By Simon Hill


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Although nothing can truly replace a traditional piece of paper or sheet of canvas, the iPad Pro comes incredibly close to bringing digital art up to the same level as analog art. The larger screen opens the iPad Pro to new levels of artistry and turns a fun sketching tool into a serious platform for creativity.

Designed from the ground up with the Apple Pencil in mind, the iPad Pro is the ultimate digital canvas. Luckily, there are scores of drawing apps in the App Store, and many of them have already been optimized for the Pro’s enlarged screen and the Pencil’s fine-point tip. Below are 20 of the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro, so you can become the Michelangelo of the mobile world.

MediBang Paint

best ipad pro drawing apps medibang app1

MediBang Paint is a very easy to use painting program that may remind you of Photoshop, in that it allows you to work with layers. It has a very good brush editor, and offers the ability to add styles to your layers. This program has so many tools that it feels more at home on the larger iPad Pros, but it is also compatible with the fourth-generation iPad and above, or iPad Mini 2 and above. If you like to draw comic books, this app gives you a lot of comic book fonts to get the professional look you want. You can save your projects locally or to the cloud.

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Artrage ($5)

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The main idea of Artrage is to make painting as realistic as possible on the iPad. You can mix different paints with one another as though you were blending them on a real canvas with a palette knife. This app works with layers, so if you’re already familiar with Photoshop, you’ll feel right at home with the blend modes. Artrage also allows you to record your strokes for later viewing on your desktop. It not only supports the Apple Pencil, but also has support for Wacom, Adonit, and Pogo styli.

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sketchbook

Even if you’re not a professional artist, you’ve probably heard about Sketchbook by Autodesk. It is definitely one of the most popular apps for artists. The layout is everything when it comes to design programs, and Sketchbook’s toolbars are organized in an easily accessible way — and you can even pin them to the screen. Great features include import/export from and to Photoshop, and the ability to zoom in as much as 2,500 percent to let you work on those fine details. It supports the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, along with some of the better styli available for other tablets.

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Graphic ($9)

graphic-ios

If you remember when the iPad Pro was announced, it was touted by Apple as being a replacement for your PC. Graphic is like having Adobe Illustrator on your iPad. This app used to be called iDraw, and because it is available for your Mac, you can go back and forth between your desktop and your iPad designing and drawing. It features different brushes and full support for the Apple Pencil, but it also lets you create vector-based technical drawings. If you’re into graphic design, you will be amazed how Graphic can push the capabilities of the iPad.

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illustrator-ios

Similar to Graphic, Adobe Illustrator Draw allows you to create vector-based designs. This app, however, is a lot simpler, with a less intimidating user interface. It’s geared toward someone who wants to dive in and start working on ideas right away. The app lets you take your work on the go, and you can easily transition your latest project to Illustrator on your desktop or laptop when you’re back in the office.

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inspire

This app is one of the most intuitive options when it comes to drawing and sketching. Taking advantage of the iPad’s multicore CPU and OpenGL, it can draw and render images quickly, which is one of the things you want when you’re drawing on a tablet to help it mimic real drawing. The app saves your favorite colors for quick access and fully supports the Apple Pencil.

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best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

Making stickers, icons, and other graphics with Assembly is easy. You can create crisp and professional-looking work in no time at all with a vast selection of shapes, symbols, and stickers for you to manipulate and layer. You can save your work as a high-resolution JPG or PNG, as well as in vector formats like SVG and PDF. The app is free, but if you want 21 themed shape packs, a text engine with 25 custom fonts, the ability to combine and intersect fonts, or even import vector images, you’ll have to pay for a Pro subscription that costs $3 per week, $5 per month, or $30 per year.

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sketchclub-ios

Sketch Club has something unique going for it — a community of artists with whom you can share your art. You can comment on everyone’s work and find some inspiration. The app lets you create up to 64 layers in total, and you can create your art on canvases that are up to 4K in resolution. With a wide selection of brushes and vector tools, this is a full-fledged drawing app. It has full support for the Apple Pencil and the ability to record in 1080p.

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brushes-redux-ios

Brushes took the stage when the Apple iPad debuted back in 2010 and showed the world that an iPad could be a tool for artists. Since then, the app has grown to support the iPad Pro. Because this app is an iOS exclusive, it has been written specifically for iPad. It supports OpenGL and takes advantage of the 64-bit processing on the iPad. Not only is it very fast, but it has the typical iOS interface design language that iPad users will be comfortable with, so finding your way through the very simple toolbar is a breeze. It has layers support, but unlike other more robust professional apps, you can only create up to 10 layers.

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Astropad ($30)

Astropad panels left

Astropad pairs your iPad Pro with a Mac and turns your tablet into a dedicated drawing slate. It’s meant for professional creatives who use applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator. The app is even optimized for the iPad Pro to showcase improved image quality, reduced latency, a custom pressure curve specifically designed for the Apple Pencil, and support for tilt with the stylus. There’s also advanced stroke tuning for removing stray points and providing strokes with the Pencil, which means you only see what you intend to draw. It’s the ultimate drawing app for professional illustrators, comic book artists, and anyone who’s ever wanted a Wacom tablet. It does cost $30, but that easily beats the price of professional drawing slates.

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Animation Desk

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Animation Desk isn’t a new app, but what is new is the software’s compatibility with the Apple Pencil. As the title suggests, Kdan’s Animation Desk probably isn’t for you if you’re simply into sketching — what it is good for, however, is animating. It’s a relatively basic app, to be sure, but one that comes at a price of zero dollars and zero cents if you don’t opt for the in-app purchases. If you’re looking to try your hand at animation, Desk Cloud is the app to do it with.

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Pigment

Pigment is the ultimate adult coloring app for grown-ups and kids alike. It actually feels like you’re using a coloring book and colored pencils. It supports the Apple Pencil — which makes it extra fun to color inside the lines — and offers more than 200 professional illustrations, along with eight different kinds of pencils, markers, and brushes. Your color choices are unlimited, and when you finish your masterpieces, you can instantly share them with family and friends or print them out to stick on the fridge. Plus, there are paid add-ons for those who want more options and coloring designs.

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best ipad pro drawing apps concepts app1

Like Animation Desk, Concepts is built with a specific purpose in mind — design. Home design, industrial design — you name it and Concepts can help you envision it. The app includes many of the tools you would expect from a design app, including support for infinite layers (or at least as many as the iPad can handle), and the ability to export in both SVG or CAD formats. Don’t take our word for it, though, because the reviews speak for themselves. The current version of the app has a cool 4.6-star rating on the App Store. Like many other apps on this list, the app is free but offers in-app purchases.

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This app is great for modelers and designers who make 3D objects or plans. With uMake, designers can draw in two dimensions on an axis to render 3D images on the iPad Pro. You can make sketches revolve or extrude for a recursive effect. Once you’ve sketched out the design in 2D, you can alter the 3D rendering to meet your exact specifications. When finished, uMake offers the ability to export your creations in PNG, IGES, and OBJ file formats. The app is free, but to get the full feature set, you’ll need to pay $10 a month or $100 a year.

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pixelmator

Pixelmator may not be free, but it’s a solid photo editor that can handle painting and graphic design as well. From cropping to retouching, sketching to blending, Pixelmator does it all — and the results speak for themselves. The app includes a host of tools and pays close attention to how you use your Apple Pencil. In fact, dozens of the brushes included in the app feature full support for the Apple Pencil. Sure, the app is $5, but that gets you everything — no in-app purchases.

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Procreate ($10)

Procreate

Procreate is one of the most professional and well-rounded drawing apps on this list, but it will set you back $10. It comes equipped with a full set of drawing tools that expertly imitate real creative implements, such as soft pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, graphite pencils of varying hardness, acrylic, oil, watercolors, and more. Whatever the medium, Procreate’s digital tools will give you the full effect and appearance of the real thing. You can even smudge, blur, and manipulate your strokes just as you would on paper or canvas.

Its 64-bit painting engine, Silica, is lightning fast and responsive, and on the iPad Pro with Pencil, drawing or painting on Procreate feels natural. You can add a number of layers and decide how high-res you want your canvas to be. On the Pro, it can go up to 16K resolution with 64-bit color, and you can export your artwork as PSD, PNG, JPG, or Procreate files. The app also helps you build a portfolio and share your work if you so desire.

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Paper

FiftyThree’s Paper has long been one of the best iPad drawing apps around. In addition to the standard creative tool suite, the app offers diagramming and note-taking tools. You get a watercolor brush, calligraphy pen, pencil, marker, ballpoint pen, eraser, paint roller, scissors, and a ruler. You can even import or take pictures, and mark them up with text or drawings.

All your creations are easily shared to FiftyThree’s creative community called Mix, your camera roll, other apps for further edits, messaging apps, or to the social network of your choosing. Of course, using Apple’s Pencil and iPad Pro with the app is seamless, as FiftyThree worked closely with Apple to optimize Paper on the new hardware.

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Adobe

Adobe’s entire iOS app suite works extremely well on the iPad Pro, but we’ll highlight Sketch in particular as our favorite drawing app of the bunch. You can create expressive drawings and paintings on it without opening a sketchbook. Artwork can be sent as layered PSD files to Adobe Photoshop CC or resized up to 4 times in Illustrator CC to print high-resolution copies.

The app includes 14 tools, a digital ruler, and graph guides. You can also import your own images or stock photos to work on top of. Using the Creative Cloud connection, you can send a file to Photoshop CC or Illustrator CC on your PC or share your art with the Behance creative community.

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best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

With Apple Pencil support, Zen Brush 2 lets you create beautifully drawn art that focuses on the look and feel of the East Asian ink brush. The app lets you choose from a big collection of backgrounds to show off your art or calligraphy. The app also allows you to share your work right to your Facebook or Twitter feed. If you don’t have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, you’ll be happy to know this app is also compatible with the Wacom Intuos and Adonit Jot.

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Tayasui

Tayasui Sketches looks simple and clean, but it offers a number of different brushes for free and a clutter-free space to draw. You get a pencil, Rotring, watercolor brush, felt pen, and eraser for free. You can import photos, too, if you want, and it’s really easy to share your sketches on social networks or via email.

It’s great for illustration and quick sketches, but if you make the in-app purchase, it can become a professional drawing app with surface pressure, layers, types of paper, more brushes, and the ability to change brush sizes. The app lets you try the pro features for an hour, so you can decide if it’s worth the $5 price tag. Regardless of whether you pay for the pro, you can organize your sketches and creations into different notebooks in the app, which makes it easier to keep track of everything. Thanks to the backup feature, you won’t have to worry about losing your work.

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