Design Apps for the iPhone

In this post, I will review a number of iPhone, iTouch and iPad applications that can be useful to graphic designers.

Do you know a design app worth mentioning that we haven’t listed? Have you designed or developed one? Please, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to review it and add it to the list.

Adobe Ideas

The interface of this app is very intuitive, especially for those who’re already familiar with the programs in the Adobe Creative Suite. The coolest feature is that you can import your sketches or drawings in Illustrator and retouch them there, if need be. Plus, the app is free. It can be downloaded from iTunes and can also be used on the iPad and the iPod Touch. It’s worth keeping on your phone so you can resort to it when the lightning of inspiration strikes you on the go and you don’t have a pencil or a sketchbook on you. Also, it’s a fun procrastination tool…

Adobe Photoshop Express

With this free app, you can now edit your iPhone or iPad photos on the go. Crop, straighten, rotate, flip, edit exposure and saturation, turn your pictures B&W, add effects and borders just using your fingers! You can also open a free account and store your photos there to share them on the web.


This painting application for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch became very popular in May 2009, when artist Jorge Colombo used it to draw the cover of The New Yorker on his phone. A series of Colombo’s “finger paintings” can be admired on The New Yorker’s website. The skills of this artist and his attention to detail are incredible. However, even if you aren’t that skilled, it’s worth trying. Who knows, maybe you’ll get so good at it that your Brushes artwork will be part of your next class or client project! Brushes is a 2010 Apple Design Awards winner and is available from iTunes at $4.99 for the iPhone and $7.99 for the iPad.


How color blind are you? This cheap fun game ($0.99) will challenge your perception of colors by first showing you a swatch and then asking you to recreate it by sliding the Red, Green and Blue bars. You will receive a letter grade based on the accuracy of your performance. An interactive feature also allows you to compete with other users and engage in real color battles. Colorblind is available on iTunes and is compatible with iPhone, iTouch and iPad.

Color Expert

This app is a little costly ($9.99) but it serves as a pocket Pantone chip book and an interactive color wheel at the same time. It’s easy to use and will allow you to find the perfect color scheme for your designs. You can also take a snapshot of a color that you like, tap it with your finger and the app will turn it into a color-coded swatch for you! In addition to Pantone colors, the libraries also offer RGB, CMYK, and Hex values. Color Expert was the iPhone App of the Month for December 2008.


Device: Design Advice & Opinions is an app that allows you to get real time feedback on your design, art or photography and to give feedback to other designers, artists or photographers, thus being a new way to network and connect with fellow creatives. The result of a collaborative effort by HOW, Print, ID and Opinionaided, Device is free and available for iPhone, iTouch and iPad.

Font Shuffle

Typographic inspiration right in your pocket! You can navigate typefaces assorted by visual similarity and grouped in several different families (serif, sans-serif, slab serif, script, display, etc) and subfamilies (neo-classical, venetian, humanist, grotesque, monospaced, experimental, etc). This FONTastic free application is exactly what you need to find the perfect typeface for your design. It’s also an educational tool, as you learn about typography while having fun.


As visual artists, graphic designers are usually big photography nerds as well. So this fantastic app is a must. A series of virtual films, lenses and flashes that can be mixed and matched to create several different combinations will allow you to capture the most amazing, vintage-like shots. At $1.99, Hipstamatic is cheaper than a Holga or a Diana, but can achieve a similar effect. In addition, it shoots in infrared and B&W. If paired up with the virtual darkroom Swanko Lab from the same developers, the results can be amusingly unpredictable and sometimes fabulous. If you need a vintage shot for that cover or poster design, now you can create one yourself! Only downside: the file size is pretty small.


What is better than a design game when you’re taking a break from an intense design project? Kern will test your typographical skills by challenging you to exactly place a missing letter into a falling word avoiding ligatures or too wide gaps. Your score will vary according to how precisely you placed the letter, the type size and the leading height. Five “ligature tokens” are available to forgive your mistakes, but if you run out of tokens, the game is over. Kern costs $0.99 and can be downloaded from iTunes. It’s compatible with iPhone, iTouch and iPad.


Similar to Brushes, this app is more focused on drawing and creates thin pencil lines that get thicker if you move your finger faster across the screen. It also creates smudges if you rotate your finger. With five different backgrounds to choose from, it’s perfect for doodling and sketching without a pencil or a sketchbook. LiveSketch can be purchased from iTunes for $1.99 and is compatible with iPhone, iTouch and iPad.

Palettes 3.0

This app is similar to some color scheme tools that you can find on the web. It’s very handy when you don’t have a computer or a Color Index book and are struggling to come up with the perfect color palette for your website or print work. It’s a little complex and may be intimidating at the beginning, but it’s a powerful tool that allows you to create wonderful color schemes starting from the built-in sliders, a snapshot, a website URL or a standard color lists. If you get the Pro version, you can also blend colors and create colors from the basic color theory schemes as well as transfer palette files directly to and from your computer. Palettes Pro can be purchased for $5.99, but is also available in a free version that you can upgrade at a later time.


If you are one of those designers who love drawing with type, this app is a must-have! It’s a little tricky at the beginning—if you apply too much pressure, the type will grow very big. Once you get the hang of it, however, it’s fabulous and a lot of fun! You can select different fonts and colors and create real works of art that you can export as high-res PNG and PDF files. PDFs are scalable and you can print them out in any size. Like all apps, Typedrawing is also available from iTunes and comes in a version for iPhone and iTouch that costs $1.99 and a version for iPad that costs $2.99.

What the Font

Are you reading a magazine while waiting at the doctor’s or at the hair salon and it’s love at first sight with a font you’ve never run into before? Voilà! Just take out your iPhone, snap a shot of the page and run it through this free app. It works exactly like the computer-based application—not any better, not any worse.