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Best Tablet Drawing and Painting Apps

Finding the Best Drawing and Painting Apps

for tablet, phablet or phone

Deep sea fish Devil's Lantern
Devil’s Lantern

Painted in Sketchbook and Photoshop Touch on Samsung Galaxy Note 8

It’s easy to be in the dark when it comes to fishing for drawing apps for an iPad or other tablet. Neither Android nor Apple makes it easy to track down the best apps for artists. Neither app store has a category for graphics apps.

  • ‘Photography’ gives you photo editing tools, useful for adding effects to a finished image, but not much good for drawing or painting.
  • ‘Entertainment’ comes up mainly with colouring books for kids.
  • ‘Productivity’ yields kit for scribbling notes or making diagrams.

Remarkable new apps for designers, illustrators, art students and image makers of all kinds are lurking down there somewhere. How do you find them? I’ve had to plod through many a long list of search results to track down the few artists’ gems for Android machines. The Apple choice of good apps is the opposite. It’s overwhelming. Most of the best drawing and painting apps I’ve used on iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch have come through recommendation.

Android Apps for Artists

On Android machines it’s not a question of too much choice but a starvation diet of pro-level apps. I’d pick only two.

Smaller apps like Canvas, Fresco or Magic Doodle are good, but for serious drawing and painting on an Android machine, Adobe Photoshop Touch and Autodesk Sketchbook are the only apps to rival the richer pickings in the Apple orchard. Major graphics software firms like Autodesk and Adobe are probably better able to cope with the wider variety of Android screens and machines. Not that Adobe always gets it right! Don’t confuse Photoshop Touch with Photoshop Express, also by Adobe, also for mobiles but lame in comparison.

 More about Sketchbook

 Adobe Photoshop Touch

ENCOURAGING UPDATE. Take a look at my post in June 2014 and you’ll find there are now a few more good painting and drawing apps for Android artists.

 Apple Apps for Artists

In contrast, there are now so many drawing and painting apps in the Apple Store that I’ve been suffering from App Overload.  These are my own current flavours of the month.

iPad Drawing and Painting Apps


Sketchbook Pro

Adobe Ideas

Drawing Pad

iPhone Drawing and Painting Apps

Sketchbook Mobile

Adobe Ideas

Was it really only a few months before writing this that I co-presented twenty of the most useful minor painting apps for iPad and iPhone? This was at the first meeting of IAMDA, (the International Association of Mobile Digital Artists).

Since that exciting time in New York, most of the Apple apps we raved or raged about have been replaced by yet brighter and better. I’ve had to revise my list of best apps so many times that I have now converted it from a web page to a blog post. This way you can see in just what month the list you’re looking at became the Chosen Few.

Published by

Valerie Beeby

We used to say 'Seeing is believing'. Now it's more like 'Believing is seeing'. We see what we expect to see. Look again and who knows. Does it really match what's actually there? ...I've always been fascinated by how our minds work. As a writer and artist, I'm particularly interested in new research into how we perceive this extraordinary world we live in, where things are not always what they seem.

15 thoughts on “Best Tablet Drawing and Painting Apps”

    1. Thanks for your suggestion. Dogwaffle looks nice, but it looks as if it’s for a desktop PC. As it doesn’t seem to offer a version for mobiles – tablets or phones – I haven’t tried it.

    1. Hello. I know Art Rage is excellent and have used it quite a lot. The problem is that it is just a bit draggy and slow, so on this occasion I missed it out. It may have improved so I’ll go and have a go with it again.

  1. For android you might consider the clover tools (which appear to be very good, though expensive, and clever UI but difficult to learn to use due to poor documentation. You can put almost any drawing tool, action or setting down as a special “clover” object, anywhere on the drawing surface.)

    Also I enjoyed painting with Serious Paint, which has a clever colour mixing gadget.

    1. It was so nice to meet you in person at last week’s Oxford session of JKPP (Julia Kay’s Portrait Party). I’ve been having a go with Serious Paint. I thought it might only be for your Galaxy Note 10.1, but it works on my smaller Note 8, and I’m finding it very good.

      I’ll be interested to see if the new monstrous twelve or so inch Galaxy Note is a success. Much too heavy to carry around for me, though it is good to have a big screen.

      Haven’t tried the Clover tools yet but they do sound intriguing.

    1. I tried to find Sketch It but all I could find was Sketch It+, which costs £2.99 and is not really a sketching app at all. It just converts photos to line ‘drawings’.

      In my searches I did find Paint It though, which on a quick trial I thought was really nice. At a cost of free you can’t lose by trying it! As with Paper by 53, I think you have to pay for more tools, but pen and eraser are supplied with the free version. There’s a useful short intro video to show you how to use it.

  2. Although I have only used the PC version (not the iPad app), one of my favorite painting tools is ArtRage. If I decide to buy an iPad rather than a Nexus 7, I will definitely try the ArtRage app.

    I also read that an Android ArtRage app is under development.

    There is a Yahoo Group called “Digital Art From Scratch”.
    That group is dedicated to artists who paint only with digital paintbrushes on a single-layer, blank canvas. Quite a few of the artists favor ArtRage.

    – David D.

    1. I would love to see Art Rage for Android and will wait in hope. The iPad version I have is a bit slow – less than instantly reponsive – so I haven’t included it among my choice of the best. That’s for the moment but I do hope it improves. I love it otherwise.

      1. I See your point with art rage but it does have some brushes that I feel none of the others have like the oil brush with no thinners in it and the palette knife that has a realistic look to it. I now have the galaxy note 12.1 coming from an iPad and would love to have art rage

        1. I think it’s about time I wrote another post about the best painting apps for tablets! I’ll have another go with Art Rage for iPad and yes, probably include it. I do have to say though that I am using iPad apps less and less, as even my posh Wacom Intuos Creative stylus feels heavy after the S Pen and Wacom Bamboo Feel on my Galaxy Notes 8 and 3. Difference in feel between wading through mud and skating on ice. Also I’m finding Serious Paint and Art Flow both pretty good now for Android.

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