Shop Talk

10 Apps for Creating and Discovering Art and Design


If you’re looking for a tool to help you record ideas, create some great finished art or learn more about your favorite artists, it’s now easier than ever with these clever, engaging apps.

1. Brushes

Brushes has managed to chalk up some serious credibility. It’s David Hockney’s painting app of choice and The New Yorker has run two covers featuring art created using the app. Brushes gives you access to a large variety of features without compromising on simplicity. It features all the essentials including layers, a generous undo stack, the ability to record your actions while painting and a hefty zoom function that enables you to get great detail on larger files.

Art by Goro Fujita, Xoan Baltar and David Kassan

2. Paper

The people at FiftyThree introduce Paper with two words: simply beautiful. Watch the video introduction and if you’re not already an iPad owner, you’ll probably want to go out and buy one just to test this app out. Paper is an iPad version of your favorite sketchbook. In the first two weeks after launch it clocked up 1.5 million downloads. It’s simple and beautiful – and it’s free which makes it 14% more awesome.

3. Make Pixel Art

Available for the iPad, Mac and PC, Make Pixel Art is perfect for creating art inspired by video game graphics. There’s even a browser based version you can take for a test drive right now, without having to pay for a thing. Make Pixel Art is an enormous amount of fun and the perfect tool for creating avatars, characters and big pixel art.

4. Procreate

Procreate boasts a 1920 × 1408px HD canvas size (bigger than a Blu-ray movie apparently), 16 HD layers and 100 undo/redo states. It has an impressive 25 customisable settings for every brush and supports layered PSD, transparent PNG or JPEG. It is a beast of a thing in terms of bells and whistles and it’s made by people who call themselves Savage Interactive. Don’t let all of this frighten you. It’s nice and easy to use.

5. Frida’s World

Like sneaking into Muppets movies or ‘borrowing’ playdough from the under 5s, some things that are aimed at children are just as entertaining for adults. Frida’s World tells the story of the life of Frida Kahlo through beautiful illustration and great storytelling. The app also comes complete with a coloring book feature which gives little people (and not so little people) the opportunity to interact with the story.

6. Sktch

Somewhat more experimental, Sktch is a generative drawing tool that does away with the more traditional brush and pen tools. Our good friends at Wikipedia succinctly explain that “generative art refers to art that has been created with the use of an autonomous system”. Images are created using a number of presets, with some quite lovely results.

7. Street Art London and Street Art NYC

The Street Art London and Street Art NYC apps are part of the Geo Street Art Apps Project. They aim to help people locate street art within their cities, to provide insight into the global street art scene and teach people about the artists who create these artworks. It’s a great concept that encourages people to see their local environments from a different perspective. They plan to add more cites in the future (Paris is coming soon). If you know of a similar app for your city, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

8. ArtRage

ArtRage packs some serious punch in terms of replicating the experience of painting. Its creators describe is as “a live simulation of the properties of real paint”. From the crackling effect of dried pigment to the ability to blend ‘wet’ watercolors it’s a seriously painterly app and one worth taking for a test drive.

9. Adobe Ideas

Adobe Ideas allows you to create sketches in vector format, with up to 10 layers. It can be used for finished art or sketching out rough concepts and the app allows you to edit these in other Adobe software programs including Illustrator and Photoshop.

10. WURM

Another generative art app, WURM combines the movements of your fingers with algorithms to create beautiful, fluid patterns. The creators of WURM say “Do not think this is some fancy art app for the pros. There are no special filters here, no layers, no blending. If you can draw in the sand, you can draw in WURM”. Sounds like the perfect tool for creative play.

Have you taken any of these apps for a test drive? Do you have any recommendations for others not on this list? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below