Teaching and Learning through Art

Best iPad Apps for Art Education, 2012

Monday 13 August 2012 - Filed under Resources

The new school year is about to begin so it’s time to take a look at what’s available in the app store for art teachers and students.  Here are my top picks from the current crop:

The overall best base app for art education is ArtSite.  Why?  Because it’s a great place for teachers and students to explore,  write about, and save art from all over the world and also a Portfolio to save and archive work done by students in the art room or on their iPad.  Teachers can customize the learning experience and create their own art collections to inspire students.  Students learn by sharing art and ideas. Price: $9.99 per year for teachers. Student access is free. ArtSite includes the service of saving teacher and student art and information.

For photo manipulation…

iPhoto has a beautiful and intuitive interface and is packed with useful workspace buttons.  Tap the “Help” button to see the impressive features hidden within.

Along with all the basic editing tools you would expect, the ‘Journals’ tab is a place to create, edit, and view journals. After selecting the photos you want for your journal, images are organized into a mosaic of your choice, thus, building a virtual storybook of events.  This feature could be very useful for thematic photo essays. Price: $4.99

For painting…

Of all the painting apps, Sketchbook Pro delivers the cleanest and most full featured interface. Choose from 60(simulated) pressure sensitive painting and drawing tools, import photos, add text on up to 12  layers, and of course, save your work.  Layers can be moved around, scaled, rotated, and flipped.  The improved color palette lets you easily access the color editor and color picker. You can pin toolbars to the sides of the screen so that moving from between then is a snap. Price: $1.99


Art Set might be the better choice for younger students.  It has a simple interface with images of art supplies students can easily identify.  Open a virtual drawer; choose paint tubes, colored pencil, wax crayon, oil pastel, ballpoint pen, thick marker, thin marker, and an eraser (the least effective tool).  Blending tools include a sponge, rag, liquid, and smudge stick.  After selecting your tool, you can then choose a color. The paper drawer contains an assorted range of papers of different colors and textures.  Work is saved and managed from the Art Set Gallery.  Price: $.99

For drawing…

iDraw is a powerful vector drawing app for both illustration and technical drawings. Choose from multiple canvas options for your background.  Tools include the pencil, brush, pen, line, curve, shape, and text. Each tool has it’s own unique set of options.  The brush and pen tools have auto-smoothing and the pen tool allows you to make changes by providing handles to move, add, or delete points in your line.  There are also fills, gradients, and layers. You can export designs for editing in other illustration applications like Adobe Illustrator.  Price: $8.99

Penultimate is a beautifully designed, highly intuitive app for jotting down thoughts with pens and different papers.   You can write with your finger or buy a stylus (If you’d like a precise, pencil-like stylus, try ‘Hand Stylus’).   It’s easy to import photos to your pages and then organize your pages into any number of notebooks.  Penultimate is great for jotting down ideas and plans and could be a wonderful journal tool for art classes. Price: $.99


Paper by FiftyThree has a stunning design and is a pleasure to use.  The custom ink engine reacts to your movements without having to re-set for each tool and you can create multiple sketchbooks with custom covers.  A visit to the FiftyThree website is recommended to understand unique features like the rewind wheel which lets you gradually undo and redo.  Paper lacks the ability to import images and has a relatively limited color palette.  Hopefully future updates will take both into consideration – without extra cost. Price: free for one brush and $6.99 for all tools.

For video production…

Students can shoot video on their iPad and it automatically appears in iMovie, ready for editing. Tap to add video and photos, drag to trim clips, and slide to preview your project. Drop photos into your project and enhance your images with graphics and text by selecting from a variety of title styles in each theme. Add soundtracks and sound effects or include direct audio recording from the microphone in your iPad.  When you’re finished, view your movie on your HDTV. Price: $4.99

For reference….

It’s best to use ArtSite to explore museums online and then create collections customized for your students. Most of the museum apps offer a relatively small sampling of the images and information from their websites and are memory hogs. Apps featuring individual artists are essentially a waste of money because they feature a limited number of images.   Here are some free apps which will enrich your understanding of art.

MOMA AB EX NY includes highlights from the 2010–2011 exhibition “Abstract Expressionist New York”. The app includes high-resolution images of selected Abstract Expressionist works and information about the artists.  You can also see where it all happened through a multimedia map of their NYC studios, galleries, and other points of interest. Watch in-depth videos on key works of art, browse a glossary of art terms, and read about the exhibition.


Yours, Vincent – The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh is provided by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Listen to dramatic readings of Van Gogh’s letters, get a closer look at his early sketches, and watch his style develop through Vincent’s drawings to later paintings.  The app also includes video interviews with the museum’s letters experts and picture galleries that showcase his art. ‘Yours, Vincent’ breathes new life into the artist and invites us into Vincent’s world in a way never possible before.

How do objects end up in a museum? Discover the answer to that question from the artworks themselves in this app from the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Life of Art app enables users to retrace the lives of a lidded bowl, a silver fountain, a side chair, and a wall light in the Getty’s collection by examining physical clues. The interactive app features stunning photography, animations, video, and 360 rotations that bring the rich biographies of these objects to life.


With PBS for iPad
 you can watch the whole Art 21 series and American Masters on your iPad. Art in the 21st Century is an award winning, educational resource, archive, and history of contemporary art.  It allows viewers to observe artists at work, watch their process as they transform inspiration into art, and hear their thoughts as they grapple with the physical and visual challenges of achieving their artistic visions.
 Connect your iPad to a HGTV to share episodes with your classes.

Wikipanion is designed for easy, search, navigation, and display of Wikipedia entries. Streamline your browsing with history grouped by visit date and bookmarking that not only bookmarks individual entries, but individual sections within an entry.   It’s a great way to search for and bookmark art images and descriptions for the ArtSite Museum and Gallery.

2012-08-13  »  Laurie Greenly

Talkback x 6

  1. 10 Best iPad apps for Art Education | ArtSite Blog
    15 August 2012 @ 9:39 pm

    […] Best iPad Apps for Art Education, 2012 […]

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    17 August 2012 @ 7:04 pm

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  3. Mark
    18 August 2012 @ 8:43 am

    I don’t often comment on posts such as this but I disagree so wholeheartedly with this selection I had to say something. What about Brushes? Mona Lisa 3D? Art Authority? Color Uncovered? Art Circles and most importantly of all, Art Rage. Where are these staples of any iPad art classroom? What about innovative app use too with Air Presenter as a visualiser or Book Creator as a place to keep completed bits of work as a scrapbook ePub?

  4. Laurie Greenly
    18 August 2012 @ 12:06 pm

    Thanks for your comments, but respectfully, I’m guessing you are not an artist or art teacher. I chose the best apps for *art* teachers and students from my own experience as an artist and the 12 years I spent in the classroom as a successful art teacher (based on the large percentage of my students who were awarded scholarships to art colleges). The apps I have written about encourage art students to make art and also explore world art and culture. Here are some specific comments on your choices:

    – Brushes has not been updated for the new iPad. The playback feature is wonderful, but sadly, it has performance problems.
    – Mona Lisa 3D is fluff – interesting for 5 minutes.
    – Art Authority is an easy point and click tool for looking at lots of art, but I believe students learn much more by exploring museum websites, writing about art, and discussing their ideas through ArtSite. Students become critical thinkers, not simply consumers of nice pictures. ArtSite encourages students to dig deeper into works of art, world cultures, and the artistic spirit. With a better understanding of art, students are inspired to create more meaningful artworks of their own.
    – Color Uncovered is an interesting science tool for young children. Most art teachers prefer to work with students to explore color intuitively using real art materials in the classroom or simulated materials via a paint program on their computer or iPad.
    – Art Circles is beautifully designed, but essentially is a commercial app for selling a range of great to not-so-good art.
    – Art Rage is a good tool, but Sketchbook Pro is better. Students only need to learn one app. That way their time is spent making art, and not figuring out how to use the app.

    Not sure why you even included Air Presenter… The “books” art students generally create are sketchbook/journals and portfolios. Sketchbook Pro, Penultimate, and iPhoto are creative additions to the traditional sketchbook. I would recommend iBook Author for portfolio development. It’s free and has an expansive feature set. Click here to read my iBook Author post for art teachers and students.

  5. Restoring Vincent van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles” | ArtSite Blog
    22 August 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    […] Best iPad Apps for Art Education, 2012 […]

  6. Layla Funches
    24 September 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    Whatever Microsoft is trying to do, the whole user interface and feel is must more realistic on Apple products. It just works and is working well! That’s why I prefer Apple products.

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