My 3 favorite Android drawing apps (so far)

April 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog

Last year I got the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 as my new digital sketchbook. I've since gone on about how exciting it is to have a light, portable device to capture all of my creative ideas (, and after several months of use I'm finding it to be my constant companion. I sketch on it in the car, while I'm watching TV, and even in bed (when I should be sleeping).

But as a newcomer to the Google Play ecosystem, it took time for me to find the apps that served my purposes. Some are good for "professional grade" illustration, while others are more suited for general sketching and idea capture. While none of them are the all-in-one solution I had hoped for, it's fairly simple to combine them into whatever workflow you need. And they're all very affordable compared to desktop solutions!

Idea capture and sketching

Papyrus (Around $3 on Google Play

I love using +Papyrus for sketching and note taking. While it's a note-taking app first and foremost, the developer did something wonderful in how the app handles lines. Pressure sensitivity on the Note works great.

There's some unique ways in how it treats lines, though–each line is treated as an object, so when you erase any part of the line, the whole line disappears (there's an in-app purchase where you can get a more "natural" eraser that erases only the bits you want). But as I've gotten used to this it's actually sped up my sketching on the Note: you can set the app to register your finger as an eraser, so whenever I throw down a line I don't like I can simply tap it to erase.

And yes, it features palm rejection, so it only registers the Spen and your fingertips. Rest your hand right on that screen!

You can set your canvas to "infinite" to create some really big drawings, after which you can export to PDF to open in your desktop version of Photoshop for high-res finishing.

However: no layer functionality or fills. Again, it's not a designated drawing app.

One of my sketches in Papyrus:

But I've used it to rough out an illustration and exported it to other apps for finishing (Pencils: Finishes:


LayerPaint (Around $3.50 on Google Play

While this app's interface is a bit chunky on my Note 10.1 (looks like it's more suited for phone screen sizes), it's a nicely simplified drawing app that folks accustomed to Photoshop will quickly come to understand.

– Pressure sensitivity on the Note
– Layer support (and even clipping layers)
– A decent selection of brushes (though no chalk brushes)
– Exports to PSD
– Bucket fills (and you can set a small range of pixel threshold to fill behind your lines)
– Gradients
– Non-anti-aliased and anti-aliased lines
– Drawing guides <–this one is neat. Similar to Manga Studio, there are are radial line, angle line, and grid line guides you can turn on to create speed line effects, panel borders, or even fudge some perspective drawing. Here's an example of a piece I did using the angled line guides:
– Large canvases <–this one is kind of a big deal. Not all drawing apps offer canvases larger than 1024×768. With LayerPaint I was able to set up files that were 7×10.5" at 300dpi, the size I use for finishing my professional comics work.

The selection tool is kind of clunky, and there's no transform tool. However, these exist in the most expensive drawing app on my list:

Photoshop Touch ($10 on Google Play

While the latest update has improved the brush tool quite a bit, I find drawing in LayerPaint to be a bit more natural and fluid.

However, PS Touch is a lovely simplification of many of the tools we cartoonists use in the full version of Photoshop. The image for this post was colored entirely in PS Touch.

It has a more robust selection tool assortment (lasso, polygonal lasso, selection boxes and circles), layer effects (multiply, overlay, etc), and you can turn on syncing with your Creative Cloud account to easily update between your tablet and desktop.

But here's the only complaint I have about PS Touch as a solution: You can export layered files out, but you can't import them in. PS Touch flattens all incoming PSD files. Cursory research suggests that this has something to do with the range of layer options available in PS Touch, but whatever the case, it's not quite as great as it could be. Ideally I'd love to be able to work on coloring a page in my studio, but then be able to continue that work on the road. For now we're limited to starting on the tablet and finishing on the desktop.

As awesome as all of these solutions are, there's still the tablet's or phone's horsepower to contend with. When working with large files I noticed some lag while drawing, and if you have background processes like wifi and syncing on, it just gets worse. So when I work on bigger drawings I turn off my wifi and syncing just to be safe.

But the really nice upside of sketching and drawing on the tablet is the ability to instantly share what I've done. I just export the image to jpg into my gallery where it's ready to be posted to my Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, G+, and so on.

There are others I've been testing. Infinite Painter ( has some really terrific brushes and naturalistic painting effects, though the interface is a little confusing to me. I'll keep testing that and report back.

#digitalillustration   #comics   #androidapps   #illustration  

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4 Responses to “My 3 favorite Android drawing apps (so far)”
  1. Einar Freyr says:

    Hey Jerzy, interesting post. I've wondered if you've tried Autodesk Sketchbook at any point , I find it to be simply the best out there at the moment what do you think?

  2. anloyra says:

    Hi Jerzy, im also a note 10.1 user, i just wanted to tell you that i have found very useful your podcasts and blog, and as a layerPaint user you can use the transform tool, In settings, enable profesional mode, then use de selection tool, you can use the floating toolbar to use rectangle or lasso tool, and then you can Use the edit option to transform. In a large file it can froze the aplication, but sketching is pretty useful, also you can enable high definition mode to make the buttons smaller, but their pretty big still, i find more comfortable to use the app vertically. Hope you find this info useful.


    Btw, I’m from Colombia so english is not my native language, if something is not well explained tell me and I’ll try it again.

  3. Jerzy Drozd says:

    +Einar Freyr Two things keep me from using Sketchbook Pro (which I purchased for the tablet):

    1) The limitations on canvas size. The latest update offers larger sizes, but as the canvas gets larger it limits the amount of layers you can use.

    2) Sketchbook Pro's use of the Note's pressure sensitivity isn't quite as intuitive as in the other apps I mentioned. I really count on using pressure to change the size of the brush, and while Sketchbook does increase the size somewhat, it's not nearly as flexible as in LayerPaint.

    (also, in my experience, SBP has trouble importing PSD files I create in other apps. While it preserves the layers, for some reason it turns the image sideways and cuts off the top and bottom of the art. Not sure why that is)

    Sketchbook Pro does have a mature and well-designed interface, but those two drawbacks are dealbreakers for me. If they change that, I might give it another try.

  4. Kyle Hill says:

    Sketchbook Pro definitely used to be my sketching/painting app of choice that is until I found procreate. I just wish procreate would expand to all devices rather than just ios. Plus it works great with an adonit jot stylus.