buttercup flowers in yellow and blue
Family Inspired, Review

My Three Go-To Art Apps

Three Art Apps for the iPad

One of the questions artists who gather ask is, “What apps do you use?” My friends who just get iPads always ask, “What art apps have you chosen?” So, let’s dive in to my three favorite iPad apps for creating digital art.

Learn about my three favorite apps and the art I’ve created with each. Let the information and art guide you to your choice in digital art apps. Through experience with these three apps, and by sharing my work in Skillshare, art groups, Instagram, and Twitter– I’ve met some wonderful artists, and you will too. Learn and enjoy…

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

To get excited about digital art with a fully developed, yet easy to use and FREE app, you can’t beat Sketchbook Pro. The featured image of buttercups for this post and the above sketch for my granddaughter [and husband and great-grandson] were drawn in this app. So was the header for my homepage.

It was my go-to app when I started. The app is available for desktop and mobile for Windows and Mac, and I think Linux, so it’s a very robust app you can use on any of your devices. And, the help desk is online, ready for your learning and troubleshooting. Video tutorials make learning the app easy. See Basic Tutorials to start. I loved the Tutorials, and Brush Packs videos because artists shared their process AND provided free brush packs. And, Mobile-specific Videos provide guidance for the app on your mobile device. Check out the Sketchbook YouTube channel and the many videos there by other artists.

It’s set up with layers and brushes to build effects. As I was learning to draw and paint on my iPad, I participated in monthly doodle challenges to create art like this banana cream pie. And, that’s how I feel about this app: It’s a delicious app. Did I mention it’s free?

banana cream pie
Banana Cream Pie Doodled in Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro
Glass Ornament created in Procreate


More and more artists are discovering a love for digital art, and one app that catches their eye, brushes, colors, and style is Procreate. I stayed away from it because the app is different than the usual process for art apps, but more and more people and artists, from whose work I was studying to learn, opted for this app. Once the landscape of the app makes sense, it is a joy to work in. AND, it’s cost is reasonable: $9.99. However, it’s iPad only.

The app includes a variety of brushes that are more than enough for recreating any medium: oil, pastel, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, etc. The layers, masking, clipping allow for detailed effects. Brushes and affects, smudging, undo– it’s all there for beautiful and creative work for patterns and opaque or transparent designs.

Of course, the handbook is online, and the Procreate YouTube channel will get you started. And perhaps hundreds of artists share how-tos as well. Join the Procreate Portfolio Showcase community to share your work and view the work of others for inspiration and for connections. The help forum is also available. Of all those ways to learn, YouTube and Skillshare are my go-to places. Procreate, once learned, is a fantastic app for any iPad artist.

A word about Skillshare— yes, there is a cost, but I have been paid back in skills from the artists who share step-by-step tutorials about so many things, including Procreate and Affinity Designer. I have met artists I now consider friends– we connect in Skillshare, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s a great place to learn and connect.

Affinity Designer

My favorite app is Affinity Designer by Serif– it’s a vector-based app that also works in rastor format. Vectors allow for precise work in patterns and the ability to resize your work as needed. It’s an alternative to the subscription app by Adobe, Illustrator. But Affinity Designer for the iPad is only $19.99. That’s a bargain. And, to go all out, the apps are also available for Mac and Windows desktop– totally interchangeable. The desktop apps are $49.99, still a bargain. Besides Affinity Designer, see also Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher, the rest of the suite to compete with the Adobe products.

Whereas, in Procreate, layers are limited by the size of your iPad and your choice of canvas, I’ve never had a problem with creating layer upon layer, group on group, using Affinity Designer– it’s simply the best app for artists for detailed digital art.

Chintz pattern on tote bag on Red Bubble
Chintz pattern on placemats at Spoonflower

Because of the apps precision tools, placement of effects, assets, groups, and patterns is precise and easy. I love that I can easily resize and recolor as needed. I don’t worry about whether there will be a “one pixel off” as can happen in Procreate, because I can check the placement of each part on the canvas with the alignment tool. In addition, finished objects can be saved as “assets” for future use and revision for other projects. It’s awesome.

My great-grandson loves his Spring Whimsey bedding, created by me, great-grandma, in Affinity Designer.

Bedding —Spring Whimsey: Fox, Bird, Rabbit, Frog on Spoonflower

You can view tutorials, download the user guide, and order a workbook at the site: Master Affinity Designer. A Youtube channel from Serif- Affinity or other artists will help get you started. And Skillshare teachers offer clear directions that help you get started in your first projects. Artists share assets, textures, and brushes for sale at the store, including those without commercial limitations as some places offer. Affinity Spotlight highlights interviews and the processes of successful artists– sure to inspire you. The app inspired me to create my own wardrobe on RedBubble. I love it, and so will you.

As an additional note, my newspaper publisher husband is looking at switching from Adobe to Affinity because, with times as they are, it would save dollars every month not needing to pay the Adobe subscription fees.

Top in Wild Florals in teal and purple on Red Bubble

Truly, if I– starting art at age 70 can do this, you can too! Look at all the art here that comes from drawing a line I imagined and uploaded to one of my shops. YOU can create art and share with the world as well.

Choose the app that fits you and get started! You’ll love creating for your family and yourself, and you’ll be adding something wonderful to the world.

Created in Sketchbook Pro — Flickr

Which do you choose? Or– do you enjoy another?

Please share…

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