard drawing app for your iPad. Instead, it turns your iPad into a drawing tablet for your Mac. That’s right—if you prefer to use your image editors on your Mac, but prefer to use your iPad for the actual drawing, Astropad lets you do just that! Think of it like turning your iPad into a Wacom pen display. To get Astropad to work properly, you’ll need to get the free Mac companion app.
With Astropad, you’ll get a natural drawing experience with your iPad, with the results being delivered right to your Mac. It’s fast and will keep up with your drawing at 60 FPS, even over a Wi-Fi connection. Astropad can work wirelessly or just over USB with your computer. It supports Apple Pencil flawlessly and is pressure-sensitive, just as you need it to be for accurate drawings.
The app itself can be a little pricey, but think about it—it’s much cheaper than going out and buying a Wacom tablet when you already have an iPad, right?
Finally, we have Pixelmator, which is a great option for those who want a full-featured, layer-based image editor. This works great for photo editing, but it’s also an amazing app for sketching and painting as well.
With over 100 brushes, which are designed by fellow artists mind you, the possibilities are pretty much endless in Pixelmator when it comes to drawing and painting. These tools are also specifically designed for various painting techniques, so chances are high that you’ll find what you need. They also replicate the wetness effects quite well, especially for watercolors and crayon brushes. Double-texture brush technology also means you will get the best detail as you paint, and the Pixel brush is quite fun to use too. Pixelmator also supports layers, has an eyedropper color picker, and is fully optimized for Apple Pencil.
Pixelmator can save your images as PSD, JPEG, PNG, and more file formats. Your work can be shared via social platforms, or you can upload and sync it right to your iCloud to be accessed anywhere.
What’s your favorite digital sketchbook?
These are some of the best drawing apps that we could find that work amazingly well with the Apple Pencil. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!