app review

15 Best Digital Drawing Apps for iPad

15 Best Digital Drawing Apps for iPad

If you’re creating art in a digital medium, having a digital drawing app is a must.

These apps provide artists with limitless possibilities and loads of useful tools to scratch that creative itch.

However, there are a lot of apps to choose from these days. That’s especially true if you’re using an iPad, since most art apps end up in the App Store first!

But, like always, Paperlike has your back.

Read on for a curated list of the best drawing apps out there for iPad users.

Let's go!


#caption#Image: Deniz Kurtoglu / Paperlike

#alt#An image showing the difference between raster and vector graphics.

Digital drawing: pixels vs. vectors

Before we dive in, there’s something you should know.

Most of the apps in this list fall under pixel or raster-based and vector-based categories.  Some are even capable of both.

Here’s a quick intro/refresher if you’re unfamiliar with the lingo:

  • Raster graphics rely on collections of dots or pixels to store all your graphical information. The number of dots per inch determines quality. Working in this medium allows you to create textures in your work, but the image can’t be scaled up without losing quality.
  • Vector graphics use mathematical equations to determine the location of elements on your document.  This allows designs to be scaled up infinitely with no loss in quality.  However, most illustrations are created from smooth, sleek lines that lack texture.

So, what does that mean for you as a digital artist? It's just something to keep in mind so that you can choose the right app for you.

If you're looking for rich textures that come from using a variety of brushes, pixels should be your go-to option. If smooth lines and geometric shapes are your favorite, vectors are for you.

With that all cleared up, let's take a look at all of these apps.

#caption#Procreate was one of the first drawing programs to use the power of the iPad. (Image: Procreate)

#alt#An image of the Procreate logo with three iPads with different digital drawings below it.


It's easy to see Procreate (review here) as the app that started it all back in 2011.  Over a decade later, Procreate remains one of the best drawing apps for the iPad because it continually innovates its features, capabilities, and tools.

Their proprietary graphics engine is one of a kind and, over the years, has only gotten more advanced. With over 100 brushes, Procreate’s brush library is one of the most expansive, which is just one of the many features that will help you thrive and succeed as an artist when using the app.

Plus, if you can't find a brush that suits your needs, you can always create your own from scratch or import brushes from other creative professionals to give your work added texture and flair.

#caption#Procreate lets you draw, paint, animate, and more in one app. (Image: Procreate)

#alt#An image of a car drawn in Procreate on the iPad.

Because Procreate was one of the earliest drawing apps, some of their major innovations — like Gestures — have been widely adopted by other apps that you’ll see on this list.

And speaking of Gestures, Procreate has a ton of them.  You’ll be able to use them to navigate your canvas, activate QuickMenu, undo/redo changes, clear, copy/paste, and more.  You can even customize all these settings to your personal preference.

For added convenience, you can also export and import PSD files. Overall, Procreate is a great mobile workflow for the iPad Pro that lets you draw, animate, and even use 3D models. If you want a leg up, check out our Procreate tips article.

Coolest features

  • Brush customization. Edit your brushes to your preferences.  Increase pressure sensitivity, create dual brush effects, invent new brush shapes, and more.
  • 3D model painting. You can paint 3D models in Procreate with special texture brushes and preview them in physical space using augmented reality.
  • Custom Gestures. Use the Quick Actions menu and specialized gestures for a custom, streamlined experience.

 Main limitations

  • No vector brush support. As a raster-based app, Procreate isn't a program that can read or use vector brushes.
  • No automatic file backups. While Procreate syncs through iCloud, you'll have to do your file backups manually to be sure files don't go missing.
  • No recovery options. If you delete something in Procreate, you won’t be able to get it back. Be sure before you delete!

Important details

#caption#Adobe Fresco has quickly become one of the most advanced digital apps for Creative Cloud users. (Image: Adobe Fresco)

#alt#An image of an iPad running Adobe Fresco with the Adobe Fresco logo to the right.

Adobe Fresco

Since its debut in 2019, Adobe Fresco (review here) has become one of the more impressive drawing apps for the iPad. Built with the power of the Adobe Photoshop painting engine, it offers some of the best brushes and capabilities for drawing, painting, and animating on the iPad.

You'll find that the app offers a host of fun features that will make you feel like a pro right away, especially if you're already familiar with the Adobe program suite from the desktop.

Fresco is equipped with 150 brushes by default, and there are plenty more that you can install without ever leaving the app.

#caption#Drawing with Fresco’s live brushes gives you realistic watercolor and oil paint textures and effects. (Image: Adobe Fresco)

#alt#An image of a person drawing on an iPad running Adobe Fresco.

In Fresco, Adobe also offers a unique feature called live brushes, which utilizes AI to realistically mimic the flow and texture of wet oil and watercolor paint in real time.  It’s one of the most real-to-life painting experiences out there, and definitely something you won’t want to miss.

One of the major differences between Fresco and its competitors is its natural ability to integrate with other Adobe products.  Creative Cloud users can pass work between Fresco and Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator since Fresco offers both vector and raster capabilities.

That kind of seamless functionality makes Fresco a major contender for Adobe fans who want to work inside a dedicated workspace while on the go.

Coolest features

  • Vector and raster capabilities. Open your Adobe Fresco files in Illustrator and Photoshop for iPad or desktop.
  • Live brushes. Create using realistic watercolor and oil brushes on a digital canvas.
  • Motion and path animation. Great for adding animation and motion in a beginner-friendly way to transform your artwork.

Main limitations

  • Limited brushes for free users. The free version of the app gives you access to hundreds of brushes but not the full library of premium brushes.
  • Limited brush importing. Third-party brush formats and files from other apps aren't compatible, so be mindful of this if you're not already using Adobe programs.
  • No pen tool for editing vector brush strokes. While you can use vector brushes, you won't be able to fine-tune points on your stroke paths within the Fresco app.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel- and vector-based.
  • Pricing: Free, with paid plans starting at $9.99/year; 30-day free trial.
  • Compatibility: iOS, PC.
  • Links:  Download app | View website.

#caption#Linearity Curve is a graphic design program that lets you use a variety of vector-based drawing tools, all for free. (Image: Linearity Curve)

#alt#An image of the Linearity Curve logo on an orange background.

Linearity Curve

If you're a beginner who wants to vectorize your work, Linearity Curve (formerly known as Vectornator) is for you. It's a comprehensive graphic design program that lets you create vector art and assets.

Simple in its presentation, you'll find tools at the top left and right and a single toolbar on the left-hand side. This makes it feel clean, organized, and user-friendly.

All of the tools you’d expect from vector-based programs are there, such as the Pen Tool and Node Tool, without having to worry about how to use advanced features. If you ever get stuck, you can press and hold any tool to learn more about it or even take a quick in-app tutorial.

#caption#You can sync your documents across your devices using your Linearity account. (Image: Linearity Curve)

#alt#An image of a Mac and a social media post designed using Linearity Curve.

In Curve, all your artboards have their own set of layers that will change as you choose new active artboards, which adds to its exceptional functionality. It also comes loaded with thousands of design templates, icons, and a free photo library.

As you can see, Curve can still do a lot, even though it’s a free app. Creating a Linearity account will help you keep all of your work synced and available across your iOS devices. If you want to see how it stacks up to other vector apps, check out our comparison article.

Coolest features

  • Color-coded Pen tool. Makes it easy to tell where your paths start and end, which is nice for beginners.
  • In-app tutorials. Great for beginners who want to learn more about vectorizing their work and the tools and features in the app.
  • AI tools. Use AI-powered tools like Background Removal and Auto Trace to speed up your workflow.

Main limitations

  • No raster brush support. As a vector-based app, Linearity Curve isn't a program that can read or use raster brushes.
  • No brush importing. You can't expand your brush set, which can leave you feeling limited in how you can create.

Important details

#caption#Drawing and painting is clean and simple in Sketchbook. (Image: Sketchbook)

#alt#An image of a cartoon-style drawing created in Sketchbook on the iPad.


Want a fun medium between Adobe Fresco and Procreate? Autodesk Sketchbook is a great all-around creative app that offers a lot of functionality for a low price.

Sketchbook allows you to create in a way that feels authentic to traditional materials. This is reflected in the brushes and their advanced customization options. And this is much more than just a sketching app, as there are over 15 categories of brushes to choose from.

You can edit not only the brush size, but also the size of the brush when you apply heavy or light pressure, which gives artists more control over their strokes. Under Advanced Settings, you can edit your brush texture by importing different  files that alter the overall look of your brushes.

#caption#Sketchbook has an extensive brush selection with a variety of customization features. (Image: Sketchbook / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of a document in Sketchbook with the brush menu open.

The interface is clean and simple to navigate in order to put the focus on your work. If you’re more of a beginner to digital art, you’ll enjoy using this app.

With the premium version of the app, you’ll also have access to additional downloadable assets, from color palettes and textures to brush packs. Use these to inspire your work and to expand how you create within the Sketchbook app.

Coolest features

  • Realistic brush tools. A variety of traditional art studio brush textures and effects.
  • Advanced customization. Brush tools can be customized with precision for size when applying heavy or light pressure.
  • Curve ruler. Great for drawing and creating unique guidelines on a curve.

Main limitations

  • No pre-made grid lines. Without grids, you'll have to create your own guidelines to make sure your work is straight.
  • No brush importing for free users. You can't expand your brush set unless you upgrade, which can leave you feeling limited in how you can create.
  • No brush smoothing setting. The lack of a smoothing feature for your line work can make drawing smooth lines challenging if you have a less-than-steady hand.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: Free; $1.99/one-time purchase for premium features.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Mac, Android, PC.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#You won’t have to choose between pixels and vectors with Affinity Designer for the iPad. (Image: Affinity Designer for the iPad)

#alt#An image of a drawing open in Affinity Designer for the iPad.

Affinity Designer for iPad

Affinity Designer for iPad (review here) is an impressive app with a number of capabilities, including vector and raster brushes. To achieve this, you'll need to switch modes or Personas to give yourself access to the correct toolset.

But it really goes beyond being simply a drawing and painting app. It's also great for graphic design, UX, UI, print projects, and more. Using its type tool is a lot of fun because you can access advanced typographic settings for OpenType or OTF files that other iPad apps don't typically support.

Because Affinity Designer for iPad is so robust in its capabilities, it does have a steeper learning curve than other apps on this list. However, if you're a user coming from a similar program like Adobe Illustrator, you'll probably find the UI easier to navigate.

#caption#The vector brush tool gives your sleek vectors the texture of pixel brushes. (Image: Affinity Designer for the iPad / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of a stylized drawing of a lion created in Affinity Designer for the iPad.

This isn't to say that Affinity Designer does everything. It's a part of a creative suite for graphic design with two other Affinity apps, Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer, which are similar to Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

For less than $20, you can access this professional design software without having to worry about a subscription.

Coolest features

  • Vector brush tool. Gives a unique texture quality to your vector brushes.
  • Vector and raster capabilities. You can use both modes of creation in the same piece.
  • Layer effects. Go beyond blend modes to add effects like 3D, Bevel/Emboss, Glows, and more to your work.

Main limitations

  • Learning curve. With its robust capabilities and huge brush selection, learning Affinity Designer for iPad can be challenging for a beginner to digital art.
  • Slight lag when drawing. Affinity Designer is a powerful app, but depending on your device specs and the effects in your piece, your stroke speed can sometimes slow down.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel- and vector-based
  • Pricing: $18.49/one-time purchase; 30-day free trial.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Mac, PC.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#Linea Sketch is a cost-effective option for drawing on the iPad. (Image: Línea Sketch)

#alt#An image of a portrait drawn in Linea Sketch.

Linea Sketch

Linea Sketch is a simple and intuitive app. Your active tools and layers are easy to identify through icons and arrows. The unique fill tool feature instantly creates a filled shape as you draw your strokes.

The brushes available for free users don’t feel too limiting, as they feature a great range of textures and tool types. However, upgrading through an in-app purchase to enable the text tool feature and remove the watermarks when you export your artwork is worth it.

#caption#Have problems picking colors? You can choose from preset color palettes in Linea Sketch. (Image: Línea Sketch / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of an octopus drawn in Linea Sketch with the Color Set menu open.

If you struggle with choosing colors for your artwork, you'll find Linea Sketch's themed Color Sets helpful. You can also create your own color palettes and easily import photos into your document.

Another fun feature that’s included, called ZipShape, lets you create perfect shapes instantly by simply drawing and holding briefly on your shape. Once you've got your shape, you can transform, rotate, or lock it in place.

There's even an option to livestream from the app to YouTube, which isn't common for many of the drawing apps on this list. iCloud syncing is automatic from Linea Sketch, making it simple and convenient to keep on top of your creations.

Coolest features

  • Textured paper. Includes 7+ different realistic paper texture backgrounds.
  • Custom color palettes. Access a variety of color sets to get you started with coloring your artwork.
  • ZipShape. Great for creating instant shapes for transforming in the app.

Main limitations

  • No text tool for free users. You won't be able to use any custom type in the app without a premium subscription.
  • Limited brush selection for free users. Access to the brushes will be limited without a premium subscription.
  • Watermarked exports for free users. You'll have a Linea Sketch watermark whenever you save your work without a premium subscription.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: Free; $29.99/one-time purchase for premium features.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Mac.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#Medibang Paint is an approachable app for beginners to digital art. (Image: Medibang Paint / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of the loading screen for Medibang Paint on the iPad.

Medibang Paint

Into drawing manga and comics?  Medibang Paint comes loaded with helpful comic templates, making creating panels fast and easy. They do this with tools like their Panel Layout tool and helpful manga tutorial series.

This app offers a straightforward drawing experience for its users to enjoy no matter what kind of art they like creating.

You can draw and paint with over 150 brushes, including airbrushes, pencils, pens, and more.

#caption#Medibang Paint comes with several downloadable resources to enhance your experience and creativity. (Image: Medibang Paint / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of a manga-style drawing of a girl in Medibang Paint.

Medibang also allows artists to enjoy the benefits of drawing on the go without needing to worry about having an internet connection. You'll have extra peace of mind that your work will be safe thanks to their Automatic Backup feature.

While the app is available for free, a benefit of upgrading includes a library of downloadable materials, fonts, and more to enhance your drawing experience. This is an art app that's not just for doodling, but for creating whatever you can imagine.

And if you're truly resistant to an upgrade, you can enjoy free drawing with premium tools in exchange for watching short ad breaks.

Plus, Medibang’s broad platform compatibility makes the app a great option for use on iOS devices and various other operating systems.

Coolest features

  • Custom rulers and grid settings. Choose from a variety of rulers and grids to create the perfect setup for your artwork.
  • Context bar. This will explain all active tools and their functions, which is perfect for beginner and advanced users alike.
  • Variety of layer options. You can use effects like halftone, stencil, mask, and 8-bit on your layers.
  • In-app backup gallery. You'll have access to all of your documents with timestamps for easy recovery.

Main limitations

  • In-app ads for free users. You'll have banner ads on the screen and ads that play occasionally if you aren't a premium user.
  • Limited cloud storage for free users. Medibang Paint offers cloud storage with your premium subscription from $2.99/month.
  • Limited brush library for free users. You won't have access to the full brush set if you aren't a premium user.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: Free; from $2.99/month for premium features and 20 GB of cloud storage.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Android, Mac, PC.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#Clip Studio Paint is an advanced app for the iPad. (Image: Clip Studio Paint / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of the loading screen for Clip Studio Paint on the iPad.

Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint has proven itself to be a powerful program for painting, drawing, comics, and animation. You can use it to create everything from storyboards to detailed digital paintings. And part of what makes Clip Studio Paint instantly unique is its desktop UI interface.

While you're in the iPad app, you'll feel comfortable navigating the toolbar along the top of the screen. This is great for artists who are familiar with working in desktop art programs like Adobe Photoshop.

Additionally, the menu drop-downs are where you'll realize just how much you can do within the app. Projects can be set up for animation, illustration, comics, webtoons, and more.

#caption#You can create a variety of project types in Clip Studio Paint, from animation to comics and illustrations. (Image: Clip Studio Paint / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of a New Document menu panel open in Clip Studio Paint for the iPad.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by its extensive capabilities, I'd suggest starting with basic functions and exploring its tutorial and tips archive.

Clip Studio Paint is a solid option for artists looking for an app that can do it all, with an impressive brush set and unique iPad features. You can get started in the app with a free trial to see if it's for you. If you need help figuring out which license and plan are right for you, check out their recommended plan test.

Coolest features

  • Animation timeline and tools. Bring your drawings to life with advanced animation capabilities.
  • Raster and vector brushes. Create with textured pixels or sleek and smooth vectors in the same document.
  • Classic desktop UI. You'll enjoy a desktop document setup similar to working on a computer.
  • 3D modeling support. Clip Studio Paint comes loaded with over 100 models for you to use.

Main limitations

  • Layer types don't change your toolset. You'll have to memorize and get comfortable navigating the app to find the brushes that you can use for vectors or raster layers.
  • Limited brush compatibility. You can only use Clip Studio Paint brushes or Photoshop brushes in the app.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel and vector-based.
  • Pricing: 30-day free trial; from $4.49/month.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Android, Mac, PC.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#Tayasui Sketches is a fun and easy-to-use drawing app on the iPad. (Image: Tayasui Sketches / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of the loading screen for Tayasui Sketches on the iPad.

Tayasui Sketches

Looking for an app with a small but mighty toolset?

Tayasui Sketches is a great app to get you started with creating digital art on the iPad without an overwhelming amount of tools or features. The minimal and sophisticated design of the interface makes the drawing experience feel premium (even if you're a free user).

And, although this is an iPad app, you can still use keyboard shortcuts in the program if you have one in your setup. It's a great way to get more out of your drawing tablet and a happy medium between having your desktop or laptop.

#caption#Tayasui Sketches’ brushes and paper textures give an authentic feel to your work. (Image: Tayasui Sketches / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of strokes, shapes, and sketches in Tayasui Sketches on the iPad.

The brushes have realistic textures and you can add patterns instantly to your work. It's a great option for users who are beginners or transitioning from Adobe programs like Photoshop.

And, after over ten years as an app on the iPad, it's sticking to what it does best: Giving users an authentic feeling to the work they can create in the app. From the paper backgrounds to the brushes, the realism is stunning.

Coolest features

  • Realistic brush and paper textures. Choose from a number of paper textures for your background and see how your strokes transform.
  • Pattern maker. Using the cutter tool you can add patterns in large areas of your canvas instantly.
  • Color mixing and blending. You'll be able to blend your strokes in a realistic way.
  • Zen mode. Give yourself a focused full-screen mode to reduce onscreen distractions.

Main limitations

  • Limited brush selections for free users. You won't have access to all of the brush settings without a premium subscription.
  • Limited layers. You won't be able to use multiple layers within a document without a premium subscription.
  • No brush importing. You can't expand your brush set within the app.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: Free; $7.99/one-time purchase for premium features.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Android, Mac.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#Artstudio Pro is an app where you can draw and edit your photos all in one place. (Image: Artstudio Pro)

#alt#An image of a drawing in Artstudio Pro with the Layer and Filters menus open.

Artstudio Pro

Want an all-in-one app for your drawing and your photos?

Artstudio Pro gives you this with drawing, animation, and photo editing capabilities. You can customize the app around your preferences, from brush favoriting to choosing the tools in your toolbar.

Don't need the photo editing tools? Hide them to keep your most essential tools at your fingertips. You can also restrict the app from making accidental strokes or functions through the convenient Pencil Only mode. Once you're ready to use gestures again, just tap the icon to deactivate it.

#caption#You'll get great brush textures and workflow improvements in Artstudio Pro. (Image: Artstudio Pro / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of a brush stroke drawn in Artstudio Pro on the iPad.

If you choose to upgrade, you'll have a large library of hundreds of assets available to expand your creativity. And, for a one-time purchase, you can say goodbye to any limitations to layer count, canvas size, and more.

If photo editing is a feature you think you'll be using a lot, you're in luck. You can edit your photos using filters, healing, and stamp tools similar to those you'd find in Photoshop and Affinity Photo.

Coolest features

  • Brush favorites menu. Have your most used brushes ready to use in an easy-to-access favorites panel.
  • Frame-by-frame animation. Add elements to your document to create animations that you can playback and preview.
  • Light photo editing features. You'll be able to manipulate and retouch photos with tools like burn and clone.

Main limitations

  • Limited layer count for free users. You can only use one layer in your document if you're a free user.
  • Limited export formats for free users. You can only export to JPG if you're a free user, and you can't export animations at all.
  • Limited document size for free users. To enable large canvas sizes and resolutions, you'll have to upgrade.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: Free, $9.99/year or $39.99/one-time for premium features.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Mac.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#You can create drawings with stunning detail in Inspire Pro for iPad. (Image: Inspire Pro for iPad)

#alt#An image of a drawing in Inspire Pro for iPad.

Inspire Pro for iPad

Looking for speed? Inspire Pro for iPad is a fast rendering and advanced paint program with a smart, intuitive interface. It comes loaded with precise, customizable brushes and plenty of workflow enhancers.

The brushes are also innovative because of their dual-texture layering. This gives you the ability to render two textures dynamically and simultaneously thanks to their proprietary Sorcery brush engine.

Their painting engine is what takes their speed and brush performance over the top for iPad users at 120 fps (aka pretty fast).

#caption#You're able to get precise control over your brush strokes in Inspire Pro. (Image: Inspire Pro for iPad)

#alt#An image of the Quick Change menu feature open in Inspire Pro.

When it comes to your workflow, you can make this program work for you. The Quick Change feature is how you can make brush adjustments to opacity and size with a simple gesture. You can even zero in on your brush settings with an instant hide of all other tools on your screen.

At the end of the day, this app will give you everything you need to create digital art how you want to. It’s definitely worth the one-time $19.99 upgrade to access the full features and capabilities.

Coolest features

  • Dynamic dual texture brushes. Your brushes will have a lot of personality and texture thanks to their dual texture properties.
  • Individual brush rotation and size customization. Your brushes can be customized to a precise degree of size and rotation for the best results.
  • Quick Change settings. For a faster workflow, use Quick Change to jump into your brush settings instantly.

Main limitations

  • Limited canvas preset options. Your canvas preset options are limited to eight settings that are calibrated for older devices.
  • No animation features. This app is designed for drawing and painting with no motion support.
  • No brush importing. You can't install additional brushes into the app to expand your toolset.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: $19.99/one-time purchase.
  • Compatibility: iPad, iPhone.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#In Brushes Redux, you can do a lot with fewer tools and features. (Image: Brushes Redux / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of an apple drawn in Brushes Redux on the iPad.

Brushes Redux

Brushes Redux is a simple app for drawing and painting that was created for artists who seek a modern painting interface and custom brush control.  You can even create your own brushes within the app if you’d like a more personalized look and feel for your work.  

It's perfect if you want to avoid getting buried in settings and features without feeling like you’re missing out.  However, Brushes Redux only supports a limited number of the gestures that have become standard for iPad drawing apps. This might require you to change up your workflow in order to get the most out of the app.

#caption#Your brush strokes have a great level of texture for digital drawing and painting in Brushes Redux. (Image: Brushes Redux / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of strokes drawn in Brushes Redux on the iPad with the Brushes menu panel open.

To add color to your work, brushes can be controlled with custom color palettes and the hue ring. Grab colors from images or parts of your canvas with the eyedropper tool to bring them into your active brush.

You can also always count on never forgetting which color you were using, thanks to the dual color chip. It'll remember the last color you used while letting you select another one.

While you can’t import your own brushes into the app, you can tweak and edit the existing brushes using a number of parameters, from stroke spacing to angle.

Coolest features

  • Unique brush editing. Create new brushes from preconfigured shape presets within the app.
  • Time–lapse recording. Watch the creation of your artwork unfold in a time-lapse playback of your work.
  • Large UI. The tools onscreen are minimal but when selected are displayed at a large size for easy adjustments.

Main limitations

  • Limited gesture support. You won't find two-finger undo or three-finger redo gestures in this app.
  • No animation features. This app is designed for drawing and painting with no motion support.
  • No brush importing. You can't install additional brushes into the app to expand your toolset.

Important details

#caption#Art Set 4 has a beautiful set of traditional art materials for drawing and painting. (Image: Art Set 4)

#alt#An image of a sunset painted in Art Set 4 on the iPad.

Art Set 4

If you're transitioning from traditional art materials, this is one of the most realistic and straightforward apps you could use. Not only do you have access to premium and realistic paper textures, but you also have an impressive brush set.

The presentation of your toolset is a fun visual layout that doesn't rely on interpreting icons to know exactly what tool you're about to use. Colors are easy to pick up and change, which is also reflected in your toolset.

You'll also get to enjoy customization options for your toolbar that you can arrange along any side of the screen. This gives you quick and easy access to your favorite brushes, features, and effects.

#caption#You can choose from over 20 realistic paper textures to enhance your digital drawings. (Image: Art Set 4 / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#A colorful image of a dojo drawn in Art Set 4.

While a majority of the tools and features are reserved for premium users, there are enough free tools for new users to get started right away.

You'll find that it reserves functions like saving, duplicating, and deleting files to the Gallery area instead of within the working document, something entirely unique to this app. This change helps to minimize screen distractions and extra windows while working.

While this can be seen as an advantage, it can also mean that your document history may be lost faster with the consolidation of all histories together in one cache within the app.

Coolest features

  • Realistic, traditional toolset. Beautiful brushes and tools that feel true to real art studio tools.
  • Clean, simplistic interface. You get a large canvas with your tools in an easy-to-access area along the bottom and top corners of your screen.
  • Document history. Restore your document to a previous version or state.

Main limitations

  • No animation features. This app is designed for drawing and painting with no motion support.
  • No brush importing. You can't install additional brushes into the app to expand your toolset.
  • No layer support for free users. You'll have to pay for the premium version of the app to be able to use layers.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: Free, $12.99/one-time purchase.
  • Compatibility: iPad, iPhone.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

#caption#Ibis Paint is a powerful drawing app with a simple user interface. (Image: Ibis Paint)

#alt#An image of a promotional graphic for Ibis Paint for iPad.

Ibis Paint

Ibis Paint is an app that's easy to use and features a great brush library. It has all the essential tools to give users a good drawing experience on the iPad while also offering a few extras.

You'll find fun tools like the Special tool that allows you to manipulate your strokes with liquify effects. The toolset looks limited but the options for creating are vast.

The app will also provide occasional hints and tips as pop-ups to help you navigate the interface more effectively.

#caption#You can choose from over 300 brushes with texture and stamp properties. (Image: Ibis Paint / Screenshot by Alanna Flowers / Paperlike)

#alt#An image of color strokes drawn in Ibis Paint with the Brush menu open.

Users also have access to a library of thousands of models and templates to assist with character drawing, landscape creation, and more.

It's also easy to import your own images and reference materials to use while you draw. There's even a Brush/Eraser toggle that lets you switch between your eraser and brush in a single tap at the bottom of your screen.

Ibis Paint is especially helpful for artists who draw manga with their additional framing and manga manuscript features. This will help you frame your drawings with more accuracy.

Coolest features

  • Effects panel. Choose from over 70 effects to apply to your work from stained glass to beveling.
  • Frame Divider tool. Instantly create easy-to-use frames for comics.
  • Liquify Pen. Manipulate your strokes with shrinking and expanding tools.

Main limitations

  • Limited brushes for free users. You'll have to watch ads in order to temporarily enable certain brushes and tools.
  • No brush importing. You can't install additional brushes into the app to expand your toolset.
  • Limited layer effects for free users. You won't have access to all of the premium filters and layer effects unless you upgrade.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: Free; $9.99/one-time purchase for ad removal; optional Prime Membership from $2.99/month for premium tools and 20GB of storage.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Android, PC.
  • Download app | View website.

#caption#ArtRage has support for unlimited layers so you can create without worrying about running out of memory. (Image: ArtRage)

#alt#An image of a landscape painted in ArtRage for iPad.


ArtRage is an app that focuses on achieving the look and feel of real wet paint. Whether it’s watercolor, oil, or acrylic, your blends and stroke interactions will feel like the real thing. As you paint, any overlapping menus or screens disappear, keeping your view of your artwork clear.

When you select your brush, you’ll have multiple options for brush types with descriptions that help you find the exact effect you want. For example, the Wet on Wet watercolor brush or Thin Strokes on Dry.

#caption#Painting in ArtRage has a high level of realism that's great for traditional and digital artists. (Image: ArtRage)

#alt#An image of a painting of a woman picking flowers created in ArtRage for iPad.

The toolbar shows a 3D representation of each type of art supply, from a palette knife to a paint roller. You won’t have to ever worry about making a mess or mistake, either, with unlimited undo and redo functions. You can also be at ease knowing you have unlimited layers.  

This app is a painter's dream, so give it a try if you want to put these brushes to the test for yourself. You can even take your work from your iPad to your Mac or iPhone!

Coolest features

  • Realistic paint brushes. Get an authentic feel of wet paint on your iPad.
  • Third-party stylus support. Don’t want to be married to the Apple Pencil? Choose from a number of other supported styluses.
  • Wet and dry paper effects. Simulate dry and wet paper to change the effects of your paint strokes on your canvas.

Main limitations

  • No animation features. This app is designed for drawing and painting with no motion support.
  • No brush importing. You can't install additional brushes into the app to expand your toolset.

Important details

  • App type: Pixel-based.
  • Pricing: $2.99/one-time purchase.
  • Compatibility: iOS, Mac, PC.
  • Links: Download app | View website.

Other cool apps

While we’ve covered the main drawing apps in detail, here are a few other apps that you may want to give a try.

  • Paper by WeTransfer. This is a fun app that gives you customizable digital sketchbooks to draw in. You can use the Blend Pen for mixing strokes. There's also a watercolor brush tool for realistic strokes and coloring. While you have limited settings for free users, like size presets for brushes and markers, it's a good value overall.
  • Adobe Photoshop for iPad. Photo editing software from the desktop to the iPad. It still has its amazing photo editing capabilities along with a large brush library. Use quick action features like Subject Selection, Background Removal, and more.  However, it’s worth pointing out Adobe has designed this iPad app with an emphasis on photography and is actively pushing iPad users toward Adobe Fresco. From $19.99/month.
  • iPastels. A unique and simple drawing app focused on the feeling of drawing with pastels on paper or canvas. You'll get nice blends and realistic effects from using either your Apple Pencil or finger. Plus, as a free app, it's a fun way to get creative on your iPad if you're a casual or hobbyist creator.
  • Adobe Illustrator for iPad. This app is the iPad version of the popular desktop vector illustration program. It has a lot of the same features that users know and enjoy, optimized for the iPad and Apple Pencil. You can also take your mobile workflow and pick it right back up on the desktop. Illustrator for iPad is also compatible with other programs like Adobe Fresco, taking advantage of its vector capabilities. Available for $20.99/month.

#caption#Image: Paperlike

#alt#An image of a Screen Protector by Paperlike and an Apple Pencil.

Use Paperlike to make the best drawing apps for iPad even better

If you’re looking to do even more with your art, incorporating the iPad and a powerful drawing app into your workflow is a no-brainer.

I hope that this list helps you as you navigate the App Store to dive into drawing on your iPad. Whether you choose pixels or vectors, you'll be more than prepared for wherever your creativity takes you next.

But, like anything, drawing on the iPad could always be better. That's where the our Screen Protector can help. It increases the resistance on your screen to make it feel more natural. And, the Nanodot® technology reduces glare, making it perfect for working on your iPad outdoors.

Get yours today before you jump into one of these great apps!

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