For doodling on your subway commute or making the leap from paper to glass, here are some of our favorite apps.
Today’s digital tools are more powerful, affordable, and successful than ever before at delivering a rewarding creative experience. Yet, knowing which drawing app is right for your creative style can be a challenge. Enter: a roundup to help you sort out the pros, cons, and unique features of today’s most popular design and drawing apps. Whether you’re looking for a quick and convenient way to doodle on your subway commute, or looking to translate a set of pro tools to a more lightweight device, we’re excited to share some of our favorites to fuel your creativity. Which one will you download first? Take a look at our list, then share your favorites in the comments!
For the Painters Who Want the Look & Feel of Analog Tools
Launched Fall 2019, Adobe Fresco is a powerful tool for creating digital art with a stylus and screen. Versatility is key to Fresco’s appeal with its three types of brushes: Raster (pixel-based for computer graphics), Vector (scalable for print-ready art), and Live, which has become the app’s calling card. Fresco’s Live brushes use artificial intelligence to vividly recreate the experience of painting with oil and watercolor, with rich textures and fluid brushstrokes — the watercolors bloom and “stay wet” just like the real thing, which many artists find uniquely inspiring and intuitive.
Fresco also benefits from being part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of industry-standard tools including Illustrator and Photoshop, as Fresco integrates seamlessly with each. Though initially compatible only with the iPad and Apple Pencil, Fresco now also supports several Microsoft Surface devices and Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro. If you already subscribe to Creative Cloud, Fresco is included with your subscription. If not, Fresco requires a standalone $9.99 per month subscription. See our Adobe Fresco 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started for more information. Skillshare offers a wide range of Fresco-focused classes including a new class honing in on their Live brushes with widely admired illustrator Molly Egan.
For the Illustrator and Designer Who Wants to Level-Up Digital Illustrations
Procreate is a game-changing app for drawing, sketching, and painting with the Apple iPad and Apple Pencil (2nd Generation preferred to unlock all of Procreate’s magic). It’s powerful enough for professional use yet easily adopted even by those new to digital art. An in-depth look at Procreate’s unique capabilities is available through our handy guide, Procreate 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started.
The app’s latest update, Procreate 5, arrived in December 2019 and features major enhancements to its much-loved Brushes feature. A new full-screen Brush Studio now offers 150 brush settings for creating custom brushes. For the first time, you can import Photoshop brushes directly into Procreate. The update also lets you set your canvas to a CMYK color profile so your colors translate accurately to print. And all of Procreates 5’s new features are powered by a new lightning-fast graphics engine. Procreate 5 costs $9.95 to purchase and is available here. Skillshare offers dozens of classes to get you started with Procreate.
For the Illustrator and Designer on a Budget
As digital art apps go it’s hard to beat “free,” and that has been the status of the full-featured Autodesk Sketchbook drawing app since April 2018. (Sketchbook for Enterprise continues as a subscription-based service.) Available for use on Windows and Mac computers and mobile devices (iOS and Android), Sketchbook debuted in 2005 but has been updated regularly, and the new version includes pencils, ink, markers, and 190 customizable brushes; a predictive stroke mode; and a Ruler and Ellipse tool that can replicate a single line 16 times using radial symmetry — a boon for product designers. A feature for mobile devices lets you easily photograph your old paper-based line drawings for digital enhancement with a transparent background in Sketchbook.
For the Typographer and Pattern-Maker
A sleek graphic design and Illustration app for Mac and Windows ($49.99) and the iPad ($19.99) Affinity Designer wins fans with its speed, precision, easy navigation, and choice between feature-rich vector or raster workspaces. Updated last summer, It also offers a remarkable one million+ percent zoom, sophisticated color management, and a variety of tools for creating custom typography. The iPad edition supports multi-touch gestures and the Apple Pencil (1st Generation). A wide range of classes on using Affinity Designer is available at Skillshare.
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