8 iPad Apps for Sketching Interfaces

Paper, Concepts, Linea, Comp, Forge, Sketches, Procreate, Photoshop

The iPad with the Apple Pencil makes a great pair for sketching out interface ideas. There are a lot of apps with differences in how they approach the task of drawing. Some (Paper, Linea, Forge) are very basic and focused. Others allow for more flexibility (Concepts, Comp, Procreate).

For me, Paper by 53 struck the right balance for doing fast, low fidelity sketches.


FourApps for Designing Interfaces

There are a four apps that have features for interface design. First up is Paper, a beautifully designed app for quickly sketching low-fi ideas. Concepts is a feature rich app for detailed technical drawing. Linea is the newest on the block and stays most authentic to drawing on paper with few features. Finally Adobe Comp allows for very high fidelity sketching, but hasn’t been updated in a while.


From left: Paper by Fifty Three icon, Design organisation screen, Editing screen

Paper

Best Used For: Quickly Sketching Ideas

Paper is focused on low fidelity sketching. It doesn’t have a heavy feature set, but the ones it has are implemented well. It has the fastest (if least accurate) method for creating shapes and straight lines.

It also has great default styles and colour palettes, which make your quick sketches presentable. It you’re looking to do high-fidelity sketching Paper is not for you, but it excels at generating and sharing ideas quickly.


From left: Concepts icon, Design organisation screen, Editing screen

Concepts

Best Used For: Higher fidelity sketches

Concepts is similar in purpose to Paper, but much more feature rich. Unfortunately, in my experience, all of the added features slows down the sketching process. For example, to draw a square in Concepts you select the square tool, edit with the size and position of the square, then trace it. It’s great for accuracy, but poor for speed.


Linea

Best Used For: People who like free-hand drawing.

Linea really seems focused on being the best and most authentic to paper drawing app. ‘Best’ because you can choose different background grids (including app development templates) and paper textures. ‘Most authentic’ because it doesn’t have any of the quick shape features found in other apps. For example, if you need to draw a straight line you need a physical ruler. This makes it really fast to pick up and get started, and the grids mean you can get surprisingly nice sketches.


From left: Adobe Comp icon, Design organisation screen, Editing screen

Adobe Comp

Best Used For: High Fidelity Design

Note: Comp hasn’t been updated in 6 months, so it may no longer be actively maintained.

Khoi Vinh, one of the loudest iPad champions helped design Comp. The app has some great ideas. It’s heavily based on gestures which makes the initial layout quick. In just a few swipes you can have a basic website laid out. It also allows for a surprisingly high level of fidelity in mocks.

Where it breaks down is in sketching complicated apps. Drawing lots of buttons or tables becomes tedious. Also, there’s no way to collect the art boards, so creating multiple screens for a single app is inconvenient


Four(ish) More Apps for Drawing

There are also a bunch of apps for drawings and creating art. Some of them have some nice tools that can be used for creating UIs, but none of them proved ideal.

From left: Forge icon, Design organisation screen, Editing screen

Forge

Best Used For: Annotating images

Forge has really nice document organisation — It has projects, and then you can layout files within. This makes finding the file you want super easy. From there it’s drawing tools are nice, but limited. There are 6 different types of brushes, all of which are really well implemented. However, it lacks any quick shapes building or grids. It seems targeted at annotating existing images.


Tayasui Sketches

Best Used For: Low Fidelity Sketching, but with more features than Paper

Tayasui Sketches was recommended to me by a friend who does a lot of sketching. It has a nice selection of tools with more control over each of them than Paper, though less than concepts. It has a fast method for doing straight lines. Dealing with the shapes, however, is kind of slow. I also haven’t yet figured out if there’s a way to give them an outline.


From left: Procreate icon, Design organisation screen, Editing screen

Procreate

Best Used For: Art drawing, from low to high fidelity.

This is a popular app focused on drawing. My friend James took the iPad for a spin, and drew a sketch (above) that looked just like it had been done on real paper. The app is great for it’s flexibility in types of drawing tools (pens, pencils, brushes, etc) and how much they can be customised. However, it lacks anything that would make it more useful for UI design specifically.


From left: Adobe Photoshop Sketch icon, Design organisation screen, Editing screen

Photoshop Sketch & Illustrator Draw

Best Used For: Sketching

These two apps have very similar UIs, the main difference seems to be in the brushes that are available. Illustrator has much more flat colour brushes. Photoshop’s are more natural, including an amazing (and hypnotic) watercolour brush.


Summary


There are so many different apps to try. Let me know if you have a favourite! And if you like this review, give it some 💚

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