Art Murmur: 10 free iPad drawing apps reviewed

The iPad is a beautiful tool with seemingly endless potential and millions of apps to choose from.

We’re aware of the game Draw Something, but what if you want to kick the artistic capacities of your device up several notches?

Sifting through search results can be a timely process, so I saved you the work. Here are the verdicts of 10 free artistic apps for the iPad, some of which offer incredible features for their price.


A Dave Mustaine painting created in Sketchbook Express. Photo by Alec Damiano.

1. SketchBook Express by Autodesk

This app offers 13 brushes and two erasers. It lets you control the opacity (transparency) of the brush. It also has a color mixer that lets you choose from an unlimited color palette and a color picker that makes matching hues in your painting easier. In addition, SketchBook Express gives you four line/shape tools, a symmetry tool, lets you move pieces around, lets you add text. Perhaps most impressively for a free app, it has a layers feature. It also lets you import photos from your Photo Library and export your work to social networks. Also, no ads!

Verdict: Okay


2. Draw by Orgajja

Draw has pop-up ads and a very limited palette with only ten colors to choose from (black, white, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, turquoise, orange, purple). It lets you change the size of the brush but not opacity, so blending colors is impossible. You can choose from nine background fill colors (the aforementioned colors minus black). You can also import photos from your Photo Library and export your work.

Verdict: Bad


3. Draw 4 Free by Indigo Penguin Limited

Draw 4 Free is only slightly better than Draw, offering 20 colors. There is also no opacity control, but it also lets you import photos and export your drawings.

Verdict: Bad


4. DrawCast by Daniel Cota

DrawCast offers a social networking component. You create an account, can follow other artists and search for paintings by keywords. A nice feature is being able to watch how paintings were created a la Draw Something. There is a limited color picker. The brush option lets you choose “brush strength” but not opacity. The blur tool is rather unremarkable.

Verdict: Good.


5. Paper by FiftyThree

Paper offers a beautiful and interactive user interface at first glance, offering you a choice between a sketchbook, instruction book, and idea book. After browsing through these realistic lovelies, I was rather disappointed to discover that Paper only offers a fountain pen and eraser for free. There are only seven colors in the palette, and you need to buy the other tools in their webstore. The blending pencil, marker, ink pen, watercolor brush, and color mixer are $1.99 each. The essentials kit—which does not include the mixer—is $6.99. You are able to test out these tools in a small demo, and they are incredibly realistic. But they’re not free. You can invest in flesh-and-blood supplies for a similar price.

Verdict: Good


Final verdict: SketchBook Express by Autodesk offers the most versatile and worthwhile experience for its (lack of) price. If the free version is this good, I can only imagine the paid version will give you a bang for your buck.


Next blog: five more free iPad drawing apps reviewed.


Do you know of any interesting art, entertainment or crafts you’d like me to cover? Tweet me at @DamianoAlec or email me at To see some of my artwork, click here.

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