Ask designers what their choice desktop operating system is, and almost everyone will point you to Apple’s OSX. The ratio has been pretty one-sided when it comes to their mobile platform of choice as well, but things have been changing rapidly of late. Android, which started as the second choice for creatives around the world, has been gaining tremendous popularity over the last few years and that has reflected in the number of quality apps for designers available on the platform.
Whether you are a graphic designer, an architect or interior designer, the choice of apps on the Play Store is big enough to be confusing at times. What follows is my hand-picked list of some of the best Android apps for designers. It includes tools to help you create, manage your work and participate in design communities across the web.
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Drawing & Editing
I’m assuming that if you’re a designer, you’re almost certainly aware of — and probably used to — Adobe Photoshop on the desktop. Touch is Adobe’s attempt at bringing the legendary creation tools Photoshop to mobile platforms. Bring your images into the app, manipulate them, combine them, add effects & text, and a whole lot more.
Now this is a tablet-only app, but if you would like to have a go at creating artwork on your phone, there’s a version for phones as well.
If the full-fledged image manipulation is not your cup of tea, but you still prefer Photoshop for more run-of-the-mill photo editing, there’s Adobe Photoshop Express. Think of it like Photoshop Elements — Adobe’s more consumer-oriented photo editing app on the desktop — but for mobile devices. The toolset includes your usual image cropping, resizing, color editing and of course, the ever-so-popular effects, along with a bunch more.
Another desktop heavyweight company that has made a hugely successful transition to mobile is AutoDesk. Sketchbook Mobile is one of their first apps to be released on Android and is by far one of the best sketching apps on the platform. With a plethora of drawing tools, powerful features and an intuitive interface, you can’t go wrong with this one if you are keen on creating artwork on a phone.
There’s also a tablet version as well as a free one with a limited feature set in case you want to try it out before shelling out the dough. For pen & ink afficionados, there’s even a dedicated Sketchbook Ink app.
For those who like to use their mobile device as a full-featured canvas, Fresco Paint Pro brings some of the best natural drawing and painting tools you can find on Android. Work with a variety of natural brushes and combine them for the best possible effects. Use layers to keep portions of the image separate and maintain decent editability across the artwork as and when you need it.
Another neat looking drawing & painting app for Android is Paperless-Draw, sketch, tablet. It may not be as powerful as the others we talked about, but feels easier to pick up and go. The interface is much more suitable for a bigger screen though, so you probably will appreciate it much more on a tablet or even one of bigger screen phones — phablets, if you prefer — than a smaller device.
If you are just getting started with drawing, you might want to give Sketch ‘Em a try. The app teaches you how to sketch on your phone or tablet through a variety of tutorials. Select a tutorial, draw over the blue lines and the app will tell you how well you did. Once you get good enough, you can even create your own tutorials and share them with the rest of the world.
Creating full-fledged artwork not your cup of tea? Maybe annotating images and screenshots is more down your alley? There’s an app for that. From the makers of Evernote, Skitch is probably as good as it gets when it comes to adding highlights, arrows and text to images on an Android Device. Take a photo or choose one from the web — or maybe capture a map on your phone — add some detail and share it with others quickly. Of course, the app integrates nicely with Evernote if that’s where you prefer keeping all your notes and creations.
Architecture & Interior Design
When dealing with architecture and interior design, getting the right dimensions of each and every element can make or break a project. Design Dimensions is a growing database of the most commonly used reference design items with detailed dimensions and information on each. There’s a visual search to help you get to exactly what you need and even a quick way to convert dimensions from feet and inches to a metric system if that’s your preference.
As my Interior Designer wife tells me, a good floor plan is the best way to get started with a design project, and although there are a bunch of apps on Android that let you create them, her preference is Floor Plan Creator. The app comes with a set of predefined rooms, but you can also create plans from scratch and edit them as necessary to get the dimensions exactly as they are. One of the best features of the app is an augmented reality room capture that uses your phone’s camera to plot the dimensions of a room.
Done with the floor plan and need to move into the third dimension to visualize how a room with look once it is done? Enter 3D Interior Room Design. The app lets you take your floor plans, apply paints, flooring and other details, and then visualize how each room will look like in 3D. You can even add fireplaces, panels, curtains and more to get the look as close to your vision as possible, and then share the images with clients to get their feedback and approval.
And finally, the tool that most architect, designers and engineers use to plot their plans and designs – AutoCAD. AutoCAD 360 is the official mobile app for AutoCAD and although it may not be as powerful as its desktop version, it comes loaded with almost everything you might need to take your designs on the road and edit them wherever you are. If you are subscribed to the AutoCAD 360 Pro monthly plans, you can take advantage of even more advanced features like the ability to create new files on the go, connect with cloud storage services and more.
Having trouble deciding on just the right colors for your home? COLOUR SCHEME PRO from Asian Paints can help you create the perfect color scheme. Select one of the 1800 Asian Paints color shades, and the app will guide you by suggesting the right monochromatic, analogous or complementary shades to go with it. You can even choose colors from photographs on your device or by taking a new photo and selecting just the right shade from it.
Design is all about inspiration — moreso when it comes to interior design. Interior Design Today is one of the leading sources of news, information and inspiration for interior designers around the world. The Interior Design Today app lets you download entire IDT issues on your phone or tablet and browse through the articles at leisure, wherever you are.
Need ideas for your next interior design project? Called the “Wikipedia of interior and exterior design” by CNN, Houzz has the largest database of home design ideas on the net, with over 900,000 high resolution photos. The Houzz Interior Design Ideas app brings all that goodness to your Android phone or tablet, complete with full resolution images, the ability to search through the database to get exactly what you are looking for and even find the right professionals to help you bring your designs to reality.
Another great source of inspiration for interior design ideas — specifically for residential projects — is the Dream Home app. Browse through a growing catalog of ideas, look at every detail via the high quality photographs and save your favorite ones to come back to later. The intuitive navigation makes it a breeze to sift through the catalog and get exactly what you need.
When it comes to furnishing your place, one of the most popular destinations for furniture and accessories is the IKEA Store. The IKEA Catalogue brings their entire 2013 collection to your phone or tablet, letting you easily go through the humongous collection without the long walks through their warehouse, and choose exactly what you need so you can optimize the time you spend at the store.
Colors & Fonts
You do, don’t you? Every designer does! Then you’ve probably heard of ColourLovers, one of the most respected color-related websites out there. The aptly named I Love Color app lets you access the entire colourlovers database of colors, color palettes and patterns. Browse through the resources, share them with others or just download a pattern and set it as the wallpaper on your Android device.
Another app that brings the entire ColourLovers database onto your Android device is Color Pal. Unlike I Love Color, this one focuses entirely on the colors and palettes, and completely skips the patterns portion of the website. You can browse through the palettes, get the Hex, RGB or CMYK values for each color, save them as favorites or email them to yourself for reference at a later time.
If you are having trouble finding the right palette for your design, you might want to try generating your own color palettes. Color Buddy can help you do that by letting you select a base color and then suggesting other colors in the palette using traditional models like Complementary, Triadic, Analogous and more. You can also use shade modes to adjust each color in the palette to get them all just right.
How about generating beautiful color palettes from photos that you believe capture the essence of the mood you’re looking for? With SwatchMatic, you can take any picture and quickly generate a color palette from it, then tweak it as necessary. Once you are happy with all the colors, you can export the palette in the Adobe Swatch Exchange format so you can easily bring the colors inside of Adobe Photoshop or any other app that supports it.
Tired of the same old boring font on your Android device? Want to change things up and use a custom font instead of the default one? If you have a rooted Android device or one of the few listed in the description of the app, you can use iFont(Fonts For Android) to do exactly that. Choose from a huge list of fonts, preview and compare them, and select the one you want. This will change the font on your home screen, app drawer, settings and anywhere else that uses the default system font.
Typomapp – Navigate Typography is an app for anyone interested in the history of fonts and typography as a whole. Explore how type has changed over centuries with profiles of around 500 typographers and over 100 type foundries across the world. All the information is curated by the Typomapp team and being continuously updated to include the most interesting facts, figures and related information for your reading pleasure.
Web Design & Development
HTML5 & CSS are the foundation stones of web design, languages that have fast become the bare minimum necessary skill for anyone wanting to be part of the web design & development community. If you are looking to get into HTML & CSS, the HTML5 & CSS Quicklook Guide from MacProVideo can be a great starting point. In-depth video tutorials explain the core concepts of web design & development, so you can learn at your own pace.
Note that you need to be registered on MacProVideo to be able to see the videos.
HTML5 Guru is another great way to learn the basics of web design on your Android phone or tablet. If you are just starting out, it can serve as a good reference for the often confusing syntax, and it comes with detailed explanations for all tags, including usage examples and browser support specifics.
As any web designer will tell you, one of the most irritating parts of creating responsive web designs is testing them on various devices and troubleshooting errors and layout issues. Adobe Edge Inspect CC attempts to relieve that pain by making it dead-simple to preview your designs on a host of devices all at once, and synchronously browse pages on all devices from your computer. You can also take screenshots from each device, debug code and tweak the layout as necessary till you get it right everywhere.
Now I know that editing code on your tablet — I’m not even going to get into doing it on your phone — can be quite painful, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And for times like these, one of the better code editors on Android is DroidEdit Pro. With syntax highlighting for a variety of languages, multiple color themes, the usual code editor features and integration with Dropbox for editing documents in the cloud, you can’t really go wrong with this one.
Think of 920 Text Editor as a text editor with superpowers. Apart from editing regular text files, you can use it as an e-reader, edit code in a multitude of programming languages, search through multiple files at once, preview HTML files, choose colors using the built-in color picker and do much more. With more features that you can shake a stick at, 920 Text Editor is pretty much a Swiss Army knife of text editors.
When working with web servers, a good FTP client is often worth its weight in gold. One of the best known FTP clients on Android is AndFTP. The app supports FTP, FTPS, SCP & SFTP protocols, can manage multiple configurations and provides upload, download as well as synchronization with remote sites, with support for pausing and resuming transfers. If you need a full-featured FTP client on your Android device, this is probably the way to go.
DeviantArt is by far one of the oldest and busiest art, design & customization communities on the web. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands who turn to the website for their regular dose of inspiration, iDeviant is a great way to do it from the comfort of your phone or tablet. Easily browse through the latest or popular deviations, interact with them and even set your favorite artwork as your wallpaper right from within the app.
Unless you’ve been designing from under a rock for the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Dribbble, the most sought after place on the web to see what the best designers are working on. One of the first few Android clients for Dribbble is the Asssist Widget. It lets you park the best of Dribbble right on your home screen for quick access to all the latest and greatest inspiration from the site.
If you are looking for a more feature-packed Dribbble client on Android, check out the fairly new OVVVERTIME app. You can browse the latest, popular or debut feeds, view shots in all their glory — including animated GIFs right within the app — read comments and share your favorite shots with friends using the Android share menu.
Another design community that has been more focused on design than art or customization has been Behance. Though they have a pretty kick-ass iOS app, Android users have to make do with the unofficial client, Sharpee. Make no mistake, though, Sharpee is in every way a beautiful app that makes viewing projects on Behance an absolute pleasure. You can browse through projects, search, filter, share them on social networks, download images to your device and much more.
Finally, one of the most recent growth stories in social media – Pinterest. What started as a simple way to bookmark images on the web has grown into a phenomenon that — among other things — is being used by designers to save & share their design work and inspiration. The Pinterest app is one of the best designed apps on Andriod today and makes it super-easy to browse through your Pinterest feed, pin & like things, share them and do pretty much anything that you would otherwise do on the web app.
So there you have it, some of the best Android apps for designers. The actual list is much bigger though, and I ended up discarding way more apps than including in an attempt to retain only the cream of the crop.
Have an app that you use as a daily driver but don’t see it here? Find one that maybe doesn’t deserve to be on the list? Let’s hear about it in the comments below.