Apple's long-awaited iPad hits UK shelves at the end of May, and a clutch of creative apps promise to make it a must-have gadget for illustrators and digital artists.

Most creatives will stick to their desktops or laptops for serious creativity. But the iPad's touchscreen makes for an impressively tactile, intuitive drawing experience – while its light weight, portability and rapid startup means that it's great for quickfire sketching whenever – and wherever – inspiration hits.

Developers including Adobe and Autodesk have lauched iPad versions of their iPhone art apps. These use the device's bright, responsive screen to enable you to sketch and paint with your fingers, transforming the device into a sophisticated digital sketchpad.

Steve Sprang's iPhone painting app Brushes – which made the headlines last year when the New Yorker put a Brushes painting on its cover – has been adapted for Brushes – iPad Edition. This gives you a workspace measuring 768 x 1,024 pixels and advanced zooming ability with two-fingered pinching and stretching motions, so you can work in impressively fine detail. There's a range of brushes, and the app creates convincing gouache, watercolour and oil effects, and more.

Unlike traditional painting, it has undo and redo tools, layers, blending modes and other effects. Brushes – iPad Edition costs £4.99.

Meanwhile Autodesk has launched an iPad version of its SketchBook Pro app (£4.99). This puts an arsenal of digital pencils, pens, markers and airbrushes at your fingertips.

SketchBook Pro's 75 brushes are fully customisable – so you can fine-tune brush sensitivity and other aspects to your drawing style. You've got full control over the opacity and layer order of up to six layers.

You can show your SketchBook Pro creation off to other artists, also from within the app.

Adobe enters the fray with Adobe Ideas, a free app that's designed for creating sketches on the go, for importing into Illustrator or Photoshop when you get back to the studio.

Ideas features simple vector-based drawing tools with separate drawing and photo layers. There are brushes for digital painting; you control brush size using the pinching and stretching gestures. It can also generate colour palettes from photos or other images.

So is the iPad a creative must-have? Probably not. It's an expensive luxury – but in the right hands it's also a powerful tool. Expect lots more useful apps like these to tempt you into parting with your cash.

adobe.com/uk

autodesk.com

brushesapp.com

Reviews of the iPad applications featured in this article will appear in Digital Arts online in due course.