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Seven Fun Art(ish) Apps & Games

Next time you whip out your phone for another level of Candy Crush, why not try something that tests your creativity? We tried out seven apps with an addictively artistic bent.

Please note: the reviews below are for the iOS versions.


Colorfy appcoloring books for adults

  • for: iOS, Android
  • cost: free (pay for more colors & pages)

Colorfy is ridiculously popular right now, just like the physical coloring books for adults that inspired it. Nothing too complicated here: pick a drawing, pick a color, and tap to color between the lines. It’s pretty satisfying to see a white page fill up with color.


Brain Dots

Brain Dotsdrawing plus gravity

  • for: iOS, Android
  • cost: free (pay for more pens & pencils)

Draw levers, ramps, catapults, boulders, a giant shoe — whatever it takes to reunite the blue dot and the pink one. Brain Dots is a series of hundreds of puzzles that you solve with a pencil (or pen, marker, paintbrush … you’ll unlock more tools with slightly different effects as you play).

In a nice touch, this app shows a thumbnail of your completed puzzles, so you can share your most elegant solutions with others. Or you can go back and create a solution that’s truly a thing of beauty. Two complaints: there are too many ads, and the controls are sometimes unresponsive.

Two puzzles from Brain Dots.
Two puzzles from Brain Dots.


TypeDrawingdraw with your favorite fonts

  • for: iOS, Android
  • cost: $1.99 iPhone / $2.99 iPad / free for Android (with in-app purchases)

It’s often said of great writers that they “paint with words.” TypeDrawing takes that idea and runs with it. Write your message, from a single letter or symbol to a short story; pick your font and color; and draw! You can import photos to draw on top of, or start from scratch. We were pleasantly surprised to see a large variety of fonts, so you can create your masterpiece in Superclarendon and then do it again in Gill Sans Bold Italic.

Three examples of what you can do with TypeDrawing (the image on the right is a screenshot from the App Store)
Three examples of what you can do with TypeDrawing (the image on the right is a screenshot from the App Store)


Glitchéglitch your photos

  • for: iOS (try Glitch! on Android)
  • cost: $0.99 (pay more for high-resolution exports)

With its bare-bones, green-on-black interface, using this app is an experience in itself. Glitché gives you tools to scramble, stretch, colorize, pixelate, and otherwise glitch-ify your photos. And like any app inspired by the late 1990s should, Glitché lets you make weird gifs!

Here’s a desert scene with the “scan” effect and a sad monk with “pxlgrid” applied. (Here’s what the sad monk looked like before.) Other tools have names like “VHS,” “polygon,” and “purple.” Glitché is light on explanation, but figuring out how it works is part of the fun.


Inkboardtext your doodles

  • for: iOS (try Draw – Your Messaging Keyboard on Android)
  • cost: free

Why text when you can draw? Inkboard adds another keyboard to all your messaging apps, so when words and emojis won’t cut it, you can send doodles to amuse and annoy your friends. There are similar keyboards out there to try, but we like this one because it’s free and pretty simple to use.

(To use this keyboard on your iPhone, you’ll need to activate it. Go to Settings → General → Keyboard → Keyboards → Add New Keyboard … and Inkboard should appear. Then, when you’re typing a message, cycle through your keyboards by clicking the globe and/or ABC symbol in the bottom left.)

Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketchessimple sketchpad

  • for: iOS (try SketchBook on Android)
  • cost: free (pay for more tools & features)

We could write an entire series of posts just on sketchbook-style and art studio apps, but this is a great place to start. Even the free version has some pretty powerful tools to draw and paint with. You can also pay for more tools (like an airbrush) and Photoshop-style layers, and in a welcome move, you can try out those extras before you pay for them. We loved picking what paper to use and seeing the pleasant translucency effects with the marker and paintbrush (see below).

On the negative side, this app only works in portrait mode, and we found the controls a little finicky sometimes — especially the “swipe left to undo” function. Also, there’s no way to work on more than one project at a time, so you’ll need to start over each time you want to draw something new.

Update: We figured out how to work on multiple projects. Here’s how: pinch with two fingers to zoom out. You might have to try a couple times, but eventually, your canvas will shrink and you’ll see a gallery view. That’s where you can choose a different project to work on, or export your finished drawing.

Tayasui Sketches

Lapse It

Lapse Itstop-motion studio

  • for: iOS, Android
  • cost: free (pro version: $0.99)

This app is probably the most involved and technical one here, but making stop-motion movies is fun enough that it made the list. Lapse It helps the process a lot by showing you a ghost image of each frame you capture, so you can see how far to move things before you hit the shutter again. You’ll want some kind of tripod to hold your camera still for the best results.

Stop-motion isn’t the only appeal: if you’re serious about time lapses, you can use the tools here to have much more control over your captures than what the iPhone camera allows.

Have we missed any fun art apps? Let us know in the comments!

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