Top 5 Sketching Apps on iPad for Product Designers


All product designs, big and small, start with sketches. OK, technically, they start with the buds of ideas, but these ideas need to give a visual shape sooner or later. Many designers are initially biased towards using paper and pens or pencils, but sooner or later bring their ideas into the digital realm. With the advent of powerful mobile devices such as the iPad and Apple Pencil, it’s never been easier to display these concepts directly on the screen when inspiration is gained. However, navigating the app landscape can be a bit tedious, so here are five apps that are perfect for your iPad or iPad Pro. These creative ideas can be realized at least digitally.


You might think that venerable Photoshop is at the top of the list, but obviously it’s not. It wasn’t until later that Adobe finally realized the big market for Photoshop on the iPad, but by then, others were already trying to fill that big shoe. Of the many apps that have tried to take advantage of that deficiency, perhaps none is as popular as Procreate.

Technically, Procreate can be thought of as a painting app, but like Photoshop, it’s kind of a shop for creating digital content. It has all the tools you need to visualize your design concepts from start to finish and embody the details on the go. It’s easy to sketch with dozens of brushes, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Procreate helps you animate your designs, a useful tool for products with interactive moving elements. Of course, there is also a unique 3D model paint feature that allows you to figuratively bring the concept to the screen. In addition to iPad portability, Procreate offers an art studio-equivalent digital version, all for a flat rate of $ 9.99, whenever designers need to work on the latest ideas.

Designer: Ivan Belikov

Designer: George


As the name implies, Concepts is an app specifically designed to help designers create concept designs and illustrations. Unlike Photoshop and Procreate, Concepts works with vector lines like Adobe Illustrator, but you probably won’t feel it, depending on how your smooth, natural sketches feel. However, this means that you have very fine control over all lines or curves, and these lines remain smooth and crisp at any resolution, whether you zoom in or out.

However, the Concepts definition feature is an endless canvas designed to adapt to the designer’s way of working and thinking. Designers can consider ideas and sketch as much as possible, rather than limiting them to fixed-size pages. The size of the canvas is adjusted to suit your needs, but not the other way around.

The tools in this app are designed to closely mimic the actual tools and provide a toolset familiar to designers. Even its color wheel resembles the popular COPIC format, clearly showing that the app was created with the designer in mind from the beginning. Concepts are free to use, but certain features require an in-app purchase. Alternatively, you have a subscription option to unlock features that cannot be purchased.

Designer: Johnny Gallardo

Designer: CYNIC


Autodesk is a familiar name to many designers of AutoCAD products, especially those in the industrial design field. However, the company once had its own sketching app. In fact, Sketchbook was one of the first kind of apps to adopt mobile devices. Sketchbooks are now successful on their own, but they still have all the features that have made them famous in the digital art market for some time.

Sure, Sketchbooks may not be as feature-rich as Procreate or Photoshop, but the lack of features is complemented by agility and speed. By no means does it mean that it doesn’t have a decent set of features, the app can translate your ideas into images on a digital canvas. Boasting hundreds of out-of-the-box brushes, each can be customized to suit your needs and tastes.

One of Sketchbook’s main strengths is its ease of use and minimal interface. The user interface is unobtrusive and you can continue working without seeing any buttons or sliders. Best of all, it’s completely free and there are no hidden purchases. So what you see is what you get, and it’s available on all major platforms, so you won’t miss a beat when switching between iPad and Mac.

Designer: Sketchbook

Designer: Michael Ditullo

Affinity Designer

With a name like Affinity Designer, it’s almost certain that your app is designed for designers. Its expressed intent is a professional tool for creating concept art, design, and even branding images, which designers need in their work process, especially when creating more sophisticated versions of sketches. Almost everything. Final presentation.

Similar to Concepts, Affinity Designer uses vector lines to create shapes and curves, giving designers more control over their appearance without compromising the quality of the lines. However, if you need more pixel-precision control, especially if you’re painting textures or recreating more organic materials, we also offer a popular raster-based paintbrush. The app boasts an unlimited number of layers and a 1,000,000x zoom, but technically it’s limited by the amount of memory left on the iPad.

One of Designer’s most unique features is the ability to have multiple instances of the same object throughout your work. This allows you to edit one and the rest will be updated immediately. It also displays artboards in a Pinterest-like gallery familiar to many designers. Affinity Designers is priced at $ 9.99 with no in-app purchases or subscription fees.

Designer: Denny Lambo

Designer: Yaron David

Adobe Photoshop

Of course, Photoshop was the grandfather of digital art and graphic design software, and the lack of Photoshop on Apple tablets has been keenly felt for years. Sure, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil didn’t show up until 2018, but something like Procreate has been around for almost a decade and is already successful. Meanwhile, Adobe chose to bring some painstaking experiences to the iPhone and iPad, focusing only on very specific use cases and competing for the time for Photoshop to fully enter the mobile space. ..

That’s finally happening, and that’s also why Photoshop isn’t ranked high on this list. First released in 2019, this new version is supposed to be the same Photoshop on the desktop, but is being ported to the iPad little by little. Functionality is still not comparable to what most Photoshop users are familiar with, and it will take longer for things to settle down. There are some basics, but it seems that the focus is not on a completely independent mobile workflow, but on making Photoshop files accessible from Creative Cloud from the iPad.

There is also the fact that this is the most expensive option in this bunch if you don’t already have an Adobe subscription. This is absolutely necessary to use the app beyond the free trial period. Of course, some expect Adobe to regain that slack, but the new focus on making Photoshop work perfectly with the Apple M1 Mac has put the iPad back in the background for some time. Maybe.

Designer: Erica Horn

Designer: Paola

Bonus: Good Note

All of these apps allow designers to digitally paste pencils onto paper, as it were. Wherever the muse beckoned, they sketched their ideas on an almost endless canvas with all the conveniences (and sometimes the drawbacks) of a digital workflow. Of course, it’s not just the designer’s job to create sketches and beautiful designs. Most of the process involves writing down notes and annotating drawings. This is where this bonus app comes in.

GoodNotes is considered one of the best note-taking apps for the iPad and reproduces much of the look and feel of traditional paper notebooks, with no physical limitations. Focusing on the pen-driven experience, you can insert almost any type of digital content into your notes, from text you type to images. It also has basic drawing capabilities, so you can use it to sketch your ideas as a draft before moving on to the more specialized apps above.

Designer: thalamustudy


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