How to Draw on the iPad: Your Guide to Getting Started

This is our quick start guide for how to draw on the iPad. If you’ve studied digital art or have a general interest in the idea of ​​drawing on your iPad, it can be a little tricky to know where to start.

In this guide, we’ll go over all the key things you need to know to start drawing on the iPad. We’re going to assume that most people who plan to draw on their iPad will do so using one of the two Apple Pencil options available. While there are some decent third-party styluses out there, as you can see in our guide to the best Apple Pencil alternatives, the Apple Pencil and Apple Pencil 2nd Gen are really the only choice if you’re serious about art. digital on the iPad.

High-end iPads are some of the best graphics tablets you can buy, while cheaper or older iPads are still great value for artists. iPads are also among the best drawing tablets for students and even the best drawing tablets for kids, so wherever you are in your artistic journey, an iPad is a great choice of graphics tablet. Here’s how to get the most out of yours.

How to draw on iPad: Set up your Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil 2 magnetically anchored to top band of iPad

The Pencil 2 easily attaches to the magnetic strip on the long edge of the iPad (Image credit: Apple)

Apple Pencils are not compatible with each other. Any iPad offering Pencil compatibility will only work with the original Apple Pencil or the newer Apple Pencil 2 – not both. For an up-to-date compatibility list and advice on which one you need, you can check out our Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 guide.

Before you can start drawing with your Apple Pencil, you need to pair it with your iPad. Luckily, no matter what version of the Apple Pencil you have, it’s very quick and easy to do.

How to connect Apple Pencil 2: To pair the new Apple Pencil 2 with a compatible iPad, simply connect the pencil to the magnetic connector on the right side of the iPad. Make sure Bluetooth is enabled in iPad settings. Connecting the Pencil 2 to this strip will also charge it.

Apple Pencil with the cap removed to reveal the Lightning connector

Removing the rounded cap will reveal the Pencil’s Lightning connector (Image credit: Apple)

How to connect Apple Pencil: To pair the original Apple Pencil with an iPad, remove the rounded cap on the end to reveal the Lightning connector. Plug it into your iPad’s Lightning port and you should see a “Pair” button flash on the screen. Tap it, and you’re good to go.

Drawing on the iPad: the apps you need

Front view of iPad showing sketches and drawings on Notes app

Simple sketches are easy to do in the Notes app, making it the perfect place to get used to the basics (Image credit: Apple)

There are many great iPad drawing apps out there, a mix of paid and free apps. We’ve rounded up some of our absolute favorites in our guide to the best drawing apps for iPad, so check it out if you need some inspiration.

One important thing to note, however, is that if you just want to start drawing, you already have everything you need. You can doodle easily on a default iOS app, like Notes or Pages, and still have a few different pens and colors to play with. There will be nowhere near the level of depth and functionality you get with dedicated drawing apps like Procreate, ArtRage or Affinity Designer, but as a place to get used to the feel and operation of the Apple Pencil is perfect.

Five of the best drawing apps for iPad:

  • Procreate – 2D and 3D paint app that delivers professional results.
  • Adobe Illustrator – Works great with Apple Pencil for 2D designs.
  • Linea Sketch – A free drawing app for iPad.
  • Affinity Designer – Almost unlimited tools for design, branding and art.
  • Autodesk Sketchbook – An accessible and easy application for artists.

Drawing on the iPad: Using Pressure Sensitivity

A photo of someone sharing how to draw on an iPad

You can use pressure sensitivity on an iPad to naturally draw thin and thick lines (Image credit: Onfokus/Getty)

One of the main features of the Apple Pencil is that it’s pressure sensitive – so take some time to get used to it. The only way to get used to how pressure sensitivity feels and works is through practice.

Load up your drawing app of choice, or just the basic Notes app, and spend some time experimenting with different levels of pressure. What are the thickest and thinnest lines you can draw – and how accurate can you get between the two? You want this to become an intuitive process, so that you have a clear idea of ​​the quality of lines that different pressure levels will produce.

Drawing on the iPad: Understanding Palm Rejection

One thing that can take a little getting used to when drawing on a tablet is the smart palm rejection technology. This feature allows you to rest your hand on the screen while drawing, which means you don’t have to do the annoying hand hover above the screen when drawing. This is something you’ll often see from new or inexperienced iPad artists, as they struggle to hold on to the idea that they can touch the iPad screen without affecting what’s on it. .

Get used to the palm rejection feature and remember that you really can treat your iPad screen like a piece of paper. It makes the experience so much easier and more intuitive, not to mention less tiring.

Drawing on the iPad: Practicing Tilt Sensitivity

Apple Pencil has sophisticated tilt sensitivity, giving you another tool in your toolbox to convey the thickness and character of your lines. iPad can detect the angle at which you’re holding your pencil and what part of the nib you’re using.

This means you can hold the pencil straight up to create an extremely thin line or hold it sideways to create much thicker strokes. A good way to get used to it is to load up a drawing app and experiment with shading – experiment with different tools and brushes to get an idea of ​​the kinds of effects you can create.

Drawing on iPad: Exercises with Apple Pencil

A close up of an Apple Pencil used to demonstrate how to draw on the iPad

Performing a few easy practice tasks will help you get used to drawing on the iPad (Image credit: Carol Yepes/Getty)

Every artist is different, and the best way to improve your drawing will differ for everyone. That said, here are some quicker Apple Pencil exercises that will help practically anyone improve their technique.

Drawing lines : Try to get into the habit of practicing your shots every day. Start a blank canvas in Notes or your drawing app of choice, and try drawing a series of horizontal lines, as close together as possible without touching. Do the same with the vertical lines, then the curved lines – and for an extra challenge, once you’re done, try going back and adding an extra set of lines between the ones you’ve already made. For variety, you can also try dashed lines, keeping the length of your dashes as consistent as possible.

Tracing and copying: One thing that’s great about the Apple Pencil is that it’s precise enough that you can actually use it to trace a sheet of paper on your iPad screen. Although this won’t work with a very thick piece of paper or card, any standard paper or something thinner should be fine – just lay it on your iPad screen and trace the lines with the pencil .

Plus, if you’re using an iPad with a big enough screen, you can also easily dedicate part of its display to an image you want to copy. Download an image of your choice, load it into Photos and place it on the left or right side of the screen, then load your drawing app to try to copy it.

Calligraphy: Calligraphy can be a great way to practice control and consistency in your Apple Pencil drawing, and it’s a good quick exercise you can do every day. Why not try loading one of your favorite fonts and see how well you can replicate it with the pencil?

Drawing on the iPad: the double-click of the Apple Pencil 2

Two iPads showing digital art with Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Malika Favre and Sarah Clifford for Apple)

If you’re using the more advanced 2nd generation Apple Pencil, don’t forget the secret weapon you have at your disposal: double tapping. While the original Pencil has no physical controls, the Pencil 2 lets you double-tap the flat edge to quickly switch between settings. Once you get used to remembering that you have this option, it can be very handy.

Here are the available settings for double-click:

  • Switch between the current tool and the eraser (this is what it will be set to by default).
  • Switch between the current tool and the previous tool.
  • Show color palette.
  • Do nothing (disable double-click).

As you can see, it’s really easy to start drawing with the iPad. You don’t need fancy apps or technical know-how – just your tablet, your pencil, and the willingness to try things out.

Using an iPad to draw is intuitive and natural. This means you can use common drawing theory, including our guide on how to draw animals, people and landscapes. Try using these traditional drawing methods with some of the apps we’ve recommended here and use the technology inside the iPad to produce stunning works of art.

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