If the iPhone is the camera you always have in your pocket, it’s also your always-available sketchpad. That’s why, despite the favor the larger iPad gets when it comes to creative iOS apps, there’s still a huge number of drawing and sketching apps for the small screen for when inspiration strikes from … well, anywhere. When choosing the ideal drawing and sketching app, consider the variety of pen nibs, brushes, layering options, vector graphics support, stylus support, and painting options on offer.
Note that many apps are available for free, with some requiring subscriptions as backup for pro features. If your storage space accommodates, you can have more than one art app on your phone. Best of all, most drawing apps available for the iPhone are also compatible with the iPad, which makes going back and forth between small screen and larger screen especially easy and convenient. Here are our picks for the best drawing apps for iPhone.
Adobe Fresco, a free drawing and painting app, is specifically designed for artists. The app combines the power of your favorite Photoshop brushes with the precision of vector brushes and the technology of Live Brushes. You can paint with watercolors and oils or work with scalable vector brushes to create print-ready crisp lines. Free features include over 50 Photoshop brushes, vector brushes, and Live Brushes; access to your custom brushes; tools for creation, selections, masking, layers, and layer groups; auto-migration of Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Adobe Illustrator Draw projects; time-lapse video to replay your creation; exporting to PNG or JPEG; and learning content. Premium features add Photoshop integration with automatic cloud syncing.
SketchBook is the champion of free sketching apps — available on your phone when your idea can’t be confined to your brain. The newest features — such as perspective guides offering one-, two-, and three-point perspective; a snapping toggle; vanishing point lock; and horizon line visibility — help with conceptualizing and drawing. You can now customize with infinite and constrained grid tools. A curve ruler lets you draw curves you can’t accomplish with the Ellipse tool. Support for the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) includes double-tap functionality.
This veteran art creation app appeals to everyone — hobbyist and pro alike. It features hundreds of handmade brushes, a suite of artistic tools, advanced layering, and a powerful 64-bit graphics engine to assist with sketching, painting, illustration, and animation. Procreate gives you ultra-high definition canvases up to 16Kx 4K; QuickShape for perfect shapes; responsive smudge sampling; 250 levels of undo and redo; auto-save; hundreds of gorgeous brushes and brush sets; over 100 customizable settings for every brush (or design your own custom brushes); a full-featured layering system; layer and clipping masks; nondestructive editing; profiles for color matching; perspective, isometric, 2D, and symmetry visual guides; vector text; and tons of ways to share your work across platforms and software packages.
Tayasui Sketches concentrates on presenting you with the most realistic drawing tools and brushes to inspire your creativity. This user-friendly sketching app emulates a genuine toolbox that helps you create sketches, paintings, and illustrations on the go and even imports photos. It features over 20 realistic tools, watercolor wet brushes, a brush editor and color eyedropper, layers, export to PNG and PSD, backup to the cloud and sync across devices, and pressure stylus support. Each stroke behaves like a brush on paper, adapting pressure, angle, and width to your movements. The interface is unique in that it hides the tools as you create, while a minimal number of buttons and controls provide a clean canvas that stays out of your way.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Adobe Photoshop Sketch borrows from the famous Photoshop brush engine to inject its magic into your iPhone. Pens, pencils, and watercolors look and feel real. Features include 24 built-in brushes with adjustable size, color, opacity, and blending settings; the ability to mix photos with drawing layers to restack, rename, transform, and merge; stencils to outline and stamp curves and shapes; perspective and graph grids; and royalty-free images from Adobe Stock. Going places? Send your layered files to Adobe Photoshop CC or Adobe Illustrator CC using your Creative Cloud account. Demonstrate your drawing process with a time-lapse video.
Paper by WeTransfer
If sketching is what you’re into, you can count on Paper by WeTransfer to serve up perfectly designed tools that make it easy to sketch, paint, draw, and create collages without distracting menus or interface interruptions. You can add multiple photos to a single page and cut, stick, move, and fix without having to hassle with layers. Built-in mood boards and storyboards help you visualize and execute your ideas. Organize your pages into journals and sync them across your devices. Even if you have trouble getting started with an idea, The app’s Paper Store offers guides and how-tos. With tips and tricks from top artists, you too can put your idea on paper.
Remember the Moleskine notebook? Flow — from the folks who bring you Moleskine — lets you create drawings, artworks, and notes on your iPhone. The app, which appeals to hobbyists and pros alike, offers dozens of paper types, colors, and tools and pairs its unique drawing tech with Apple Pencil for a genuine paper-and-pen experience. Flow’s documents can span infinite width, and you can create a custom tool set of colors, sizes, and styles. Create sketches, lists, storyboards, designs, notes, floor plans, diagrams, journals, and works of art. The apps lets you organize all your work into collections, hide the app’s interface to help you focus, export to various options, and store creations on your calendar. For $2 per month or $12 per year, membership includes cloud storage and backup for your documents and tools across all devices.