50 iPad Apps Budding Designers Should Download Now

By Creative Bloq on at

Unlike the iPhone, Apple's tablet has enough screen space to enable more complex interactions. It's therefore no surprise many within the design industry are using iPads for research; organisational tasks; finding inspiration, and even creating work. But how do you find apps to help you in your day-to-day design work out of the hundreds of thousands of free and paid-for apps in Apple's App Store?

Well, one way is to ask other designers. So we spoke to some leading creative professionals to find out their recommendations, and what iPad apps they simply couldn't live without.

If we've missed your favourite in our list of iPad apps for designers, let us know in the comments!


1.) Forger

A sculpting app, with a selection of tools which makes freeform 3D modelling possible on the go. With a selection of pre-made base meshes, it's fast to get started with, while saving is a doddle, and you can export to your favourite desktop software once you are done.
The GUI is simple but offers a wide assortment of tools that all work in a familiar way, including a set of texturing tools that let you project images onto your mesh. [Forger; £1.99]


2.) TreeSketch 2.0

Although its commercial uses are perhaps a little limited, TreeSketch is a fantastic little app which makes creating trees a doddle. You can define everything from the droopiness of branches, to the size and quantity of leaves. There are numerous species to get started with, and it is incredibly fun drawing out the trunk shape with a fingertip. The results are high quality and you can save, reload and export your fully textured trees from an object manager. [TreeSketch; free]

Rob Redman

Forger and TreeSketch 2.0 were the choices of Rob Redman, a 3D artist and founder of Pariah Studios, who specialises in hard surface modelling, texturing, animation, lighting and photorealistic rendering. His previous clients included Ministry of Sound, Games Workshop, Katy Perry and The Who.


3.) Capture Pilot

"There have been surprisingly few apps I find useful for my photography needs apart from one that is an absolute game changer," Henry begins, adding that "Basically, it [Capture Pilot] allows the iPad to mirror images that you are tethering form your camera to your computer."

Capture Pilot gets clients away from your computer, so you can set them up on the sofa with a coffee and iPad, enjoying the freedom the app gives them to view your work remotely. As the designer, you just trigger the shutter and work closely with your client, without them hovering over your shoulder. [Capture Pilot; free]

Henry Hargreaves

Capture Pilot was the choice of Henry Hargreaves, a New Zealand-originated still life, art and fashion photographer working out of his studio in Brooklyn, NYC. He is known for fun, creative, provocative and memorable images, with his previous clients including Ralph Lauren, Stefan Sagmeister, Boucheron, V and New York Magazine.


4.) Diet Coda

Diet Coda allows you to access files on your FTP/SFTP servers and edit them pretty much as you would on a desktop. For those who use Coda on the Mac, this is the perfect companion for making quick fixes to your websites on the go. [Diet Coda; £13.99]


5.) Silkscreen

Silkscreen lets you quickly view files on your iPad or iPhone. With more people designing for mobile devices it’s good practice to check how your design actually looks on that device. This allows you to see early on in the design process what will and won't work on smaller screen. [Silkscreen; free]


6.) Instapaper

Throughout your working day, it’s likely that you’ll come across numerous articles to read, but not enough time to read them. This is a way to save those articles and read them at a later date. While there are similar services out there, Instapaper gives you much more control over how you categorise and share these articles. [Instapaper; free]

Tom Brooks

Diet Coda, Silkscreen and Instapaper were the choices of Tom Brooks, a freelance web designer, based in Oxford. Since graduating from UWE and going freelance, Tom has worked with numerous small businesses and individuals as well as various agency projects for companies such as Shire, POhWER and Yahoo.


7.) Ignition

This app is just like being in front of your computer, with all functions being available to use. For that reason alone this is definitely a must-have app. Not only does it allow you to access your files from any Wi-Fi hotspot, it allows you to manage files as well.

The monitor activity is also a great feature if you're worried about your employees goofing off whilst you're away from the office. Using Ignition from your iPad, you can access your computer's webcam remotely using Skype, photo booth or any software that displays your webcam on screen. To do this, open Skype camera settings to see what's happening in your office from anywhere around the world. [Ignition; £89.99]


8.) AirVideo

AirVideo allows you to stream almost any video file from your PC or Mac, to your iPad. It's no secret that there are video formats which are not supported on the iPad. The cool thing about AirVideo is that it uses live conversion to stream videos files, which you wouldn't normally play on your iPad. You don't need to wait for the entire video to be converted either -- you can start watching immediately.

This is a app for those of you who have a massive media collection as movies take up a lot of space on your already shrinking storage capacity. With AirVideo, you can access your entire movie collection at the touch of a button. [AirVideo; £1.99]

Raam Joshi

Ignition and AirDisplay were the choices of Raam Joshi, a web designer, internet marketer and creative director. He specialising in almost all areas of the web with a keen interest in user experience and interfaces.


9.) Adobe Proto

There are quite a few wireframing tools available for iPad (such as the excellent iMockups), but Proto from Adobe really stands out. What I love about it is its gestures – you can really quickly wireframe a site or app and get your idea across to someone in no time at all. [Adobe Proto; £6.99]


10.) Adobe Collage

When starting a creative project of any kind, a mood board is essential to get a flavour for the look and feel before you really put anything substantial together. Collage, enabling you to bring in images from your camera or those from Creative Cloud or Google Images, is a neat tool for exploring these when on the move. I've used it quite a few times to try and brainstorm covers and the like. [Adobe Collage; £6.99]

Rob Carney

Adobe Proto and Adobe Collage were the choices of Rob Carney, who has most recently worked as the editor of Computer Arts magazine. As a writer, he has produced features and articles for the likes of Mac Format, Tap!, Practical Photoshop and Adobe Creative Juices.


11.) Adobe Photoshop Touch

It may not be Photoshop CS6, and Adobe Photoshop Touch isn't without its limitations --there's no RAW import, and the maximum image export size is 1600-by-1600; however, it retains enough of its desktop cousin's features (and places them in a sleek, pared-down, tablet-optimised interface) to make it an essential purchase, and one of the best iPad apps for designers.

Patten says he particularly likes "how it allows the user to still use layers and control opacity levels and blend modes." And the fact that it costs less than a pub lunch doesn't hurt either. [Adobe Photoshop Touch; £6.99]


12.) Adobe Ideas

Suitably-named, the thinking behind Adobe Ideas is to get visual brainwaves down rapidly. The app provides a simple but effective toolset for outlines, thumbnails and rough drawings, and you can draw over the top of images (photos, screen grabs) should you wish to. Usefully, exports are vector-based and so can scale indefinitely. "It's a great app for fast sketching of any ideas and designs," he enthuses. [Adobe Ideas; £6.99]


13.) Touch Draw

Although seemingly in a similar space to Adobe Ideas, TouchDraw is a more full-featured vector-drawing app. While it's suited to illustration, it also enables you to create libraries of reusable shapes or use bundled examples; TouchDraw is therefore suitable for working up flow charts, graphs, diagrams and floor plans along with logos and other imagery. However, Patten believes it's the interface that makes it one of the best iPad apps: "I like how the toolset doesn't take up much space, giving you more room to edit the image." [Touch Draw; £5.99]


14.) Palettes Pro

Although the previous three products showcase how the iPad can enable you to create artwork, some apps turn your device into a focussed environment for critical ancillary tasks. For example, Palettes Pro provides the means for creating myriad colour schemes, either from scratch, through the use of colour models, or by grabbing colours from photographs and websites. "I really like the way it enables easy colour capture, and how it gives you the ability to build themes for anything you like," says Patten. [Palettes Pro; £3.99]


15.) Spatik

Patten's snuck one of his own creations into our list of the best iPad apps -- he's the co-creator and CEO of Spatik. However, the recommendation itself is sound, with the app enabling you to combine services that help you share into a single app. "Spatik has all of my RSS feeds to design articles, inspirational sites and tutorials, and I use it to organise my daily tweets," he says, explaining the the app was designed to "make it easier to set-up daily tweets in a timely fashion". [Spatik; £1.49]

Nicholas Patten

Photoshop Touch, Ideas, Touch Draw, Palettes Pro and Spatik were the choices of Nicholas Patten. Based in New York City, Patten is a video editor, graphic and web designer, and product manager of DirectMarkets. You can follow Patten on Twitter here, and you can also check out his very own iPad app, Spatik (which he cheekily worked into his list...)


16.) FontBook

'Comprehensive' is perhaps the best word to describe FontBook, which documents over 100 type foundries, representing 1650 type designers, constituting 35,000 fonts. Over-the-air updates ensure the data is always up to date, but Mall is most impressed by the manner in which the app enables you to explore typefaces: "There are resources online for browsing type categorically, but this app lets me browse non-linearly, which makes for a completely organic discovery experience." [Fontbook; £3.99]


17.) Bjrk: Biophilia

The iPad has made some of those working in traditional media rethink how creative output should be presented -- books, movies and music are all being reconsidered by people in the field that have an experimental bent. Bjrk's app marries music with art, in what Mall calls "an excellent example of making music an interactive experience". He adds: "It's a different way of thinking about what a visual and auditory touchscreen experience can be." [Bjrk: Biophilia £8.99]


18.) Adobe Edge Inspect

Mobile is increasingly important in the web design space, but testing websites on mobile devices can be a tedious experience.

Edge Inspect, previously called Shadow, enables you to pair devices with a computer, and browse in sync, along with editing pages using remote inspection. "Edge Inspect makes development across multiple devices much easier," explains Mall. "The ability for every device to update changes in sync is absolutely priceless and saves hours of debug time." [Adobe Edge Inspect; free]

Dan Mall

Fontbook, Biophilia and Edge Inspect were the choices of Dan Mall. The award-winning designer has in the past worked for Happy Cog and Big Spaceship and is currently founder and design director at SuperFriendly. Dan is also a technical editor at A List Apart, and -- via his love/obsession for typography -- he is also the co-founder of Typedia and swfIR.


19.) LiveView

Many modern designers are immersed in designing for mobile, but smartphones and tablets boast wildly different resolutions to desktop monitors, and so it can be tough to visualise how work will look on device screens. LiveView is one of the best iPad apps for quick 'n' dirty simulation, which mirrors your computer screen on a connected iPad. "It's the one iPad app I can't live without," claims Guglieri. "After trying dropping files on Dropbox, emailing screenshots and using Image Capture, this is by far the best app I've used to see what I design, at the correct scale, on an iPad." [LiveView; free]

Claudio Guglieri

LiveView was the choice of Claudio Guglieri, a senior designer at Fi (Fantasy Interactive) in New York City, and is also a 'free time' Flash developer. Claudio's work can be found on the Fi website, and you can also find a selection of his latest projects on his Dribbble page. If you'd like to keep up with what Claudio's doing day to day, then you should also check out his Twitter page.


20.) iMockups

iMockups turns wireframing into a tactile activity, enabling you to drag app or website components around and resize them with ease. "It's one of the best iPad apps for quickly creating wireframe prototypes," confirms Jobling. "It's extremely simple to use with its intuitive UX and I find the app invaluable for focusing on a site's foundations, free from detail. Built-in linking functionality is also a nice touch, allowing you to create interactive prototypes." [iMockups; £4.99]


21.) Gusto

You'd have to be mildly insane to consider creating an entire website on an iPad, but when you're out and about and need to do some emergency editing, Jobling reckons Gusto is the best code editor on the iPad: "I love to have the ability to quickly write code and deploy it straight to the web without being near a desktop. With code highlighting for all popular languages and multiple-site support, Gusto's the wisest £7 any web developer can spend." [Gusto; £6.99]


22.) Prompt

Heading further into techie territory than Gusto, Prompt is an SSH client, which developers Panic describe as "clean, crisp and cheerful". Jobling's a big fan: "Panic's first iOS app is a must-have for any web developer. Connect to a server and manage it from anywhere. It's perfect for those quick fixes or moments of inspiration." [Prompt; £5.49]

Simon Jobling

Mockups, Gusto and Prompt were the choices of Simon Jobling, online architect at Premium Choice. However, he's also keen to "push the boundaries of additional media forms, introducing multimedia to practical commercial environments". Si has also been called a "thought leader" and "early adopter". You can follow him on Twitter, too.


23.) Sketchbook Pro

Sketchbook Pro is perhaps the most refined and polished iPad drawing app for creating finished artwork. The toolset is robust and the interface is very well designed. "I use it regularly to concept and scamp or just doodle," says Winter. "It has an intuitive interface that makes good use of the iPad's functionality. It lags a bit when drawing, but overall it's a sound bit of kit, and I find it far more flexible than Adobe Ideas." [Sketchbook Pro; £2.99]


24.) SkyGrid

There are plenty of newsreaders on iOS, each attempting to carve its own niche. The aim behind SkyGrid is to enable you to fine-tune the news you receive, ensuring that your time is taken up reading content that you care about. "I love this app," gushes Winter. "SkyGrid enables you to customise and share the topics that interest you -- mine revolve around design, technology and advertising. It's a simple, visual way of staying up-to-date with my news." [SkyGrid; free]


25.) PicFrame

There are a lot of fairly gimmicky photo apps for the iPad, but sometimes a polished example can win over designers and also be useful in a manner that the original developer probably didn't envision. PicFrame is a case in point. "It's a simple idea, enabling you to combine your favourite images -- or images that inspire you -- into a collage or framework," says Winter. "And its photo effects, frame shapes and sharing options make it great for creating moodboards." [PicFrame; 69p]

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