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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 make your iPad your new favorite sketchbook with our favorite digital art apps.
The iPad is a fantastic device for digital artists. Not only is it highly 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 provide enough features to make your art stand out without so many of them that you get stuck.
Here are some of our favorite art apps to use on the iPad.
If you’re looking for one of the best, easiest to use, grid-based illustration apps, you can’t go wrong with Procreate. Not only is it dirt cheap (just $10 on the App Store), it’s also incredibly intuitive to use.
Procreate is lightning fast, has an advanced layering system and only takes a few hours to pick up. If you like 3D art, there is also a 3D painting feature with Lighting Studio and Animated Export.
Its biggest selling point is Procreate’s brush system, which is similar to Photoshop’s brush system, but 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 make your own brushes or get loads of community-created brushes from websites like Creative Market and deviantART.
It’s no surprise why many digital artists have moved exclusively to the iPad 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.
Those who have used desktop Photoshop for digital artwork will pick up on the app immediately, but appreciate that the app has been reduced to the tools most commonly used by painters and illustrators.
We love the sketchpad feature that lets you experiment with tools and techniques before putting artwork on the canvas.
Adobe Fresco is free, but the premium version – which you can get as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription – is much more preferable.
The premium version offers an extensive brush library with over 1,000 brushes, the ability to import new brushes, 1,000 fonts to use in your designs, and quarterly brush drops from Illustrator Kyle T. Webster.
Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint is a wildly popular desktop app used by millions of artists around the world, but there is also an iPad version.
This app is geared more towards comic artists, cartoonists, and animators, which is something the other apps we looked at failed to achieve. It allows artists to easily draw, animate, add sound and create comics from their iPad. In addition, artists can import and export both PSD and vector files so that they can work between other apps.
It also features unique tools such as a smart fill tool to help artists quickly lay out flats and an automatic colorist for color inspiration. There are even movable 3D models to nail poses while you work.
Clip Studio Paint offers tens of thousands of free and premium brushes through its official store and has a very active community of artists to interact with.
Clip Studio Paint is available for iPad and subscriptions 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.
Maybe you don’t make grid-based artwork, and that’s fair. The iPad also allows you to create vector-based art. While you can do this with a variety of apps, our personal favorite is Affinity Designer.
Affinity Designer, one of the first vector design apps on the iPad, is a powerhouse. Thanks to the metal-accelerated, lightning-fast zoom, you can zoom in by more than 1,000,000%.
It also offers incredible Apple Pencil integration with pressure, tilt and angle sensitivity.
It also provides live pixel and retina views of vector work, wireframe views, and live effects.
Of course, you can also use Adobe Illustrator on iPad, but Affinity Designer has one huge advantage: it doesn’t require a subscription. You can buy it on the App Store for just $21.99.
If you’re looking for a great app that costs nothing, you should give Sketchbook a try.
Sketchbook is intentionally lightweight and tries to mimic the feeling of drawing in a real sketchbook. The tools are simple, with brushes designed to mimic markers, pencils, crayons and paint from traditional materials.
Built-in guides and rulers make it easy to lay out lines exactly the way you want, and a robust layering system mimics that of premium apps.
If you’re new to drawing on the iPad — or the iPhone — we recommend using Sketchbook to see what you can come up with.