How to Create Sketches in Notes for iPhone and iPad

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

What to Know

  • Tap Compose, then select Markup (pen tip). Choose a drawing tool and color, then start sketching or write a handwritten note.
  • To erase part of a drawing, tap the Eraser and then tap where you want to erase. Tap Undo to undo an error. Tap Done when finished.
  • Use the Rotate button to rotate an image. Tap the Ruler to align a drawing. Tap Share to share it via social media, text, or email.

This article explains how to use the iOS Notes app to create sketches, drawings, and doodles. We explain the features that make Notes both a powerful drawing tool and note-taking app. Information applies to iOS 12 and later.

How to Sketch on the iPhone or iPad Using Notes

To add a new or inline sketch on the iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open the Notes app on your iOS device.

  2. Select the Compose button, indicated by a square with a pencil on it.

  3. To begin sketching, select the pen tip button, indicated by a circle with a pen tip in it.

    New sketch button in iOS Notes

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

  4. If you use iOS 12, create a full sketch by tapping the circular button with a plus sign and choosing 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 brush types: pen, marker, and pencil. Use the pencil to draw shapes to frame the drawing and for shading. Use the pen and marker to create solid drawings.

iOS 14 includes even more drawing features.

There's a variety of color choices. When you hold the iPhone in portrait mode, 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, making 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 in the upper-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 Rotate tool

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 precise angle. With the ruler on the screen, anything you draw next to the ruler is aligned with it.

The Ruler tool

To exit the drawing, select Done. You can go back to the sketch at any time and edit it.

How to Doodle With Objects Using Inline Sketch

While the inline sketch and full sketch tools 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. 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 drew. 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 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 a Notes Sketch

Share your drawing with friends and family. Make sure to exit the tool before sharing your work if you use the inline sketch tool.

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.

Drawing Within Notes Explained

iOS 12 had two drawing options for the Notes app. With iOS 13 and later, Apple unified the two options.

The Sketch Pad

The full sketch pad is designed like a professional tool. Choose from three 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 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. Inline sketches don't have a border, so the transition between the words you type and the drawing is seamless. Inline sketches don't offer as many colors as the sketch pad (only black, blue, green, yellow, and red), don't have a ruler tool, and use a different eraser functionality. Inline sketches include a selection tool that isn't available on the sketch pad.

The biggest difference between the two is that an inline sketch cannot be edited after it is saved. Also, the inline sketch tool has features that make it easy for artists to create a quick doodle on a drawing pad, but professionals shouldn't discount its capabilities.

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