How to Create Sketches in Notes for iPhone and iPad

You don't need a special app to doodle on your iPhone or iPad

The iPad Pro supports the all-new Apple Pencil, a stylus created the Apple way.

Apple, Inc.

The Notes app installed with the iPhone and iPad offers a hidden secret: a sketch pad. Use Notes to doodle a quick drawing next to a note you're taking for class, or use it as a drawing app complete with several brush sizes and colors. When you combine the sketch pad with the ability to add photos from the device's camera roll, you have a powerful drawing tool and one of the few note-taking apps that lets you draw next to your notes.

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 12.

Draw Within Notes

Doodling in Notes involves more than tapping a button and drawing on your iPhone. There are two different ways to draw in Notes:

  • The Sketch Pad: The full sketch pad is designed like a professional tool. Pick from three different brush sizes, many colors, an eraser, and a ruler. Sketches can also be rotated. The drawing shows up as a block in Notes and can be edited it at any time. This tool is great for iPad drawing because it supports the Apple Pencil.
  • Inline Sketches: These are meant as quick drawings that integrate with your text. They are useful because they don't have a border, so the transition between the words you type into your note and the drawing is seamless. Inline sketches don't offer as many colors as the sketch pad, don't have the ruler tool, and use a different eraser functionality. Inline sketches include a selection tool that isn't available on the sketch pad, but the biggest difference between the two is that an inline sketch cannot be edited after it is saved.

The inline sketch tool is limited to black, blue, green, yellow, and red for colors.

The inline sketch tool has some features that make it easy for those without an art background to create a quick doodle on a drawing pad but shouldn't be discounted even for professionals. The biggest draws of the full-fledged sketch pad are the ability to edit the drawing later and the ruler to sketch precise drawings.

How to Sketch on the iPhone or iPad Using Notes

To add a new or inline sketch on the iPhone or iPad, open the Notes app and tap the Compose button (it looks like a square with a pencil on it) to start a new note. Then, to create an inline sketch, tap the pen tip button.

If the on-screen keyboard is displayed, the button is on the right side of the toolbar above the keyboard.

New sketch button in iOS Notes

To create a full sketch, tap the circular button with a plus sign and choose Add Sketch.

Add Sketch button in iOS Notes

The drawing appears where the cursor is located in the text. If you typed a note, the sketch appears after the text.

How to Draw Using the Standalone Sketch Pad

The basics are the same whether you use the sketch pad or the inline tool. Choose between three different brush types: pen, marker, and pencil. Use the pencil to draw shapes to frame your drawing and for shading. Use the pen and marker to create solid drawings.

The sketch pad includes a ruler for precise drawing

There's a wide variety of color choices. When you hold your iPhone in portrait mode, which means the home button is at the bottom or the top of the phone, only one color displays. If you tap the color, an array of colors appears. Scroll through these colors by swiping left or right on the colored circles. When you choose a color, the tip of the active brush size changes to that color, which makes it easier to see which brush is active.

The sketch pad has two extra tools: the rotate button and the ruler tool. The rotate button is at the top right corner of the screen. It looks like a box with an arrow curved around the upper-right corner. This button rotates the image 90 degrees counterclockwise.

The ruler tool places a ruler on the screen that you can manipulate with your fingers. Drag the ruler to any place on the sketch pad and rotate it by placing two fingers on the ruler and moving one of those fingers in a circular motion around the other finger. The ruler displays the angle while you rotate it, which is great if you need a very precise angle. With the ruler on the screen, anything you draw next to the ruler is aligned with it.

To exit the drawing, tap the Done button. You can go back to the sketch at any time and edit it by tapping on it in the note.

How to Doodle With Objects Using Inline Sketch

While inline sketch and the full sketch pad may seem like two versions of the same basic tool, they are different. The inline sketch allows you to draw using objects. This means everything you draw from the time you put your finger or stylus on the screen until you pick it up again is an object. If you draw an S, pick up your finger, and draw another S, you have two different objects.

The inline sketch tool allows objects to be easily duplicated

This is an important distinction because it changes how the eraser works in the inline sketch tool. The eraser is next to the three brush sizes, and instead of erasing the area you touch, the eraser deletes the entire object it touches. If you touch any part of the second S, the entire S disappears.

If you make a mistake, tap the Undo button to erase the mistake (or use the Undo button to un-erase an erasing mistake). The Undo button is a circle with a curved arrow pointing to the left and is located at the top of the screen. When you undo something, the Redo button appears beside the Undo button. It looks the same but the arrow points to the right and it will redo whatever you just erased with the Undo button.

Inline sketches also feature a unique tool: the Selector. When you activate the Selector, you can draw on the screen to select the objects you have drawn. Anything the Selector touches is selected. To move these objects, hold your finger on the selection and move it to a new location. If you quickly tap the selection, a menu appears with options to cut, copy, delete, or duplicate the selection. 

When you are done with your doodling, tap the X button in the lower-right corner of the screen. Remember, you cannot go back and edit an inline sketch, so finish it before you save it.

How to Share Your Sketch With Friends

Share your drawing with friends and family — but if you use the inline sketch tool, exit the tool before sharing your work.

Screenshot of the Sketch Pad in Notes

To share an inline sketch, open the note that contains the sketch, then double-tap the sketch to display options to cut, copy, delete, or share the sketch. When you tap Share, the share sheet opens. You can choose to share the sketch through a text message, mail, Twitter, Facebook, or save it to your camera roll.

To share a full sketch pad drawing while you are working on it, tap the Share button at the top of the screen.