The best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil manage to give enough complexity to make great works of art, whilst being intuitive to learn pretty quickly. Whether you are looking to create new pieces of art or edit pictures to be better than before, there's a drawing app out there for you to try out.
It doesn't matter if you are a professional artist being paid for your work or a humble hobbyist, thinking of getting some color on the page, you should be able to get quite a lot of joy out of nothing but an iPad and an Apple pencil.
If you have something excellent like the iPad Pro with M2 (2022), one of Apple's best iPads, or something a bit more humble, your Apple pencil, with tonnes of ways to use it, should turn a blank page into a rough sketch in mere moments.
With the rather great iPadOS 17 now here, you can customize PDFs easily so drawing apps will give you even more utility out of the same purchase.
With that in mind, here are the best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil right now.
The best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil—our expert picks
Best free drawing apps for iPad
Apple's Freeform app debuted with iPadOS 16.2 in November 2022. It's there waiting to be used and it's ideal for drawing as well as brainstorming on your iPad. Working seamlessly through iCloud, you can easily access, edit, and collaborate across multiple different devices including iPhone and Mac.
The app provides many brush styles and color options so you can sketch out ideas or basic artwork. However, if you want a more dedicated drawing app, you'll need something more in-depth and versatile such as others listed below.
Bring your ideas to life and collaborate with Freeform, upload any kind of file, and seamlessly access your work across multiple devices.
If you're overwhelmed by Procreate, Linea Sketch is a more welcoming and approachable option, especially if you don't usually draw. It features a simple and intuitive interface that provides you with many powerful tools that all work great with Apple Pencil. Even little details like circles are made easier here with the app able to create perfect circles and other shapes.
It also shows you colors that complement your selected hue perfectly, so you don't need to figure that out yourself. Additionally, it offers 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.
Linea Sketch is a simple and intuitive drawing app for amateurs and professionals alike.
Adobe Fresco: Sketch & Draw
Adobe Fresco is a relatively new addition to the Adobe suite of graphic apps, but it's one that was built specifically for the iPad and Apple Pencil. It works well for anyone who wishes to draw professionally or just for fun.
Our review of Adobe Fresco sums up why it works so well. You get a combination of user-favorite Photoshop brushes along with vector brushes and well as Live Brushes. What this means for you is plenty of functionality to express yourself. It also offers essential tools for illustrators, as well as selection and masking tools. At all times, the UI is flexible enough to work well for all purposes. While you can use Adobe Fresco for free, there are some premium features that come with a paid Creative Cloud account.
Adobe Fresco combines our favorite Photoshop brushes with vector tools and is flexible enough for all artists and illustrators.
Paper by WeTransfer
For a free and accessible option, Paper by WeTransfer is a great choice. Via Paper, you can create many journals all offering a different place to capture your sketches and notes. It's intuitive to use with six basic tools that are excellent for drawing, outlining, and writing.
If you opt for the optional Pro subscription, which is $8 for six months or $12 for a year, you'll get access to more tools like diagrams, collages, and cut-and-fill. Creativity is rife as well with the option to add multiple photos to a journal, along with cutting, sticking, or fixing without the need for complicated layers. You can also customize your sketch journals as much as you'd like, with your work synced across devices, providing you have a Pro subscription.
While you'll need a Pro subscription to 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. Or if you can live with the basic feature set, then you won't need to pay a dime.
Best paid drawing apps for iPad
For the absolute best drawing app on iPad, you need Procreate. It's one of the most powerful sketching, painting, and illustration apps around. Built for professionals, it works perfectly with Apple Pencil.
With Procreate, you gain access to exclusive tools like its dual-texture brushes and immediately responsive smudging tools, so there's plenty of flexibility here. Even better, if you can't find the tool you need, you can simply create your own. The app also has very high-resolution canvases so you can print out your work to massive sizes. All of your work is available in 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 share the creation process to your favorite streaming service or social media app. If Procreate feels intimidating, we have a tutorial on getting started with Procreate for some helpful advice.
Procreate | $12.99
Procreate gives you powerful and exclusive sketching, drawing, and painting tools. You can even create your own custom tools.
A lot of the premium drawing apps we've mentioned so far can be a bit pricey, but Sketch Club is a little more affordable. That's while still offering plenty of nice features for both amateurs and pros.
In Sketch Club, you'll find plenty of brush tools, along with blurring, filling, procedurals, selection, smudging, text, and vector tools. If you're worried about creating perfect shapes, there are shape tools with automatic ratio snapping so you can be guaranteed that nothing looks off. Sketch Club also offers layer support, plus all your canvases can go up to 16K with presets, along with 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 fantastic too if you're trying to improve your drawing skills and learn something new.
Sketch Club | $2.99
Sketch Club is a super affordable drawing app that doesn't skimp out on features.
Astropad isn't like other drawing apps. Instead, it turns your iPad into a drawing tablet for your Mac. If you prefer to use image editors on your Mac, but like to draw on an iPad, this is the perfect way to do 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.
Using Astropad gives you a natural drawing experience with the results delivered straight to your Mac. It's fast and keeps up with your drawing at 60 FPS, even via a Wi-Fi connection. It can work either wirelessly or through USB, with flawless Apple Pencil support. Pressure-sensitive, you'll gain accurate drawings.
The app itself can be a little pricey, but compared to buying a Wacom tablet for your Mac, it works out as a much cheaper alternative. It's also a better alternative for when Sidecar isn't enough.
Astropad Standard | $29.99
Astropad Standard turns your iPad into a Wacom-like drawing tablet, allowing you to draw on your Mac.
Pixelmator is a good option for anyone seeking a full-featured, layer-based image editor that works just as well for photo editing as it does for sketching and painting.
It offers over 100 brushes that are designed by fellow artists. The possibilities feel endless here with the tools specifically designed for various painting techniques. Chances are high that you'll find what works for your vision. The brushes also replicate the wetness effects well, such as watercolors and crayon brushes.
Double-texture brush technology provides you with the best detail as you paint, while the Pixel brush is fun to use. Pixelmator also supports layers, has an eyedropper color picker, and is fully optimized for Apple Pencil.
Pixelmator can save your images in 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.
Pixelmator | $9.99
Pixelmator is a layer-based image editor that can do pretty much anything, including sketching and painting.
Best drawing apps for iPad for vector graphics
Adobe Illustrator: Vector Art
Adobe Illustrator lets you create logos, illustrations, and graphics on your iPad using Apple Pencil. It's possible to work on projects across Illustrator, Photoshop, and Fresco, with your work automatically synced to the cloud.
Designers can create vector lines and shapes, type, make gradients, add effects, and merge and cut graphics with their Apple Pencil. The app also has over 20,000 fonts to utilize.
Adobe Illustrator: Vector Art
If you're looking to work with vector art, Adobe Illustrator: Vector Art is one of the best ways of doing so, thanks to an impressive suite of features.
Affinity Designer 2
If you need to work with vector graphics, Affinity Designer 2 is one of the best ways to do that. It's effectively the desktop app converted into a great mobile experience.
Designed to take advantage of Metal, you get blazing-fast performance while you work. Panning the canvas out or zooming demonstrates the silky advantages of 120fps with the relevant iPad.
It also works flawlessly with the Apple Pencil, taking advantage of pressure, tilt, and angle sensitivity. You also get plenty of the best pen, pencil, corner, curve editing, geometry operations, and smart shape tools available at your disposal, and the Apple Pencil means phenomenal accuracy.
Affinity Designer 2 | $18.49
If you need to deal with vector graphics for marketing materials, websites, icons, UI design, or concept art, then Affinity Designer 2 is a must-have.
Other ways to upgrade your iPad
The apps listed above are perfect for all types of art, although we love them the most for drawing.
The iPad and Apple Pencil combo isn't just about drawing though. Besides the best note-taking apps for iPad being useful for jotting down your thoughts, it's also worth seeing how the best iPhone and iPad apps for college students can solve many scenarios, even if you're not a college student.
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Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.
Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.