Best Free Android Drawing Art Apps

All of the apps on this list have passed my 'test' for basic user-friendliness at the time of downloading and on my device; always remember the internet acronym 'YMMV' - your mileage may vary. A bit like Buyer Beware - software can be altered or corrupted, your device may run a different operating system or have different hardware issues to mine. As always, backup your data and check credentials carefully before installing any new software. Your device, your choice, your responsibility.

What I look for on a basic level is that an application requires minimal permissions, does not access my contacts list or paid services, does not install intrusive advertising, doesn't crash randomly, and allows me to save my work.  I also expect a basic level of quality - reasonable resolution and smooth lines.

In the past 'drawing software' has implied vector-based editing, while 'paint' or 'photo' editors have implied raster-based editing. Recently though both types of software have increasingly overlapping capabilities, and artists' desire for natural media drawing means that drawing apps are very often raster rather than vector.

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Autodesk Sketchbook Express

Woman on a train working on a tablet.
Ezra Bailey / Getty Images

Autodesk is a familiar name to any graphic artist; (something about the company). This seems to be a 'truly' free app: the permissions are not onerous and it doesn't seem to install any malware, beyond the usual anonymous usage data, which is clearly noted.

When you first start the application, you'll be presented with a series of instructional screens explaining each icon, how to pan and zoom, and how to resize the brush and opacity. It's a good idea to take your time to really look at these, as they aren't always intuitive, and occasionally confusing (the  main 'draw style' icon is the same as the 'preserve transparency' icon in the Layers drop-down)

 The annotation is in several languages. The free version has many features and options disabled, but has good basic functionality.

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Water Color Pencil Light

This is one of my favorite apps because the pencil texture is quite natural and grainy. It might seem like a simple matter, but achieving a realistic pencil texture must be difficult, as few drawing applications seem to manage it! The interface works well with a 'pencil box' theme and palette, with a simple toggle option in one corner to maximize drawing space. Really nice, friendly and well worth checking out.

Note - if you're searching, that the spelling is Water Color Pencil Lite

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Infinite Painter Free

Infinite Painter Free by Sean Brakefield is a powerful drawing application that reminds me of ArtRage, with quite an intuitive interface, with color and brush palette easily accessile, redo and undo, and a toggled detailed menu, including layer support and reference image pinning. Intuitive finger gestures zoom and rotate the image.

The resolution seems high, with an excellent selection of brushes that includes traditional pen and brush as well as some nice textures. Another app that could well fill your needs. You might also like to take a look at his Infinite Design Free app for Vector drawing.

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Just for fun. This operates in vertical format - annoying if you've got a horizontal tablet - and opens with a 'free download' advert for Kids Doodle. Beyond that, it's a simple, fun kaleidoscope - each mark you make is mirrored. Click on the kaleidoscope to choose a variety of 'mirror' styles. Each press of the blank canvas cycles through a different color of background; click the paintbrush to choose a paint style - neon glow, flat paint, chalk and others. It's a toy, rather than for serious drawing - a kind of freehand 'Spirograph' - but a lot of fun. I seemed to be unable to turn off the 'rainbow' color, however, and the app did crash after quite a bit of drawing. There's some pressure sensitivity, though not precise, plus a fun playback function. Cute and addictive.

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Pencil Sketch

I was unable to review this application because its terms were onerous: it sends information - including your phone number - to its advertising 'partner', Airpush. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and in this case, you're paying with more than just the irritation of intrusive advertising: you're sharing all your personal data. A lot of this information is slipped into the permissions screen that many users click without a second thought, and at least the developers had the decency to put up a fresh notification and accept/decline screen when starting the app. So kudos for that.

Keeping Current

Remember that nothing stays the same for long in the world of tech, so while these were among the best choices at the time of writing, they might not always be - updates, changes or developer disinterest may mean the apps reviewed here are no longer a good choice in weeks or months' time. I hope this won't be the case though and you'll find these applications useful.