As tablets have advanced, many artists such as you or me are turning to the best Android tablets and phones out there as their weapon of choice for making digital artworks. Key to that is, of course, a great app to express yourself through. With so many out there though, how do you choose the right one? Well, hopefully, I can narrow down the choices a bit for you and share what I think are some of the best drawing apps available for your Android device.
These are some important features and factors to look out for when you are choosing a drawing app:
- pressure responsiveness
- a wide range of brushes and tools
- being able to customize brushes or create your own
- being able to work with multiple layers
- layer blending modes such as multiply, overlay, color dodge, burn etc.
- touch gestures and/or keyboard shortcuts
- bonus: built-in timelapse recording is a plus
The price of an app is often going to be a deciding factor too, especially if you are a beginner just getting started. Thankfully, each app here is either completely free, partially free, or it gives you a decent trial period of the full version, so you can test for yourself what works best for you.
In case you are wondering, these apps were all tested on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. Released in the middle of 2020, it still holds up as a very competent little tablet for digital art today, and is great value for money.
With all that out of the way, let’s dive into the apps.
Originally developed by Autodesk, Sketchbook has become quite a popular choice for many. It’s been my go-to drawing app on my phone for a while because of its clean, uncluttered, and easy-to-navigate interface. If this was your preferred app on your computer, you’ll be right at home using it on your mobile device too.
- great pressure responsiveness
- huge assortment of brushes that can be customized
- easy-to-find timelapse capture feature
- symmetry and perspective tools
- reasonable maximum layer count (10 layers for 6000 x 4500px canvases)
- finger gestures didn’t really work beyond pinch to zoom and rotate
- DPI (dots per inch) is fixed (usually 72 DPI)
Price: 100% free.
If you are looking for something that gives a similar drawing experience and feature packet as the iPad painting powerhouse Procreate, then this is one you definitely want to check out. It has a great selection of textured brushes that emulate traditional media, so if you are more of a painter, then I highly recommend Infinite Painter as one of the best drawing apps for Android.
- a wide range of brushes
- advanced brush engine for customizing and creating brushes
- pressure and tilt sensitivity
- lasso fill tool
- touch gestures
- includes timelapse capture
- brushes can interact realistically with an added paper texture
- Lack of keyboard shortcuts (but really not needed for this app)
Price: $10, but there’s a 7-day free full-access trial.
Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint is packed with features and has quickly become a popular alternative to Adobe’s Photoshop on PC. It has a really fair price for such an advanced piece of software, and is a great option for comic creators and even animators as well.
On tablets you’ll be getting the full package too.
- comic layout and panel tools
- great pressure and tilt recognition
- huge online asset library
- perspective tools
- multiple layers and blend modes
- touch gestures and keyboard support
- cross-platform cloud storage
- animation capabilities
- very busy interface that might be intimidating for newbies (but plenty of official tutorials to guide you, and an active community adding more of their own)
Price: $1/m for phone, $5/m for tablet version, or one hour free each day.
You can get a 6-month free full-feature trial from the Galaxy Store though.
MediBang is another popular free option, particularly with new comic artists. Like Clip Studio Paint, it also has a large asset library to pull from. You can back up your work on the cloud and access it on your computer later as well. The mobile version is a little different from the desktop release. It’s better adapted for small screens but still packed with tools.
- touch gestures include double-tap to undo
- big online asset library
- comic panel and layout tools
- good pressure recognition
- can work on canvases at 300 DPI
- no timelapse recording feature here
- no keyboard support
- pressure sensitivity not active by default after installing
Price: Free with ads. Starting at $3/m you gain additional features, increased cloud storage, and an ad-free experience.
Free, open-source, and rich in features, Krita is a well-loved digital art app. Designed primarily for computers, it has now been ported over to Android, as is, in its entirety for tablet users. As such, it’s better suited to working with a keyboard connected, allowing you to activate and switch between tools with keyboard shortcuts rather than touch gestures.
It’s still in early access beta, but so far it works exactly as I’d expect from the desktop version, and is also available for ChromeOS.
- plenty of features and tools
- good brush engines
- supports most file types including PSD
- animation tools
- unlimited undo
- keyboard shortcut support
- not quite fully optimized for tablets yet
- limited touch gestures (zoom, rotate, and pan)
- palm rejection isn’t great
Price: 100% free.
ArtFlow is another great app that doesn’t immediately bombard you with features in a busy interface. For that reason, it’s one I’m inclined to recommend for beginners and hobbyists. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lacking the tools more advanced users will enjoy.
- timelapse recording
- multiple layers
- layer blend modes
- uncluttered and straightforward interface
- decent max canvas size at 300 DPI (13 layers at 6000 x 4500px)
- keyboard shortcuts
- can flip interface layout with left or right-handed mode
- full version temporarily activated by watching an ad
- limited layer count in the free version
- limited touch gestures beyond pinch to zoom
- did experience a few crashes while testing
- no auto saving
Price: Free, $6 one-off payment for the Pro version.
There aren’t many decent drawing apps that offer an infinite canvas. That’s what makes Concepts a great app for generating ideas and having them spread out over a single page. Think mind-mapping where Pinterest meets your actual sketchbook, so you can insert images, draw around them and make notes. With its full Copic color wheel, it feels like this was made with designers in mind.
- that infinite canvas
- import images from your gallery or browser
- full Copic color palettes
- funky exploding color wheel
- vector drawing
- cross-platform subscription
- various purchase options to suit your needs
- customizable touch gestures
- limited layer count in free version
- no layer blending modes
- can’t customize brushes
- no timelapse recording
Price: Free, $5/m full-feature subscription, $16 one-off for the Essentials pack, various other one-off purchase options.
Notable mention: Magma Studio
Do you want to collaborate on drawings with your friends? Launched at Lightbox Expo in 2019, Magma Studio is a browser-based drawing app rather than a downloadable one. As such, you don’t get the range of tools that you would with something like Clip Studio Paint, but Magma Studio has something else quite unique: the shared canvas. You can host a canvas and invite your friends from all over the world to draw on it with you.
- shared canvas for up to 30 people
- great for drawing jams when paired with Discord
- access inactive drawings for up to 30 days on the free version
- browser-based so any device can access it
- great pressure recognition
- some touch gestures (pinch to zoom, rotate, pan, two-finger undo)
- only the most basic brushes (round, square, hard, soft) on the free version
Price: Free. The $10/m Pro version gets you added features like textured brushes, larger canvas options, and unlimited cloud storage.
Personal favorite: Infinite Painter
Infinite Painter gives me the closest user experience to Procreate on the iPad, and feels equally powerful. Its minimal interface makes it a great option for both phones and tablets.
Best for tablets: Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint is packed with features and quite a loaded interface, so it’s better suited for the larger screens on tablets and Chromebooks. You’ll be quite comfortable using this as a straight fingers-and pen app, but you can also connect a keyboard and have at it just like you would on a desktop computer.
Best for phones: ArtFlow
ArtFlow’s interface is wonderfully minimal, giving you the option to completely hide all the toolbars and have the full screen area to focus on your drawing. A double-tap to undo gesture is all that’s really missing here.
Often when people ask about finding a standalone device for digital art, it’s the iPad with Procreate that gets recommended. There’s a good reason for that, and I’m an enthusiastic Procreate user myself. It’s neat and intuitive design has made it accessible to beginners while still having a ton of advanced features packed in for more skilled users. It really isn’t the only option now though, and I’m quite excited by what’s available for Android. Samsung’s Galaxy S-series tablets with the included S-Pen in particular have become strong competitors, and whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, there are some great apps available for you to produce high quality work.
Plus, the end of ad targeting in kid-friendly apps
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