Or maybe it’s just me. Yes I know, all three of you who read this blog are all looking for info about iOS music apps, but I am a renaissance man and I create poorly drawn, faintly offensive cartoons as well as make poorly played, faintly offensive music. What can I say…?
When I first got my iPad my first thought was “great, I can’t afford a Cintiq, but I can probably draw directly onto this thing instead!”. Then I found the music apps and it all went a bit wrong.  Anyway, I have been looking into free/cheap apps that would let me draw on the ipad. Most of the apps here are free or (Artrage and Sketchpad Pro aside) cost a buck or two…
If you want to draw on an ipad you will probably want to buy a stylus, you can draw using your finger but it is actually pretty difficult. An iPad stylus is a pen-like stick, or often a pen, with a squishy rubber bit at the end. The squishy rubber bit is conductive in such a way that a capacitive touch screen thinks it is a fingertip and responds to it. Typically in the shops a stylus will cost you $15-20 or more. This is daylight robbery of course as you are, in effect, buying a cheap pen body with a $0.01 rubber thingie attached. If you hate money and wish you had less of it then buy one of those, otherwise go visit ebay where you can get a pack if 10 styluses (or is that Styli?) for under $3 including postage, or for the more discerning consumer a pack of 4 pens with a stylus tip at the other end (so you can write in iPad OR paper) for about $6.
So, on to the apps….
sketchbookX (Free)
A solid drawing App, probably your first stop if you want to cartoon on an ipad. You can have up to 3 layers and there is a decent set of tools. My main problem is that the app seems a bit  laggy on fast sketching. If you move your pen (stylus) about fast the line sometimes takes a moment to catch up, this seems to be much better on my ipad4 but was very distracting on my old ipad2.  Only one paper size/resolution available in the free version.

sketchbook pro
Essentially the same as SketchbookX but with up to 6 layers, a load more tools and brushes (including shaders/halftone/crosshatch etc) . Variety of paper sizes/resolutions available in this version too. Noticeably less laggy than SketchbookX when sketching.


Draw Pad – this is one of a number of apps that use a “notebook” interface, the idea is that they are giving you a virtual set of sketchbooks/notebooks. Typically these apps have a home screen that represents a book or number of books, you can create new books, swipe left/right to select a book and then open it.   Each of these apps has a slightly different cosmetic flavour, which more or less sophisticated animations.


Drawpad has no layers, a simple pen (with a few colours) and a highlighter pen version with 5 colours which can layer for darker colours (this is almost identical functionally to Wacom’s Bamboo Paper  – see below). Apparently an export to PDF version. Fast and responsive. Pen and highlighter are a little flat in texture.



Inspire Pro (free) – paint simulator, brushes/paint load/colours. No layers/sketching capability, a nice app for people who want to daub about with virtual paint..


Penlicious.  Another notebook style app, more tools than most with pencil/pen/brush/fill, adjustable size and transparency, basic colour selection,  export options to dropbox/mail/print/photos/itunes, select/move/cut&paste facilities. Very fast and responsive for sketching. No Layers.



Zoodle Comics

One of the few Apps that claims to be for drawing comics, a little basic, I get the impression it is more for adding to photos than for drawing – has speech bubbles and text add though.


Paper by Funinput

Another notebook type app – Free version comes with one pen tool, more available for 1.99 IAP. Very fast and smooth, seems to be a little bit of line smoothing/correction happening. Export to photos/mail.




Ink – plain screen and pen. No colours/layer/undo/eraser/other tools/notebook etc. Good exporting to mail/twitter/fb etc though.



Penultimate – another notebook style app with  a few paper types (lined, plain, graph and so on) available.


Penultimate has just one pen with a few colours and thickness settings, you can export via mail/camera roll. What makes Penultimate special is that it is the artsy little sister of Evernote, and once linked to your evernote account all your scribbles will live in the cloud along with all your evernote docs. There is no noticable lag when drawing, at least there isn’t on an iPad4…


You can draw in the pad and also embed pictures.

Artrage is a port to iOS of the lovely OSX/Windows desktop app, which was always a favorite of mine when used with a Wacom tablet. Loads of tools, papers, textures, very realistic paint effects (as much as I have played with the paints). Line smoothing options available. intuitive interface. seemingly infinite number of layers, etc etc. My only complaint (and for the way I work it is a biggie) is that all that lovely functionality seems to slow the app down because there is a noticable lag when drawing fast. Also the line smoothing function can be a little over zealous, which is irritating sometimes, it can be turned down/off though. Strictly more of a painting app than a drawing one.


Paper by 53. Another notebook app. Create a book, draw piccies. The free version comes with a pen that does great thick and thin lines based upon nib speed. probably excellent for Japanese Caligraphy as the thick/thin line results looks like it has been drawn by a brush and ink. You can buy other stuff with IAPs, a pencil, brush, marker and you can try these on the purchase page to see what they are like to use (which is clever). There are only a few colours but you can buy a mixer to enable mixing of colours to make your own. The IAPs are not cheap, you can get a few in a bundle for $7+ and they are $1.99 individually. It’s a really nice app, but given the price of the IAPs and the quality of the competition I doubt I would upgrade…



Bamboo Paper – more notebooks. 3 tools, pen, highlighter and eraser. Very natural looking ink from the pen, only a small number of colours. Highlighter allows you to layer colours for darker/deeper colour without disturbing the ink lines. No layers sadly but probably my favorite for quick cartooning.



Art Set – fantastic for realistic looking pencil/crayon pics- a lot of effort has been taken to make the textures as natural as possible. For cartoons it lacks definition though. If you to do more gentle art though this could be the one for you.



Great for the kids, lots of tools available although each tool is not significantly different from another. Lots of colours, but I find the lines have a strange jagged/angular quality which is presumably something to do with sample rate.