Nearly two years ago, we highlighted 15 art apps 2012, that should be on the radar of every artist or person interested art. Two years later, everyone still uses a smartphone but the applications available for that smartphone have grown exponentially. Most of the apps that we initially looked at are not only still around, but still awesome apps for artists to be using. But we figured it was time to update our list for 2014 and let you know about some of the new apps that have received acclaim and applause.
As with all of our lists, this is not meant to be comprehensive nor was it put in any particular order. There are likely dozens of other useful art applications we aren’t covering. But these are just 15 that we thought stood above the rest thanks to our personal experiences and conversations with people who have used the apps.
Designed exclusively for the iPad, Paper is a simple man’s drawing tool, and that’s what makes it so much fun to use. The tool is aptly named because it is designed to look and feel like a blank slate of paper. Whereas other drawing tools are chalk-full of menus and settings that often make things too confusing, Paper offers you a number of digital notebooks to choose from and then gives you a clean page to work on. Paper comes with an eraser and a fountain pen that users love because of how easy it is to use. Set aside $10 to spend and the app allows you to write with a ballpoint pen, sketch with a pencil, outline with a marker, and color with a paintbrush. You can even “rewind” your work if you want to tweak some of what you have already done. For Paper, simplicity is its selling point, and it works well. Kudos for the team at FiftyThree are richly deserved.
The small team at Savage Interactive developed an absolute hit when Procreate quickly became one of the most popular sketchbook apps in the iTunes store and so it only makes sense that they would come out guns blazing for the second iteration, Procreate. The update is only available for those with iOS 7 but it is also free for those who already have Procreate. The update includes additional support for your iPhone or iPad and new functionality and design for the operating system. As for changes to the app, new filters, color balance, and curves only improve a painting engine that was already well-liked and user-friendly. In honor of the new updates, maybe a new maxim is needed: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, but tweaks are okay.
We promise, not every app on the list will be a variation on a sketchbook, but Art Set is too much fun to use not to mention. Art Set is an app for all ages that allows users to create art with paints, crayons, pens, pencils, pastels, a whole raft of blending tools, and painting over personal photos. Users rave about how clean the design is and how easy it is for anyone, especially young children, to use. It’s great for beginners who just want to fool around with different ways to create art, but it also works for more talented and experienced artists by offering them an array of different options for creating works of art. It could use some social media integration, but nit-picking such a fun app to use seems unfair.
Although it is only available for Android, this vector graphics app allows users to create designs on tablet or smartphone. Its symmetry tools, special effects options, and ability to make nuanced and detailed changes to the design will excite experienced designers. While the easy redo system and fittingly infinite layers and canvas allow beginners to mess around with the designs while they learn the basics. You can import images from your gallery, camera, or the web and you can also save your creations as a JPEG or PNG. The path editing and pen tool are one-of-a-kind and an absolute blast to play around with, and the interface is fluid, clean, and responsive. It seems crazy to think that someone can create professional designs from their Android phone, but Infinite Design allows users to do exactly that.
DesignPad by Quark
Quark’s DesignPad app is the perfect tool for layout designers. It allows you to develop in-depth layout concepts for everything from posters to postcards to even business cards. Its grid-based design control system allows for that diversity in design and the sheer volume of controls allows users to create the layout they want down to the smallest detail. If you want to insert pictures, you can. If you want to insert shapes or boxes, you can do that too. It’s basically dummy-proof and we mean that in the most complimentary way possible. It has lots of support options and you will be stunned by the level of detail that both you and the app can go into once you get comfortable with the basics.
“We were inspired to develop DesignPad so that everyone with an iPad can hop on their device and start laying out projects. Design hobbyists can play around with the app to get a sense of grid-based design and creative pros can whip up an actual design concept while sitting with a client or on the train into work.”
– Gavin Drake, VP of Marketing, Quark Software Inc.
iDraw is a vector graphics and illustration app for iPad that is more basic than Infinite Design but does have some advanced features for experienced designers as well. You can use text, lines, shapes and curves as well as more advanced features like layers, gradients, and text styles. It is easy to group and align the objects using the app and the grids and rulers help make sure that your finished design doesn’t look sloppy or messy. The award-winning app has now gone through multiple iterations to improve functionality and access to tools. Its exporting and sharing functionality is especially impressive and allows you to export drawings into a PDF and allows you to sync and save your drawings with Dropbox or the iCloud. It is one of the most popular drawing apps on the web, which should speak for itself.
Musee du Louvre
Why go all the way to Paris to check out the Louvre when it is now available on your smartphone? Okay, so the official Louvre app isn’t quite the same as visiting the museum in person, but it’s a pretty good start. The first app was such a smash hit that a new app has been developed with more access to art and more functionality. You can check out the top 100 masterpieces in the museum’s collection, including Greek sculptures, paintings by famous artists like Raphael, and even drawings done by Leonardo da Vinci himself. You can also get some input from museum experts. If you are interested in the history of the palace, a video and presentation of the background is available, and you can even stay updated on the events happening at the museum.
Art History Test
Not all art apps are just for people trying to have fun, there are also educational apps like Art History Test that have functional uses for those still in school. The app uses flash cards as a testing and teaching tool. Whether you have an art history exam coming up or you are just interested in brushing up on your art history knowledge base, this app is a simple study tool for anyone. The format is the user is presented with a work of art, and then they need to guess the title, the artist, the year, and the medium. The answers are of course readily available and the app’s database of artwork and artists is surprisingly huge. The images are even preloaded, so you don’t need to be connected to the Internet, you can use it on the bus to school or walking down the sidewalk.
Creating a feature-length film on your iPad is still too much to ask, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t apps available that can make filmmakers’ lives easier. MovieSlate is a digital slate, a clapper board, a shot log, and a notepad all in one, easy-to-use and user-friendly smartphone app. It can be used for everything from film to television to video interviews as it is an easy way to log footage and take notes, thus saving you time on the back end when you are editing footage. The digital slate means production info is easy to input, shot notes and history can be easily logged into the app, and you get to choose the themes, color schemes, and sounds that accompany your footage.
Created by the good folks at Cinemek, Storyboard Composer is touted as “the world’s first mobile story boarding application.” The app will run on all iOS devices and basically it is able to create visualizations and storyboards of your idea, only it will do it on your iPhone or iPad. As with many successful apps, Storyboard Composer’s beauty isn’t just in its novel idea, it is also in the simplicity with which the idea was executed. Users only need to take a photo, add some characters, add a camera, add some other features, and then they can play the project on their device in real time. The sharing capabilities are somewhat limited, but that’s not why people use the app anyway.
Commonly referred to as the Fashion version of Shazam, Fashion Kaleidoscope allows you to look at outfits and styles and then quickly learn where they are sold and what brand they are from. Users rave about the app’s catalog of images, the ease with which they can search for similar items, and sheer volume of dresses, pants, sunglasses, bracelets, and other fashion items that can be searched. Whereas Pinterest doesn’t allow you to actually show for the styles you love, Kaleidoscope lets you shop for all of it from your smartphone. It’s the perfect inspiration app for someone looking for fashion inspiration.
Need to know what the name of a certain typeface is? Looking for inspiration on what typeface to use with your design? You probably know about FontBook already if you are a design professional, but what you may not know is that its app is becoming one of the most popular design-oriented apps on the web. The app aggregates the libraries of 134 international type foundries whose work covers more than 30,000 typefaces from more than 8000 font families. These examples are easily searchable in the app thanks to a raft of filters, searches, and lists that make the app more practical for designers.
One of the more visually and aesthetically pleasing apps in the iTunes store, The Orchestra breaks down the nitty-gritty details of the available pieces by allowing the user to make real-time selections of video and audio tracks as well as scores and visualizations of the pieces. Users can highlight each and every note of a certain pieces, they can listen to commentaries from the conductor and/or the players, and they can read stories and reviews of the pieces written by professional music reviewers. The app is beautifully designed to immerse the user in the world of symphony, and it definitely hits the mark.
Adobe Photoshop Mix
Adobe, best known for its creative suite, has now added a litany of free apps to its product line and the initial reviews are exceptionally positive. One of these apps is Photoshop Mix, an app for creating, editing, and refining ideas and designs on the iPad. It got high marks from users because of how easy it is to use and how slick the user interface looks. This is a photo-editing experience that allows user to make enhancements, edits, combinations, and refinements to photos or images. It is the perfect tool for designers looking to play around with photo editing apps as part of their business.
iMockups is an iPad app that allows you to design on the fly by allowing users to quickly draft wireframes and mockups, customize their canvas, and order pages within a single project. The interface is smooth and easy to navigate, and the toolbox is not only comprehensive but also features a number of unique design tools to play around with. It is designed to allow you to manage multiple projects at once and its user interface tools allow you to get creative.