I would like to share with you some of the iPad painting tools and apps I use for creating art on the iPad (see my iPad art gallery page). Whilst I refer to the iPad, most of the tools and apps discussed here also work on Android devices. One of the inspirations for painting on my iPad is David Hockney, whose magnificent large format prints and video replays of his iPad drawings I first saw at the Royal Academy in London and then, subsequently, at the de Young Museum (where I performed live iPad drawing at the opening of the exhibition). The David Hockney: Bigger Exhibition at the de Young served as a great learning opportunity and I ran a couple of two day “Inspired by Hockney” iPad painting workshops based on visits to the exhibition. I am excited to bring the inspiration, lessons and energy of Hockney to my “Paint on the Go!” workshops!
Which Stylus to Choose?
My current favorite stylus is the bluetooth pressure-sensitive Adonit Jot Touch. The Adonit Jot Touch flows surprisingly nicely across the iPad surface despite the odd looking plastic cap at the end of the stylus. The Jot Touch comes with a compact, magnetic USB battery charger. The Jot Touch 4 is the best model for the newer (3rd and up) generation iPads. Please note there are other pressure-sensitive iPad styluses such as the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus, Ten One Design’s Pogo Connect and HEX3 Jaja. They are all good and each have their own following. I bring examples of some of these along to my classes for students to try out.
Painting in the Tate Britain cafe. The Sensu brush is on the iPad cover and I am holding the Adonit Jot Touch in my hand.
Both the Nomad Brush and the Sensu Brush feel natural and flowing and are good to have as well. A downside of these brush styluses is that in some apps when you press down and the brush hairs splay out, that causes the canvas to wildly resize and rotate. When you come across brushes that respond well to the pressure this is a fantastic tool, which gives you great control of the quality of your line and allows you to do fine line work. Good styluses cost typically between $40 and $100 and are well worth while investing in if you’re keen to paint! The apps themselves are all less than $10 each, many less than $5 – amazingly good value.
Which Painting Apps to Install?
My current favorite painting apps on the iPad are Sketch Club, Art Rage, Brushes and Zen Brush. One of the challenges I initially found exploring many different painting apps on the iPad was simply recognizing which app I was in! It was surprisingly difficult since most do not have an identifying name or logo within the app UI (user interface) itself. Each app involves finding things in different places and using different shortcuts and conventions etc, so recognizing which app you’re in is essential. Each app allows you to create a unique look and feel of artwork that is specific to the range of brushes and media of that particular app, and you can easily move work from one app to another, building up on different looks. The images within each screen shot below give a sense of the type of marks possible in each app. Mobile painting allows the creative flexibility and freedom to play, transform, experiment and continually repurpose and recycle imagery in different directions.
My iPad screen showing the main icons I like to have easily accessible when I am sketching or painting on my iPad. The top two rows are painting and sketching apps. The third and fourth rows are a mixture of image manipulation, organization, back-up and portfolio display apps plus some useful note-taking apps. Cinco is a companion app for use with Corel Painter 12. In terms of “must have” painting apps, I’d initially recommend Zen Brush, Auryn Ink, Sketch Club, ArtRage and Brushes.