THe complete product design sketching app for IPAD pro?

By: Anders Lilleby

There's a lot of sketching apps available out there. Some good, some not so much. Some for kids, some for the canvas painter. This review explores a selection of the best sketching apps for the product designer. Although I realize product designers isn't a completely homogeneous group, we do have some industry specific ways of doing things. The ultimate goal; Combining the endless possibilities for digital graphical acrobacy in programs like Adobe Photoshop or Sketchbook pro (desktop) , with the directness, feel and analog cleanliness of good old freehand drawing, a Prismacolor Verithin or a black Bic. This combination should give us higher quality in our illustrations, a better workflow and the ability to do high quality sketches everywhere. The apps are not there yet, but some are closer then others.



Concepts UI leaves most of your tools at hand at all times

Concepts is a vector based sketching app which boasts with accuracy and finesse. The interaction is in many respects good, and it seems well thought out. Choosing brushes and changing their appearance, color, opacity is intuitive and simple, although it might get a bit cluttered there on the far left. You also have a nice selection of drawing guides, who is easily sized and placed using two finger gestures. The ability to change line properties after you’ve set them is also one of the nice features possible with vector based graphics. However, the vector technology also means you can’t cut and erase parts of a drawing as one are able to in Photoshop. The eraser works as a mask, and doesn’t permanently remove the erased lines, it just masks them out. This can of course come in handy, but in practice it doesn’t work very well. It gets further complicated when one starts changing the properties of the lines or moves part of the drawing which is partly affected by the eraser mask. The eraser has one more major flaw, it doesn’t offer soft edges.

+ ever changeable and scaleable vector
+ nice guides
+ copic color chart
+ good looking graphics

- heavy brush feel
- no soft edge eraser
- cluttered user interface



Currently the most comprehensive and popular sketching app for designers. The brushes has a good feel, and the possibilities for tuning their appearance and behavior is almost endless. Its super easy to place .jpegs for texture etc and the free form-option is directly available by long-press. In most regards the user interface is intuitive and it feels both basic and complete, until you eventually run into its most annoying shortcomings. The closest you come to drawing-guides is the straight line feature you get while holding the stylus for half a second in the same place after drawing a line. Procreates solution to guides is the ability to import any shape as a brush. This is a workaround, and doesn’t satisfy any engaged user. Another cumbersome feature is the “cut’n’paste functionality. Its really simple to copy or cut a selection by long pressing, but you need to access the pull-down “actions” menu on your far left to find paste. It’s not a big issue, but it’s a “flow stopper”.

+ clean UI
+ good selection ofbrushes

- no guides
- strange cut’n’paste functionality
- pull down menu for everything


Procreate offers a wide array of tools, but the lack of guides is a major drawback, and imported brushes is the workaround

Adobe sketch

Adobe Sketch has a very minimalist interface, although the French curves and all the other guide shapes is a nice plus.

Most of the product design community hold the different Adobe apps and programs in high regard, and has been the benchmark for digital drawing and illustrations for a lot of professionals for a long time. Adobe Sketch has little resemblance to the rest of the Adobe family. It is actually nothing like it, and the promise of it getting there seems distant. However, it has some nice tools. It features a wide array of drawing guides, with French curves, several geometrical shapes, ellipsis and lines. The basic UI is well put together, with the most used and most important features easily available. The different brushes and layers is directly at hand, and one doesn’t have to go via a pull down menu. This could have been a nice app if the brushes where more adapted to the needs of the product designer. The single most important missing feature might just be the airbrush. In its stead there is a very “bushy” spray brush. There might be a quick fix for this, but I’m not sure the “less professional general appearance” are able to convince the typical design professional.

+ clean UI
+ good selection of guides

- no airbrush
- can’t zoom beyond 400%
- few possibilities in preferences



Sketchbook Mobile

Sketchbook for the Ipad has cut too many of its big brothers tools and functionality. Nice for the occasional mobile user, not so nice for the Ipad pro user

Sketchbook Mobile is the little brother of Sketchbook Desktop. Its a well put together app, with some UI similarities to Adobe Sketch. You’ll find layering and the basic tools in much the same place. Comparing it to its big brother, there are some important bits and pieces missing. The whole appearance seems oversimplified and you get the feeling the UI is optimized for a 5 inch mobile screen, not the spacious Ipad pro canvas. Additionally it has some puzzling qualities which seriously limits its use. The pencil; what has happened here? Its stroke is some kind of premade crosshatching pattern, or a flat airbrush variant. All the other app has solved this very well, so why not the more expensive Sketchbook. There are two drawing-guides. A line and a circle. They are nice and easy to place and use, but they have some major limitations. You can’t distort transform the shape of the guides, and you can’t distort transform any object after it has been drawn either, you can only scale. This makes it really cumbersome to tighten up your sharp ellipsis. The workaround is the “styles”, which is circle, square, and line. You are able to change their proportions while you are placing them, but as soon as they are placed, you hit the same problem with the limitations with transform, if you are not lucky enough to nail it the first time.

+ clean UI
+ good selection of tools

- no distort transform
- expensive

- not optimized for Ipad




The product designer professional is a demanding user, and any feature or issue that halts the work flow, compromise the quality or simply sucks time will be criticized. Procreate is for now the better one, but these three others are not far behind, with their own strong points. This designer is getting impatient. It seems to me that several of the apps available is missing a piece or two, and that the remedy isn’t that far away. I realize there never will be such a thing as the perfect app, for anything, but that doesn’t stop us in the quest for betterness, especially in this case, where betterness is just around the corner. Come on, get the last pieces in place. And, dear fellow product designer, let us know your views on the matter, oversights and tips. Comment on our facebook page