The Absolute Best Free Drawing Apps for iPad
Updated: November 21,2022
You’ve just got an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and are ready to start your artistic journey. Booting up the App Store and searching for drawing apps nets hundreds, nay thousands of results. It’s all too overwhelming, and you don’t want to waste precious time downloading and trying out each of them only to be disappointed.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best free drawing apps for iPad. Because the best things in life are free, why not create art without spending extra cash? Read on to find out which apps you should download to your iPad to create fantastic drawings.
The Best Free Apps for Drawing on iPad
In this list, you’ll find art apps for sketching, working with vector brushes, doodling, and painting. As the title suggests, each iPad drawing app we’ve featured is free to use. Some of them have premium features, but they all allow you to draw without spending any money.
In the world of digital art, Adobe is king. This company is well known for its creative suite and apps that have become an industry standard, so it’s no surprise that it also has something for digital artists on the go.
The iOS version of Adobe Illustrator is a completely free drawing app for iPad, unlike its desktop version, which requires a subscription to Creative Suite. It allows you to work with vectors, meaning your art can easily scale up or down, depending on where you plan to use it.
Since it’s fully compatible with the Apple Pencil, it’s one of the reasons why artists pick iPad Pro over the Surface Pro X as their tablet of choice.
The iPad version of Illustrator can work fully offline, allowing you to take advantage of the iPad’s portability and create brushes and stencils wherever you are. You can then export your works to other apps like Adobe Fresco or Photoshop or sync them with your Adobe Cloud account and continue working on your desktop computer.
Looking for something less complicated among digital art apps? Then Charcoal could be just what you’re looking for.
This is mostly a sketching tool, but it can be used for some light drawing as it comes with several premade brushes. While pretty basic compared to other drawing apps - it lacks layers and custom brushes, for example - it is extremely easy to master. Using either Apple Pencil or fingers, you can create quick drawings that you can export to other drawing tools and graphics editing apps.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it. A simple, quick, and free iPad drawing app to spark your inner artist, Charcoal is a must-have for any iPad Pro user.
Sketchbook is easily the best free sketching app for iPad. Although its main purpose is to let you create quick doodles and sketches on the fly, it is a fully-fledged drawing desk with various tools to let your creative juices flow.
Unlike Charcoal, this app features layers and many other great tools to accommodate different drawing styles. It fully simulates pens, pencils, and paintbrushes, so you can draw naturally, like you would on a piece of paper. This sketching app also comes with professional-grade stroke tools and blending modes, alongside rulers and other necessary precision tools.
If you’ve got one of the professional drawing tablets, you can also move your work to the desktop with the Pro version of Sketchbook. The free version comes with certain in-app purchases, but it won’t limit your creativity in any way.
Linea Sketch from Iconfactory is one of the best free drawing apps for iPad artists that need some automation in their work process. It’s only available as an iPad app, so it harnesses the full potential of the Apple Pencil and the latest iOS features.
The workflow reminded us of Procreate, one of the best drawing apps for tablet devices, except it doesn’t cost a dime. It comes with a set of features many free drawing apps can’t match, like an automated tint generator and ZipShape that helps you create perfect shapes without using rulers.
If you’re a digital painter, you’ll also find good use of this free iPad app. Linea Sketch comes with a painting palette and various tools for blending parts of your canvas. Lastly, you can record a 30-second speed painting video from within the app to show off your painting prowess.
As we’ve already established, Adobe is a great choice when it comes to creativity on iPad. Adobe Fresco is the best free drawing app for iPad that lets you create many different types of art, not just vectors like you’d do with Illustrator.
Designed to work best with the Apple Pencil, this app is also an amazing Photoshop companion. While, yes, it comes with vector brushes, it’s also equipped with various pixel brushes and super handy tools for precise drawing. Like other Adobe apps, Fresco can pull up additional tools from the Creative Cloud library and sync up with your other apps.
Another reason many artists consider it the best free drawing app is the Live Brushes feature. In short, the app will simulate how various paints would behave on a canvas, whether watercolors or rough pencils, all adding to the natural drawing experience at no cost.
If you’re into old-school pixel art and need such a specific set of painting tools, Dottable could be your next companion. Unlike other iPad drawing apps, it’s exclusively designed for painting in this unique, retro style.
The app lets you create pixel art from scratch, using layers and resizable brushes, or you can import a reference image and draw over it. Additionally, you can directly convert a picture from your camera roll into instant pixel art, which is a neat little feature.
Of course, since most pixel art is animated, Dottable lets you export animated GIFs by using each layer as the next frame in the animation.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced pixel artist or just learning how to create pixel art, Dottable is an app you must have on your iPad.
A unique tool and one of the most popular drawing apps for iPad, Vectornator is a vector-based app that shines when combined with the Apple Pencil. It’s also one of the best alternatives for Adobe Illustrator; that’s how powerful it is.
Vectornator doesn’t copy any other drawing tool, instead offering a streamlined experience with a natural workflow. It’s jam-packed with tools for optimizing and manipulating vectors, giving your full control over your digital painting process. Every brush stroke is converted into vectors; it can even convert bitmap images into vectors that you can tune up and upscale.
As a native iOS app, Vectornator is compatible with Mac environments and other free drawing apps for iPad like the two Adobe apps we mentioned earlier in this article.
ibis Paint X
Frequently featured in the top 10 selection of free apps in the App Store, ibis Paint X is truly a great sketch app for illustrators who want a quick way to draw on their iPads.
The app comes with a head-spinning number of brushes, materials, and filters, all to help you get the exact results you’re looking for. Similarly to the apps mentioned above, it can help you during the drawing process, for example, by rounding the rough edges or adding rulers.
So, why is it one of the best free apps for drawing on an iPad? The painting experience is incredible and buttery smooth, thanks to 120 frames-per-second rendering.
You can create drawings using an unlimited number of layers and tons of commands on top of detailed image manipulation tools. We’re honestly shocked that it’s a free app, notwithstanding the occasional ads popping up.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, Procreate isn’t free, nor does it offer a free trial. This art app costs $9.99 and can only be purchased through Apple’s App Store. That being said, it is an industry-grade app well worth the purchase. All professional artists recommend Procreate, but as you can see, there are several free apps that can provide the same results.
There are many great apps for beginner artists, but our recommendation is Charcoal. It’s a completely free app and incredibly easy to use. Other great alternatives are Sketchbook, Linea Sketch, and Adobe Fresco. They are more advanced than Charcoal, but you’ll learn more drawing techniques with them.
You most likely already have all the tools you need. All new iPads let you get creative, whether you have the Apple Pencil or not. All that’s left for you is to download one of the best free drawing apps for iPad we featured in this article and start working on the next masterpiece.
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While Damjan started his career in humanities, his interests quickly moved on to the tech and IT world. VPNs, antiviruses, firewalls, password managers - cybersecurity is what he knows best. When Damjan’s not losing hair over the dwindling of our collective sense of tech safety, you’ll find him looking for solace in 100-hour-long RPGs and rage-inducing MOBAs.