One of the app families for iPad that are having more success, destined to become one of our primary digital tools, are the sketch and drawing apps. In this article, I compare the seven main free applications and, on this basis, I propose the perfect app.

Within this category of apps, there is a wide variety. So while some of them specialize in being a simple notepad, others are quite advanced drawing tools. However, they all have the same basic structure and differ only by a few details that distinguish them.

Keeping to my style of prioritizing free tools, I’ve tested seven free sketch and drawing apps for iPad: Paper, Bamboo Paper, Doodle Paper, My Sketch Paper, Penultimate, Sketches and Adobe Ideas (although some of them have in-app purchase additional tools).

From the analysis of all them, I’ve devised the perfect free sketch and drawing app, which I present below. Who will dare to make it a reality?

  1. Fountain pen and watercolor brush from Paper, bold maker from Bamboo Paper, pencil from Doodle Paper and fill tool from Adobe Idea.
  2. Eraser from Bamboo Paper.
  3. Color palette, eyedropper and toolbar from Adobe Idea.
  4. Simplicity from Penultimate.
  5. No finger commands for undo/redo, turning the page or going to the menu (avoid the Paper and Sketches commands).
  6. Exporting drawings with the option of transparent background, like Paper.
  7. Adding images from the device, like all the apps except Paper.
  8. Duplicating pages, like My Sketch Paper, Sketches and Adobe Idea
  9. Selecting and area of the page and move it, like Penultimate and Adobe Idea
  10. Working with layers, like Adobe Idea (with some modifications)

Finally, here comes my analysis of some of best free sketch and drawing apps, with the major strengths and shortcomings of each of them.

Paper (FiftyThree)

  • The best:
    • Its simplicity and usability
    • It has the best brushes, along with Sketches
    • Drawings can be saved without background
  • The worst:
    • You cannot import images from your device
    • The finger commands lead to mistakes (specially the undo command)

Bamboo Paper (Wacom)

  • The best:
    • The bold maker is a real jewel
    • A very good eraser, along with Penultimate
  • The worst:
    • It supports different paper types, but it’s the same for all the pages

Doodle Paper HD (Jin Jeon)

doodle paper

  • The best:
    • The best pencil of all the apps
    • The background of each page can be changed
  • The worst:
    • It has the worst drawing tools, along with My Sketch Paper
    • It has the worst eraser

My Sketch Paper (effectmatrix)

  • The best:
    • Pages can be duplicated
    • It supports text input, something very useful as writing is never easy with this kind of apps.
  • The worst:
    • Drawing tools with an unnatural line
    • Its advanced brush system is too advanced. It allows adjusting transparency, pressure and hardness, but it’s too complex and confusing.
    • A really bad eraser

Penultimate (Evernote)

  • The best:
    • Really simple. It has only one drawing tool. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a handicap, since Penultimate is focused on notes.
    • The Cut/Copy & Paste tool allows you to select specific areas of the page and then paste elsewhere
  • The worst: Nothing

Sketches (Tayasui)

  • The best:
    • The best drawing tools, along with Paper
    • It allows to fill areas, adding different textures
  • The worst:
    • To import images you have to purchase an additional tool. What’s the point of paying for a feature supported for free by the other apps?
    • Undoubtedly, Sketches is the most complicated drawing app. Wanting to remove the commands to simplify the screen, they have added a long list of confusing finger commands.

Adobe Ideas

  • The best:
    • Simple, with very good drawing tools.
    • The Cut/Copy & Paste tool
    • It works with layers
    • The color picker
  • The worst:
    • Only one image can be imported and it always goes to the background
    • Although it works with layers, you cannot modify layers size individually