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11 Tablet Apps for Digital Art

Creating art on a smartphone or tablet have never been easier. Here are some apps that can help you make the leap to digital art.

IsoRod, Published on Aug 11, 2012
Currently iOS has more drawing and painting apps than Android. With the release of the Google's Nexus 7 I hope to see that change. Most of the apps not developed by companies like Adobe and Autodesk tend to be more geared toward children or lack the polish of the top developer's apps. But there are exceptions which are covered in the bonus apps section of this post. The list is presented in alphabetical order. The 11 apps below are ones that I have found useful and worth supporting the developers with a purchase. Some of the apps have express or lite versions that allows users to try them out for free. Another way to preview the apps is to do a youTube search and watch a video of the apps in action. Now on with the list.

The first image shows PS Touch's user interface (UI). The second image is a photo with 3 artistic filters applied to make the image look like a drawing.

Adobe Photoshop Touch is part of Adobe's Touch Apps, it takes Photoshop's core features and customize them for tablets. The app includes multiple select tools, adjustments, filters and layers. There are very informative tutorials provided to help you get started using this powerful app. Adobe also provides users with a free account on Adobe's Creative Cloud which has 2 gigabytes of storage. The app has some features that are unique to it, like filling in an area on a layer with an image from the tablet's camera. Or the scribble select tool that can be used to extract parts of images from their backgrounds. I do miss layer masks though, and hope to see it added in future updates. This app is available for both Android and iOS tablets. Updates about Photoshop Touch can be found here.

An image of Art Studio's UI and an image of Voodoo created in the app.

Art Studio is probably one of the most complete drawing/painting apps on iOS. The app has been called the Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro of art app for iOS. The app has 300 brushes (150 free, 150 paid), a text tool that allows you to import TTF fonts from your computer, custom canvas sizes, layers with layer masks, shape tools, and much more. There are two versions available, an iPad one and one for the iPhone. Version 4.0 for the iPad has been released and its truly a complete redesign and the developer did a phenomenal job. This app now really does have a Photoshop feel and much more polish look and performance. I can only say, WOW! What the developer, Lucky Clan achieved is very impressive. My only gripe is the all too frequent autosave, which causes the app to freeze during the save is on by default. There is an option in the settings to turn off the autosave.

iPad Brushes' UI and an a painting of my character Ignite created in Brushes.

Brushes was the first drawing app I brought for iOS. This was after seeing an article where the artist, Jorge Colombo, created a cover painting for the New Yorker magazine with Brushes. This app has grow since I first started using it. Some of the new features added were layers, multiple brushes and extreme zooming. The features that made the app so enjoyable to use was the way colors had to be blended to create different hues. The result is a very soft and natural look, which makes the art produced in Brushes appear as if they were created on a canvas instead of a smartphone or tablet. Another great feature was the artwork produce by the app could be replayed stroke for stroke on a Mac and be turned into a movie file. They are many examples of these movies on youTube. Versions are available for the iPad and the iPhone. Compared to many of the apps in the post it is lacking features and the app was last updated late last year. Updates about Brushes can be found here.

Font style selection menu and an image created for privacy and search page banners.

Comic Life by Plasq is a great app that allows you to turn you photos or images into comics. The iPad version is comparable to the desktop (Mac/PC) version, in the fact that it has many of the features and editing capabilities. It's pretty straight forward and I like using it to do balloons and caption for artwork. Currently only for the iPad. Updates about Comic Life can be found here.

Image of color selection menu in the app and of Batman painted in Inspire Pro.

Inspire Pro is a painting and drawing app that simulates wet oil paints on canvas and the ability to use a dry brush for blending. It has one of the best color blending capabilities of any art apps available for iOS. Compared to other apps Inspire only has 5 brushes and no layers. But it is very highly regarded as on of the best art apps in the iOS AppStore. Inspire Pro is available for the iPad and the iPhone version is simply know as Inspire.

Images of the base poses created in Poseable for the Mr. Terrific image created in Sketch Club, the Static image created in Sketchbook Pro and the Voodoo image in Art Studio. The arms of the model use for Voodoo has elongated hands and forearms, which is commonly seen in images where the character shape shifts. Sad note, all 3 characters' books have been cancelled in DC's New 52.

Poseable is a spectacular art aid for creating dynamic scenes that can be viewed from any angle. This app has a very simple and clean interface. Reading the user's manual on the app's website will help in uncovering all of the powerful option that are available. There are 5 figures available by default from the classic artist mannequin to more skeletal like mannequin with fingers. There are even downloadable figures of children at different ages. The ability to resize any portion of the models create an endless possibilities of figure that you can pose. The developer, Dan Vulanovic, updated the app with a completely redesigned interface in version 2.0 and allows for posing multiple models and props. Props like furniture, weapons, hats and animals are being updated periodically. There is a setting that allows the app to check for new models every time it is opened. Poseable is a great app for artist. I used it as a reference in many of the drawings created for this post. This app is like Poser for iOS but at 0.8% of the price. It is available for iOS as a universal(both iPad and iPhone) app for $1.99.

Image of Procreate's brush selection menu and an image of my character Prototype-1 created in Procreate.

Procreate is my favorite drawing and painting app on iOS. The app has 45 brushes and the ability to create custom ones, up to 16 layers even in a HD drawing, transformation tools, and much more. Procreate's smudge tool is one of the best, in part because of the blazing fast, Silica painting engine. I have been trying to figure out why I preferred Procreate to the other apps and the answer is speed and responsiveness. Many of the other apps are improving their performance and speed, but this was never and issue with Procreate. Most of the art I have created for the site was using Procreate. It is only available for the iPad. Updates about Procreate can be found here.

Montage of Sketch Club app screens and an image of Mr.Terrific created in Sketch Club.

Sketch Club is probably the most bang for your buck out of all the the app on iOS. The app has layers, transformation tools, shape tools, vector tools and the ability to record your work while creating it. Sketch Club also has a very tightly integrated community with, which provides an online gallery, daily challenges and weekly competitions with prizes. The user community also produce brushes, templates and tutorials that can be accessed from inside the app. There is also the ability to comment and become fans of others within the community. Sketch Club is a great app for drawing shapes and straight lines. The user interface could be streamline a bit and if I haven't use the app for awhile is takes me sometime to find my way around again. Sketch Club is available for iOS as a universal app.

Image of Static created in SKetchbook Pro and an image of that shows Sketchbook's color selection tool.

SketchBook Pro is a drawing and painting app that uses the same paint engine as is desktop counterpart. The app sports 150 brushes with the ability to create custom brushes, layers which include templates of various grids/perspective references, shape tools, and much more. Sketchbook Pro is very good for sketching but, I find it a bit more difficult to get consistent results when adding colors to the art work. The tools can be a bit obscure and it is difficult to figure out what some of the icons represent. An example is the smudge tool. I had to do a google search to find it in the brush tabs. After not using the app for awhile I needed to google the tool again to find it. The shape and line tools are awesome. The different types of layer templates are also very cool. The app is available for Android and iOS with versions for the iPad and iPhone. Updates about SketchBook Pro can be found here.

Image of the Snapseed's UI and the second image is of Leopard, created in Procreate processed with Drama and Center Focus filters.

Snapseed is a photo editing tool that allows users to edit and transform images. It has tools to Auto Correct, Crop and Straighten & Rotate for editing images and filters like Drama, Center Focus to embellish them. There are more tools and filters available but the most talk about and praised feature of this app is the precision that is able to be achieve on a touchscreen device. The results are very impressive. A universal version is available for iOS and a version is in development for Android. Updates about Snapseed can be found here.

Example of Toon Paint's iPad UI. Second image is a wallpaper of Iron-Man processed with Toon Paint.

ToonPaint turns your photos into amazing cartoons. Very simple and clean interface. I have used it in the creations of banner and post images. It can also be used as a way to simplify faces and help create shorthand for drawing a likeness of someone or provide guidelines for inking an image. ToonPaint is available for both iOS and Android. A HD version is available for the iPad.

These are the bonus apps, they are either apps that I don't own or I have not really use much, but thought were worth mentioning.

Adobe Touch Apps - Ideas and Kuler. These are the only other two Touch Apps I felt were more geared towards art creation. Ideas is a vector drawing tool which allows for extreme zoom without pixelization for fine details. Kuler allows the user to create, share and download color themes for art projects. Ideas is available for Android tablets and iOS devices. Kuler is currently only available for Android tablets.

Fresco Paint Pro by Sean Wilson is an impressive mobile art studio for Android. Fresco is a more of a painting app and produces very beautiful result as seen in the demo video. This app may not have as many features as some others but its ease of use and various tools like filters, layers and adjustable brushes make it an app to consider.

Infinite Painter by Sean Brakefield is one of the best drawing and painting apps I've seen on Google Play not by Adobe or Autodesk. The demo video shows the app's capabilities and it has a cool features that lets you rub or stamp images into your drawings. Infinite Painter is a very polished app and would love to see more like it developed for Android. Available for only Android devices.

Sketchbook Ink is a vector based drawing app which is considered more of a companion to Sketchbook Pro. The app is slow compared to other drawing apps, even after an update. The app still needs work. This is not an app that I use very much and is only available for the iPad. Updates about Sketchbook Ink can be found here.

iDesign is a vector drawing app, with features that include layers, a text tool, a path tool, grid snap and many more. There are a lot of tools and options for this app, which can be overwhelming, but is a very good tool for creating vector images. It's a universal app for iOS.

I currently only have iOS devices, an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2. I'm thinking about getting a Nexus 7 tablet in the future. Google Play's best feature over the iOS AppStore is the video demos showing the apps being used without having to go to the developer's site or a youTube search. One of my favorite things about the iOS AppStore is there are a lot of sales(Google Play may also have similar sales). Most of the apps I purchased were only for $0.99 and some were free. Sales tend to happen when new devices are released or the developers are celebrating milestones, a new product release, anniversaries or holidays. Please feel free to leave a comment on any of the apps mentioned in the post or any great art apps that you are using that was not.

TAGS: Artists , Resources , Tech , Opinions , Digital

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