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Art Apps Showcase 2020

| October 21, 2020 | 0 Comments
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Art Apps Showcase

Our art apps showcase opens with these fifteen entries, and will expand over time.  If you have a favorite art-related app that should be listed here then let us know! The list inclues some of the top drawing and painting apps for creating iPhone and iPad art, and some amazing generative/interactive apps that may be considered art in their own right.  Some were originally designed for iPhone, others were adapted for iPhone from other software.

Of course we can expect a flood of new iPad art apps in the coming months–in fact it’s already well under way. SketchBook Pro for iPad and Brushes for iPad, appeared last week with expanded “big screen” feature sets and higher download prices than previous mobile versions.

These are just the apps, but ArtCulture will be featuring a new iPad art gallery soon. Want to see yours included? Send it to us at ipadart [at]

Drawing and Painting Apps for Artists

SketchBook Pro for iPad and SketchBook Mobile

Autodesk Inc.

SketchBook Pro for iPad

Many iPhone painters who started out with the popular Brushes app have come to prefer SketchBook Mobile for its easier-to-use interface and pencil tool (which Brushes lacks). Now with the advent of the iPad, the just-released SketchBook Pro for iPad stands poised to become the top ranking artists’ app bar none. (Autodesk reports 10,000 downloads in the first five days.) The new iPad version of SketchBook Pro comes loaded with more brushes and tool options, and new “big screen” features for easy tool selection, drawing and editing. Draw with finger-controlled brushes or use the optional Pogo stylus.


Brushes Mobile Painting


Both Brushes and SketchBook Pro for iPad were released on April 1. While SketchBook Pro has drawn mostly rave reviews, the initial reaction to the Brushes iPad app has been a bit mixed. A number of users have been disappointed by its lack of a photo import feature, present in other apps including SketchBook Pro and Layers. Still, Brushes remains the best known art app out there thanks to publicity generated by Jorge Colombo’s New Yorker covers and David Hockney’s thumb-painted iPhone art. For finger painting purists it’s the one, and the larger iPad screen will make it a lot easier to use.


Colors! app


Colors! is another art app contender. While it lacks the “professional” aura of SketchBook Pro and the “serious artist” credentials of Brushes, Colors is a likable app that’s a little easier to use and a little less expensive than its main competition.  Download paintings from the gallery and then watch how they were created, step by step.


Layers for iPhone


With earlier minor bugs ironed out and new features added, version 2.1 of Layers has become one of the best painting apps available. You can import photos, paint with 10 natural media brushes, apply a variety of tools including smudge with adjustable texture, and export your drawing as a multi-layered Photoshop document.




Inspire is another great painting app that has earned a devoted following. It’s extremely versatile with multiple brush types and sizes and great blending effects with dry and wet paint.


Vellum app


While other apps aim to impress with their rich array of features (many of which you will never need or use), Vellum strives for simplicity. If you want to give your iPhone or iPod Touch the functionality of a sketchbook and charcoal pencil, this is the app for you.

Interactive Art Apps

Arcs 21



Arcs 21 is a digital art project by net art pioneer Lia, and is currently featured at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “Decode: Digital Design Sensations” exhibition.  The Arcs 21 app is an interactive version. Its bold, complicated, swirly designs on a white background are captivating.


Sideways Mobile

Reflect 1

Joshua Davis is a pioneering visual artist and technologist known for his original method of computational, generative-art known as Dynamic Abstraction.  He won the 2001 Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in the category “Net Excellence”, the highest honor in international digital art and design.  His Reflect app lets users employ Davis’s design principles, generating unexpected and often beautiful compositions from a set array of shapes, colors and randomization algorithms.

Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas

MSA Visuals


This is the app version of the famous site, a net art work built by Miltos Menetas in 2003. The Jackson Pollock app lets you do things you can’t do on the online version, like control the direction of the drip by rotating the device. This popular app received new fame when Steve Jobs highlighted it as an ideal app for the new iPad. It’s fun if nothing else.


Tale of Tales


Vanitas references 16th and 17th-century still life paintings, presenting a changing series of allegorical reminders of the fleetingness of life–and isn’t that just what every iPhone user needs? A series of viewing boxes display beautifully rendered 3D objects–skulls, leaves, locks, dice, flowers–in random combinations. Some change state: a flower blooms, or a bubble pops. The scene changes again, a cello sounds, and a quote from Rimbaud or Nietzsche appears. All is vanity.




Graphic artist Glenn Marshall received an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica 2009 for his work on the Peter Gabriel music video “The Nest That Sailed the Sky”. The same animation technology that generated the video’s sprouting, organic imagery is used in Marshall’s Zio app. Described as a therapeutic aquarium, a sophisticated eco-graphic design tool and a zen garden in your pocket. The full toolset costs extra.

FragMental Storm


FragMental Storm

FragMental Storm turns search into cut-up art. The software has been through several versions since its first appearance in 2000, and the iPhone app should bring it some new attention. Just enter any search term and FranMental Storm throws back results in a flashing, fast-cutting disjointed collage of text and imagery.  Always unique and surprising.


Tiny Wonder Studios

Pixi is one of the most robust and most fun of the growing list of entertainment art apps. It’s spirograph-like images are intriguing and complex, and there’s more user control and less randomness in Pixi than in some of its competitors.




Artisan is a trippy art-spinning app. Let the moving brushes do their own thing, or control them if that’s just how you are. Kind of interesting, kind of not, it depends…



iWalllFlower App

We love the concept of iWallFlower, although bugs in the most recent version have led to a lot of negative reviews. The makers describe the iWallFlower “World Art Project” as “emotional networking”, by means of real time sharing of doodles and drawings.  The website gives you an idea of how it works. It also says the app can still be downloaded for free from the iTunes Store, while the iTunes Store charges $0.99.  Here’s hoping this flower can get its act together and bloom.

Our art apps showcase opens with these fifteen entries, and will expand over time. 

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