16 Top Useful iPhone Apps for Graphic Designers

When you are in transit, at a meeting, or at lunch, having your iPhone with you affords you a chance to get some graphic design work done when away from your computer. These 16 useful apps for graphic designers will help you learn, organize, brainstorm, or research different aspects of your design work. As a bonus, most of these apps inspire creativity all by themselves. Kudos to the developers!

Yes, there are lots and lots of graphic design related apps to pick from in the App Store, but many are just not that useful—sorry! The list below represents the consensus from many different sources about the apps that are most useful for getting actual work done.

(NOTE: Any new apps are added below the numbered list)

My 2 Favorite Graphic Design Apps for iPhone

  • My personal favorite on the list, which I’ll list first, is the Font Game app. It’s just great to be able to see some of these typefaces up close and learn how they look and feel. The great thing about the game format is that you get to learn and apply that knowledge right off, albeit in a game format. This does relate to work of course because it’s education. The more we know, the faster we are able to work and turn out great design for clients. Time is money!
  • My second favorite on, which I’ll list second, is SimpleMind Touch. It’s the best simple mind mapping tool I’ve come across for iPhone yet. For simply getting out the way and requiring the least amount of learning curve or operational savvy (it will take you 13 seconds to learn!), it gets my highest personal recommendation.

The rest are listed in no particular order.

Since our own Font Combination App is so new, we can’t list it among the other 16 (yet), but we’d sure love for you to check it out. If you love typography, and even more so if you love the Font Game, you’ll appreciate Font Combinations. You can mix and match fonts to create over 2000 different combinations faster than you could do in a desktop app. It includes the top fonts used by graphic designers. Click below if it sounds interesting:

Now for our list of links direct to the iTunes Store:

16 Top Useful iPhone Apps for Graphic Designers

  1. Font Game
    From I Love Typography comes the long-awaited, the definitive Font Game for iPhone & iPod Touch. Guaranteed to be absolutely the most fun you’ll have with fonts anywhere, any time, any place. Think you know your Arial from your Helvetica, your sans from your sans serifs? Then step up to the plate. With three levels of game play from the ease-yourself-in, ‘Somewhat Difficult’ through to the incredibly challenging ‘Exceedingly Difficult’, there’s lots of fun to be had for novices and typographic experts alike.
  2. SimpleMind Touch
    SimpleMind Touch is a Mind Mapping tool that turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a brainstorming, idea collection and thought structuring device.
    (The interface on this one is very easy to use. The lite version is free. If you are new to mind mapping, I strongly recommend trying this app and see how it goes. This link is to the paid version. Look for the free version.)
  3. Palettes 2.0
    Palettes is a powerful iPhone productivity tool for creating and maintaining color palettes and schemes. Turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a portable color creation tool. Now you can create a color palette anywhere at anytime. Great for creating color schemes. Grab colors from a photograph, a website, or add colors using any one of 5 color models. Quickly find matching colors with support for many different color schemes. (NOTE: check out this cool Photoshop script for creating random color schemes for fun and inspiration)
  4. cliqcliq Colors
    Colors is an easy-to-use color picker for discovering, converting, and managing colors and palettes. If you’re a designer or developer working with CSS, HTML, Flex, Flash, Objective-C or other media-centric technologies, you’ll spend a good amount of time finding the exact colors you want to use and converting between various scales and formats. With cliqcliq Colors, you can create palettes based on colors you like best and quickly convert between RGB, HSB, and CMYK as well as integer and floating point scales.
  5. Palettes Pro
    Palettes Pro is a powerful productivity tool for creating and maintaining color palettes. Great for creating color schemes. Now you can create a color palette anywhere at anytime. Grab colors from a photograph, a website, or add colors using any one of 5 color models. Quickly find matching colors with support for many different color schemes.
  6. Color Expert
    Color Expert is an interactive color wheel and swatch library that helps artists and designers indentify, tranlsate, capture, and showcase color. Designers know inspiration can come anywhere at anytime. Now with Color Expert, you’ll have the tools to capture the moment, the moment a color captures you.
  7. iBlueSky
    iBlueSky is a brainstorming and mind-mapping solution for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Collect and organise ideas you have at odd moments, then email the complete project in PDF and PNG formats to any contact. You can even print a hard copy of your work from the PDF file.
  8. WhatTheFont
    Identify the fonts in a photo or web graphic! Ever seen a great font in a magazine ad, poster, or on the web and wondered what font it is? Whip out your iPhone and snap a photo, and WhatTheFont for iPhone will identify that font in seconds!
  9. FinDaFont
    All the fonts that you’ll ever need, right just in your iPhone !!!
  10. Font Shuffle
    “FontShuffle is the fastest mobile source of typographic inspiration. 650+ font families are sorted by visual similarity. Without any previous knowledge about type design, you can quickly discover 6 typefaces of similar style in just two taps by navigating the simple category menu. Choose the list view to examine up to 24 similar typefaces. “
  11. Typography Manual
    The Typography Manual has several useful features and resources for designers, including a visual type anatomy glossary, a font size ruler, an em calculator, and enough content to fill a 60-page book. It has all the essentials of a desk reference in a regularly updated pocket resource.
  12. Sketches 2
    Jot down your notes, scribble your thoughts and annotate your pictures using only your fingers and your imagination! Illustrate your ideas with simple but colorful diagrams, notes and sketches.
  13. Pixelpipe
    Liberate your media with Pixelpipe and get your photos off of your iPhone and out to your favorite social network, micro-blog, photo/video and blog services. With over 110 supported destinations from around the world to choose from the choice is really yours. Free your media and share your life.
  14. Loupe
    A color picker for your iPhone: You never know where you are going to find the perfect color. With Loupe you can capture your color inspirations so you don’t have to try and guess what that shade was when you are back at your computer. Simple and thoughtfully designed, Loupe lets you create color swatches from your photo library or using the camera to save colors as you find them.
  15. ColorToy
    The color scheme generator for iPhone and iPod Touch. Whether you’re a web designer, interior decorator, artist or just a lover of colors, ColorToy can help you find your ideal color scheme. This simple, flexible app lets you generate, modify and store complementary color palettes.
  16. Paper Sizes
    International Paper Sizes is an ideal resource for looking up a variety of paper standards. It’s ideal for those working in graphic design, illustration, printing, export and packaging.

NOTE: Reviews of these and other graphic design related apps are forthcoming, so please subscribe to BonFX one way or the other over on the left column. And thanks for stopping by!

Updates from readers since publishing this article:

  • 3/20/2010: myPantone
    Now with the myPANTONE for iPhone and iPod Touch app you have access to a variety of PANTONE® color libraries and the ability to build color palettes and share them with colleagues and clients. myPANTONE offers graphic, web, fashion and apparel designers a way to take PANTONE colors with you wherever you go. Can’t remember what a color looks like, now you can have Portable Color Memory™. (Hat tip to simonkoležnik)

Yo, Font-Addict! Make sure to sneak-peek at The Big Book of Font Combinations. It's on sale—17% off—for a limited time and then POOF! Go grab a copy and stare at all 370 examples of informative font combinations. You know you want to!


  1. says

    @ Louis: Great list – I’m actually going to reference this in another post shortly. I missed the “Kern” game – thanks for the reminder!

    Kern Game

    Oh yeah – as cool as it is, Oblique Strategies isn’t available in the US. I wonder why? Hopefully it will be released here before long!

  2. says

    Hi Darren: My Pantone was added to the amended section at the bottom of the list. I think it came out a day or two after I published this list.

    I looked at DesignRuler but didn’t get, really, how I’d use it. Is it really accurate just going by pixel readings? It seemed like it might be not that useful for 2 reasons: 1) the length of what you can measure on screen (3 inches so) doesn’t seem that useful and 2) the bezel around the iPhone seems like it would make it hard to get close enough to something small to get a meaningful reading. If you have it can you explain how it works and what it’s best at? I’m very curious.

  3. Darren Kutcheon says

    I’ve used DesignRuler when I’ve been away from my studio, and it definitely comes in handy, despite the limitation of the small screen size. If i have to match a type specimen, I just fold the original over and place it on top of my screen so I can get the characters as close to the guide lines or EScale as possible. Works pretty well. The only way I can see to improve on it would be to somehow use the camera, or ask Apple to make a transparent iPhone. LOL.

    I’d say it’s almost as accurate as a real ruler is, or at least close enough that I can make a pretty good stab at matching something when I don’t have my real ruler with me. Having DesignRuler, What the Font and MyPantone on my IPhone gives me a nice collection of virtual studio tools in my pocket, which is great when meeting with clients.

  4. says

    @ Darren: Hmm. I’ll have to check that out. I hadn’t thought of folding the paper. I was stuck thinking of it like a regular ruler where you just use the edge. Thanks!

  5. says

    @ bydaughters

    Since I have an app in the store, I necessarily spent time figuring out where to categorize it. That research, plus some other research other people had done, yielded this list. I’ll be updating it once a year, as apps come and go.

  6. says

    I’ve built a new app named ColorSight for creating and emailing swatches It also provides detailed color metrics (RGB, HSB, CMYK, and HEX) for every color.

    This app really is for anyone with the word ‘Designer’ in their job description. I built it for myself because I was unsatisfied with the few similar apps on the market.

    Check it out at. I really do feel like it would have gone in the list above if it had existed then.

  7. says

    Hi Jackson: There are some really great apps for designers here. Try a few for sure! Looks like I’ll have to do the article again next year with so many new ones coming out so often…

  8. CosmicSans says

    excellent list! altough i would add “DesignerTools” app for iphone instead of “Paper Sizes”. I found it a much complete app.


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