The Best iPad Pro Apps for Lettering, Art, & Design
One of the best creative decisions I ever made was purchasing my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It is fast, easy to use, and has made creating new digital illustrations for Color My Life so much easier. In fact, if I had one complaint, it’s that I don’t have more time to use it.
So, today I wanted to share a few of my favorite design apps on the iPad Pro. These are all apps that I use on a regular basis and would highly recommend. This post is a little picture-heavy so please bear with me if it takes a minute to load.
Sketchbook is the very first design app that I ever downloaded for the iPad. It is free, but it didn’t take me long to upgrade to Pro for iOS so I could get access to a lot more brushes, pro tools, layer options, symmetry tools, and predictive stroke, the latter of which being one of the best features of the app.
I recently designed a sort of symmetrical, clip art style fall illustration for Color My Life. To get it perfectly symmetrical, I used SketchBook’s awesome symmetry tools, turned on predictive stroke to help keep my lines super clean, and started sketching away. In the end, this was my final result.
You’ll probably notice some common features of all my favorite design apps. First and foremost, there have to be a ton of brush options. I’m talking an obscene amount. Second, I have to be able to work in layers and remove the background so I can export the artwork to another app without worrying about erasing a background every time. Finally, and this one might be even more important than layers, my brushes have to be adjustable. SketchBook does all that, plus so much more.
Tayasui Sketches Pro
Sketches is probably the second design app that I ever downloaded. I was looking for something with a more realistic watercolor paint effect and this app definitely delivered. It is a robust app with some interesting features that the other design apps don’t have, like a really cool pattern/gradient tool.
It’s not quite as easy to figure out as some of the other apps. The tools and their various options take a bit to get used to, but the developers were brilliant and included tool tips with almost every tool, to help you figure things out. There are very few labels, so unless you use the tools all the time, you will probably have to refer to the little tips every now and then. That’s a small price to pay for an app that can do a lot.
My only complaint with Sketches is that it does occasionally crash, or at least that has been the case in the past. I haven’t used it much in the last few months so it’s entirely possible that they have fixed the bugs that were causing the app to crash, especially with the release of iOS 11.
As an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, it only made sense that I would download Adobe Sketch and give it a go. When I first downloaded it, I was not impressed. It lacked so many important features and tools. You couldn’t even rotate the canvas to draw at a more natural angle, which was an issue for me since I tend to draw and write at around a 45 degree angle. Sketch has come a long way since then, though, and now it’s an app that I love to use on a regular basis. In fact, it’s the app that I used almost exclusively to create the Watercolor Daisies graphics set for Color My Life.
If you notice that little fan in the bottom left-hand corner, it is a fantastic feature of the Sketch app. You can create almost realistic watercolor and wet paint effects, use the fan to “dry” the paint, and continue layering colors to create awesome effects.
One of the best things about the app, however, is the fact that it syncs with the Adobe Creative Cloud library, so you can create custom color palettes and access them across all your devices. And once you are finished working in Sketch, you can export your artwork to Photoshop and finish up there without having to manually transfer your colors. It’s a massive time saver. Plus, you can add custom brushes to your library and access them in Adobe Sketch. That means you essentially have unlimited brushes. If you can find it, make it, buy it, or create it with Adobe Capture, you can use it here.
Adobe Draw is pretty much the exception to the rule as far as brushes are concerned. It has only a handful of brush options and there is no way to add more, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really amazing design app. That’s because unlike all the other design apps, Draw is intended to be the iPad equivalent (or partner) of Adobe Illustrator. That is – you are creating clean, fully resizable vector illustrations as opposed to rasterized images.
This is a sunflower ribbon sticker design that was created for a benefit back in July. It was designed entirely in Adobe Draw, from start to finish. And if you wanted to blow this baby up and put it on a massive poster, you absolutely could and it would look just as great.
Adobe Draw has the same integrated color palettes, so you could even design an amazing vector image in Draw, export it to Adobe Sketch, and continue working with the same color palettes.
When I design in Draw, though, I like to use little swatches in a separate layer, and keep them visible for quicker color selection. Then I set up each of the 5 brushes so it is the style that I want to create various effects, and select colors from my swatches as I work.
Procreate is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite iPad design app. It lacks some of the features that I love about Autodesk SketchBook (like the symmetry tools), but it more than makes up for it with its massive brush collection, ability to easily create and extensively modify custom brushes within the app, impressive mixing and smudging tools, layer masks and options, and so much more.
Remember that fall pumpkin spice coffee illustration? Yep, I imported the outline created with SketchBook and finished painting it in here.
Procreate has one of the best setups for creating and storing color palettes. You can even easily import palettes created by others, and you can add up to 30 colors to each palette, in comparison to the 5 that are allowed with the Adobe apps.
It’s easy to add new brushes, too. I purchased a few brush packs from Creative Market and also found a few freebies from the Procreate community as well as Creative Market. The Natural Media, Lettering, Neon, Chalkboard, Watercolor, Foil & Glitter, Halftone, Glitch, and Crosshatch brush sets were all purchased from Creative Market. The OTM Wood Grain Lettering, TSN Pointed Pen, and Summer brushshes are separate, but as you can see, it’s easy to move brushes around and add them to a collection so you can keep the brushes you want to use together.
Do you have any favorite iPad Design apps? I’d love to hear what you use for your photography, drawing, or other creative needs. Let me know!