For artists, tapping into the iPad's potential as a creative tool means sifting through hundreds if not thousands of art-related apps.

For artists, tapping into the iPad's potential as a creative tool means sifting through hundreds if not thousands of art-related apps.

But find the right ones and the iPad can become an artist's studio — packed with virtual paper, canvases, pencils, erasers, paint, brushes, art books and other supplies.

Many apps are duds, plain and simple. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there that are free, so trying out different ones doesn't have to break the bank. Here's a sampling of some of the more useful apps I've found for people who want to flex their creative muscles.

SketchBook Express is the free version of SketchBook Pro. But even the free version comes equipped with pencils, paintbrushes, airbrushes and calligraphy pens. You can adjust the size and color of each tool. Sketchbook Express has a handy feature for choosing a background color and a text tool so that you can include words in your artwork. Fonts range from plain-Jane Helvetica to stylish script fonts like Zapfino. For kids, Doodle Buddy is free and comes with brushes, chalk, glitter, an eraser and smudging effects. It's simple to use. Kids will have fun drawing or "painting." They can use stencils of basic shapes or a stamping tool with everything from smiley faces to soccer balls. Glow Draw is another fun option for kids, although adults could enjoy it, too. Use your finger to draw lines that glow in the color of your choice, such as lime green, orange or aqua. The background is black, which makes the glowing drawings stand out. There are a host of iPad apps that will allow you to take a photo with the iPad's built-in camera, then apply painterly effects to make the photo look like a painting. Some are more successful than others. Oil Painting Effect seems to just pixelate the photo, but Impressionist Effect does a pretty good job of making a photo look like something painted by Claude Monet. It works best when applied to common Impressionist subjects, such as landscapes. There are many painterly effect apps that are free. The Art Authority app, which was developed right here in Ashland, contains thousands of images of art from Western culture. It costs $4.99, but that's a pretty good deal considering that most apps with images from a single artist — such as Vincent van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer, or Pierre-Auguste Renoir — cost 99 cents each. If you want to preview Art Authority before buying, look up "Art Authority for iPad" on YouTube for a short demonstration video about the app. Images are arranged in a logical way, such as by artist and style. For free images of Eastern art, try out Japanese Art. It includes classics such as "The Great Wave of Kanagawa," the famous painting of men in tiny boats about to be engulfed by a frothing wave, with Mount Fuji visible in the background. You can scroll through almost 100 images, either in thumbnail or full-screen format. For people who like puzzles, Art Puzzles is free and allows you to put together eight puzzles that range from Leonardo da Vinci's iconic "Mona Lisa" to Vincent van Gogh's "Night Cafe." If you don't like puzzles, you can just put this app in "peek" mode and enjoy the art. For the kid in all of us, PegLight allows you to revisit the childhood toy Lite Brite. It's free, and there are no light bulbs that burn out and need replacing. You'll also never lose the colorful pegs you stick in the holes to make drawings. The free version comes with red, yellow, green and blue pegs. You can upgrade and buy more colors for 99 cents. PegLight includes a handy magnification tool in case you want to make really detailed images. If it doesn't take you back to your childhood of slumber parties and Lite Brite fun, nothing will.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.