Although nothing can truly replace a good piece of paper or sheet of canvas for an artist, the iPad Pro comes incredibly close to bringing digital art up to the same level as analog art creation. The larger screen opens the iPad Pro to new levels of artistry and turns a fun sketching tool into a serious creative tool. Designed from the ground up with the Apple Pencil in mind, the iPad Pro is the ultimate digital canvas and the Pencil is its most versatile tool.
Luckily, there are scores of drawing apps on the App Store, and many of them have already been optimized for the Pro’s big screen and pencil’s fine-point tip. Here are 5 of our favorites, and some we’re looking forward to using soon.
Procreate is perhaps the most professional and well-rounded drawing app on this list, but its also the most expensive at $6. It comes equipped a full set of drawing tools, which expertly imitate real creative implements, such as soft pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, graphite pencils of varying hardness, acrylic, oil, watercolors, and more. Whatever the medium, Procreate’s digital tools will give you the full effect and appearance of the real thing. You can even smudge, blur, and manipulate your strokes just as you would on paper or canvas.
Its 64-bit painting engine Silica is lightening fast and responsive, and on the iPad Pro with Pencil, drawing or painting on Procreate feels even more natural. You can add a number of layers and decide how high-res you want your canvas to be. On the Pro, it can go up to 16K resolution with 64-bit color, and you can export your artwork as PSD, PNG, JPG, or Procreate files. The app also helps you build a portfolio and share your work, if you so desire.
FiftyThree’s Paper has long been one of the best iPad drawing apps, but it’s become even more versatile in the past year. The app now has diagramming and note-taking tools in addition to the standard creative tool suite it’s always had. Yu get a watercolor brush, calligraphy pen, pencil, marker, ballpoint pen, eraser, paint roller, scissors, and a ruler. You can even import or take pictures, and mark them up with text or drawings.
All your creations are easily shared to FiftyThree’s creative community Mix, your camera roll, other apps for further edits, messaging apps, or to the social network of your choosing. Of course, using Apple’s Pencil and iPad Pro with the app is seamless, as FiftyThree worked closely with Apple to optimize Paper on the new hardware.
Adobe’s entire iOS app suite works extremely well on the iPad Pro, but we’ll highlight Sketch in particular as our favorite drawing app of the bunch. You can create expressive drawings and paintings on it without opening a sketchbook. Artwork can be sent as layered PSD files to Adobe Photoshop CC or resized up to 4x in Illustrator CC to print high-resolution copies.
The app includes 13 tools, a digital ruler, and graph guides. You can import your own images or stock photos to work on top of, too. Using the Creative Cloud connection, you can send a file to Photoshop CC or Illustrator CC on your PC or share your art with the Behance creative community.
Forge is more like a sketch pad for ideas, a brainstorming tool, and an inspirational white board for visual thinkers than a full-on drawing app. Artists and designers can work through ideas and iterations in the app, as well as bring in photos from Dropbox and the default photos app on iOS to help inspire your sketches. There are only six simple brushes to choose from, but you can control color, gradient, and other key aspects of the drawing.
Forge also has layers, so you can save each layer to look back on later, change, or delete entirely. You can create multiple portfolios and view your sketches on a wall to get an idea of where you’re going. The iPad Pro’s large screen makes it even easier to spot patterns or just admire your work. Pencil’s precision and lack of lag really shine here, too.
Tayasui Sketches looks simple and clean, but it offers a number of different brushes for free and a clutter-free space to draw. You get a pencil, rotring, watercolor brush, felt pen, and eraser for free. You can import photos, too, if you want, and it’s really easy to share your sketches on social networks or via email.
It’s great for illustration and quick sketches, but if you buy the in-app purchase, it can become a professional drawing app with surface pressure, layers, types of paper, more brushes, and the ability to change brush sizes. The app lets you try the pro features for an hour, so you can decide if it’s worth the $5 price tag. Regardless of whether you pay for pro, you can organize your sketches and creations into different notebooks in the app, which makes it easier to keep track of everything. Thanks to the backup feature, you won’t have to worry about losing your work, either.
Although these are our favorites, there are many more apps to choose from, and Adobe’s app suite alone gives you half a dozen options. Other more expensive professional creative apps like uMake — which is for 3D modeling — and Astropad — which is for professional illustrators, comic artists, and other people who used to own Wacom tablets — are also ideal for the iPad Pro and Pencil. Astropad’s app is in beta right now, but based on how great it was on the regular iPad, it’ll probably be even better on the Pro’s huge screen.
We’ll update this roundup with more drawing apps soon, but let us know if you have any favorites in the meantime.
Also watch: Joostcube Is The Tiny Apple Watch Charger