The best Apple Pencil-optimised apps for iPad Pro and iPad 9.7 (2018)


So, you got your hands on the new 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support and are looking for some great apps to break that Pencil in? Or maybe you are a long-time iPad Pro user and are looking for some new experiences that make good use of the Apple Pencil? Either way, what we have for you today is a list of our favorite apps to use with the Apple pencil! It is by no means a complete list, but it contains all of the highlights that we've experienced while scribbling and doodling away on the new iPad!

We are including both productivity- and creativity-oriented apps in our list, although let's face it — the creative applications of the Apple Pencil far outweigh its productive aspects (in yours truly's opinion)! Some people may simply want to jot down notes with it, but for the creative types out there, the Apple Pencil is so, so much more than that. It is a, well, it's a pencil, but it's also a digital brush, a digital piece of charcoal, or whatever else you want it to be, as long as the app you're using supports it. The creative applications are practically boundless. So, let's take a look at a number of iPad apps that make great use of the Apple Pencil:

MediBang Paint

Free



MediBang Paint is a free painting app that makes great use of the Apple Pencil. Upon opening the app for the first time, you'll be met with a walkthrough on how to get around its rather intimidating, but very future-rich, interface, and my advice would be to pay attention. MediBang's interface is not all that complicated to use, although it is a far cry from SketchBook's minimalist aesthetic, so it may take a bit of getting used to. But on the other hand, it also grants you more creative freedom with its plentiful tool set and heaps of options to choose from. With over 100 brushes and other tools, and over 850 backgrounds and textures to use in your creations, if versatility is your end goal, then MediBang Paint is sure to deliver.

Using the Apple Pencil in MediBang Paint feels fluid and responsive, especially when painting, with brushes leaving pleasing, colorful strokes atop the digital canvas. As can be expected, MediBang Paint supports layers, cloud syncing, and much more, but some of the features require that you create a MediBang account (which is free).

Adobe Illustrator Draw

Free / requires Adobe CC subscription for some features



It is tough picking only one from Adobe's excellent suit of creativity apps for mobile devices. Photoshop Express and Lightroom CC work alright, but if we're talking great, Apple-Pencil-driven experiences, then Adobe Illustrator Draw is near the top. It's an amazingly versatile tool that lets you do vector drawings on the go, which you can then share between Illustrator/Photoshop CC on your PC or laptop!

Adobe Illustrator Draw boasts comprehensive layer management system (as far as mobile apps go), with support for renaming, duplicating, merging, and adjusting each individual layer. And then there's the mind-blowing 64x zoom for really getting into the nitty gritty of it (although there's no real grit when working with Illustrator's pristine vectors), and the ability to send an editable native file to Illustrator or a PSD file to Photoshop that will automatically open on your desktop, which is just a godsend.

Of course, if you are an Adobe CC subscriber, there's a ton of other stuff to get into, such as the Creative Cloud assets library and cross-platform sync, but we'll leave these to the side for now.

Procreate 4

$9.99 / offers in-app purchases



Procreate 4 has to be the best drawing app for pros out on the iPad. As such, it is also a paid one, but it makes such good use of the Apple Pencil, and is chock-full of features, that the asking price of $9.99 is completely justified. Procreate has to be the app that gets the closest to using the desktop version of Photoshop, drawing tools-wise. It allows for a huge number of layers in each project, brushes can be fully customized and saved as custom presets, and there's neat gesture-based interface to top it all off. You can tap with two fingers for "Undo", or tap with three fingers to "Redo". Simple, yes, but it's much more convenient than tapping a button, once you get used to it.

Furthermore, Procreate 4 also allows you to export your creations in a number of different file formats, such as PSD, PNG, JPG, or the proprietary Procreate format, and in massive resolutions of up to 16K pixels on the long side. It is truly a serious tool for creative professionals, but can also be enjoyed by hobbyists.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch

Free / offers in-app purchases



Photoshop Sketch is the other Adobe app on this list that makes great use of the Apple Pencil. It's not quite up to par with Procreate in terms of tool set and abilities, but it's a good free alternative. Photoshop Sketch has a commendable number of bursh presets available, and they all use the Pencil's tilt and pressure detection to produce unique results, and it also supports layers and has the ability to export your creations in a number of different file formats and resolutions.

If you're already in the Adobe ecosystem, Sketch becomes an even more enticing product, as it allows users to export layered PSD files to your Mac or PC via Adobe Cloud and have them automatically load in the desktop version of Photoshop.

Affinity Photo

$19.99




Affinity Photo has been growing in popularity on Mac and PC as an answer to Adobe's subscription-based Photoshop hegemony. It's a one-off payment and you get the full package. Affinity Photo on the iPad is no less impressive than its desktop counterpart. It was used by Apple to demo the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil, so that should tell you something.

This is just one of the best photo editing apps on iPad. Period. It's great with even just your finger, but the Apple Pencil really makes it a special experience by adding pressure and tilt recognition into the mix. Watch the video above to get a better idea of just some of the features that the app has to offer.

Affinity Photo is primarily geared towered professionals, and as such it supports RAW photo editing, PSD workflows, and cloud sync between devices, but it can also be enjoyed by photography enthusiasts who are looking for an extremely capable and versatile editing tool for on-the-go use.

uMake

Free / offers in-app purchases



uMake is one of the few apps on the Apple Store that allow users to easily create 3D models from 2D images. It is capable enough as a mobile 3D editor, but is also pretty toward beginners with its many elaborate tutorials on how to work in 3D. Of course, if you feel so inclined, you can skip the 2D portion entirely and jump into the third dimension from the get-go.

There's a number of interesting tools in uMake, such as the symmetry tool, which allows you to effortlessly draw perfect, symmetrical shapes, and the line smoothing tool, which, as the name implies, smooths out any jagged lines. What's more, you can also export your creations into 3D printer-friendly formats!

Basically, if you're looking to get into 3D modelling, but the big, dedicated programs are too intimidating for you at this stage, uMake is an awesome alternative on the iPad, that's made even better by its full support for the Apple Pencil.

Bamboo Paper

Free / offers in-app purchases



Bamboo Paper is one of the most comprehensive digital notebooks that you'll find on tablets and smartphones, and it comes straight from the masterminds at Wacom. It's really a lot more than just a note-taking app, this one. It definitely is inclined more toward the productivity side of the spectrum, as far as this list is concerned, but Bamboo Paper allows for plenty of creativity as well. Think of it not as a simple note-taking app, but more as a digital album where you visually express ideas with ink and paint, annotate concepts with photos, and a lot more.

If you're looking for a cross-platform notebook app with cloud synch and all the bells and whistles, look no further than Wacom's Bamboo Paper.

Bear

Free / offers in-app purchases



Bear is, hands down, one of the most accomplished note-taking apps on iOS. It makes great use of all available features, looks great, and offers a deep tool set for note-taking. Bear also supports sketching, which means that you can use the Apple Pencil to write over images or jot down notes from scratch.

Listing all of Bear's features would be pointless, as we are sure to miss some. The app has an advanced markup editor that supports and highlights over 20 programming languages, it has Cross-Note Links to quickly reference other notes, one-tap formatting with a custom shortcuts bar, hashtags for easily finding notes by keyword, and much, much more.

If you want the best note-taking app on iOS, Apple Pencil or not, Bear fits the description like a glove.

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3 Comments

1. bucky

Posts: 3790; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Don’t forget about the MS office suite! Super handy.

2. drunkenjay

Posts: 1697; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

good news for me as my new ipad is coming in a few days with the pencil free.

3. Krjal

Posts: 431; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

While I don't use it on ipad Affinity Photo is amazing. I'm I'm the process of switching from Photoshop and illustrator to affinity photo and designer at the moment.

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