As you guys know I’ve been doing quite a bit of drawing recently to relax at night. I tend to cycle between knitting, embroidery, drawing and video games depending on my mood at night and having the ipad has given me yet another medium to play with. From my art posts quite a few people asked what programs I was using to draw with so here is my list and reviews!

All of the pictures in this post were done with InkPad

pirate

Firstly short reviews of apps I’ve tried but didn’t make the cut:

Finger Sketch (free)
Link to the app store.

Basic fractal art app which mimics pencil sketching. Free version has ads but there is a pro version available. Handling is very nice and the movements handle quick speed without being pointed and jerky. The free version is fun but I think this is a bit of a novelty program rather than something I would use seriously. While there are several different “brushes” I still thought something was missing. You can pick the brush colour but there is no undo button.
Verdict: Fun to play with but I wouldn’t buy the paid version or use it for much other than practice exercises.

Neu Draw (free)
Link to the app store.

Vector drawing app.  Very good for a free app, definitely useful for people who just want to play around but doesn’t feel as full featured or intuitive as paid apps I’ve tried. While yes you can draw nice vectors, what turned me off was the free drawing mode, I felt it included *way* too many points per shape for what I was after. I think that style of drawing would suit other people who want to control every little detail and have the time to do so. I prefer to have fewer points and the ability to add more if I choose to later. Still for a free app it’s very well put together, fairly intuitive and generally nice to look at. Export options include jpg, png, vector pdf and svg which is a huge plus in my books. If you’re looking for a free app to just test out drawing on an ipad this is what I would suggest before you spend any money.

Verdict: Very good for a free app, great starting point and for most people would probably not need much more than this. It does depend on your style and needs though. I would suggest downloading this first for vectors and then upgrade to a paid app if you need to.

SketchBookXpress (free)
Link to the app store.

This is the one I found the most when I was looking for reviews. There is a free trial version and a paid pro version. This is a full featured drawing program with layers, transparency and a lot of options. The trial version is pretty good but I didn’t like it enough to actually buy the paid one. The brush handling was nice when I did quick fast sketches but when I slowed down to concentrate it seemed to over compensate and become too detailed which resulted in jaggy lines. There’s only so much you can do with drawing on a conductive surface like the ipad because it requires a thick contact at the surface so I think the brush strokes could have been more refined. That said I’ve seen some fantastic drawings made in this program so it really depends on your style. Several kinds of brushes and pressures are available but something about the layout was a bit annoying. I change tools often so having the tools at the top of the page got a bit tedious.
Verdict: Again a good starter program if you don’t want to pay for an app, not sure what the pro version is like but brush control here didn’t suit me. Definitely worth downloading and having a play with though.

 

puppy

 

Colour Ink (free)
Link to the app store.

Not so much a drawing program as a doodling app for children. Each finger draws in a different colour.

Doodle buddy (free)
Link to the app store.

Couldn’t get it to open, just kept crashing.  Looks more like a play app for kids though.

Draw Free for iPad (free)

Did not feel very professional at all, you can choose things like corkboard backgrounds etc which might be useful for someone wanting to play around. Not much brush control at all and no artificial pressure sensitivity.

Absolute favorite drawing apps:

In the end I spent a long time going between reviews for Art Studio and Reviews for Procreate without being able to pick between the two so I bought both. They have strengths and weaknesses between them so I switch between depending on the job.

ArtStudio (Currently half price at US$3.99)
Link to app store.

This is the program I use for line art. It creates nice sharp clean lines and has a great balance of responsiveness. The menus can be hidden so it doesn’t take up valuable screen realestate and the many export options include PSD if you want to continue editing later on. While there were a lot of options I found it wasn’t as responsive to colouring (a little laggy and the results weren’t so nice) as Procreate was so I tend to finalise my lineart here and then export it for colouring. That said if you were just doing basic colour then I think ArtStudio would still be a good choice and it’s much cheaper than most of the other full function drawing apps in the store. Layer functionality here is very well put together and you also have advanced abilities like layer masking and blend mode etc.

I like that there is the option to turn of the faux pressure sensitivity and the brushes are completely customisable in all other aspects too. It’s petty… but the biggest complaint I have about it is how un-stylish the icon and inside layout is. I think that it has been modelled fairly closely to Photoshop so if you’re comfortable drawing there you’ll probably be right at home here too. Even at high speeds of drawing it didn’t create jaggy lines which is a nice change. I imagine that it might look a bit imposing for someone who hasn’t much digital drawing experience but definitely worth having a poke around to get the hang of it. While it does auto save, it only does so after you’ve saved for the first time yourself which can be annoying if you forget and exit >_<

Verdict: Hands down the best app for line art that I have tried so far. Good compensation for speed and pressure and a lot of options. Pretty much a mini version of Photoshop (though in some ways with better and more intuitive features). 

fashion

Procreate (Currently US$5.99)
Link to app store.

Easily the best colouring app I’ve tried so far. While it’s a bit pricier it also comes with the ability to create your own brushes which is awesome to play with. The smudging allows you to move around colour in a very natural way and produces very nice results. If you take a look at their example drawings in the app store you’ll see what I mean. The smudge tool does lag a little bit if you’re going over large area but considering the results I will forgive that haha! It’s suited very well to semi realistic styles.

The brush choices are quite customisable and the interface on the left side makes it easy to do so while you’re actually drawing. Again having a top bar is kind of annoying but the left options make it much less of a big deal.

Probably what makes this one of my favorite apps is the fact that it is still in active development so it’s updated very regularly with new features and they actually listen to the suggestions in review and comments. There are still areas that improvements could be made such as cleaner handling for line drawings but as a colouring program I think it’s at a really good place. If they were to improve the line drawing a tiny bit more I would probably ditch Art Studio and just use Procreate for everything, as it is though they work together well.  Auto saves and remembers settings.

Verdict: Hands down the winner in terms of colouring. For me it was very worth the money especially with the ability to create your own brushes.

 

InkPad (US$3.99)
Link to App Store. 

Vector drawing at it’s best. All of the vector images I’ve done in the last few art posts have been done via InkPad. It is full of little quirks that make it an actual pleasure to use. The moveable tool panel is fantastic when you need to get in really close for details, the free drawing mode is fluid and natural, the points are easy to control and move and it’s updated quite regularly with new features. The layout feels natural to me and the tools themselves are self explanatory. Within about 10 minutes of downloading I was able to pick it up and create something decent which to me is the mark of an easy to use program.

It offers export in a large variety of different formats including svg and also has Dropbox functionality which is a big plus if you’re dealing with big files. There are lots of export options too such as svg so you can continue edition in Illustrator etc. I thought it was a bit odd that the export options were divided into two places (main screen and gallery screen) but not a huge deal. It auto saves every move as well and has a very good undo button.

Verdict: I can’t say how much I love this app, it is very full featured for an ipad app without being annoying and confusing. If you want a good vector app and don’t mind paying this is totally worth the money.

vectordrawing

Finally a couple of things to think about when it comes to drawing on the iPad…

  • As much as the iPad is a really fun drawing tool it can be a bit frustrating as well. Some of the apps chew through battery life due to the high amount of processing power required.
  • Having a very large zoom capability is very important if you’re going to deal with a lot of small details too because you are stuck using fat conductive styluses or fingers which block view to the screen. 99% of the time I didn’t find it a problem but every now and then it would have been nice to have a little more sensitivity.
  • On the topic of using styluses, I would definitely suggest getting one if you’re serious about drawing on the ipad. Fingers are great but they just aren’t as accurate or as easy to use for long periods of time without developing some serious hand cramping. Don’t get one of the ones with foam on the end either, they are mostly junk and the rubber tipped ones are much easier to handle. Mine is by JustMobil.
  • Lastly remember to check whether the program you are using has auto save, about half of the ones I tested did which was fantastic because I have a habit of closing without saving >_<

So that’s it for now, I think I’ve covered everything for now, if I remember anything else I’ll update the post! Let me know if there are any questions!