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Ultimate iPad Guide: Conceptual Drawing Apps for Architects

Our listing guide of Conceptual Drawing apps for iPad includes some gems we think you may have missed or not yet heard about.

Conceptual Drawing Apps for Architects on iPad

[Editor's note: We corrected a mistake in attributing SketchBook Pro and Express to Adobe. They are Autodesk products. In the list below you will find this corrected. We apologize for this typo to our readers and to these companies.  21 Mar 2013, 5:44pm EDT. ]

This is a very challenging category to put together because in truth there are many dozen good drawing tools for the iPad and some of them are very good at brainstorming and conceptual organization–for charting for example. We think architects might want a variety of such tools, including tools that can draw over other information such as photographs.

The tools we have found below can help an architect to sketch ideas in front of a client, develop ideas and details for how buildings work or go together, create conceptual finished 3D drawings for presentation, be used to draw both technically and schematically on the job site while standing, and lastly, be inspirational artistic tools. Naturally, the two kings of creative software–Adobe and Autodesk–make several such tools. But there are many others.

01 - Morpholio Trace replicates the feeling of yellow trace paper sketching.

02 - Procreate is one of the top-rated full-featured illustration apps and ideal for creative/artistic drawing.

03 - NoteShelf is a beautifully crafted App, so good you might think Apple designed it.

For example, one of the most innovative tools is Morpholio Trace. Trace works just like yellow tracing paper–the kind architects still use religiously today. Take a photograph at a job site or in the city and you can then trace over a semi-transparent yellow trace layer. (see image 01) Another great app is NoteShelf for making notes and sketching in general. The app works with pressure-sensitive pens too. (image 03). Finally, Procreate is one of the best artistic illustration apps around. (see image 02).

The List (9 Apps)

Here is one of the most complete listing of excellent conceptual drawing tools useful to architects on the iPad at the time of this writing. Again, if we have somehow missed an app we would sure appreciate your email on the subject. It may also be listed in another category in our series. Without further ado:

  • Adobe Ideas — this app by Adobe is one of the better vectorial-based sketching applications in existence. It has layer support including drawing over a photo. (631 reviews, 3 stars) 9.99.USD
  • Autodesk SketchBook Pro for iPad — this app belongs to the desktop product family of the same name while it may be over-kill for what architects primarily need it is also one of the better illustration apps and fits the artistic sub-category of this category very nicely. (1,024 reviews, 4 stars) 4.99.USD
  • Autodesk SketchBook Express for iPad – this app is the little sister to the Pro version listed above. Like the app above it supports saving canvases automatically to iCloud. (297 reviews, 4 stars) Free
  • DeepSketch — this unique app allows you to sketch in stereoscopic 3D using 3D glasses while you draw and for your viewers. This likely has more relevance to architects working in the studio on 3D modeling/rendering work but you could project your screen to a conference room screen and have an entire audience watching with 3D glasses. (2 reviews, not rated) 2.99.USD
  • Morpholio Trace — this innovative app simulates drawing on yellow trace paper–just like architects do in school and in the office. (27 reviews, 4 stars) Free
  • NoteShelf – this highly acclaimed sketch notebook app is one of the best handwriting note taking and sketch apps ever designed. Macworld called it “an impressively deep, feature-rich app.”. Evernote and Dropbox ready, this app has innovative organization tools. (1,451 reviews, 4 1/2 stars) 5.99.USD
  • Paper by 53 – this app by Fifty Three, Inc. is a beautiful drawing program that lets you capture your ideas as sketches, diagrams and notes or drawings. Utilizing its Expressive Ink engine the app reacts to your movements to optimize each tool’s process. (3,541 reviews, 4 stars) Free
  • ProCreate – this app is popular with professional artists and fits the artistic illustration category more than vectorial doodles niche. ProCreate says it uses a high-performance proprietary 64-bit Silica engine for OpenGL. Has Dropbox integration. (859 reviews, 4 1/2 stars) 1.99.USD
  • Penultimate — this award-winning app was a frontrunner in sketching apps for the iPad and it continues to be a excellent one. It is now a part of Evernote making users of that app take notice. Users can have a separate notebook for each subject/project and the app supports embedded pictures, etc. (3,249 reviews, 4 stars) TBD

The Gem in the Group

The Gem in this group is no doubt Trace but you may have heard that before. So what else is a gem in this group? We think Paper by 53 is a pretty wonderful app. We like the stylistic way it allows you to draw.

04 - paper by Fifty Three is one pretty little app. It is simple, elegant and allows you to do wonderful sketches and then watercolor them.

The line quality right in the base program is nice. You need to add tools with add-app purchases but they are affordable and you have options. The way in which you can undo (go-back) changes in a drawing is so very cool as a gesture. Try it. The app is free.

next page: Modeling and Rendering Apps for Architects

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