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10 Free (and Really Good) Drawing & Painting Apps for iPad

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Apple has upped their game once again with the new iPads, and with this comes the age-old question of using it as a preliminary drawing and painting device. In comparison, the sketching and drawing process needs three things at best – a drawing tablet (iPad), a stylus (Apple Pencil) and dedication to the craft. Unfortunately, people miss out on another critical factor of the drawing experience: the drawing app.

Most of the drawing and painting apps on the App Store is paid, and you won’t likely be able to find and try out all the free ones to make the best choice. Hence, we are here to test out and recommend some of the best free options for your brand new iPad Pro.

What should you expect from free drawing and painting apps?

You might think that all paid drawing and painting apps would be the reigning kings, but that isn’t true. Instead, some free drawing apps perform just as well, if not better than the paid apps and here are some features you should expect from all the free drawing apps available on the App Store.

Apple Pencil Integration – Apple Pencil integration is key to all apps and is supported with all the apps recommended below. Apple Pencil is a great tool to use for all your drawing purposes and is probably the perfect match for all professionals and creative artists alike. You may also consider cheap alternatives here.

Various Tools for Drawing and Painting – Look for a range of tools that will help you get started with drawing your first sketch on the iPad. Some standard tools that all apps will have are the Pen, the Brush, the Fill tool, the Crop Tool, the Eraser, Colour selection, etc. 

Excellent Performance and Low Latency – Look for low latency input from Apple Pencil and other styluses as that would significantly increase the experience and help you perform better just as you would on paper. Also, look for excellent performance for further smoothness and a flawless experience.

Top free drawing & painting apps for iPad

  • Adobe Illustrator Draw – Over-all Best Drawing and Painting App
  • Autodesk Sketchbook – Runner-up Best Drawing and Painting App
  • Flow By Moleskine – The Best app for creating Sketchbooks
  • Apple Photos and Notes – The Default Apple Certified Drawing and Painting App
  • Tayasui Sketches – The Best App for drawing and sketching scenic landscapes
  • Adobe Comp CC – The Best Drawing and Painting App for Wireframes and Mock Designs
  • Charcoal – Modern Art at your fingertips
  • Vectornator X – The Best Drawing and Painting App for Vector Art
  • FlipaClip – The Best Drawing App for Animators
  • Brushes Redux – An excellent beginner-friendly Drawing and Painting App

1. Adobe Illustrator Draw – Over-all Best Drawing and Painting App

Adobe Illustrator Draw is an incredibly unique vector drawing app for illustrators and offers a beautiful drawing interface and vibrant colours. In addition, there are exceptional are tools for you to draw with to accommodate your designs. Specifically, it lets you create using the latest pressure-sensitive stylus devices that include Adobe Ink, Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint, Wacom devices, and Apple Pencil.

The experience with the app was terrific as it has a decent number of easy to learn tools, and it also allows for vector and graphic designing. In addition, the UI is clean, and the tools are readily available to users with little to no hassle. It also supports cloud storage and has a variety of export supported formats. So, rest assured that Illustrator Draw is probably the best choice for drawing and painting.

Pros

  • It allows you to make vector graphics that will be manipulated as you would like.
  • It provides the power to make professional-looking graphics.

Cons

  • The pen tool takes practice and isn’t intuitive for a few people.
  • Many features will be overwhelming for a beginner.

2. Autodesk Sketchbook – Runner-up Best Drawing and Painting App

This app is recommended especially for those who want to do product sketching or detailed drawing. The great thing is it’s a free app and is a handy tool for any professional artist. This app features a wide selection of tools, including rulers, geometric shapes, over 190 customizable brushes, radial symmetry, and much more.

Autodesk Sketchbook is clean and straightforward to use app that can also get complicated depending on your work. Professionals love it as it delivers an effortless experience with a complex set of features. However, all the complex features are locked behind a pro subscription. So, try it out, and if you like it, upgrade to the pro pack to benefit from everything it can deliver.

Pros

  • Using this app allows professionals to complete their projects smoothly and faster because of all the advanced tools.
  • Exporting is accessible and supports many formats.

Cons

  • Accessing all its features can be pretty costly.

3. Flow By Moleskine – The Best app for creating Sketchbooks

Flow by Moleskine is an application that looks very attractive, and it is designed to create simple drawings, complex works of art, and delightful notes all on your iPad. This application is a subscription-based application for 12 months and has a free app limited to some tools. Also, Flow offers everyone powerful art tools in an accessible format.

Most of the features are accessible by default, but Flow also comes with a pro version that unlocks all the complex tools. The most impressive feature is creating sketchbooks and merging different files to make a compilation and manage all your drawings with ease.

Pros

  • It has a unique set of drawing tools, particularly the dark and light dark and light paper options
  • Is excellent at creating sketchbooks

Cons

  • The subscription scale and cost is relatively large.

4. Apple Photos and Notes – The Default Apple Certified Drawing and Painting App

This free iPad drawing app is impressive because it’s incredibly convenient to use as you can quickly add doodles and sketches to any photo. This app is incredible for a simple drawing, and whether you are marking up a PDF or drawing on your dog’s image, this app is what you need.

Apple Photos and Notes are default applications on your iPad that you can utilize to allow good essential tools for drawing and sketching. It also allows you to edit photos and draw anything on top of an image you just clicked.  The overall experience with these apps are unique, and you could use them for drawing and painting simple stuff quickly and easily.

Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • Offers uncomplicated sharing.
  • It comes built-in with your iPad

Cons

  • It doesn’t offer pro editing tools

5. Tayasui Sketches – The Best App for drawing and sketching scenic landscapes

Tayasui Sketches app is the drawing app with the most practical tools, and its ability to organize drawings into different notebooks is impressive. This app is perfect to create masterpieces and seems appealing to designers, illustrators, painters, artists, and general art lovers.

You can also draw scenic landscapes with ease as the drawing space is ample and allows a lot of creativity to show through. The brush and pen selection is also great, but it lacks a primary layer feature that holds it back. However, if that’s something that you rarely use, then Tayasui Sketches is for you.

Pros

  • The app is easy to use and gives a wide range of drawing tools.
  • Tayasui Sketches lets you use the pro version for free for 1 hour so that you can test it out before purchasing it.

Cons

  • The free version of the app lacks the layering feature.

6. Adobe Comp CC – The Best Drawing and Painting App for Wireframes and Mock Designs

This app is fast and easy to use with many premade shapes, image placeholders, and lorem ipsum headlines. Adobe Comp is a free app and recommended especially it is great for laying out web designs. It is mainly designed for professional designs and diagrams, but you can also use it for basic drawings and paintings.

The best feature of using Adobe Comp CC is that you can directly export your files to any other device or Adobe enabled app to have better flexibility and creativity. So, if you’re working with mock designs and want to add in that personal touch by drawing or painting, then Adobe Comp CC is for you.

Pros

  • Using Adobe Comp CC, you can easily create wireframes, layouts, or mockups.
  • Provides a clean and straightforward user experience

Cons

  • The libraries are unidirectional.
  • It only offers the essential feature of web design.

7. Charcoal – Modern Art at your fingertips

Charcoal is a new app that is especially recommended to anyone who loves drawing. Charcoal is minimalistic, free, easy-to-use, and it supports iPadOS features like dark mode and multiple windows and also it allows you to visualize ideas.   

It is best with modern art and sketches as it allows you to creatively use shapes and objects with readily accessible tools that help you manipulate them. However, it is limited by a single layer and some built-in colour palette which can be great for beginners but a bad experience for professionals as it doesn’t allow creativity to shine through.

Pros

  • The app is free and easy to use.
  • Provides great editing tools

Cons

  • The app is limited to one layer and a couple of pre-chosen pallets.

8. Vectornator X – The Best Drawing and Painting App for Vector Art

Vectornator X is a vector design app that you can design logos, and it’s completely free. As a result, it has the type of toolset that ought to appeal to everyone from artists and designers to people that transforming their favourite photos into sleek, poster-like works of art.

If you work with a lot of vector art, draw more vector shapes, and paint unconventional and creative masterpieces, Vectornator X. However, most of the ‘pro’ tools are locked behind a payment which can be a bummer for some people, but the free version still fares well and is exceptionally good with vector and modern art styles.

Pros

  • The floating toolbar feature gives the impression of a giant canvas.
  • Unlimited layers.
  • Over 80,000 free icons.

Cons

  • Vectornator free is limited, and the pro version unlocks all the tools.
  • The layers panel has some issues with the format.

9. FlipaClip – The Best Drawing App for Animators

FlipaClip is essentially the best app on the list for Animators and 2D artists. You can use all the creative tools it provides to make your drawing or painting come to life with amazing animations. The animation process is straightforward and has many pointers and guides built-in straight into the app.

The considerable amounts of brushes and the layer system work together to separate elements and draw on them to change the way they feel and look. It also has audio support to add animations with audio to your scenic paintings and drawings to make them that much better and more personalized. However, these features are locked behind a payment and are a real bummer for the fun and unique experience it provides.

Pros

  • Beautiful UI for easy access
  • Fantastic at creating animations
  • Audio support

Cons

  • Many features are locked behind a pro version

10. Brushes Redux – An excellent beginner-friendly Drawing and Painting App

The old Brushes app was terrific for creative professionals and artists. It allowed users to paint and draw on their iPad and brought the revolution for drawing digitally. However, it was discontinued and made open-source for the general public. This helped make the Brushes Redux app compatible with newer iPads and many new tools to stand out from the competition.

You have access to all the tools on the front, and the large iPad screen allows you to creatively show all your skills without being bounded by a frame. The main benefit of this is the beginner-friendly nature of the app, which makes it really good and easy to use for all users. It also has a powerful editing system that helps you edit and export to multiple formats with ease.

Pros

  • Beginner-friendly UI
  • Great variety of tools
  • Can export and edit multiple formats
  • Compatibility with all iPads and Apple Pencils

Cons

  • The updates are slow
  • It has a lacklustre multi-layer system

Some FAQs

Q: What is the easiest Drawing App for iPad?

All the apps on the list are easy to use and beginner-friendly. Still, if you’re looking for that perfect easy to learn app, we would recommend getting started with Adobe Illustrator Draw as it has excellent features and performs well with styluses and Apple Pencil.

Q: What app do artists use to draw on iPad?

Artists have varying choices and preferences on what app they use, and it all depends on which app feels natural and easy to use. With this said, we have seen most artists recommend Autodesk Sketchbook as their primary preference for all the “Pro” grade features that they provide.

Q: Is iPad better than Wacom?

iPads and Wacom are excellent choices for drawing and painting, but the iPad comes ahead as all the apps on the list work with the Apple Pencil and should pose no problem with other styluses. Also, iPads have different uses and functionality, which the Wacom tablet doesn’t support.

Final words

While all the apps on the list are really good drawing and painting apps for the iPad, we would highly recommend you check out Adobe Illustrator Draw, Autodesk Sketchbook and Flow by Moleskin to provide excellent and unique tools and work brilliantly with the iPad. With this, we end the blog and hope you have a fun experience drawing your hearts out.

See also:

Must-have Apps for Your New iPad ( Get Ready for 2021)
Best Photo Editing Apps For iPad
Apple Pencil Tips & Tricks You Must Know
The Best Cheap Apple Pencil Alternatives for iPad

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