Sketching with the Apple Pencil

There’s a lot of other folks out there sharing their opinions on the pencil and using it, quite a bit of it incredibly positive. I asked many of my friends what they had heard were “the apps” to use with a pencil, and this is pretty much the list.




Paper is probably the lightest of these apps, with a quickly accessed canvas with very obvious drawing controls. Of all the apps, it’s the least complex in terms of it’s features, but that very simplicity makes it super-fast to scribble something down, and with almost no learning curve.



Concepts feels like a designers tool. The tooling to choose what you’re working on is minimized compared to Paper, but very clear and consistent. It’s a relatively small pallet of quick tools, with a lot of support for some really lovely features including layers, touch selection of design elements, a precision mode that makes my graph-paper love jump for joy, and a minimalist clean interface that doesn’t distract from what you’re creating. The capability to select parts of your sketch and “adjust” them in amazing, and I think this is starting to be my go-to app for sketching technical diagrams (my insanely complex white-board replacement). The export options with the Pro Park are amazing, including exporting to SVG and DXF (Autocad). The “Pro Pack” in-app purchase unlocks a lot of those items, or makes them more useful – and at $6.99, it’s really a no brainer.

Adobe Sketch


Adobe’s mobile companion to their cloud offering requires an Adobe ID to use, and quickly provides a lot of nice functionality in return. It has a similar minimalist UI – perhaps a bit more invasive (or obvious depending on your point of view) than Concepts and again strives to get out of your way to get you scribbling, sketching and painting as quickly as possible. The “trace shapes” are a huge feature, easy to select, drop, move around, and then use with the pencil (or your finger) – and include french curves as well as the collection you might expect (circles, ellipses, lines, etc).



To my mind, the most powerful and complete of the tooling, focused ruthlessly on tools for really making art. Amazing features include layers, insanely complete pen and brush controls including options for air-brush effects and some crazy texturing, as well as active filters that can be applied. The application stays away from the “technical drawing” realm, but clearly doesn’t preclude it, it just feels much more like an application focused on art rather than technical drawing. It’s an Apple Design award winner, and with it selling for $5.99, it really feels like I’m stealing rather than purchasing this app.

Which should you get? Well, easy answer – ALL OF THEM. They’re all excellent, with amazing pencil support and all that comes with it. Getting fully stocked out versions of all of these is all of $14, which is just ludicrously inexpensive to be honest.

I’m sure I’ll be playing with all of these constantly this weekend, focusing probably a bit more right now on the “technical drawing” side of this equation than the art side, not that I won’t do silly little sketches throughout.




Published by heckj

Developer, author, and life-long student. Writes online at

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