Common Sense


Painting and Drawing Apps

Artists, from amateurs to pros, are starting to see the value in using tablets and phones to sketch, draw, and paint. What mobile devices sacrifice in tactility they make up for in flexibility: zoom for nailing fine details, huge color palettes, and tons of different options for pens and brushes. And of course, students can stuff them in their backpack just like a sketchpad. These awesome painting and drawing apps -- our current favorites -- are curated for both younger and older students. For young students, there are more stripped-down but highly engaging options that make art accessible via the freedom of gesture and touch-based interaction. For older students, there are pro-grade apps with deep customizability and functionality that will let them produce artwork perfect for their portfolio. 

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Top Picks


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Draw and Tell - by Duck Duck Moose

Kids' drawings come alive with stickers, color, and voice recordings

Bottom line: Lots of art tools and voice recording help kids unleash their visual and verbal storytelling.

Musical Paint for Kids

Create digital drawings, explore musical tones

Bottom line: With appropriate teacher guidance, this can be an engaging if limited creative experience for pre-K-grade 2 students that cleverly mixes drawing and music creation.

Zen Studio: finger painting to relax & focus

Musically accompanied drawing is zen, but grid can limit freedom

Bottom line: The music is a nice touch, even though the drawing tool isn't particularly sophisticated; however, the free content makes it worth a look.

Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch

Charming digital creation tool with fun prompts and a bit of magic

Bottom line: Guided creative expression can prompt and inspire kids to think and explore in new and unique ways.

Paper by FiftyThree

Beautifully designed digital sketchbook for any age

Bottom line: The simplicity and effectiveness of the app make this a powerful sketch and note-taking tool for the iPad.

Sketchbook Express

Creation tools hook kids, connect them with global community of artists

Bottom line: Solid resource encourages students to get creative in the classroom.

Sketch Guru - Handy Sketch Pad

Ignore the ads to easily create and share sketches

Bottom line: Easy tools and technology make a good artistic learning tool, despite the ads.

Brushes 3

Versatile, simple art app for many skill levels

Bottom line: Brushes 3 looks deceptively simple, but it's actually a sophisticated tool that can help students express their creativity.


Impressive, easy-to-use tool for creating and editing images

Bottom line: Sumopaint can spark students’ creativity, encourage them to be artistic, and provide them with new, image-related tech skills.

Autodesk Sketchbook

Impressive creation tool for teens serious about art

Bottom line: Gives students easy access to professional tools for creating digital art.


Outstanding art tool supports the workflow of seasoned digital painters

Bottom line: For iPads, this is a best-in-class tool with enough pro-level features and technology, and some nice support resources.

ArtStudio - Draw, Paint and Edit Photo

Easy, amazing art with high-quality lessons, creation, and sharing

Bottom line: ArtStudio provides exciting digital tools and helpful information for high school artists.

Grafio 3 - Diagrams & ideas

Flexible app transforms sketches into pro-level designs and diagrams

Bottom line: A terrific choice for creating simple diagrams or presentations on iOS.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

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