Reviewed: voxel drawing apps for iPad (all of them!)


A grid of four screenshots of voxel drawing apps on an iPad, with the word REVIEWED written in big in the middle

What are voxels?

In the context of 3D modeling and illustration, voxels are basically 3D pixels. So voxel art is like the 3D version of pixel art — artists create the model one cube (rather than one square) at a time, in a three-dimensional box. It’s a style of 3D art that’s been popularized by games like Minecraft and mobile games like Crossy Road (shown below respectively).

Two screenshots: the left one is of Minecraft, and the right one is of Crossy Road

Why drawing them on a touch screen is the way to go

One of my pet peeves with 3D modeling on my computer is that the mouse is a very poor controller for shifting camera angles and moving the viewport around. It always feels very counterintuitive to be pawing at my table to move around a 3D space, and pressing this or that button to change the way the viewpoint moves. Compared to this, I find that moving a camera around on a touchscreen with my fingers is much more intuitive and allows for a fidelity of movement that I can’t easily perform on a computer mouse. (One solution could be to use a trackpad on a computer. While it is better in some respects, it’s still not as intuitive. Plus, 3D modeling applications often assume the use of a mouse and leverages right clicks and scroll-wheels.)

I tried all four voxel drawing apps available on iPad (iOS) today and here’s what I found out

Turns out there are only four voxel modeling/drawing apps for the iPad (iOS) right now, though there are barely any reviews online on how they stack up against one another. So I took a bit of time out to download them all and try them out so you won’t have to 😉. Note that I did all of my testing on my iPad, so I don’t know 100% how the experience scales down on an iPhone, which many of these apps also support. (All prices below are given in US dollars.)

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Voxel Max - 3D Modeling ($9.99)

A screenshot of the Voxel Max app with one of its sample voxel models

Voxel Max is my top choice for a voxel drawing app on the iPad. Developed by UAE-based developer and Adrian Andreca, it has a rich set of features (multiple objects in multiple layers, different coloring styles, three rendering styles with a dozen or so effects) and is intuitive to navigate on the iPad. Its minimalist interface is beautiful, though some of the more complex features are a little hit-or-miss in terms of being easy to use. I also really like that I can rotate voxel objects within a scene, so that the model is not 100% strictly in a voxel grid, but retains the aesthetic nonetheless.

⭐️ ⭐️ Goxel 3D Voxel Editor ($4.99)

A screenshot of the Goxel app with one of its sample voxel models

Goxel is an open source voxel editor for PC/Mac/Linux created by the Taipei-based developer Guillaume Chéreau. The iOS app is based on the same code base as the computer application of the same name. I really wanted to like Goxel because it’s an open source project that has been around for 7+ years. Unfortunately because Goxel is primarily designed for computer-and-mouse use, it still retains a control schema that’s unintuitive on a touch screen — tilting the camera up and down is controlled using a scroll bar on the side, rather than with simple touch screen gestures. If you can get over that though, it does have the richest feature set (multiple cameras, materials, layers as well as add/subtract drawing tools) of the four apps.

⭐️ ⭐️ Mega Voxel (ad-supported or $4.99 per month)

A screenshot of the Mega Voxel app with one of its sample voxel models

Mega Voxel by Go Real Games, LLC sports a very toy-like design, which made it very appealing at first. I highly recommend downloading it and opening it to play through the (free) tutorial as an introduction to voxel drawing. However, once I spent more time with it, the app doesn’t have as many features as Voxel Max or Goxel, and its design is optimized for creating objects to place alongisde or within other objects, creatures and landscapes that are availble on their online shop. Of course, most of the shop is only unlocked if you pay for the monthly subscription, which is quite steep in price compared to the other apps reviewed.

⭐️ Particubes (free!)

A screenshot of the Particubes app with one of its sample voxel models

Particubes by Voxowl Inc. is a legacy app from a development studio that’s moved on — in fact, there’s a pop-up advertising the new app every time you open the app. Its feature set is basic and the displayed models aren’t particularly beautifully-rendered. However, the app is very fast and snappy, which means it probably runs well on iPhones.

TL;DR: I recommend getting Voxel Max because it’s a beautiful app that has intuitive controls and a rich feature set.

Are there any other iPad/iOS voxel drawing apps I missed? Let me know!

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