Digital art has piqued the curiosity of creative professionals around the world, with everyone trying to better their art through ever-evolving technology. Drawing apps are testimony to this statement. The tech market is flooded with applications that let the artist in you rejoice with options and features available at your disposal.
It is both, critical and practical that you choose a drawing app that meets the following criteria:
- Matches the needs of your profession/hobby
- Suited to the artistic stage you are at – Beginner or Professional
- Let’s you hone your artistic skills to the maximum
- Compatible with your device and its OS
- Gives you enough features to draw effectively and efficiently
- Doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket
To make this process quick, we have rounded up a list of 10 best drawing and art apps for different OS types – Android, iOS, and Windows. There are useful links added for each app that lets you see them in action with online tutorials and courses. Without further ado let’s find out what are the best drawing apps.
1. Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Create anything you want – simple or detailed, notwithstanding!
It’s on the list because – If you are already an Adobe user, Photoshop Sketch gives you a fluid and seamless drawing experience by syncing all your devices for photo/draw edits. It gives you the best parts of photoshop for drawing, sketching, and painting. Suited for traditional drawing, it lets you express through natural tools like pencils, pens, markers, and watercolor brushes to get textures and effects similar to paper.
Cost – Free with in-app purchases
Android 5.0 and above; iOS 11.0 and later
- The customizable toolbar allows you to pick and drop colors and tools that you use the most
- Access to Creative Cloud Libraries for importing templates, photos, and assets created on different devices
- Built-in graph and perspective grids make it easy for you to sketch the 3D world in your 2D drawing
- The app is connected to Behance – art/design social network, allowing you to view and share world-wide art in real-time
- Not as holistic as its photo editing twin
- Grabbing and making brushes with the Adobe store interface is not very intuitive
- While using stock images, Adobe could be more proactive about which pieces would require additional licensing in order to use media pieces
2. Adobe Illustrator Draw
Go for it if you are into Vector Drawing, Booklets, Graphics, and Logos
It’s on the list because – A free app again, Illustrator Draw comes with full layer support, much like its desktop counterpart. You can export the app artwork through CreativeSync to your other devices for edits in the desktop version of Illustrator or Photoshop. It is more suited to complex vector art as compared to the freehand traditional drawing supported by Photoshop. Illustrator Draw comes with access to Creative Cloud Libraries.
Cost – Free with in-app purchases; Up to $53.99 per month for a Creative Cloud subscription
Android 5.0 and above; iOS 11.0 and later
- Five different pen tips with numerous customization options
- Supports zoom up to x64, for you to see the finer details with sharpness
- You can create customized templates, shapes, and vectors using the “Capture” feature
- Brush features can be customized for style, opacity, size, smoothness, or pressure sensitivity
- Allows to draw over photos
- Limited features and brush options as compared to other apps like Procreate
- It has a bit of a learning curve if you have not used Adobe products beforehand
- Needs either a free/paid Creative Cloud membership to log in
3. Procreate Best for iPad users
It can’t get better than this for iPad users
It’s on the list because – Procreate is one of the best on-the-go apps for natural sketching and illustration made for iPad users. It comes packed with innumerable tools, and every year they roll out a new version with a lot of cool features and updates. It has no lag, offers a smooth workflow, and is pretty handy to bring your digital pieces to life.
Cost – US $9.99 (One-time Payment for lifetime subscription)
iOS 11.1 or newer and iPadOS
- Remarkable features that are specifically built keeping in mind the make and utility specs of iPad
- Over 130 Procreate brushes to create artistic effects with ease. Also, you can create your own through the brush engine or download others’ brush versions (just like Photoshop)
- Supports different file formats (PSD, TIFF, PNG, PDG, JPEG) allowing seamless export and printing experience
- It’s iPad only. Android users can’t enjoy this wonderful drawing app
- A large number of tools might be a little overwhelming for budding artists
- Two different apps for iPhone and iPad usage
- No text tools, vectors, and shapes
4. Autodesk SketchBook
Feature-rich, free and Favourite of artists
It’s on the list because – Sketchbook by Autodesk has been in the market for quite some time and has earned its credibility in the artist arena. It is powerful, intuitive, and boasts of distraction-free drawing space with clean UI. Layered PSDs can be conveniently imported and exported including layer names, groups, and blending modes. It is a great choice for product designers, architects, automobile/industry designers to ink their ideas when the inspiration strikes.
Cost – US $19.95 (used to be free)
iOS, Windows, Android, and macOS
- Layering is great with the functionality to add unlimited layers with blending modes and layer grouping
- Precision tools like rulers, curve guides, mirrors, and radial symmetry help in accurate graphical representation.
- Supports different file formats (PSD, TIFF, PNG, PDG, JPEG)
- The software allows using device cameras as scanners, enabling users to capture ideas in real-time as they see it
- 190+ customizable brushes, pencils, inks, markers, and ellipse guides
- Sophisticated and advanced users might find some boundaries to the program features
- High-resolution images might be a problem to load and zoom with a certain lag. It is more suitable for desktop use rather than a mobile one.
- Signing in to the account every time is a minor annoyance
5. Clip Studio Paint – Pro and EX Versions
Perfect Pick for Comic Illustrations and Manga Art
It’s on the list because – A kind of a cross between Photoshop and Sai, Clip Studio Paint (CSP) does a decent job in creating quality animations. There are several drawing and painting tools to give professional variation to your comic stories. Vectors and templates make it an ideal choice for illustrators, creative studios, and artists working on Manga characters and animations.
Pro Version – Suitable for character art, concept art, and illustration
EX Version – Suitable for manga, comics, and animations
Cost – US $49.99 (Pro) and US $219 (EX) – One-time purchase
Windows and macOS
- Cross-platform app and comes with a free trial
- A wide array of options and color gradients
- Repeatable tasks are mappable and syncing between the app and desktop version
- The blending and painting brushes are smooth and give great results with practically no lag.
- The interface needs little re-thinking to make it a little larger for finger use and also less confusing for the beginners
- Updates/Ads/Promotions on the home screen makes it clunky
- Support site and forum for CSP is weak and dated; more in Japanese than in English
- Doesn’t support the Android platform
6. MediBang Paint
Sleek app for both – Individual creatives and collaborative art projects; especially on smartphones
It’s on the list because – MediBang Paint is a lightweight digital painting and comic creation app that is ideal for comic book artists. This is just the thing for beginners who want to get started on creatives without the worry of subscriptions. The app also brings a vivid community of artists, resources, and tutorials that will help you to get inspired and ace your art.
Cost – Free with in-app purchases
Windows, Android, and macOS
- It is a cross-platform app, which makes it easy for an artist to collaborate on a project and share progress
- Access to cloud storage for efficient backup and sharing of your work
- Availability of more than 100 free brushes, tones, textures, backgrounds, and color palettes makes it the go-to tool for comic creation
- A large collection of pre-installed fonts
- Intuitive and clean user interface
- In-app ads contribute to the irks of using this platform as it slows down the workflow
- You require a MediBang account to access all features
7. Affinity Designer
A great pocket-friendly vector design app for iPad
It’s on the list because – A consistent competitor to the long-standing Adobe Illustrator, the one-time purchase of Affinity Designer is cheaper than a 3-month subscription to Creative Cloud. This makes this app affordable over other expensive counterparts, making it stand out for its clean and easy to customize capabilities in the vector design segment. This app is ideal for professionals who are into marketing materials, websites, icons, concept art, and UI/UX design.
Cost – US $19.99 for iPad version, US $49.99 for Windows and Mac – One time Purchase
MacOS, iPadOS, and Windows
- Great value for money – Price Tag is a super attractive
- Blazing fast performance with a wide array of features
- Professional touch to the drawing and painting tools
- Works flawlessly with Apple Pencil and is compatible with Illustrator
- No animations are a bit of a sore spot
- No plugins or scripting
- No object warping, extrusions, or mesh fill gradients
- Magic wand feature of Affinity Photo is missing in Affinity Designer
8. ArtRage 6
Realistic paint program that generates amazing natural art
It’s on the list because – ArtRage is a painting software for mobile and desktop. It primarily serves the macOS and Windows market but also has Android and iOS apps. It packs cool features like oil paint brushes, custom brushes, pens, and pencils. ArtRage lets you create as many layers as you want and it grants access to a broad range of blending options for you to stack multiple layers on each other.
Cost – US $79 – One-time purchase
(Other variants: ArtRage Lite for Beginners – US $29; ArtRage for Android – $4.99 and ArtRage for iOS – $4.99)
Windows Vista or later; macOS 10.9 or later; iOS 10 or later; Android 4.0 later
- Easy to use interface with powerful digital utilities and perspective layouts
- Good support on website and web with resources, tutorials, and manuals. There is an online community as well for advice, tips, and tricks.
- Recordable actions, cross-platform availability, and realistic tools
- Realistic paint and canvas customization makes it idyllic for digital painters
- The full desktop version is a bit pricey. However, the Lite version of the desktop is affordable and is half the price of the full software.
- A bit slow for larger canvases
9. Ibis Paint X
Versatile social drawing app loaded with art features
It’s on the list because – Ibis Paint X has squeezed many features of traditional desktop drawing applications in the mobile edition of the app. It provides plenty of space for manga drawing and illustrations. The robust app has seen over 80 million downloads and can give desktop drawing software a run for their money. It allows you to draw, doodle, and design from the comfort of your smartphone or tablet.
Cost – Free version with ads & limited functions; US $8.99 – Paid ad-free version available as an in-app purchase
iOS 11.0 or later; compatible with iPhone and iPad; Android 4.1 and later
- Ability to record the screen while drawing and publish the drawing process
- Nifty features like Stroke stabilization, Radial line rulers, Symmetry rulers, frame divider tool, text tool, and clipping mask features
- Over 1000 fonts and more than 380 brushes like dip pens, felt tip pens, digital pens & airbrushes
- Genuine layer, area selection, and blend mode functions
- Over 2500 free materials, 70 high-quality filters,
- Active ibispaint.com community site that brings art lovers together for inspiration and collaboration
- The app can’t open and support PSD files
- Layer folders and Layer nomenclature support is missing
- Few features lead to slowing down or crashing of the app
The epitome of a Digital Sketchbook – Easy for the Novice, Pleasure for the Professionals
It’s on the list because – ArtFlow packs a GPU-accelerated paint engine that renders your creations as fast as they are painted. The app allows you to generate canvases with up to 16 layers and supports advanced controls like smudging and brush flow. Its Holo inspired fluid interface is non-intimidating and has easy and simple controls. Not to forget more than 80 brushes to choose from!
Cost – US $4.99 for Pro Licence; Basic version is free
Android 4.4 and later
- Supports canvas rotation, selection mask (like lasso and magic wand)
- Device orientation support (landscape/portrait)
- Focal guide and new brush engine with universal brush support
- Integrated with Samsung’s PEN.UP social network SDK and supports Samsung’s S Pen on Galaxy Note Tabs.
- The unlicensed version has limitations with only 2 layers, no PSD support, and approximately 10 basic tools. You need to buy the licensed version to enjoy more features
What is the best free drawing app?
Autodesk Sketchbook is the best free drawing app on our list. Sketchbook has been recognized in the artist community as a great app for quite some time now. Not only as a free app but as a general drawing app that can compete with other paid apps. A lot of product designers, architects are using it. You can use it on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. You can also check our list above to find other suitable free drawing apps.
What apps do digital artists use?
Still undefeated is Adobe Photoshop. It’s number one for many reasons and it’s a number one pick for many artists. It’s been at the top of digital art tools for a very, very long time. The features and possibilities are endless. Creativity is the limit. It’s a great tool for collaboration due to the fact that it’s part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. You can share your artwork and access all of your assets from any device you like.
While digital art can’t be placed on the same pedestal as pencil on paper OR paintbrush on a canvas, we can safely say that it comes close to this realistic feel with these awesome digital drawing apps. Whichever app you choose to work with should gratify your artistic sensibilities and take your creation a notch higher with its tech features.
We hope our list of best drawing apps helped you to sift through and shortlist the “chosen one” among the sea of apps out there.
Which digital drawing app excites you the most?
Let us know in the comments section.
You have found your app, but do you have the perfect device?
Best Drawing Tablets
Best Standalone Drawing Tablets
Step by step guide on how to delete apps on iPad
Best Stylus for iPad
Jan Steinman says
Just an update: as of a year later, Autodesk SketchBook is no longer free, although reasonably priced at $19.95.
Thanks for the heads up, Jan! I’ll update the post accordingly 🙂