The best creative apps and accessories for iPad and iPhone

26th May 2013 | 09:00

The best creative apps and accessories for iPad and iPhone

The iPad is a powerful creative tool and these are the apps you need

Best creative apps for iPad

The iPad is the quintessential blank canvas, allowing you to create digital masterpieces from simple sketches to watercolour wonders.

From its inception, the iPad has been embraced as a way for digital painters and artists to create stunning images with little more than their fingertips and a spark of imagination.

As new features (such as Retina screens and more powerful processors) have been introduced to the hardware, accessories such as pressure-sensitive styluses have become more commonplace, and apps from big companies such as Adobe and Autodesk have become increasingly more sophisticated.

This has meant the iPad has become much more than a gimmick for artists; it's fast becoming a viable creative tool - you can even use it to control your PC or Mac - bringing it one step closer to becoming an affordable alternative to a high-end graphics tablets.

So whether you want to draw, paint or simply just doodle away, we can help you create your own masterpiece with our comprehensive guide to getting more creative with your iPad and iPhone - and we'll even show you what can be done with them once you've finished with our handy guide to sharing your images to the web or back to your PC or Mac.

Doodling Apps

Penultimate

Price: Free
Works with: iPad

Replace that battered, dog-eared notebook of yours with this great note-taking app

Penultimate

Now integrated with Evernote, Penultimate is a brilliant alternative to scribbling your ideas down on the first piece of paper within arm's reach. Designed to replicate the experience of jotting down notes in a traditional notebook, it has a variety of pen and ink styles as well as a great selection of textured paper backgrounds, from plain to ruled to graph paper, for your every need.

You can also import custom backgrounds and can save collections of notes in stylish notebook-style folders that are also searchable. Once your note is finished, you can seamlessly integrate it with Evernote to share your notes between friends and colleagues.

Adobe Ideas

Price: £6.99 / $9.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Take your doodles to the next level with this great sketching app from Adobe

Adobe Ideas

If Penultimate and Noteshelf are a bit limited for you, then Adobe Ideas will take things to the next level. Featuring a selection of slick drawing tools that will be familiar to seasoned Adobe users - including a bezier path tool - you can create incredibly advanced sketches in Ideas, which you can then export to Adobe's Creative Cloud and share with the world, or just work on them on your Mac or PC.

At £6.99, it's not cheap and it doesn't offer some of the variety of tools that other cheaper apps offer, but it has that Adobe slickness to more than make up for its price tag.

Noteshelf

Price: £3.99 / $5.99
Works with: iPad

The notebook app that's just like having your very own sketchbook on your iPad

Noteshelf

While offering the same textured notebook look and feel as Penultimate, Noteshelf lets you take things further with a nice selection of extra features.

For example, it has a wider variety of templates (including the option to purchase even more), notes can be arranged on an iBooks-style shelf, where you can add passwords to them for added security, and you can also import photos from your Photos app and add text using iOS fonts, as well as your own hand-writing. Happily, Noteshelf includes support for the new generation of pressure-sensitive styluses, such as the PogoConnect and Jot Touch, which means your notes can be even more dynamic.

Drawing apps

Sketchbook Pro

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works with: iPad

The most comprehensive drawing program on the Mac can be yours to own on iPad, too

Sketchbook Pro

Sketchbook Pro has a reputation on the Mac and PC as being one of the most advanced drawing apps available, and the iPad version is no different, with a vast selection of familiar drawing tools and features.

There are pens, pencils, airbrushes and ink splats, all with a huge variety of presets to apply to your brushes, making it easy to create amazing artwork. With so many tools on offer, the interface can fill up your screen and look fussy, but you can't beat its level of sophistication.

Sketchbook Ink

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works: with iPad

Achieve pen and ink perfection with Ink - Sketchbook Pro's younger sibling

Sketchbook Ink

SketchBook Ink replicates the subtle variations of pen and ink drawing using a dynamic brush rendering system that means even fully zoomed-in brush strokes don't get pixellated. As a result, you can work in supreme close-up to get brilliantly detailed results, and it also has an infinite canvas, which means you can export images up to 4096×3072px.

Paper by Fiftythree

Price: Free
Works with: iPad

Paper

With pages that actually turn, this is the closest thing to having a sketchbook on your iPad Mixing the best of a sketching app with some cool social media and sharing functions, Paper is like having a virtual sketchbook on your iPad - it even looks like one thanks to its great 3D interface. With a neat selection of brilliant pen-, pencil- and brush-based drawing tools (available as additional In-App Purchases), you won't feel at all restricted.

Natural media apps

ProCreate

Price: £1.49 / $1.99
Works with: iPad

Create the best brushes for your paintings with this, the king of painting apps

ProCreate

With its simple, artist-friendly interface and rich brush engine, Procreate really is the Leonardo da Vinci of digital painting packages. You can use the wide variety of brushes available, from pen and ink to wet and dry paintbrushes, and you can even edit the multitude of presets to create your own custom brushes that can then be saved and categorised for future use. This makes it easy to flip from one style of painting to another without having to remember the exact settings you chose last time.

In addition, with support for pressure-sensitive styluses and Retina-quality HD canvases, Procreate is easily one of the most versatile painting apps available for the iPad. No self-respecting digital artist working on the iPad should be without this essential app.

ArtRage

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works with: iPad

Playing with ArtRage is like holding Raphael's paint palette in your hand

ArtRage

The beautifully rendered brush icons, the corner-positioned colour selector… ArtRage feels more like using an artist's palette for painting than an iPad app - especially when you import a source file and pin it to your canvas for reference.

Although it's not as complex as some of its rivals, this isn't a bad thing because what it does, it does excellently. This makes it one of the most usable and instantly accessible painting apps around, and a real delight for anyone who wants to just open up an app and get painting quickly.

Art Studio

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works with: iPad

Get the the sophistication of a desktop app on iPad without the compromise of scaling down

Art Studio

This might just be the closest thing you'll get right now to a desktop painting app such as Corel Painter on the iPad; Art Studio has the most comprehensive collection of options available within its desktop-style menus. With features such as Image Adjustments (such as Curves, Levels and Artistic Filters), and a wide and generous variety of brush options, it's more like Photoshop than Photoshop Touch.

You can even import TrueType fonts across from your Mac or PC and use them to create images with non-iOS fonts. By faithfully replicating the desktop user experience, it does lack some of the intuitive usability that Procreate and ArtRage offer. Nonetheless, when you break it down, you simply can't beat Art Studio for it's impressive range of features. Only your imagination will hold you back!

Hit the next page for our pick of the best vector drawing, image manipulation and kids' art apps.

Vector drawing and image manipulation

Vector drawing apps

Inkpad

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works with: iPad

Recreate the sophistication of a desktop vector drawing app for less than three quid

Inkpad

Mac and PC vector illustration apps such as Adobe Illustrator are used to create complex images using hard lines and precise shapes that are manipulated through points on the paths that make up the images. The apps are complex, and creating them on a smaller screen isn't easy, but Inkpad does the best job of recreating them for the iPad while making the most of the touchscreen interface. By featuring familiar path editing tools to its desktop rivals, it balances a vector drawing app's complexity with the usability of an iPad app.

Touchdraw

Price: £5.99 / $8.99
Works with: iPad

Touchdraw

The easiest way to create complex illustrations TouchDraw takes the same principles as InkPad, but makes them more intuitive for a touchscreen device. Rather than simply copying the UI of desktop apps, it uses colourcoded points to make adjusting the shape in your illustration even easier.

It also features a contextual measuring tool, which is a great way to ensure constant accuracy without cluttering up the screen. A rich text-editing tool also helps create detailed illustrations with both pictures and words.

iDraw

Price: £5.99 / $8.99
Works with: iPad

The closest you get to Illustrator on an iPad

iDraw

As well as all the familiar tools for shape creation and path drawing, iDraw also features more advanced tools such as compound paths (where you can merge paths to create new shapes), a bezier pen tool (that lets you draw paths freehand) as well as multi-colour gradients and customisable Canvas Styles.

This is a supremely rich app, and all these features are available through a simple-to-use, stylish interface, for the bargain price of £5.99.

Image manipulation

Photoshop Touch

Price: £6.99 / $9.99
Works with: iPad

The top dog of digital manipulation comes to the iPad (and to the iPhone now, too!)

Photoshop Touch

Rather than trying to faithfully recreate the entire desktop app on a tablet, Adobe has concentrated on the photo editing and manipulation tools in Photoshop Touch. This means you can import images, edit the colour, select areas and move them around, or just apply creative filters and create stunning results in seconds. Your images can then be shared with the world over Adobe's Creative Cloud service or sent to your Mac or PC.

Artifact

Price: £1.49 / $1.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Blend two photos into one for style or just for fun with this easy-to-use montage app

Artifact

Artifact is a photo montage app that lets you merge together two of your photos by painting image masks using your finger or a stylus. There are options for everyone, with both Simple and Expert Modes, depending on your confidence and ability. Unfortunately it's still quite basic - you can only edit brush size, opacity and softness - and you can only merge two images at a time, but with practice, you can make some fun results.

Snapseed

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

This is more than just a photo editor - Snapseed gives you licence to get creative, too

Snapseed

Snapseed is an amazing creative tool thanks to its wide array of creative effects. As well as colour balancing, you can also apply Instagram-esque vintage filters and retrolux effects, and focus effects such as tilt-shift and centre focus. Each effect is adjustable thanks to the Multi-Touch interface that allows you to vary the degree of effect applied with your fingers rather than a fiddly numeric slider. You can then easily share your image directly with other apps.

Kids' art

Crayola Colour Studio HD

Price: Free
Works with: iPad

Crayola Colour Studio

Turn your iPad into a kids' colouring book with no worries about going over the lines What better way to entertain the kids than to give them some colouring to do in fun drawings?

Thanks to the Crayola ColorStudio app, you can give them huge variety all on the iPad. With a brilliant vibrant interface featuring a rotating wheel of Crayola crayons of every colour imaginable at the bottom, this is the perfect app to keep the wee nippers quiet on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

It works even better when used with the Crayola Studio Pen stylus, which looks like a giant crayon itself! Although it suffers from some accuracy issues that make colouring between the lines tricky, your average six year-old probably won't even notice the difference!

Draw Something Pro

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works with: iPad

A turn-based game of guessing drawings that will provide hours of fun for kids of all ages

Draw Something Pro

Although this is technically a game, it still encourages creativity. Draw Something is an update of the classic board game Pictionary, and lets you challenge friends to guess the image you're drawing on screen.

However, because there's no timer, and because you don't play in real time, your art can be as sophisticated as you like. This new 'Pro' version has a larger canvas and more colours, to help make your images even easier to guess. Although it's no Sketchbook Pro when it comes to features, it's much more fun!

Screenchomp

Price: Free
Works with: iPad

Help turn your kids' homework into something more fun using this doodle-sharing app

Screenchomp

Screenchomp is a bit like Evernote's Skitch, but with a more kiddy-friendly interface (complete with yellow alien). It lets you import images and scribble notes over the top of them that you can then share over email or social media. Alternatively, you can just draw onto a blank canvas and record the results.

Rather than share flat graphics, it actually videos your actions, and you can even record a voiceover, explaining what you are doing. It's intended as an educational tool that helps kids share problems through videos with each other or with their teacher. Unfortunately, as a creative app it's a bit limited when it comes to its actual drawing tools.

Crayola Digitools

Price: £40

Make drawing even more fun with this fantastic collection of add-ons from Crayola

Crayola Digitools

These official Crayola drawing tools work in conjunction with a series of free companion apps available on the App Store.

The Ultra Pack costs £40 and comes with a Crayola Stamper Tool (which you use to calibrate the tools with the apps), a Digital 3D Tool and 3D Glasses for use with Digitool 3D, a Digital Crayon and Digital Colour Changer for use with DigiTool FX, and the Digital Airbrush and Digital Rainbow Roller.

It's a great way for kids to get used to being creative on the iPad without doing the kind of damage that a real Crayola crayon or set of pens would (heaven forbid)!

Sharing your creations

Dropbox integration

Once you've finished crafting your masterpiece, it's no good just keeping them on your iPad - you need to share it with the world. The most obvious way is to simply save your image to your Photos app as a JPEG or PNG and then share it through your Photos app, Photostream or over email.

If your iPad is running iOS 4 or higher, you can also print it using AirPrint, if you have a compatible printer. If you're feeling more far-reaching, nearly all apps include built-in sharing options so you can send them directly to Twitter or Facebook, and in the case of apps such as ArtStudio, directly to their own gallery of images online.

Certain apps such as Brushes also allow you to send your artwork directly to Flickr, where there are many active iPad painting groups you can share work with, while ArtRage lets you send work directly to artists' community DeviantArt. (In both cases assuming you have an existing account with these services.)

Export 1

Artist communities are a great way to share your artwork and learn from others. As well as Flickr and DeviantArt, check out the digital art community CGHub through its iOS apps or the fingerpainting.it web community.

If you aren't content with simply exporting flat JPEGs and PNGs, then there are two ways to export layered PSDs or native files. The first is to send your files to iTunes, which is offered by most serious painting apps, including Procreate, Sketchbook Pro and ArtRage (all of which we covered in detail earlier).

Simply select 'Send to iTunes' in your app, connect your iPad to your computer and then select the Apps tab in iTunes and scroll to the bottom. There you will see any apps with file sharing enabled, and from there, you can then drag and drop your files onto your desktop for later use.

Export 2

You can also use this as a way to move files onto your iPad in the first place (like in ArtStudio, for example, where you can add non-iOS fonts). If you fancy doing this all wirelessly, then an increasing number of apps also allow you to send images directly to cloud sharing services such as Dropbox. This enables you to export and share layered versions of your work much more easily, because you can sync Dropbox across your iPad, iPhone and Mac or PC.

Alternatively, if you're using Adobe apps such as Photoshop Touch and Ideas, then these will let you upload directly to its Creative Cloud service.

The Pro's Assistant

Art tools

With its touchscreen nature, it's almost inevitable that creatives will want to use their iPads as an input device as well as a display. However, due to certain limitations - mostly on the iPad's screen - that hasn't been possible thus far (for example, we'll never see the level of pressure sensitivity that we see on a Wacom Cintiq tablet because the screen isn't currently capable of replicating that).

There are, however, certain ways to work around this and still use the iPad as an input device. Adobe, for example, has created a series of add-ons that allow you to use your iPad as a tool palette with apps such as Photoshop. In Adobe Nav, you can select which tools you want to use and group them into collections, discarding those you don't use regularly - for example, you could get rid of type or path tools if you never use them, and as a result de-clutter your tool palette.

You can also browse live previews of documents through a Bridge-like browser, which is a great way to find that all-important file without searching through folders. You can also use it to choose your colour, thanks to Adobe's Colour Lava.

Adobe Lava

This app lets you mix and edit colour on your iPad's screen like an artist would on a paint palette (you even use a water bowl to 'clean' your brush or finger). Once mixed, select your chosen colour and sync it with your desktop or create colour swatches and moodboards to show off to family or clients.

Unfortunately, these apps only work with Adobe CS5 and higher and work best with a network connection - although they can run without one. The same is true of Adobe's Eazel, which is a Multi-Touch painting app that allows you to transfer paintings wirelessly from your iPad to your Mac and PC, upscaling the resolution as you do so.

Using a brilliantly inventive five finger Multi-Touch interface, it's a real leap forward in terms of how you interact with your iPad and is the kind of forward-thinking interaction that could well become commonplace on touchscreen devices in the not-too-distant future.

If you want to expand this kind of working to other apps, another tool similar to Adobe Nav is Actions for iPad. This allows you to set up various shortcuts and actions on your iPad screen that can then activate certain features on your desktop apps. For example, you could program a two-finger swipe to undo and three fingers to redo across all your desktop apps; it's a great way to work on your Mac or PC while using your iPad as an interaction device, similar to a Magic Trackpad or even shades of the Wacom tablet.

If you don't like the idea of forking out for extra apps (or your device might be creaking full of apps already), why not have a go at mirroring your iPad to a monitor or TV using Airplay and an Apple TV? That way you can get that big-screen feel from your small-screen tablet - the iPad's Retina screen should more than match your HDTV or monitor.

The Artist's Toolbox

These are the apps and accessories that no iPad artist should be without. If you're just going to grab the essentials, make sure they are from this page

Pogo Connect Stylus

Price: £73
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

This is currently the premiere digital stylus thanks to its pressure sensitivity and its always-on Bluetooth connectivity. Although the rubberised tip might feel a bit basic, we've found it a joy to use. It exhibits supreme accuracy, properly allowing you to get some subtlety into your strokes if you want to use it for handwriting, too. Plus, with its location awareness, you'll never have to live in fear of losing it down the back of the sofa again!

Jot Touch Pro

Price: £74
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Jot Touch Pro

The Jot Touch Pro features the same pressure sensitivity and Bluetooth connectivity as the Pogo. Instead of a rubberised tip, however, it uses a capacitive touch disc on the end of its nib to help improve accuracy. It boasts three programmable shortcut buttons, and with its solid metal design, it feels like a real pro's tool, too. This brilliant stylus will work wonders on apps such as Procreate and Noteshelf.

Griffin Passport

Price: £10
Works with: iPad

Griffin Passport

Not only does this fantastically sturdy case keep your iPad safe and sound, it also makes it look and feel like a traditional notebook. When drawing and painting you don't want a case with too much extra bulk, and this does the perfect job of balancing protection with a classic artist's look. A tasteful strap that holds everything closed is the icing on the cake.

Twelve South Compass

Price: £29
Works with: iPad

Twelve South Compass

If you want to display your artwork on your iPad, then you're going to need a minimal-looking stand that won't interfere with the image on screen. The Twelve South Compass not only offer a fantastic study stand in two comfy positions, it also folds away for easy storage and gives your iPad the look of an easel too, for the real artistic touch!

Paper by Fiftythree

Price: Free
Works with: iPad

Paper is an absolute joy to use and to look at. With its 3D notebook-style interface and its exquisite ink and brush rendering, it looks and feels like you're using an analogue sketchbook in a digital world. Just make sure you pay for all the in-app upgrades to truly make the most of it.

ProCreate

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works with: iPad

ProCreate

The king of digital painting apps thanks to its rich brush engine and simple, artist-friendly interface. It's easy to pick up and get painting, and with its rich array of features, you can take things further.

Plus, it works brilliantly with the new pressure-sensitive styluses on the previous page.

Sketchbook Pro

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works: with iPad

One of the most feature-rich digital drawing and painting apps on the market, packed with the kind of sophisticated brushes and tools that you'd expect from an app with this heritage. The pro's choice for best digital drawing app, but its complex interface might be a bit much for beginners.

Evernote

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Evernote is a cloud-sharing app and is a great way to share your work with friends and colleagues, or as a way to simply transfer your images back to your PC or Mac. Thanks to its integration with apps such as Penultimate, you can send work directly to your PC and Mac with just the tap of a button.

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