14 Best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil 2023

A young girl using an Apple iPad with Apple Pencil
(Image credit: Apple)

One of the best uses for the iPad is its fantastic utility for drawing, painting, sketching, and doodling thanks to the power of the Apple Pencil. Whether you're a professional artist, designer, illustrator, or a hobbyist just looking to flex those creative muscles, the iPad and an Apple Pencil is a potent creative combination. 

If you have one of Apple's best iPads, like the iPad Pro with M2 (2022) or the latest iPad (2022), and enjoy getting creative, then you really need an Apple Pencil. Getting this fantastic Apple stylus effectively turns your iPad into a digital sketchbook, but with an endless supply of paper and ink—if this sounds like fun but you don't have a tablet yet, check out our best iPad for artists guide and also catch up on which iPad models support Apple Pencil.

You can use the Apple Pencil to draw on Maps, within Notes, and in many other iPad apps such as the best note-taking apps. However, to really make the most of the Apple Pencil, you'll need to find the best drawing apps for iPad. In our guide below, we've selected the best drawing apps for iPad, whether you're a pro or a complete beginner. And there's way more than drawing here, too. Most of the apps in this list allow you to sketch, take notes, paint and use all kinds of other virtual art tools from your iPad screen.

The best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil—our expert picks

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Freeform

With FaceTime and iCloud integration, Freeform is designed for collaboration, making it easier than ever to invite others to work on a board together.

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's Freeform app is a brand new collaboration tool that is perfect for drawing and brainstorming on the iPad. Not only is it perfect for use with Apple Pencil and your iPad, it works seamlessly through iCloud to let you access, edit, and collaborate across multiple different devices including iPhone and Mac. It has multiple brush styles and color options for sketching ideas or basic artwork, but if you're looking for a dedicated drawing app for art there are definitely more in-depth and versatile tools in this list. 

Bring your ideas to life and collaborate with Freeform, upload any kind of file and seamlessly access your work across multiple devices.  (opens in new tab)

Bring your ideas to life and collaborate with Freeform, upload any kind of file and seamlessly access your work across multiple devices. 

Procreate

Procreate Screenshot

A screenshot from the Procreate app (Image credit: Savage Interactive Party Ltd.)

If you're looking for the best drawing app for iPad to rule them all, you can't go wrong with Procreate. It's one of the most powerful sketching, painting, and illustration apps that you can buy for your iPad, and it's built for professionals and works flawlessly with Apple Pencil.

With Procreate, you're getting access to exclusive tools, such as the dual-texture brushes and immediately responsive smudging tools to create the perfect masterpiece. And if you can't find a tool in Procreate to fit your needs, you can just create your own tools. Procreate also has incredibly high-resolution canvases that allow you to print out your work in massive sizes, without ever skipping a beat. All of your work in Procreate can come out as 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 send it directly to your favorite streaming service.

If the thought of Procreate intimidates you, make sure to check out our tutorial on getting started with Procreate for some helpful advice.

Procreate gives you powerful and exclusive sketching, drawing, and painting tools. You can even create your own custom tools. (opens in new tab)


Procreate gives you powerful and exclusive sketching, drawing, and painting tools. You can even create your own custom tools.

Adobe Illustrator: Vector Art

Freeform app

(Image credit: Apple)

Adobe Illustrator lets you create logos, illustrations, and graphics on your iPad using Apple Pencil. It enables you to work on projects across Illustrator, Photoshop, and Fresco, automatically syncing your work to the cloud. 

You can create vector lines and shapes, type, make gradients, add effects, and merge and cut graphics with your Apple Pencil. It has over 20,000 fonts, and more. 

Adobe Fresco combines favorite Photoshop brushes with vectoring tools and is flexible enough for all artists and illustrators. (opens in new tab)


Adobe Fresco combines favorite Photoshop brushes with vectoring tools and is flexible enough for all artists and illustrators.

Adobe Fresco: Sketch & Draw

Adobe Fresco On Ipad Pro Painting

Adobe Fresco On Ipad Pro Painting (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Adobe Fresco is a relatively new addition to the Adobe suite of graphic apps, but it's the one that was built specifically for the iPad and Apple Pencil. Fresco is great for anyone who likes to draw professionally or just for fun.

With Adobe Fresco, you get a combination of user-favorite Photoshop brushes as well as vector brushes, along with the new Live Brushes — all of these are meant to help you express yourself however you see fit. There are also essential tools for illustrators, selection, and masking tools, and the UI is flexible to work with your needs, not the other way around. While you can use Adobe Fresco for free, there are some premium features that come with a paid Creative Cloud account.

For a more in-depth look at Adobe Fresco, check out Rebecca Spear's Adobe Fresco review.

Adobe Fresco combines favorite Photoshop brushes with vectoring tools and is flexible enough for all artists and illustrators. (opens in new tab)


Adobe Fresco combines favorite Photoshop brushes with vectoring tools and is flexible enough for all artists and illustrators.

Linea Sketch

linea sketch

linea sketch (Image credit: The Iconfactory)

For those who are overwhelmed by Procreate's powerful feature set, Linea Sketch is a better option that's much more approachable, especially for those who don't always draw.

Linea Sketch features a simple and intuitive interface while providing users with a variety of powerful tools that work great with Apple Pencil. Plus, it easily helps you make perfect circles and shapes to create the best drawings. It also shows you colors that complement your selected hue perfectly, so you don't need to figure that out yourself. It can also do 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. (opens in new tab)


Linea Sketch is a simple and intuitive drawing app for amateurs and professionals alike.

Paper by WeTransfer

paper by wetransfer

paper by wetransfer (Image credit: WeTrasnfer BV)

Paper by WeTransfer is a good option if you want something that's free and accessible. With Paper, you can create numerous journals designed to capture your sketches and even notes. There is a nice variety of tools offered in Paper, and it's very intuitive to use.

In Paper, you'll get six basic tools that are great for drawing, outlining, and even 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. There is also plenty of room for creativity in Paper, as you're able to add multiple photos to a journal and cut, stick, and fix without the need for complicated layers. Paper also lets you customize your sketch journals as you'd like, and your work gets synced across devices, as long as 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.

Create journals to draw and sketch to your heart's content. (opens in new tab)


Create journals to draw and sketch to your heart's content.

Affinity Designer

affinity designer

affinity designer (Image credit: Serif Labs)

For those who need to work with vector graphics, Affinity Designer is simply one of the best options available on the iPad. Think of it as the desktop app, but converted into the perfect mobile experience.

Affinity Designer is designed to take advantage of Metal, so it'll give you blazing fast performance. When you pan the canvas or zoom in or out, everything is at a smooth 120fps, which is amazing. It also works flawlessly with the Apple Pencil, taking advantage of pressure, tilt, and angle sensitivity. You'll also have the best pen, pencil, corner, curve editing, geometry operations, and smart shape tools available at your disposal, and the Apple Pencil means incredible accuracy.

If you need to deal with vector graphics for marketing materials, websites, icons, UI design, or concept art, then Affinity Designer is a must-have.

Affinity Designer works great for vector graphics and is one of the best apps to get the job done on the iPad. (opens in new tab)


Affinity Designer works great for vector graphics and is one of the best apps to get the job done on the iPad.

Sketch Club

sketch club

sketch club (Image credit: blackpawn.com)

A lot of the premium drawing apps we've mentioned so far can be a bit pricey, but Sketch Club is a bit on the lower side while still providing a lot of nice features, whether you're an amateur or pro.

In Sketch Club, you'll find plenty of brush tools, along with blurring, filling, procedurals, selection, smudging, text, and vector tools. And if you're worried about getting perfect shapes, don't worry! There are shape tools with automatic ratio snapping to make sure that nothing looks off. There's layer support in Sketch Club, and all of your canvases can go up to 16K with presets, and nice 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 also fantastic if you're trying to improve your drawing skills.

Sketch Club is a super affordable drawing app that doesn't skimp out on features. (opens in new tab)


Sketch Club is a super affordable drawing app that doesn't skimp out on features.

Astropad Standard

astropad standard

astropad standard (Image credit: Astro HQ)

Astropad isn't just another one of the best drawing apps for iPad. Instead, it turns your iPad into a drawing tablet for your Mac. That's right — if you prefer to use your image editors on your Mac, but prefer to use your iPad for the actual drawing, Astropad lets you do just 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.

With Astropad, you'll get a natural drawing experience with your iPad, with the results being delivered right to your Mac. It's fast and will keep up with your drawing at 60 FPS, even over a Wi-Fi connection. Astropad can work wirelessly or just over USB with your computer. It supports Apple Pencil flawlessly and is pressure-sensitive, just as you need it to be for accurate drawings.

The app itself can be a little pricey, but think about it—it's much cheaper than going out and buying a Wacom tablet when you already have an iPad, right? This is also a good alternative if Sidecar isn't enough.

Astropad Standard turns your iPad into a Wacom-like drawing tablet, allowing you to draw on your Mac. (opens in new tab)


Astropad Standard turns your iPad into a Wacom-like drawing tablet, allowing you to draw on your Mac.

Pixelmator

Pixelmator Screenshot

pixelmator (Image credit: Pixelmator)

Finally, we have Pixelmator, which is a great option for those who want a full-featured, layer-based image editor. This works great for photo editing, but it's also an amazing app for sketching and painting as well.

With over 100 brushes, which are designed by fellow artists mind you, the possibilities are pretty much endless in Pixelmator when it comes to drawing and painting. These tools are also specifically designed for various painting techniques, so chances are high that you'll find what you need. They also replicate the wetness effects quite well, especially for watercolors and crayon brushes. Double-texture brush technology also means you will get the best detail as you paint, and the Pixel brush is quite fun to use too. Pixelmator also supports layers, has an eyedropper color picker, and is fully optimized for Apple Pencil.

Pixelmator can save your images as 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 is a layer-based image editor that can do pretty much anything, including sketching and painting. (opens in new tab)


Pixelmator is a layer-based image editor that can do pretty much anything, including sketching and painting.

Other ways to upgrade your iPad

All of the apps listed above are perfect for all types of art, but we love them for drawing the best. 

But, drawing isn't the only great use of for Apple Pencil on iPad — it's awesome for note-taking, too. Be sure to check out the best note-taking apps for iPad, and start jotting down your thoughts, memos, and more. The best iPhone and iPad apps for college students provide some great solutions to common quandaries too.

You might also want to check out our best keyboards for iPad Mini 6 and our guide to the best iPad cases to give your iPad a refresh inside and out.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9