iPad art school: Choosing the right app

Kyle Lambert
4 January, 2011
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Apple’s iPad is a powerful and versatile creative tool that allows iPad artists to turn their tablets into portable art studios. If you’re new to finger painting – or digital art in general – it may seem daunting to get started. Here are some of the best iPad artwork apps available today.


Steve Sprang


With a simple toolbar at the bottom of the screen that controls everything, Brushes has an easy-to-use interface. Options include a colour wheel, a brush menu, undo/redo and a layer menu. The app’s brushstroke performance is fast, pinch-zooming is smooth and it has easy navigation and autosave functions too. Most  impressive is Brushes’ automatic recording of the painting creation process – you can even play back the steps inside the app.

Brushes also lets you export your actions as a file, which you can convert to a video via the free companion app, Brushes Viewer.




Autodesk’s desktop digital artwork application goes mobile with SketchBook Pro for iPod. SketchBook Pro’s excellent toolset is extensive, with options for drawing straight lines and geometric shapes, and for adding text to your artwork. There are customisable side palettes for brushes  and colours, which speeds up and simplifies your creative workflow. With the iPad 2, you can work at 2048 x 1536 pixels and export your artwork with up to 12 layers in PSD format.


Ambient Design


Taking a different approach to painting on the iPad is ArtRage, with tools that aim to replicate rather than replace traditional painting techniques – and with stunning results.

The oil paint brush behaves exactly as you would expect, with strokes that have a natural, textural quality to them. Using the palette knife, you can easily spread paint around the canvas and blend colours together in an incredibly realistic way. And there are simulations for watercolour paints, an airbrush and pastels, as well as an array of other impressive tools.


Lucky Clan


The most desktop-like app of this bunch, ArtStudio assembles into one collection some of the best features found in mobile painting apps.

It has a broad selection of brushes, including an airbrush, a wet brush and a scatter brush for creating patterns and textures.

Hidden panels of options for brushes, colours, and layers give you extra choices. And a filter panel lets you make stylised adjustments to your painting, such as Gaussian blur, sharpen and noise.


Steve Sprang


If you want a full-blown vector illustration app, check out Inkpad Using your fingers you can tap and plot Bezier curves with the pen tool, draw geometric shapes and make path adjustments. Overall, it’s a brilliantly executed tool for any vector artist.



Savage Interactive


A painting app built for performance, Procreate is incredibly responsive and has a beautifully simple interface. It features a fixed menu around the outer edges of the canvas, offering immediate access to sliders for adjusting brush size and opacity, and it also has undo and redo buttons. The full brush, layer and colour menus are accessible and easy to see. Procreate also has some useful extras, including a customisable smudge tool.




Adobe makes its first attempt at a painting app with Eazel, and in so doing has demonstrated how the iPad can be used in conjunction with desktop software. Adobe’s unique five-finger interface, which places its tools at your fingertips, is fun, but it can be irritating too, as it requires some dexterity. Eazel lacks basic features such as brush choices and layers.

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