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Top Sketching Apps for iPad Pt. 1

Looking to create a masterpiece on your iPad, but not quite sure what app will help you make the most of your artistic talents? There are a number of great drawing apps available for iOS. Here are the pros and cons of some of the very best drawing apps currently available for your iPad:

SketchBook Ink

One of the few third party Apps showcased by Apple during the New iPad’s introduction a few months back, SketchBook Ink has quite a bit going for it for those looking to sketch to their hearts content on Apples’ preeminent tablet.

For starters, SketchBook Ink has been built to utilize a new drawing engine which allows resolution independent drawings. For those more artistically than technically inclined, this gives you the ability to sketch anywhere on your iPad canvas and zoom in to incredibly high levels while still maintaining a smooth line; kind of like an Adobe Illustrator – optimized for freehand sketching. In addition to the amazing zoom zoom levels, you get native support for the sky high resolution of Apple’s New iPad, along with support for astronomical canvas sizes maxing out just a hint above 11,000 by 8700 pixels!

(resolution independence!)

As for the “pen and ink” features; SketchBook Ink is a lesson in simplicity (especially when compared with its big brother SketchBook Pro) with just seven pen/brush options, two erasers, a slider to change their thickness, and the requisite Autodesk color selection wheel. While simplicity is much welcome in sketch apps, there is one major feature missing form SketchBook Inks’ options list: Layers. While you can import a background image onto your canvas, you can’t create any new layers; a feature which should not be left out of any drawing app no matter how simple. Another glitch in the Matrix: no vector export support. While you can export your image to a high resolution, it is still rasterized on export without any option to retain vector information: i.e. you won’t be able to further tweak the lines of your drawing in Adobe Illustrator or the like. While SketchBook Ink is still one of the better sketch apps available on the iPad, if/when the aforementioned problems are solved, SketchBook Ink may just take the top spot on the “Best Draw/Sketch Apps for iPad” list. For now however, it’s close, but no cigar.

SketchBook Pro

Whereas SketchBook Ink can be likened to a ballpoint pen and napkin at your favorite diner, SketchBook Pro is a full on artist’s studio packed with virtually all the tools a serious artist needs to make a full fledged masterpiece. How so? First and foremost, SketchBook Pro fully supports the most important feature missing from SketchBook Ink: multiple layers. Take various elements and isolate, hide, delete, etc. as needed to your heart’s content, as SketchBook Pro features proper layering support. Other differences in features are many, nearly all for the better:


SketchBook Pro features ten different instrument types, including: pencil, ballpoint pen, fine tip marker, paint brushes, an airbrush, and even a special brush which creates a “spattered paint” effect; all of which can be easily re-sized from a pinprick to gigantic via the brush properties tool conveniently located in the middle of your canvas.

There are a number of cool additional options to help with your drawings: line and shape tools which allow you to draw a perfectly symmetrical shape using your instrument of choice, a mirror option which creates a mirrored images of your brush or pen stroke as you draw, a Text Overlay for adding text to your work, the standard color wheel selection palette, and a full complement of transform tools¬† (scale, rotate, move) to get your drawing aligned just as you envisioned it. With all these options it’s tempting to declare SketchBook Pro as the Best Drawing App currently available for iPad, except for a single sorely missed option available in SketchBook Ink, but not SketchBook Pro: resolution independent drawing. As discussed earlier, you can zoom in almost infinitely with SketchBook Ink without losing detail, however that is unfortunately not case with SketchBook Pro; once a stroke is laid down, it’s rastered and set at that particular resolution. Another slight drawback; SketchBook Pro has something of a learning curve to its interface initially, but keep at it and you’ll be creating detailed works in no time. Once again, so very close to perfection, landing just short of the mark.

Regardless of their drawbacks, both versions of SketchBook for iOS are fantastically capable apps for drawing on your iPad; but before you choose which is best for you, stay tuned for Part Two of our series for more recommendations on the Best Drawing Apps available for the iPad.

~J. Conboy