The 7 Best Drawing Apps for the iPad: Reviewed And Ranked

Best Drawing Apps for the iPad

The 7 Best Drawing Apps for the iPad: Reviewed And Ranked

One of the greatest advantages of using an Apple iPad is the ability to draw and write on the tablet’s large touch screen. For professional artists, graphic designers, or even amateur sketch artists, the number of creative possibilities contained on a single iPad screen are too many to number. But, of all the different options available to you, what are the best drawing apps for the iPad?

As it turns out, there are a number of great choices for a number of different uses. It all depends on what you’re looking for. We’ve gathered seven of the very best below, reviewed and ranked for your convenience.

  • Best Overall: Procreate
  • Best Desktop Support: Adobe Illustrator
  • Best for Art: Art Set 4
  • Best for 3D: SketchUp
  • Best for Sculpting: Nomad Sculpt
  • Best for Sketching: Sketchbook
  • Best for Professionals: Inspire Pro

Best Overall: Procreate

App DeveloperSavage Interactive Pty Ltd
In-App PurchasesNo
ReleasedMarch 16th, 2011
Subscription NeededNo

All in all, when it comes to the best drawing apps for the iPad, it’s hard to beat the Procreate app. Designed to help users create stunning illustrations, paintings, and designs, the app offers a variety of features and tools you won’t find with any other drawing app.

It includes brushes with adjustable settings, layers for organizing and editing all your design elements, and a variety of other filters and effects. Procreate also supports importing and exporting files in multiple formats — including PSD, PNG, and JPEG.

best drawing apps for the ipad
In 2018, Procreate became the overall best-selling iPad app.

©Haris Setiyono/Shutterstock.com

Procreate also boasts an excellent and intuitive user interface. With this, even the most amateur artist can create beautiful works of art. The app has a clean, minimalist design that helps users focus on their artwork with no distractions. Plus, Procreate offers a number of tutorials and online resources to help users learn how to use its many features and tools.

The app is also highly customizable, allowing users to create their own brushes, palettes, and shortcuts with ease. No wonder consistently ranks not only as one of the best drawing apps, but also as one of the best iPad apps ever made.

Best Desktop Support: Adobe Illustrator

App DeveloperAdobe Inc.
In-App PurchasesYes
ReleasedOctober 21st, 2020
Subscription NeededYes

Though iconic vector graphics editing software Adobe Illustrator has been available in desktop form for decades, it only came to the iPad very recently. As it turns out, its beloved features and capabilities are perfect for this tablet platform. (And, better yet, it offers great support for desktop and tablet use alike.)

Adobe Illustrator for iPad allows users to create and edit scalable vector graphics with ease. As any graphic artist will tell you, these vectors are essential for a wide number of purposes, including logo creation, icon design, web graphics, and animations.

best drawing apps for the ipad
Adobe Illustrator was reviewed as the best vector graphics editing program in 2021 by PC Magazine.

©Dipu Thakuria/Shutterstock.com

Adobe Illustrator for iPad comes equipped with a number of must-have features and tools for creating vector graphics. These include shape tools, text tools, and a range of brushes and other drawing tools.

The app also includes a selection of pre-made templates to help you get started with your designs. The app also supports the seamless importing and exporting of files to and from your desktop computer. With this, you can start a design on your iPad and continue working on it on your desktop computer (or vice versa).

Best for Art: Art Set 4

App DeveloperLOFOPI
In-App PurchasesYes
ReleasedJuly 10th, 2019
Subscription NeededNo

Ask any artist: there’s a huge difference between drawing, painting, sketching, illustrating, and so on. While these are collectively the best drawing apps for the iPad, there are a number of nuances and subtleties between each app we must make note of.

As such, Art Set 4 stands out as the best drawing app for good old-fashioned 2D artwork. The app is designed to simulate the experience of using traditional art materials, such as pencils, paints, and markers. Art Set 4 offers a variety of other tools and materials, too: charcoal, watercolors, you name it; Art Set 4 probably has it.

Additionally, each one of these tools and materials has customizable settings for even more specificity. The goal of the Art Set 4 app is to replicate the look and feel of real-world materials using advanced algorithms.

For instance, watercolor paints bleed and blend on paper, so they should do the same on the app. This makes Art Set 4 the very best choice for artists who want to create digital art that still looks and feels like traditional art. Best of all, it’s free to download and only costs $10 to unlock all materials and tools.

Best for 3D: SketchUp

App DeveloperTrimble Inc.
In-App PurchasesYes
ReleasedSeptember 15th, 2021
Subscription NeededYes

When looking for the best drawing apps for the iPad, an overwhelming number of search results is merely intended for 2D artwork. As artists know, however, there are far more mediums in art than just two-dimensional ones.

In the age of CGI and three-dimensional animation, you need a drawing app that lets you work with 3D. SketchUp is the best one for the job. This 3D modeling app for the iPad allows users to create, view, and edit 3D models, all while maintaining an easy and intuitive interface. This makes it the best choice for both beginners and experienced 3D artists.

best drawing apps for the ipad
SketchUp enables the placement of its models within Google Earth.

©kittipong kongwatmai/Shutterstock.com

From architecture to interior design, from construction to model building, SketchUp offers a variety of tools for creating 3D models for any purpose. Its full set of tools includes shapes, lines, and surfaces in both two and three dimensions.

Users can also import and edit models from other sources, such as 3D Warehouse, a popular library of user-created 3D models. SketchUp does require a subscription in order to allow the use of a majority of its great features, but the cost only comes out to be around $10 a month — that’s quite affordable considering the size and scope of the app.

Best for Sculpting: Nomad Sculpt

App DeveloperHexanomad
In-App PurchasesNo
ReleasedAugust 4th, 2020
Subscription NeededNo

Going hand in hand with the previous app, Nomad Sculpt is one of the best drawing apps for the iPad for those looking to make and design three-dimensional sculptures. When working with a digital drawing app, it’s easy to assume that you probably won’t be able to work with materials such as clay or other sculpting materials. Nomad Sculpt proves this assumption wrong.

The app offers a number of sculpting tools — including brushes, knives, and deformation tools — that allow users to manipulate and sculpt their models with the same precision as the real thing.

The Nomad Sculpt app also includes a variety of materials and textures to help users create more realistic-looking sculptures. Plus, there are certain advantages to using one of the best drawing apps for the iPad that you won’t find in real life.

For instance, take Nomad Sculpt’s ability to let you use touch gestures to zoom, pan, and rotate your models. You can’t get that close in real life without bumping your nose up against the thing! If you’re looking to sculpt, it doesn’t get much better than Nomad Sculpt.

Best for Sketching: Sketchbook

App DeveloperSketchbook, Inc.
In-App PurchasesYes
ReleasedApril 2nd, 2010
Subscription NeededNo

Not every digital art project has to be museum-ready. Sometimes, it’s preferable to simply sketch out your works before you get going on the final product. This is what makes Sketchbook one of the best drawing apps for the iPad: it’s the ideal app for those artists merely looking to sketch.

While you can still draw or paint using the app, Sketchbook is best for the remarkable number of tools and features reserved solely for those quick and simple sketches you do to lay down the groundwork for your next masterpiece.

This app was designed with sketching at the very top of the list of priorities, and it shows in every aspect of the user interface. Sketchbook offers a plethora of customizable tools — including pencils, markers, and airbrushes — that allow users to create a variety of textures and styles in their artwork.

You can even use their pre-installed guides to help inspiration strike. It’s free to download, but you can unlock a number of premium features for a relatively low cost in the app. Regardless, the free features will be plenty for some users.

Best for Professionals: Inspire Pro

App DevelopersnowCanoe
In-App PurchasesNo
ReleasedOctober 9th, 2010
Subscription NeededNo

Because the iPad is so user-friendly and accessible for users of all ages and experiences, it’s often the case that apps will skew their abilities and features toward the more inexperienced or amateur in order to bring in the most downloads possible.

But what about those of us that don’t need the tutorials or the walkthroughs in order to do great work? What about the best drawing apps for the iPad that are made for professionals? Look no further than Inspire Pro: one of the most powerful and fully equipped drawing apps around.

The app’s brushes are designed to mimic the look and feel of real paintbrushes, giving the pros exactly the sort of natural and organic painting experience they’re looking for. In addition to this, Inspire Pro provides more than 150 different brushes to choose from, each with its own unique texture and feel.

If that’s not enough, you can also customize individual brushes to suit your particular needs. Its upfront cost of $20 might seem like a lot, but there are no subscriptions or in-app purchases needed beyond that price. It’s the best thing a pro could want from an iPad drawing app.

How to Pick the Best Drawing Apps for the iPad: Step by Step

There are a number of different factors and considerations involved in choosing the best drawing apps for the iPad. It’s about a lot more than just any one of these, too.

The price per app (as well as the cost of any necessary subscriptions), the type of art you’d like to do on the app, and the level of skill you have as an artist are all worthy of taking into account.

Let’s explain a bit about each of these key factors at length below. Additionally, we will also elaborate on the exact reasoning behind each of these steps.


First things first, there’s the price. How much does the app cost upfront? Is it available for free? Or for $0.99? Perhaps it’s more expensive, around $10-$20 or more? Not to mention subscription costs. Is there a monthly or annual fee to use the app?

Pricing is a major player in the decision-making process here, as you don’t want to spend too much on tools and features you don’t need. (Or vice versa, where you end up paying for an app that doesn’t have enough tools and features for your skill level or type of art. More on that next.)

Type of Art

Secondly, when choosing the best drawing apps for the iPad, let’s take into consideration the type of art you’re going to be working with. A 3D sculpting app is not going to work for someone looking to sketch, and a painting app is not going to be ideal for someone trying to make architectural blueprints.

Make up your mind about the type of art you’re going to be focusing on the most. Then, browse our guide for the app that best fits your specifications as an artist. No one artist is the same and, as such, no one app can check every artist’s boxes.

Level of Skill

Thirdly, consider the level of skill you’re bringing to the table as an artist. If you’re just getting started in the field, you probably don’t need the app designated for professionals. Conversely, if you’re a seasoned expert at a particular artistic medium, you can probably skip over the beginner’s version of the drawing app.

Or, if you’re someone with a little experience looking to get better at what you’re doing, you can opt for one of the all-purpose apps loaded with tutorials and online instructions. Think hard about this (and all other factors), then make your choice.

What to Know Before Using the Best Drawing Apps for the iPad

Before diving into any one of these 7 best drawing apps for the iPad, there are some other things you should know first. For one, the Apple Pencil can be an amazing and essential tool for you as an artist — this is true regardless of skill level.

The Apple Pencil is a fantastic little stylus specially designed for the iPad that allows you to elevate your art with ease. Consider purchasing one if you don’t have one already.

Additionally, you should think about whether or not the app is compatible with your Mac or another computer. Some apps offer the ability to transfer your work from the iPad to the computer with seamless integration, letting you pick up right where you left off.

Others do not have the ability to offer this. Pay close attention to whether or not your app is compatible with your other devices before making your ultimate decision.

Lastly, you should think about your tablet’s screen protector (or lack thereof) before you begin using one of the best drawing apps for the iPad. Some artists are put off by the slick, glossy feel of the iPad’s glass screen.

For these people, there are textured screen protectors available out there to replicate the feeling of drawing on paper or canvas. If you find that your user experience is lacking something without one of these screen protectors, consider getting one to try.

Using the Best Drawing Apps for the iPad: What to Expect

So, by now, you’ve probably made up your mind about which of the best drawing apps for the iPad is ideal for you and your unique artistry. That’s great! We hope you enjoy the one-of-a-kind artistic process that comes from drawing on an iPad.

You might expect to feel a little bit weird at first, just as you would when working with any new medium. This will be overcome with a bit of practice and continued use. It’s not going to feel exactly like paper or canvas, even with a screen protector. But, as many artists will attest to, the experience of making art on an iPad is still second to none.

The 7 Best Drawing Apps for the iPad: Reviewed And Ranked FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the Apple Pencil used for?

The Apple Pencil is a stylus designed by Apple specifically for use with iPad tablets. It allows users to write, draw, sketch, and annotate on their iPads with precision and sensitivity. It costs $99 for a first-generation model and $129 for a second-generation model. Many used models can be found online for a fraction of this price.

Does the Apple Pencil work with all iPad models?

No, the Apple Pencil does not work with all iPads. The Apple Pencil is only compatible with the 6th generation iPad and beyond, the 3rd generation iPad Air and beyond, the 5th generation iPad mini and beyond, and all generations of the iPad Pro.

How does the Apple Pencil work?

The Apple Pencil utilizes a number of advanced sensors and algorithms to detect position, force, and tilt. These sensors allow the Apple Pencil and iPad to precisely mimic the look and feel of using a traditional pencil, pen, or brush. The Apple Pencil connects to the iPad via Bluetooth and is charged by attaching it to the iPad’s Lightning port. (This is something many deem inconvenient, but alas.)

What are some of the most notable features of the Apple Pencil?

Some notable features of the Apple Pencil include high precision and sensitivity over the finger or other styluses, support for pressure and tilt sensitivity, palm rejection technology to prevent smears or streaks from accidentally touching the screen with your hand, and the ability to quickly switch between different tools and brushes in drawing apps.

Should I buy an Apple Pencil?

Whether or not you should buy an Apple Pencil ultimately depends on your needs and usage. If you frequently use your iPad for creative tasks such as drawing, sketching, or note-taking, the Apple Pencil can be a great tool used to enhance your work and productivity.

However, if you only use your iPad for more basic tasks such as browsing the web or watching videos, the Apple Pencil probably will not be necessary for you.

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