Chances are, when you think of the mediums in which art is displayed and produced, you are thinking of blank canvasses, or sketch paper, or blocks of marble waiting to be sculpted. But technology is changing all of that.
Now, thanks to the increasing prevalence of Smartphones, people are creating art and staying connected to the industry thanks to a two-inch screen and some awesome functionality. While we are certainly not endorsing the idea that all art continue to move towards digital formats, we do recognize that art applications aren’t just some fad, they are a legitimate way to expand your art horizons and maybe even create something inspirational. In light of that revelation, we figured, since these applications aren’t going away, we should at least try to help art fanatics pick the best ones to use, and no, Draw Something doesn’t count.
As with all of our lists, this list is not meant to be comprehensive nor was it put in any particular order. There are likely dozens of other useful art applications and we would love to hear about them in the comments section. But these are just 20 that we thought stood above the rest thanks to our personal experiences with these apps and conversations with people who have shared their experiences.
See our 2014 updated art apps piece.
ArtStudio for iPad
ArtStudio has quickly risen to the top of the art app pile thanks to their multitude of tools and awesome functionality, allowing users to take control of their own artistic vision. There are different brush settings, an advanced color palette, and in-depth, smooth functionality that allow you to rotate, crop, or scale the images in your creation.
If you are a beginner who is just interested in creating cool drawings in your spare time, this app will make you feel like a kid in a candy store. If you are a professional or experienced artist, you will appreciate the attention to detail and range of abilities that will allow you to create a drawing and make it feel like you are actually sketching with pencil. Once you are finished, it will be difficult to tell a drawing created on the iPad from a drawing created on canvas.
In some sense, iDraw is eerily similar to ArtStudio except with a narrower focus. This app, while expensive, is quite simply the most comprehensive and interactive drawing and illustration app available for your mobile device. Created by the good folks of Indeeo, Inc., this app combines professional vector drawing and editing with a slew of cool features that they are constantly improving to make sure that the artist can add as much detail to their creation as they wish.
Whereas some of the early illustration apps can feel like they are doing most of the work and you are just the guide, iDraw is designed to empower the user so that they feel in control of their art and they are exposed to every tool that can help them create the perfect illustration. Like ArtStudio, it doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or a professional; iDraw is equally interesting and useful for all types of artists.
To be frank, the difference between ArtStudio, iDraw, and Brushes when it comes to the user’s ability to create original art is nearly negligible. A painting application, Brushes has an easy-to-use interface and smooth functionality that allows the artist full creative reign over his painting.
But that is only the beginning, the app also includes some awesome features such as advanced color pickers, a diverse group of brushes to choose from, and multiple layers that help take your painting from a simple red apple to a beautifully painted piece of fruit that would almost look lifelike – if it wasn’t two-dimensional and contained on a two-inch screen.
The app also incorporates a built-in web browser that allows you to download your paintings, and a viewing mode where you can create slideshows of your work. If you are choosing which of the three apps you should put on your phone, just stop, and pay out for all three.
Get Brushes here NO LONGER AVAILABLE
If you are an artist, especially a sketcher, just go ahead and write Autodesk Inc. a thank you note now, because their intuitive and aesthetically pleasing Sketchbook Pro app has become one of the most popular apps for artists on iTunes. The app borrows the painting engine from its counterpart for a traditional computer and teams that with a wide range of cool features, tons of innovative sketching tools, an eye-catching color wheel, and an easy-to-use and intelligent interface.
The sign of a good art app is that both novices and professionals can reap the same rewards from the product, and that is the case with Sketchbook Pro. If you are a novice, then you should have no trouble enjoying the cornucopia of artistic tools that you suddenly have at your disposal. And if you are an experienced professional, you will be impressed and pleased to find that Sketchbook Pro has incorporated tons of details and advanced tools that won’t make it feel like you are trying to use an Etch-A-Sketch.
Procreate has rapidly risen to become one of the most well-known and commonly used sketchbook apps on the market and is the top competitor for Sketchbook Pro. Developed by Savage Interactive, this app is billed as a studio-grade sketchbook for the experienced sketcher. There are more than 40 brushes that you can choose from, a smudge tool to add realism, high definition layers, and downright incredible functionality.
Thanks to their painting engine, these developers created a smooth, responsive, and life-like painting ability that includes pressure sensitivity and realistic stroke movements, all while helping you create a sketch in the blink of an eye. Like any app worth its salt, you can save all of your works of art, arrange them in a gallery, or export your artwork to iTunes, your email, or even social networks.
Procreate just goes to show that a simple yet effective interface combined with an attention to the details of painting can create an incredible resource for artists.
The saga of Artnear and Artnear Pro is almost as interesting as the app itself. An interactive app that allowed users to quickly and easily find cool art exhibitions or museums near their location, Artnear was a huge hit a few years ago before disappearing from the map recently.
But take heart art lovers because the apps have been bought from their previous developers and the new developers behind this app are working on re-releasing this once-popular art tool and making it even better than before. A quick glance at their website shows that they are planning on rolling out functionality that will allow art lovers to find a museum or gallery near them, find artists with current or upcoming shows in the area, and a bookmarks tab that will let you save your favorite spots just in case you want to go back.
Unlike all the apps above them on this list, Artnear is hardly a complex interface or complicated idea, but that is by design. Occasionally, someone gets a hankering for art. And when they do, they don’t want to go search Google for the nearest art museums. They want something easier and quick, which is exactly what Artnear and Artnear Pro will provide.
If you can spare $5 and you have been feverishly searching for a database of art collections and art information, then buying Art Authority should be a no-brainer. Designed by Open Door Networks, Inc. with the hopes of becoming a real-world art museum on your phone, this app is one of the most beautifully designed apps on iTunes with tons of high resolution images and some of the most stunning works of art ever created.
If you want to just scroll through some of the world’s most famous works of art, Art Authority has more than 1,000 to choose from. If you want the background story and complete gallery for your favorite artist, Art Authority lets you easily search for it. But perhaps the most fun thing to do with this app is just to let yourself go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, immersing yourself in some of the most beautiful works of art and learning the stories surrounding them. It is basically like a digital art museum for your phone.
At first glance, this app seems too simple to be included on a serious art apps list, but look closer, and you will find a simple yet innovative idea that can be a lot of fun for users to experiment with. Most small children would be able to use this incredibly easy typography art app and even serious artists might be able to enjoy fooling around with the different features available.
All you have to do is type a sentence, or a word, and then you experiment with different features, colors, and tools while using your finger to create an aesthetically pleasing and meaningful work of art. The folks at Hansol Huh didn’t just make it an amateur tool though, they incorporated shading features, a large panel of colors, and cool ways to change the shape and size and font of the text.
We admit, this app probably should be used more for fun and entertainment than the creation of serious and long-lasting art, but this is a different take on the plethora of drawing and sketching apps flooding the market. And it has been very popular, which means there are enough people that like it.
At this point you probably saw Inspire Pro on the list and said, “Oh no, not another painting app, these things are all the same!” Well allow us to respectfully disagree. Inspire Pro is similar to the apps listed above in many ways, but it also stands out in a few big ways. For instance, Inspire Pro doesn’t care for a large collection of brush tools or multiple layers.
What they do care about is creating the best possible simulation for wet paint on canvas. Their focus on this simulation has resulted in what everyone seems to agree is the best color blending capabilities of any app on the market. The fluid interface allows you to work quickly and the dry brush tool makes some for some of the most beautiful and eye-catching color blends.
Beginners will be able to use this app but it is truly targeting professional artists who should be able to use the color-blending technology and independent brushstroke technology to create breathtaking art on your phone or your iPad.
If you love social tools like Pinterest, then you will love Moodboard just the same. An app that is eerily similar to Pinterest in that you can basically create limitless numbers of boards, filled with pictures and designs, and then you can share them with your friends, your family, or perfect strangers. If the idea seems simple, that is because it is. This app isn’t about layers upon layers of functionality and features; it’s about sharing inspirational artwork.
But, that doesn’t mean the features that this app does have aren’t great. You can upload photos from the web or import them from wherever, you can do some light editing to the photos, add some colors, some text, maybe even a background, and then it’s interface allows you to easily sort and organize your different boards how you would like them to be arranged.
This app is the perfect opportunity to showcase your inspirational work if you are planning a wedding, showing off your design work, and sharing your photography. You don’t need to be a professional to use it, you only need to have a passion for photography and design and art.
You have seen all the apps to help you draw and paint, and you know all about Photoshop and its capabilities. But PhotoForge2 might even be a better photo manipulation platform than all of them thanks to their litany of innovative tools and easy-to-use interface. You have full resolution editing, crazy adjustment tools that can help you manipulate the photo however you want, and multi-layered functionality so that you can add layers and blend photos together.
In addition, they have tools like Pop!Cam that allow for the combination of different lenses and filters and frames to help you customize the camera effect that you want for your photos. The sharing function makes it easy for you to boast about your incredible creations to your friends and the wide range of tools mean that no detail within your photos is too small to manipulate. Novice photographers can use this to understand how to edit and manipulate their photos to make them better. Professional or experienced photographers can use the range of options of this app to ensure that their photos are designed based on their own creative process.
Get PhotoForge 2 here NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Do you have a burning passion for realistic watercolor painting but don’t have the tools or the resources to go out and set up your own, in-home, watercolor studio? Well then you should probably consider Auryn Ink as an alternative. This award-winning and innovative app blends an intuitive interface with a wide variety of tools that allow you to quickly and competently create magnificent watercolor paintings.
The intelligence of the app allows for the user to control the brush pressure effects, blend color pigments, and take charge of the levels of water dilution or concentration you wish to include in your painting. At points it almost feels like you are actually painting using a brush and canvas. Beginners may be overwhelmed at first because of the sheer volume of tools and options afforded them, but it’s easy to use, so they will get used to it. Experts can marvel at how this app allows you to come as close to actual watercolor painting as you possibly can without using paper and pen.
Like we said, we didn’t try to rank these apps ahead of each other because it was just too difficult. But if we had ranked these apps based on popularity, the simply titled Art would probably be near or at the top of the list. The idea itself is hardly revolutionary. The app is an enormous and constantly updated database of artists, complete with their biographies and most famous works. The search function allows you to track down your favorite artists easily, and the app even added a quiz section where you can put your art knowledge to the test by matching paintings with the artists who painted them.
When compared with some of the more complex apps on this list, Art pales in comparison. But there might not be a single better art resource available for your mobile device on the market. This is an app that can be used by serious art students to help them research projects, or it can be used by people just interested in learning more about the fascinating world of art and the fascinating people that populated that world.
Art in Motion
The developers at PDJ Apps must have seen all the other painting and drawing apps available and decided to step their game up, because Art in Motion is one of the most graphically enthralling and beautiful art apps you can find on the Internet. If you want to just create a standard sketch, use one of the apps above. But if you want to create a scene with moving objects and vibrant colors, than look to Art in Motion to satisfy your curiosity.
Basically, you create and customize small orbs and then watch them bounce around your screen thanks to the app’s innovative Psychics engine. If you don’t feel up to the task of creating your own scene, that is fine, because Art in Motion already has 20 scenes to give you a head start towards your creation. The interface is slick, and the functionality is smooth, allowing the user to control every aspect of their scene with just the slight touch of their fingers.
We will save one of my favorite art studio apps for last because Art Rage deserves some lauding for the interactive, intuitive, and multi-faceted app they have created. Art Rage doesn’t differ tremendously from the apps that we have already listed, but it does seem to incorporate all of the best parts of those apps into their app. There is a plethora of painting tools to choose from including oils, watercolors, and even crayons. There are layers so you can add to elements of your painting, and an intuitive interface that effectively simulates watercolors being painted onto the canvas.
When it comes to the inane details of painting, Art Rage made sure that professional or experienced painters would feel as if they had every possible tool at their disposal. But despite all of the tools and features that this app boasts, it is surprisingly easy to navigate and use. The paintings can be done quickly if you know what you are looking for, and if you don’t know what you are looking for, the interface is so slick that you can find it easily.
Then, as added bonus, if you want the step-by-step breakdown on how you created your last painting, the app allows you to record your work and play it back. This app is truly awesome for painters and those who love to experiment with paint. It’s like bringing your personal, full-service art studio to you couch.