Whether you’re a seasoned artist or an amateur just starting out, the iPad is a seductive drawing tool. Drawing both on Apple’s superior technology (the Apple Pencil) and its ecosystem of high quality applications, this little device can help you take your art to new heights.
This is especially true if you can get your hands on the best drawing apps, tutorials, and accessories. That’s exactly what we’re going to provide in this article, plus some valuable tips to help you get to mastery faster.
5 best free tutorials for learning digital art for beginners on an iPad
Before we dive deep into the best iPad apps for beginners, let us briefly list some cool tutorials you can use to learn to draw with an iPad.
This cool tutorial will help you decide which iPad to get for digital art, whether big or small, standard or Pro, and so on.
This video, which is of 4K quality by the way, features an artist making a drawing from scratch on the iPad Pro 12.9-inch. This is a nice tutorial to show you what the workflow for an iPad is like, as well as give you some valuable drawing tips.
This is another tutorial that walks you through the creation of a drawing from scratch on an iPad. The artist is laid back but fun to listen to and easy to understand.
This video isn’t just about drawing on the iPad, but using one of the most popular iPad drawing apps: Procreate.
If you’re serious about making art on an iPad, knowing how to use Procreate is absolutely necessary, and this video will walk you through the basics, teaching you the features you will most likely use on an everyday basis.
This is another tutorial that walks you through making a whole painting on an iPad. It has the extra advantage of using the Procreate app, so you’ll likely learn lots of valuable tips on using this app. You will also learn useful drawing skills, such as how to draw trees, create depth with colors, and also make reflections on water.
10 best drawing and digital art apps for beginners learning digital art on an iPad
Once you get an iPad, you’ll want to know which apps are best for drawing. There are countless ones on the App Store, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In this section, we’ll narrow down your options to just 10, so it’s much easier for you to pick the ones that work for you.
As you may have already gathered from the pointers above, this is one of the most popular drawing apps on the iPad. It is fast, intuitive, and powerful, allowing you to create professional artworks on your iPad. It features a very minimalist UI with some easy-to-use sliders so you can adjust things like the opacity and size of your brushes. This allows you to work faster and concentrate on the most important thing: drawing.
Procreate has layer options, zoom, customizable swatches, a very simple but powerful color picker, great options for blending and smudging, and the ability to add text to art. The latest version as a tool to help with animation and supports ABR imports. There are over 130 default brushes for you to pick from and each has 50 settings you can customize.
2. Autodesk Sketchbook
Another popular app for the iPad. This one from Autodesk has all the features of a professional painting application, but optimized for iPad users. It features lots of different brushes, including airbrushes, markers, pens, pencils, and others. The user interface is very simple and intuitive, and allows you to pin your most used toolbars for fast access. It has great blending modes, annotations, transparency features, and, of course, layering. It even integrates with Dropbox so you can easily import and export files, including Photoshop files.
Illustrator for iPad is yet another great tool that artists are excited about. It lets you use all the features you love in Illustrator, but optimized for the iPad and Apple Pencil. It also enables you to share files seamlessly with the desktop Illustrator.
4. Inspire Pro
This is a rendering engine, and happens to be one of the fastest and most powerful available on the App Store. It features 150 brushes, including paint splatters, pastels, charcoal, chalk, markers, crayons, pencils, spray paint, airbrushes, and oil paint. It also has other customizable tools you can pick from. It works very well with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, where applying a pressure instantly changes the opacity and size of the brush stroke.
5. Affinity Designer
Affinity Designer for iPad is built the same as the desktop version, only it has been fully optimized for the iPad and has support for touch controls and the Apple Pencil. It can also support endless layers and artboard canvases, as well as let you zoom over 10,000 times. This great app is perfect for creating both printed and digital art, as it has a complete Pantone library in the color panel and supports both RGB and CMYK. You can export to SVG, PDF, PNG, and JPG, and can choose from more than 100 default brushes, including gouaches, pastels, inks, pencils, and paints.
6. Linea Sketch
Linea Sketch excels in the simplicity department. In fact, it has been praised by experts for its large feature set and simple UI. If you want something that lets you do just about anything you want while maintaining a simple UI, you can’t go wrong with this app. The app can do lots of things, but its particular focus is on sketching. It has a fill tool, a blend tool, and lots of colors. You can also add layers, though you’re limited to just 5. Depending on which you’re more comfortable with, you can use the Apple Pencil or your finger. You can even record the drawing and play it back later if you want.
7. Zen Brush 2
If you’re into Japanese calligraphy, then you’ll love Zen Brush 2, an iPad drawing app that emulates those brushes. It has a very smooth drawing engine that makes creating Zen art easy. We particularly love the gallery feature, that lets you save unfinished works. To help give drawings a feeling of depth, there is the ink dispersion effect. It supports Apple Pencil and other pressure-sensitive styluses too. It used to be that you could only use black ink with this app, but now it has red ink too.
This iPad drawing app was created with professionals in mind, especially when it comes to sketching. With Concepts, you get access to advanced sketching features, including organic brushes, an infinite canvas, precision tools, and a powerful vector drawing engine. Concepts works especially well for product designers and architects, thanks to its precision tools, though all types of artists can use it. It’s great even for visual thinkers who just want a fun app to doodle with when thinking through stuff.
9. Comic Draw
Comic Draw is made especially for drawing comics, so it’s a great tool to try if you’re intent on becoming a comic artist. It has lots of tools to help you lay out panels, get perspective right, and of course add layers to manage your drawings. There’s also a sketchpad where you can play around with concepts and brushes to help you touch up your designs. For the dialog, there is a lettering suite with different fonts, balloons, common words, and other design tools to build your dialog. This app lets you make everything from simple comic strips to entire graphic novels.
10. Sketch Club
Sketch Club is a simple but powerful iPad application for making beautiful art. It has some cool brushes, including pixel art, vector tools, pens, and procedural tools. The user interface is minimalist and highly customizable, so you can quickly access the tools you use regularly. It also has a great online community where you can upload your sketches and get feedback, as well as participate in daily and weekly competitions.
Key accessories for beginners learning digital art on an iPad
While working on your iPad, you will find certain accessories and general styles of work dramatically improve your productivity. We’ll list a few of the most important ones in this section.
Matte screen protector
There are lots of screen protectors for the iPad, and each comes with its advantages. However, matte or paper-like ones are the best if you intend to do lots of drawing on your iPad. They best emulate the feeling of drawing on traditional paper. They also reduce glare on your screen, so you can see what you’re doing when you’re drawing.
StreamLine Mode in Procreate
Procreate is one of the most popular drawing apps for the iPad out there. One of the many reasons artists love it is the Streamline feature, which helps you keep your strokes even and smooth. It’s an excellent tool when you’re inking or lettering, letting you perfect your lines.
Once you’ve been doing digital art for long enough, you’ll likely have some favorite brushes that you understand very well. Your brush, after all, is what you use to create works of art. There will be many available brushes, no matter which drawing app you go for, and the wide selection can feel overwhelming. Our advice is to play around with as many as possible and find the ones you’re most comfortable with. You should also search online for ones that aren’t on your drawing app and play with those too. And if you find that no brush quite scratches your itch, you can create your own!
With the iPad, you have lots of stylus options. The best one, of course, is the latest Apple Pencil. However, whichever one you pick, the angle at which you apply pressure will directly impact your drawing. You should therefore know your stylus’s tilt and pressure-sensitivity very well, and play around with it until you’re comfortable.
One of the major advantages of digital drawing over traditional drawing is the ability to use layers to separate your work. Understanding how to use layers is crucial to your success as a digital artist, as you’ll need them for everything, from rough sketching to shading, to coloring. Our advice is to understand layers as intimately as you can, no matter what drawing app you use. They all have them, anyway.
When you look at a finished work of complex art, such as a portrait, you won’t see all the lines and shapes that the artist used as references to nail the proportions. And yet, you need these to get your proportions right, and even the most experienced artists rarely wing it freehand when doing serious work. As a beginner, you should take advantage of grid lines to help you get your proportions right. Do it until you’re good enough that you don’t need grids anymore, and then don’t stop using them. It’s a cardinal rule!
10 tips for beginners learning digital art on an iPad
In this section, we’ll list some general art tips to help you on your journey, which we admit will be long and challenging. However, our tips should help you get better much faster.
1. Anyone can draw
If you can write, you can draw. Drawing uses the same dexterous fluency, and just as a learnable skill. Everyone, even the greatest artists, start at the same level. The most important differentiator is the amount of practice you do. The best artists didn’t start out drawing perfect curves – they spent countless hours learning and honing their skill with practice.
It’s easy to get intimidated and discouraged with drawing, just like any other kind of art. The trick is to focus on the process, and not to compare your 6 months to someone else’s 6 years.
2. Good artists copy, great artists steal
That’s a quote from Pablo Picasso, and I have freely stolen it to make my point. While we do not encourage plagiarism, the truth is there is probably more derivative than truly original art in the world, even among the greatest works by the greatest artists. Great artists look for things they can borrow from others and infuse some of their own unique style to create something new. Even art students spend a lot of time sketching the work of others. Our advice is to look at as much art as you can and try to emulate it, especially at the beginning. It’s a good way to learn many different styles and explore. By the end, you should have your own unique style.
3. Find your own way
As a follow up to the point above, we also don’t think you should spend your entire career copying others. If you spend all your time watching and drawing along to tutorials, you’ll get very good at making perfect copies of others’ works. However, to truly master the fundamentals and grow, you’ll need to start going deeper. For starters, rather than just copy an artist’s drawing, think deeply about why they chose to do things that way, and how you can adapt and improve on that.
Try to come up with your own ideas, and do things for your sake. You can even try mashing up different styles, emphasizing whatever you will. Take the time to develop your own unique style, and you will soon be a legend.
4. Get comfortable with your tools
Apart from the iPad and stylus, you should also learn to be comfortable with the tools the drawing app provides. You’ll find yourself using a few a lot more often than others. Whenever you get a new drawing app, spend some time playing around with the tools to see how they work. Find out which keys are shortcuts for which tools and learn how to customize them. Think about how you can incorporate them into your work.
5. Don’t overuse the undo function
If you find yourself constantly undoing your work, I’m sorry to break it to you but you’re addicted. This can harm your ability to learn from your mistakes and will act as a crutch that will impact your work later one.
The undo function is one of the things that makes digital drawing so much more powerful than traditional drawing, but like everything else, it is just a tool. Overusing it means you’re trying too hard to be perfect, which you shouldn’t. Own your mistakes and do imperfect work, so you can improve faster.
6. Do lots of warm up exercises before starting any project
Practice drawing lines, squares, circles, and other shapes. Get a feel for drawing different curves. Doing this for about 15 minutes before you start your project should help you sketch better, as it will temper your mechanical ability. Over time, drawing simple shapes will come as second nature, and you won’t need the warm up exercises. However, we recommend doing this when you’re a beginner.
7. Sketch as much as you can
Going beyond drawing simple shapes, sketch as much as you can. The beauty of sketching is that you don’t have to think too much about getting things right, so please stay off that undo button. Sketching sessions will also help you understand how different elements fit together to produce any drawing. As you rack up hours of sketching, you’ll start to develop the necessary muscle memory to do more complicated work. You can even consider saving and cleaning up your favorite sketches. They might be the start of something great.
8. Learn a new tool every so often
Whatever drawing app you use, make sure to learn a new tool every few days. Try to incorporate it into your drawing process or sketches. This will expose you to new possibilities, letting you grow as an artist. It will also help you get more and more skilled in using your drawing app.
9. Learn and use shortcuts often
Shortcuts help you speed up your drawing process by accessing useful tools and features faster. As you spend time learning the different tools and features in your drawing app, take the time to learn their shortcuts as well. Write them down if you have to, and then refer to them often. Make it so that using shortcuts becomes second nature. Your productivity will thank you for it.
10 Customize your app
Finally, while you’re doing all the above, customize your workspace to suit your needs, which will naturally be different for every artist. After using an app for a while, and even using lots of different apps, you’ll develop an intuition for the kinds of tools you need and what workspace maximizes your productivity. We advise sticking to a single app in the beginning, especially a highly customizable one, and then customizing it. This will dramatically improve your productivity and make you a better artist.
And with that we come to the end of our article. An iPad is a wonderful tool for beginner artists, with great features and a great ecosystem to take full advantage of. The advice in this article should help you get up and running in no time. Until next time, happy drawing!