iPad drawing apps for comics

by Amelia on May 6, 2010

Sketch for moods of Kevin

I’ve tried four or five apps that you could conceivably think of as drawing or sketching apps for the iPad, all using your finger of course for drawing directly on the surface. These were the most userful:

  • Color&Draw for Children
  • Penultimate
  • Layers Pro
  • Ideate from Effective UI

Read on for quick takes these, and find out which is my favorite for drawing user comics, including angry, happy, and green pastey faces.



My first discovery was Color&Draw for Children from Tipitap Apps. It was fun, and got me started—and rapidly addicted to the fun of seeing digital drawings emerge so effortlessly. Of course I’m not the intended audience, but it’s clearly fun for children. For what I wanted to be able to use sketches on the iPad professionally, the line quality was not smooth enough in defining curves, which is what drove me to look elsewhere pretty quickly.


Penultimate sketch

Next, I was fortunate to discover Penultimate from Cocoa Box Design. This is still one of my favorite uses for the iPad, especially for making concept drawings, the kind of quick things I like to do in meetings as we’re talking thru concepts or when I just wanting to document an idea… it’s the best. However, for actual drawing of characters, and sketching that I might import into other applications, it’s not ideal. Although it produces some of the most fluid and natural lines of any of these applications, it’s limited to one line weight. The biggest issue tho is the ease of export. As far as I can tell, it either exports as a pdf of the entire notebook (Penultimate creates notebooks, rather than individual drawings, which is also very handy for concepting rapidly), or you can email individual pages as PNGs. The emailed PNGs give you a white background with a clean white line, but a pdf or screen capture gives you the ivory background of the Penultimate notebook, and there’s no way to bring images directly into your iPhoto collection as there is with other apps.


Layers Pro sketch

Layers Pro is by far my favorite both for the pleasure of drawing and the quality of result. What makes it so much fun? Control over line quality, variety of settings, opacity control, immediate export to iPhoto, full range color palette, lots of control through layers. Take a look at their website for details.

The downsides are no remembered presets for colors or brushes, so you need to manually do that each time. If you’re doing simple comics, like I am, this is not a problem, but if you wanted to do something more complex it might be a major pain. But I figure the iPad, at least for now and for me, is about relatively lightweight creative work and the opportunity to capture ideas spontaneously.

My workflow is to use the same pen almost all the time, at a smaller size than the 20 pixel preset, 13-16, and draw in black first. Then I’ll capture what I have in black and white to iPhoto, I might actually do that a couple of times as I’m working so I don’t lose anything. Color I’ve been adding on a transparent layer under the black drawing, semi transparent usually, for somewhat of a watercolor feel. And recapture in color if the results look good.


A couple of friends had recommended Ideate. So I’ve tried it out a bit today, and will certainly end up using it in some ways, tho likely not for comics. There are some unique tools… browser templates to mock up UI ideas within, models to put clothes on, and other types of templates and visual elements to build on. But on all of these, the line quality of the actual drawing is almost as clunky as Color&Draw… the lines don’t naturally smooth even if you draw very slowly, so the drawing remains more digital in feeling than either Penultimate’s lines or Layers Pro. Maybe the next release will fix this, I hope so!

If you’ve found any other apps for drawing simple comics and cartoons, interested to hear.


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