Best iPad Drawing Apps to Try in 2023

Best iPad Drawing Apps to Try in 2023

Drawing digitally has become one of my favorite hobbies. Experimenting with digital art on my iPad allows me to explore different artistic shapes, forms and styles, without having to pull out all the paraphernalia of a more traditional medium.

I use a third generation iPad Air and a first generation Apple pencil. But regardless of your iOS device, iPad art is ultimately about being creative and expressing yourself. So whether you can draw a symmetrical face or have a more Jackson Pollock flair for splatter, you’ll be sure to find the perfect app for you in our picks for the best drawing apps for iPad.

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The Procreate iPad drawing app — a 2022 CNET Editors’ Choice pick — costs $10 to download, but its suite of art tools and creative features make it well worth the money. The digital illustration app is available whether you are a professional designer, an experienced digital artist or a beginner in the world of digital illustration. I’ve been using Procreate for a couple of years, and there are still features I’m discovering that improve my artwork (check out all the best Procreate tips I’ve found so far).

Procreate allows you to customize motion controls so that the app is ultimately personalized to you. No matter what level of artist you are, Procreate’s features like Quickshape, blending modes, layering, alpha locks and clipping masks can add a new level of professionalism to your art.

There’s a lot going on in this app, so I wouldn’t download it if you’re just looking for a place to doodle. For quick in-app reference, check out the official Procreate manual.

Read our Procreate review.

Autodesk Sketchbook

The Autodesk Sketchbook app is free, but is surprisingly packed with art tools that aren’t blocked by paywalls. You can use the free version for seven days, after which you will be prompted to create an Autodesk ID, which is also free. It’s a little less intimidating than Procreate when starting your digital art journey. When you download the sketch app, it will give you a quick guide on where all the basic tools are.

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Autodesk has an extensive, well-organized brush library, and with its customizable brushes, it’s easy to adjust settings such as brush size, opacity, and pressure. Even with a typical learning curve for a new drawing app, the toolbar is pretty easy to figure out. I also liked that even when zooming in a lot, the app didn’t lose its “drawing” feel by letting you see the pixels in the line.

One of my favorite parts of Sketchbook is the focus on making the transition from paper to screen easy. You may have created cool sketches in a notebook, and with Autodesk you don’t need to redraw the sketch in the app. Your camera also doubles as a scanner, so you can import your art. The image is imported with a transparent background so you can immediately start working in the app.

Art set 4

Art Set 4 is one of the more basic, realistic drawing apps. It’s free to download, but most of the tools are unlocked through the Premium Pro features, which cost $10. This app would be best if you are completely new to digital illustration – it feels like having physical tools and paper in front of you. I love the user interface. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of ​​diving into a more complex app like Procreate or Autodesk, the Art Set 4 drawing tool is a good one to start with. It’s also fun if you just want to doodle.

Something I really like about Art Set 4 is how easily even the free tools work together in one piece. It’s also nice that you can switch between multi-colored paper styles like canvas and the rough surface of heavy, cold-pressed watercolor sheets. You can choose burlap styles, cardboard and grids without messing up a drawing you’ve already created.

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When you explore the app, all items that require Premium Pro will be locked. If you tap on a locked item, Art Set will ask if you want to upgrade and unlock everything. Premium gives you full access to over 150 brushes, 3D paint, liquid watercolor, the ability to add layers and apply masks, enable a “wet canvas”, drawing guides such as symmetry, shapes, fills and dozens of other ways to customize your workspace .

Shelby Brown/CNET

Not everything you create in an art app needs to be a massive effort that ends in a masterpiece. Having fun is the most important part. Just coloring can make for a creative and relaxing afternoon. Lake is a free ASMR art app packed with coloring book sheets — in all different styles — from artists around the world.

The app’s sound element is particularly cool. For example, if you paint digitally with the brush, you will hear quiet brush sounds. If you select the spray paint tool, you’ll hear a ball bearing rattle like it would if you shook a can of paint. You can turn off ASMR in the settings.

Another thing I liked was the ability to stay within the lines and add more color for shading and effects. It gives you more room to be creative instead of just pressing and filling (although you can do that if you want). Also, for each coloring page, the artist puts together an optional palette that you can use if you’re not sure about colors.

You can stay on the app’s dashboard and choose from free daily photos or explore All Art in the toolbar. Lake sorts the coloring pages into artist collections, kids, abstract, animals, cities, feminists, portraits, mandalas for relaxation, and satisfying symmetrical pictures.

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On Lake’s free tier, you get nine free coloring pages per day. If you subscribe to premium — $10 a month or $40 annually — you get access to all the coloring pages, more color variations in the wheel and the ability to use a blank canvas.

More art apps to check out

  • ShadowDraw: Learn how to draw

ShadowDraw is a useful free app (with in-app purchases and subscription plans for premium content) if you struggle with proportions or drawing specific things like faces, bodies or animals.

The Drawing pad app is a good simple app for those in the market for a casual doodling app. It has a free version with ads (which can be a little annoying if you’re in the middle of a piece), or you can upgrade to the premium offering for $7 a month or $30 annually.

For more on drawing, check these out five online drawing courses you can take right now. If an iPad isn’t your drawing board of choice, read our list above top tablets for 2022.

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