There is something satisfying about drawing on paper with an old fashioned pen or pencil. But when the inevitable time comes to delete your mistakes, the command+Z doesn’t quite seem to work. Luckily, technology is on your side. With the best drawing apps ready to go on a mobile device, artists and creatives can quickly move through changes and iterations to create their best work yet.

best drawing apps
The best digital drawing apps: which one’s right for you? Illustration by OrangeCrush

Before purchasing one of these miraculous little drawing apps, it’s important to consider the best choices for your creative process. You might be surprised by some of the applications and functionalities available in the digital art world today.

Here, we walk you through the best of the bunch—happily, there’s something for everyone!

Best drawing apps for beginners

Here are some of the easiest apps for beginners looking to get into the digital world. These are the drawing apps that are quick to pick up and easy to work with. They have a lot of great resources available and a large community to lean on for support while traversing the learning curve.

1. Procreate

ipad with digital painting going off screen with Procreate Interface
An expressive digital painting on iPad featured on Procreate Website

At first glance, this application can be a bit daunting for someone who has never used a design app before. While it can be helpful to experiment with all the different tools and buttons, to really build skill in this application and get the most functionality, check out the Procreate Community page. There are many skilled artists and tutorials available to support digital artists of any skill level. Be sure to check out the animation feature—it really helps your work come to life.

What it does:

  • Creates digital drawings using a multi-layered layout
  • Illustration
  • Animation
  • Exports easily to other devices for continued work

Pros:

  • One time purchase
  • A good amount of helpful tutorials
  • Lots of preset brushes already installed
  • Easy animation tools and exporting feature

Cons:

  • Can’t “finalize” a drawing for professional use without bringing it into Illustrator to clean up lines or vectorize it
  • Brushes simulate the painting of strokes, but doesn’t bleed like a vectorized brush
  • Not vectorized (it doesn’t scale well so you have to pay attention to how big your canvas size is or everything will be pixelated)

Pricing: $9.99—one time purchase
Experience level: Beginner
Tools needed: iOS device

2. Adobe Photoshop Sketch

ipad with digital painting on screen for ipad and iphone display
A colorful drawing done on iPad in Adobe Photoshop Sketch

This is a tried and true drawing application. Photoshop Sketch features a gorgeous interface that is clean and simply laid out like other Adobe products. The brush panel on the left and minimal design tools on the right leave a large digital canvas on which to paint. Designed for fine artists looking to add a digital component to their work, this application focuses on clear, simple tools that allow the creator to do what they do best—create!

What it does:

  • Works in a similar way to Photoshop layout with brushes, but with pressure-sensitive capabilities.
  • Meant to be used as a part of the Adobe Family of Applications. Must have an Adobe ID to use.

Pros:

  • Easily connects to Illustrator or Photoshop since it’s in the Adobe family
  • Made by a seasoned company (Adobe) which provides more resources and support compared to other design applications
  • Seamlessly integrates with Adobe Stock

Cons:

  • A bigger learning curve for those who have never used a design software before
  • No other features (like animation) available; must use another app
  • Limited storage but can pay additional monthly cost for more storage

Pricing: Free for iPad or android device users with Adobe ID
Experience level: Intermediate to expert level
Tools needed: iOS and Android

3. Adobe Illustrator Draw

ipad with digital painting on screen for ipad and iphone display
A colorful drawing done on iPad in Adobe Illustrator Draw

This application is for the graphic designer already integrated into the Adobe family. It’s so easy to translate work done on the iPad in Adobe Illustrator Draw to an open Illustrator file through CC Libraries.

The app is beautifully laid out with a simple approach to Adobe Photoshop Sketch, though the learning curve can be challenging for those who are unfamiliar with design software. The upside: the app features a robust tutorial platform and community engagement available for all users and skill levels.

What it does:

  • Meant for vector graphics with customizability for brushes
  • Easily mixes photos with drawing layers

Pros:

  • Easily connects to Illustrator or Photoshop since it’s in the Adobe family
  • Creates vector graphics with customizable brushes; easily integrates with Adobe Capture
  • Clean and simple layout for beginners

Cons:

  • Some reviewers say it can crash easily
  • Limited storage, but can pay additional monthly cost for more storage

Pricing: Free for iPad or android device users with Adobe ID
Experience level: Beginner
Tools needed: iOS or Android

4. Adobe Fresco

ipad with digital painting of a person reading a newspaper
A colorful drawing done on iPad in Adobe Fresco

This application is a bit different with live brushes that bleed across the screen, gorgeous vector graphics and blending effects that look 3D. Adobe Fresco easily translates to Photoshop for further work with more robust tools, however if simplicity is the end goal, Fresco’s streamlined approach allows designers and illustrators to get their ideas without being bogged down by other tools.

What it does:

This is a simple and streamlined digital drawing and painting app that’s great for beginners.

Pros:

  • Brushes that blend and bleed like the real thing
  • Can be used in combination with Adobe Photoshop on the iPad
  • Part of the Adobe family

Cons:

  • Can’t add text
  • No canvas option
  • Free version only lasts up to 2 GB of storage

Pricing: Free for mobile device use
Experience level: Beginner
Tools needed: Adobe ID—download on App store and for Windows

5. Inspire Pro

ipad with gallery display of digital drawings
Inspire Pro’s digital drawing gallery screen on iPad

Inspire Pro is a great introduction into digital drawing. The simple layout is easy to navigate, but still offers up a lot of great tools for creation. Fast rendering times makes this application a contender for one of the best drawing apps out there on the App Store.

What it does:

The focus is on drawing and painting—this is a tool for hitting the basics of digital drawing. The app is not as robust in comparison to the other drawing apps.

Pros:

  • Lots of blending options with high quality brushes pre-loaded that also have high render brush strokes
  • Easy to learn

Cons:

  • Still pretty new—expect a few bugs
  • Everything is on one layer
  • The current version is missing a few tools to help in creation. It will likely take a few more iterations for it to become more user friendly

Pricing: $9.99 one time purchase
Experience level: Beginner
Tools needed: iOS devices

6. Pixelmator Pro

ipad with photo of woman on red wall edited in application
Pixelmator Pro’s image editing software layout

Designated more as a “image editor” this application cannot be overlooked as a contender for some of the best digital drawing apps. It has text capabilities with different layered effects, vector graphics, color adjustments and clipping masks. This little application can make an artist’s crazy graphic design and photography dreams come true.

What it does:

Similar to Lightroom and Photoshop, Pixelmator Pro is designed to edit photos with some additional tools available for graphic work.

Pros:

  • Has a large community of users to reach out to for support or resources
  • Simplified layout for beginners and for creatives who need to make quick edits on the fly

Cons:

  • Can’t import and rasterize vector files—features less in-depth tools
  • Still missing a few features that help to support the creative process

Pricing: $4.99
Experience level: Beginner to intermediate
Tools needed: iOS device

7. Assembly

Colorful vector illustration on iPad
Vector illustration done on Assembly Application’s platform on iPad

This application is defined as a “Mobile Vector Design” tool. Assembly is packed with a graphic designer or illustrator’s dream toolsets and has gorgeous shape packs built in for easy use. The clean and simple layout maximizes canvas space for easy creation. This design app has a growing community of creatives using this tool plus fun tutorials to help you get started.

What it does:

This is a mobile application designed for vector graphics and doing illustrative work using shapes.

Pros:

  • Works on iPhone or Ipad, can flex between the two devices
  • Advertised as “no experience necessary”
  • Features better tools compared to other applications including vector SVG output and typography tools

Cons:

  • Subscription based as opposed to a one-time purchase model
  • New application may have some bugs
  • Limited export options available (SVG, PDF, PNG, JPG only).

Pricing: Free for the basic Assembly—Pro version is subscription $29.99/year
Experience level: Beginner to intermediate
Tools needed: iOS device available on the app store

Best drawing apps for professional designers

These are apps that are a bit more robust and can be integrated easily into an already established professional career. The learning curve may be a bit more complicated for those who have never dipped their toes into the design realm before, but once mastered the reward is high.

8. Autodesk Sketchbook

ipad with illustration on Autodesk Sketchbook on iPad
Autodesk Sketchbook platform layout on iPad

If technical drawings and fine details are the name of the game, then this is the application to explore. It has scanning capabilities to take drawings into the digital age. Many industrial designers, architects and the like have integrated this handy little tool into their workflow for easy drawing and quick transition into the Autodesk family.

What it does:

Sketchbook is designed to create technical drawings used by Architects, Industrial designers and illustrators.

Pros:

  • Camera can scan paper drawing and import it to the app with a transparent background
  • Can fully finish a project within the app—as opposed to moving it over to finish in another app
  • Integrates with other devices via an Autodesk ID
  • Large community of users for continued support

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve

Pricing: Free for individual use with Autodesk ID or $85/year for multiple licenses
Experience level: Intermediate to expert
Tools needed: iOS or Android devices

9. Affinity Designer

ipad with illustration drawing of residential house in colorful palette
Affinity Designer’s drawing platform layout on iPad

Affinity Designer is a comparable design platform to the Adobe family. It has such a robust layout that the sky seems to be the limit on what can be created. It has a huge library of tutorials available and a growing community of creatives adding this into their creative process. With a one-time purchase for the application and the desktop version, it’s no wonder this app has caught the eye of many looking for the best digital drawing app on the market.

What it does:

This drawing app is an extension of Affinity Designer desktop that can be used for vector or pixel graphics (can switch between). It was created for design that will be laid out in print or digital.

Pros:

  • Closer design layout to Photoshop or Illustrator
    • Allows you to have artboards
    • Can create keyboard shortcuts w/ keyboard extension
  • More options in functionality
    • Designed for computers and mobile devices
    • Unlimited number of layers
  • Switch between vector and pixel designs

Cons:

  • Higher learning curve, not for beginning artists
  • Since it is a newer software, expect some bugs

Pricing: $20.00 one time mobile app purchase ($50.00 for desktop application) both a one time purchase, no subscriptions.
Experience level: Intermediate to advanced
Tools needed: iOS or android

Find the drawing app that’s right for you!

There are so many different drawing applications available today—from industrial engineers to fine artists, there is something for anyone looking to take their creative process digital. These art apps allow creatives who were once chained to their computers to experience the freedom of making art on the go. Now you can create digital drawings anywhere and anytime—all you need is one of the drawing apps above!

Need help creating the perfect illustration?
Hire a professional designer to create exactly what you need.