iPad Art Tools

Click here to learn about my upcoming iPad Art Apps Bootcamp, June 11th, San Francisco. Click here for the iPad Art Online Course (accessible to PaintboxTV Premium Members).

Introduction

I would like to share with you some of the tools and apps I use for creating art on the iPad. You can see some samples of my iPad art in the JeremySutton.com Art Gallery. Though I also use other mobile devices besides the iPad for making art – including the Android Touchjet POND, the Microsoft Windows Surface Pro and the Wacom Cintiq Companion (also a Windows device) – the iPad is my main mobile art device and therefore that is what I am focusing on here. Mobile painting is in an exciting period of growth with new styluses, devices and apps being developed, improved and introduced continually. I encourage you to try things and experiment. Whatever I share and recommend here on this page is simply a snapshot of my current faves at the time of writing and is likely to change!

For a general discussion on mobile digital art please see my Thoughts on Mobile Digital Art. Other online resources worth visiting are MobileArt.how and Mobile Art Academy, both founded by my friends, Sumit and Caroline, co-founders and organizers of the annual mobile Digital Art & Creativity Summit.

STYLUSES

Which Stylus to Choose?

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Apple Pencil
This is my current top favorite! As mentioned above, it is an absolute MUST HAVE if you have an iPad Pro (the Apple Pencil does not work on other models).

When it comes to styluses, there is a huge amount of choice, but, as I indicate above, nothing I have come across compares to the Apple Pencil / iPad Pro combination. If you don’t have those tools and you’re considering a new iPad, I highly recommend that combination. Currently the Apple Pencil only works with the iPad Pro, either the larger 12.9‑inch iPad Pro and smaller 9.7‑inch iPad Pro. When it comes to other styluses, I find that different styluses are good in different circumstances. I should also add that using your finger, instead of a stylus, is also fine! Many artists do and with amazing results (see Kyle Lambert’s artwork as a wonderful example of what can be achieved with painting with your finger).

For any model of other iPad other than the iPad Pro, my favorite styluses include the following (all of which also work fine on the iPad Pro, but none equal the Apple Pencil):

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Pencil by FiftyThree Digital Stylus – Walnut edition
The Walnut Pencil by FiftyThree is very light and comfortable to hold, looks and feels like a carpenter’s pencil and gives a silent soft painting experience. In addition to be available for purchase online, it is now also available at all Apple Stores. Be aware that the rubber tips wear out fast so I recommend ordering some extra Pencil by FiftyThree replacement tips and erasers (53T003) when you purchase the Pencil stylus.

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Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 2
Wacom have done a very nice job with this design – it has the same comfortable feel as the regular Wacom Grip Pen I am used to using with my Wacom Intuos pen tablet – and comes in a very nice hard case with a charging cable and extra nibs. It gives good pressure-sensitivity with Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus (ICS) enabled apps. Well worth including in your iPad stylus collection.

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Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint
This has a precision tip and pressure-sensitivity with Jot enabled apps. It is a little heavier than the Pencil by 53 or Wacom ICS, which may suit some users who prefer a heavier feel.

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Sensu Stylus Brush
This brush is great for washes, glazes and watercolor type brush work. A downside of 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/or rotate.


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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.

APPS

Which Painting Apps to Install?

There are many great sketching and painting apps out there that are ideal for the artist, all relatively inexpensive. I’ll focus here primarily on apps I use for fine art freehand artwork which emulate natural media and are generally producing ‘bitmap’ files, as opposed to ‘drawing’ apps which produce vector graphics. Some sketching and painting apps also allow you to use photographs as images to paint over and/or as reference and also to transform the images. Some art apps are designed specifically with photography in mind and are mainly for transforming and manipulating existing imagery and photographs, rather than making new works from a blank canvas. The difference between all these types of apps is blurred and I have categorized them below based on the way I use the app (for instance I use PicsArt as a painting app even though it was designed with photography in mind and the ‘draw’ feature is a small part of the app).

There are so many art apps, with new ones appearing every week, that I can’t possibly include them all and this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. It seems that almost every art app has it’s own enthusiastic fans and following. The versatility, sophistication and complexity of an app doesn’t automatically mean it will be better for you or allow you to create “better” work. I have seen wonderful, accomplished and polished artworks created using the simplest apps and tools. The question to ask when choosing an app to use is less “can I create a great artwork with these tools” and more “does this app resonate with me and do the tools, interface, brush looks, functionality, customizability and effects excite and inspire me?” Choosing apps is a very personal affair and no two artists will feel exactly the same about all these apps.

I would recommend experimenting with all the apps you can find and then honing in on the ones that resonate for you. Each have their strengths and weaknesses, each have their own fan base and loyal aficionados. I list below of some of the creative apps I have on my iPad that you may wish to explore. I’ve included links to their iTune pages and current prices as of the time of posting this (subject to change and including the main in-app purchases and pro edition upgrades where available – I recommend purchasing the best tools and options available for each app). The first eight apps I mention are those I would take with me to a desert island – at least one with iPad recharging power and internet! (Desert Island Discs is a long-running BBC Radio 4 program I grew up listening to on which celebrities share which eight records they would take with them to a desert island).

My Desert Island Eight Favorite Sketching and Painting iPad Apps

Other Sketching and Painting iPad Apps Worth Installing on your iPad

Image Processing / Photographic Apps

One of the initial challenges I found exploring many different drawing and 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. Here are screen captures showing the look and feel of some of the apps listed above.

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Sketch Club


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Procreate


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ArtRage


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Zen Brush 2


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SketchBook Pro

Kit Ideas: Cases, Bags, Easels, Stand and Cleaning Cloths

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Sentinel Slim Case for iPad Pro

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Global Leather Zippered Pencil Case Repurposed for iPad Styluses

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Great all round iPad Air case with adjustable stand and a place to hold your stylus – great for general purpose painting anywhere and always having your Pencil by 53 with your iPad. Also includes very useful hand-strap for supporting iPad with one of your hands when standing
Lynktec iPad Case



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Handy shoulder bag that protects your iPad Air and is easy to carry with you – great for carrying your iPad painting kit with you everywhere
STM Scout 2 iPad Shoulder Bag, Black (dp-1800-03)



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Wood mini-easel for sketching at a table – great for still life painting and portraiture
Winsor & Newton Brent H-Frame Table Easel, Mini



Light weight metal tripod easel for vertically mounting your iPad – great for plein air painting and presentations
Napoli Easel with Carrying Case – Black



Light weight portable adjustable stand for placing your iPad on – great for plein air painting and presentations
insTand CR3 Portable Laptop Stand for Standing or Sitting



iKlear iPad screen complete cleaning kit
iKlear Complete Kit – Eco-friendly Package

Jeremy Sutton

Originally from London, I studied drawing, sculpture and print-making at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing, Oxford University (while earning a degree in Physics), and subsequently studied at the Vrije Academie in The Hague, The Netherlands. I\'ve been using digital paint since 1991, including every version of Painter. I love teaching and have taught workshops and given presentations all over the world for the last twenty years. I create commissioned fine art paintings and perform live action painting and digital portraiture. I founded PaintboxTV in February 2009. Thank you for being part of this creative community!

Leave your Comment:

24 Comments added

  1. February 12, 2013
    Very interesting subject Jeremy!! Love to read and see it I think a lot of people 'need'that information. What brush is your favourite so I can buy one too!! Does these brushes work on all tablets because I've got a Asus..? greetings from Holland Ad Reply
    • February 12, 2013
      Hi Ad, Great to hear from you! I am an admirer or your wonderful paintings, both digital and non-digital, and can't wait to see what you do with "mobile" painting (of the words are inadequate - plein air painting is already "mobile"...) Currently, if I were to recommend just one brush (meaning stylus), it would definitely be the Sensu brush. I love the feel of this brush. I have only used it on an iPad so I can't vouch for other mobile devices. On their web site (https://www.sensubrush.com/home/apps/) they say the following: "The Sensu works with capacitive touch screens like the iPad and iPhone (all versions), Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy, HTC Desire S, Google Nexus S, the Motorola Atrix, and many more." Not sure if your Asus will come under the "many more". Hope this was helpful and look forward to seeing you in the Netherlands sometime. Tot ziens! Jeremy Reply
  2. February 14, 2013
    Jeremy, Enjoy getting your periodic updates. Really like the info on ipad art. Thanks for sharing. Gerry Triangle Institute, Pittsburgh, PA Reply
  3. March 11, 2013
    Hello! I'm pretty excited with my new iPad mini! (Of course I run Painter 12 on my iMac with a Wacom Board).. I am so used to my stylus, that I got a sore finger going through the iPad tutorials! I have been navigating on this site, as well, and have been looking at the different 'brush' - stylus types. I looked at the Jot Touch, but felt it was more than I needed. I'm glad I read through the page to find your comments! I'm going to check-out the Sensu brush, after all! And, THANKS! Kathy Reply
    • March 14, 2013
      Hi Kathy, Thanks for your comment. The more I use the Adonit Jot Touch the more I love it!! Once you start using the pressure-sensitivity in apps like Sketch Club, Art Rage, Brushes, etc it's difficult to go back to anything else, even the Sensu. I would say the Jot Touch is well worth the investment. The newest version, Jot Touch 4, is the best yet and works with the iPad Mini. Cheers, Jeremy Reply
      • March 18, 2013
        Brilliant! Thanks for your reply! I just got my Sensu brush, and agree the Jot would be helpful ... Now I want to know where to get painting Aps for my iPad! I'm still looking through your suggestions! Thanks again, and I wish I could get to your class in SF on the 30th. It's just a day trip from the Sierra Foothills, if I can 'Paint' by then! Kathy Reply
  4. March 30, 2013
    Hello Jeremy! I'm enjoying the site. If you could pick an app for iPad that will save and send my drawings to my computer somehow, that would be great. I'm going to be using an iPen 2 when it comes out. Kathy Reply
    • March 31, 2013
      Hi Kathy, Thanks for your comment and question. Glad you're enjoying the site. You can save your paintings from any iPad painting app into the iPad Camera Roll Photos Album and export from there to your regular PC or Mac for printing, or just email from the app to yourself and then download via email. In any case there is no limit on the apps you can use with regard to printing. As to which of the many painting apps you'll enjoy most, that is very dependent on what your style is and what you're trying to create. I love using Zen brush for simply black and gray ink brush painting, Auryn Ink for watercolor, Sketch Club for quick sketching and convenient exporting of replay to QuickTime with musical accompaniment, and ArtRage for oil effects. Cheers, Jeremy Reply
  5. January 7, 2014
    Happy New Year, On this iPad just to make sure, you can download painter X3? Reply
    • January 21, 2014
      Hi Donna, Thanks for your question. Corel Painter X3 exists for Mac and PC but not iPad (oh how I wish it did:-). There is a Corel iPad app called Cinco that is a companion for Painter X3 and allows you to control shortcuts from the iPad but Cinco is not a painting app. The closest to Painter on the iPad is Art Rage. Cheers, Jeremy Reply
  6. February 27, 2014
    Loved your presentation in Marin last Monday the 25th-- 'm trying very hard to change my plans on 15th so that I can take your class on the iPad Painting. I'm scheduled to teach an iPhone Workshop that day-if I don;t have enough students I will be able to cancel my workshop and take yours-- Love your ART !!! Reply
  7. March 21, 2014
    I loved the Hockney exhibit and was searching for ideas to introduce IPad art to my 3rd grade students. Is there a free app you would suggest we start with? Reply
    • March 21, 2014
      Hi Gwen, Thanks for your comment and question. The Hockney exhibit was indeed very inspiring. For getting going in iPad painting there are two wonderful free apps: Paper by Fifty Three (in app purchases offered) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paper-by-fiftythree/id506003812 Brushes (the app Hockney uses) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/brushes-3/id545366251?mt=8 Please let me know if you have any other questions and whether I can be of any more help. You'd be welcome to bring your kids down to visit my studio one day if you wished.... All the best, Jeremy Reply
  8. October 31, 2014
    Just found your website. Very informative. Are you planning any classes in Marin or the bay area in February or early March? Reply
  9. January 15, 2015
    This is a very interesting blog to read, as I'm just learning how to use my Wacom Intuos 2 pen , and finding out which app suits me best! Thanks for the info and advice. Reply
    • March 28, 2015
      Hi Elaine, Thanks for your comment. I just uploaded a video, part of my new iPad Art Training Online course (http://www.paintboxtv.com/paint-on-the-go-ipad-art-training) that includes the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 2. It's a great stylus! Cheers, Jeremy Reply
  10. March 24, 2015
    Just got an iPad air two weeks ago.....Can't wait Reply
    • March 28, 2015
      Hi Carole, That's great to hear! Please check out the new series of iPad art videos I am starting here on PaintboxTV: http://www.paintboxtv.com/paint-on-the-go-ipad-art-training Enjoy drawing and painting with your iPad Air! Cheers, Jeremy Reply
  11. April 20, 2015
    Thank you so much for up graded information. Reply
  12. April 20, 2015
    I just got I pad, so i need time to search and learn. Thank you so much for this information. Reply
  13. July 15, 2015
    I am a newcomer to painting on an iPad & don't know where to start. I wish your classes were available where I live (in London, Ontario, Canada). Are any of your classes available online? I have a mini iPad but nothing else. I have never even seen any paintings done on an iPad . I have never seen any iPad classes around here but I certainly intend to start looking. Reply
  14. March 6, 2016
    Thanks for turning me on to the iPad Pro and all the fun things you can do with it. PaintBoxTV is great and I love hanging out on it. I am learning a lot and hope someday to paint half as good as you! Reply
    • March 6, 2016
      Thanks for your comment, Greg. I'm looking forward to seeing what you create with your iPad Pro and Apple Pencil! Reply
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