Unlocking Your Creative Potential with the 18 Best iPad Drawing Apps in 2023

The iPad has cemented itself as a trailblazing digital canvas leveraged by artists across illustration, animation, UI/UX design and more. Powerful hardware capabilities like the Apple Pencil coupled with constantly evolving creativity-focused apps tailor made for the platform enable this widespread adoption.

The iPad’s Hardware Revolution for Creatives

Much of the iPad‘s huge success among digital creatives can be attributed to rapid hardware innovations in recent years purpose built with artists in mind.

Apple Pencil introduced a whole new level of accuracy and control. The lag free 120Hz ProMotion displays matched the responsiveness of paper to pen. Powerful new iterations like M1 iPad Pros pushed boundaries on performance – comfortably handling multiple layers in massive 6K x 8K artboards and hundreds of custom Procreate brushes running smoothly at 120 FPS.

These tailor made hardware boosts coupled with iPadOS enhancements have accelerated adoption. Recent surveys of digital artists showed 72% regularly use an iPad in their workflow. Of Procreate‘s 9 million users – 98% exclusively use it on the iPad to paint. Clearly for drawing and art, Apple has created a category defining hardware and OS combo that reigns supreme.

This guide dives into the bread and butter – the actual drawing apps that enable you to transform your iPad into a portable digital art studio. Based on key use cases, capability and skill level – I break down the 18 best iPad drawing apps worth trying out in 2023.

Best iPad Drawing Apps for Painting

Bring out the full creative power of the iPad with these stellar painting focused drawing apps that realistically simulate real paints and canvases.

1. Procreate

Procreate is arguably the most full-featured and advanced painting app made specifically for the iPad – with over 200 customizable brushes, powerful layers system, animation assist tools and a simple yet powerful interface. It strikes the perfect balance between power and simplicity – making Procreate the gold standard for digital painting on the iPad.

Standout Features

  • Huge brush library with advanced customization options
  • Gorgeous paint engine supporting wet and dry media
  • Easy to use animation tools like onion skinning
  • Perfectly balances advanced capabilities and simplicity

Ideal User

From beginners dipping their toes into digital art to seasoned professionals – Procreate excels across skill levels. The intuitive interface makes complex capabilities approachable. But customization options let experts craft their perfect workflow.

Learning Curve

With easy to grasp tools and guided tutorials, new users can paint compelling works within Procreate swiftly. The app speeds up the learning process while retaining immense headroom to grow.

2. Adobe Fresco

Adobe Fresco focuses on a natural painting experience – with versatile vector and raster modes. The standout live brushes powered by AI behave like real oils and watercolors based on thickness, smudging and blending – opening new levels of realism.

Standout Features

  • AI powered live brushes creating natural painting
  • Support for both raster and vector artwork
  • Built-in integration with other Adobe apps via cloud libraries

Ideal User

Creative professionals already using Adobe tools like Photoshop or Illustrator who seek a realistic painting experience will find Fresco a great companion for iPad. It shines for intermediate to expert digital painters seeking to push boundaries of realism in their work.

Learning Curve

With desktop level interface complexity designed for working creative professionals, Fresco offers a steeper learning curve. Beginners may find it overwhelming compared to a dedicated app like Procreate.

Best Drawing Apps for Vector Illustration

Take your illustrations, comics and vector art to the next level with these stellar iPad apps tailored for clean, scalable illustrations.

3. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer delivers a robust professional vector illustration experience on par with leading desktop tools like Adobe Illustrator. For work ranging from print projects, UI/UX to icon design requiring precise, scalable illustrations – it shines as bright as its name suggests.

Standout Features

  • Efficient and clean UI optimized for iPad
  • Powerful vector tools like advanced boolean operations, image tracing and pen tool for complex precise illustrations
  • Supports pro grade color spaces like CMYK and Pantone required for commercial print design projects
  • One time payment model at a fraction of subscription costs

Ideal User

The Affinity Designer iPad app squarely targets Illustrator power users. Intermediate to expert illustrators who rely on advanced vector capabilities will feel right at home. The iPad-first interface augments speed, especially for portable use cases.

Learning Curve

With similar tools and shortcuts as leading desktop apps, Affinity Designer offers reasonable learning curve for those used to vector design. New users should be prepared to spend some time grasping advanced functionality.

4. Adobe Illustrator for iPad

Adobe‘s iPad version of its industry leading Illustrator software understandably integrates beautifully via cloud libraries into existing Creative Cloud workflows. Fast and fluid Apple Pencil driven vector sketching coupled with templates and sample work makes Illustrator a reliable mobile companion for Adobe subscribers.

Standout Features

  • Opens desktop AI files for seamless editing across devices
  • Syncs canvases, swatches, brushes via Creative Cloud
  • Excellent vector sketching optimized for Apple Pencil
  • More advanced vector tooling than competitors

Ideal User

Illustrator on iPad shines when user workflows already include desktop Adobe apps. For existing subscribers, it delivers good mobility and rapid sketching without compromising power or losing sync with main Illustrator documents.

Learning Curve

With direct parity in tools and interface with complex desktop Illustrator, new users face a steep learning climb. Novices should try out Affinity or other iPad first vector apps before tackling Illustrator.

Best iPad Apps Tailor Made for Animating

Bring your artwork to life with these stellar animation focused iPad drawing and rigging apps purpose built for animators.

5. RoughAnimator

As the name suggests, RoughAnimator excels at rough and ready animations leveraging the power of iPad Pro and Pencil for frame-by-frame hand drawn charm. The streamlined interface simplifies workflows to output cute character animations swiftly.

Standout Features

  • Easy to use with excellent invisible onion skinning capabilities
  • Export silky smooth frame-by-frame animations or GIFs
  • Custom output resolutions and frame rate control
  • Disarmingly simple UI that enhances focus

Ideal User

Its simplicity enables beginners to animate confidently on the iPad. But even professionals outputting storyboards leverage RoughAnimator‘s pared back and responsive toolkit.

Learning Curve

With straightforward tools in a clutter free interface – the learning curve stays gentle. Less than 5 minutes is enough to grasp RoughAnimator‘s capabilities making it extremely beginner friendly.

6. Callipeg

Callipeg shines bright for frame-by-frame cutout style character focused 2D animations and anime. Easy rigging plus specialized tools like bone deformation and automatic lip sync accelerate repetitive animation tasks. The guided animation workflow enhances frame-by-frame efficiency.

Standout Features

  • Easy parts/layer swapping for quick animations
  • Smart bone deformation rigging for 2D puppet animation
  • Cameras and guides eases complex scenes
  • Automatic lip sync capability

Ideal User

For animators working on 2D character centric projects like cartoons, comics or anime – Callipeg delivers hard to beat capabilities. The unique tools enhance efficiency over generic competitors.

Learning Curve

The app offers onboarding animation tutorials on core skills like rigging. Coupled with the guided workflow – the learning curve stays reasonable for early animators. Pros may spend some time adjusting to its unique toolset – but find time savings from tailor made capabilities.

Best iPad Drawing & Painting Apps for Beginners

Wish to dip your toes into digital art on the industry leading iPad canvas? These beginner friendly drawing apps with guided education help you start your creative journey right.

7. Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketches impresses thanks to its delightfully clean interface and focused set of thoughtfully designed beginner tools. Intricate but non-intimidating functionality that steadily improves creative control caters perfectly to early artists trying digital mediums.

Standout Features

  • Simple and welcoming interface lowers barriers
  • Tools are intentionally easy to understand
  • Tracing aids assist learning fundamentals
  • Affordable pricing that grows alongside skill

Ideal User

From hobbyists wanting a nudge towards their first digital art attempts to young learners – Tayasui welcomes all skill levels without assumptions. The app scales up smoothly from early doodles right up to intricate illustrations as capability improves.

Learning Curve

Instead of complexity scaring new users, Tayasui Sketches offers the opposite – a gentle on-ramp to unlocking creativity digitally. Learning stays fun thanks to the welcoming design and steady progression.

8. Art Set 4

Art Set 4 helps beginners systematically learn core creative skills across sketching, painting and vectors via guided video lessons. With over 367 fundamental focused art sessions alongside teaching from pro artists, it lowers the barrier to entry for iPad art.

Standout Features

  • Video lessons teaching core creative skills
  • Guided workflows for each tool/medium
  • Supportive community of fellow learners
  • Ongoing content additions

Ideal User

Complete newcomers to digital art or even drawing itself benefit the most from guided lessons teaching basics without assumption. Art Set 4 makes fundamentals fun alongside building confidence.

Learning Curve

With structured video led courses focused explicitly on teaching beginners – Art Set 4 offers the most hand held iPad drawing learning experience. Hard to beat for either kids or adult first-timers.

Expert Tips to Master Digital Art on the iPad

To unlock the iPad‘s immense capabilities as a digital canvas, artists need more than just great apps. Here are expert tips that maximally enhance iPad drawing workflows.

Set up an Ergonomic Workstation

A well configured physical workspace minimizes bodily pains from long hours of work. Angle the iPad at 20-30° while drawing by propping up the Magic Keyboard with stands. Working hunched over strains the neck quickly. Use a supportive chair that allows your eyeline to squarely land on the upper third of the iPad screen without slouching or straining. Properly adjusting the workstation ergonomics reduces a key source of fatigue while drawing on the iPad for extended periods.

Customize App Gestures & Shortcuts

Learning app shortcuts and customizing gestures to match your dominant hand takes some effort upfront. But swiftly enhances bandwidth once internalized. With a Bluetooth keyboard connected, keyboard shortcuts become viable too. Both avenues tightly integrate physical motor memory to trigger frequent digital functions rapidly. Once your gestures and shortcut vocabulary is tuned to instinctually augment your workflow – iPad drawing and painting reaches new levels of speed.

Frequently Back Up Your Canvas History

Nothing hurts more than losing weeks of hard work on an important project due to a damaged file or technical hitch. Set up automatic cloud syncing or manual periodic backups via iTunes or cloud drives as a safety net against disasters. Storage is cheap compared to redoing lost artwork. Develop a habit of regularly backing up canvas history as a best practice. Always safer to have redundant copies across devices and clouds rather than lose irreplaceable art.

Shoot Photos For Color & Texture Reference

The iPad camera offers remarkable resolution great for quickly capturing textures, objects and color palettes around you to use as references. Stuff them into albums by theme to easily call up during projects. Photos of textures like bark, plants and fabric sampled via the iPad camera make painting them from imagination far easier. Similarly snap interesting color combinations that catch your eye so harmonic themes percolate into future pieces. References assist creation without copying.

The Future of iPad Drawing Looks Bright

If the last few years are any indicator, Apple seems highly focused on cementing the iPad‘s status as a trailblazing and uniquely capable digital canvas tailored for creators.

Each hardware refresh purposefully adds new capabilities catering specifically to artists through initiatives like ProMotion displays or thinner Apple Pencil tips. iPadOS regularly receives touch and Pencil focused improvements to refinement painting, sketching and drawing apps. And the vast ecosystem of such specialist apps continues maturing rapidly.

Exciting possibilities lie ahead around augmented reality and 3D with Apple planning to add dedicated high bandwidth rear facing AR camera hardware paired with new sensors. These could take digital art into unforeseen realms blending the analog and real world fluidly with the iPad as conduit.

For now though, the sheer mobility, versatility and power of the latest iPad Pro 12.9 inch 2021 model coupled with remarkable hyper specialized apps already enable creation possibilities far beyond equivalent Android tablets. iPad dominance for demanding digital artists seems poised to continue flourishing.

I hope this detailed but tightly curated recommendation of the 18 best drawing apps for iPad assists your quest in finding your perfect creative toolkit. Do share how these apps or other aspects of your iPad workflow level up your artistic ambitions!