How to Build a Highly Functional React Native Drawing App with PencilKit

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How to Build a Highly Functional React Native Drawing App with PencilKit

Create a drawing app with React Native and PencilKit. Explore advanced features like color selection and brush customization.


Get excited to embark on the journey of building a powerful and feature-rich drawing app using React Native and PencilKit.

This comprehensive guide is here to walk you through the process, step by step. By the end of this tutorial, you'll have all the knowledge you need to create an exceptional drawing app that can rival any existing application out there.

Let's dive right in and have some fun!

Understanding React Native and Its Benefits for Mobile App Development

React Native is a popular framework for building native mobile applications using JavaScript and React. It allows developers to write code once and deploy it on both iOS and Android platforms, saving time and effort. One of the key advantages of React Native is its ability to provide a native-like experience while utilizing a single codebase.

Why Choose React Native for Mobile App Development?

React Native offers several advantages over traditional native development. Here are a few reasons why it is a preferred choice among developers:

1. Cross-Platform Development

With React Native, you can build mobile applications for both iOS and Android platforms using the same codebase. This reduces the development time and resources required, making it a cost-effective solution.

2. Faster Development and Hot Reloading

React Native's hot reloading feature allows developers to instantly see the changes made to the code, significantly speeding up the development process. This rapid iteration cycle enhances productivity and reduces time-to-market.

3. Reusable Components

React Native allows you to create reusable UI components, which can be shared across different screens or even between different projects. This modularity and reusability further streamline the development process and ensure consistency across the application.

4. Third-Party Library Support

React Native has a vast ecosystem of third-party libraries and packages, providing access to a wide range of pre-built components, tools, and functionalities. This extensive library support helps developers accelerate development and add advanced features to their applications.

5. Performance Optimization

React Native leverages native rendering on the device, resulting in excellent performance. It allows developers to optimize the app's performance by fine-tuning specific components or implementing native modules when necessary.

What Drawing Apps Do Artists Use?

Artists use a variety of drawing apps depending on their preferences and requirements.

Some popular drawing apps among artists include:

  1. Procreate: A powerful and feature-rich drawing app available exclusively for iOS devices. It offers a wide range of brushes, layers, and advanced tools, making it a top choice for professional artists.
  2. Adobe Illustrator Draw: A versatile vector drawing app available for both iOS and Android devices. It provides a comprehensive set of drawing tools and integration with Adobe Creative Cloud.
  3. Autodesk SketchBook: A widely-used drawing app available for multiple platforms. It offers a vast selection of brushes, customizable UI, and features tailored for artists of all skill levels.
  4. Concepts: A flexible and intuitive drawing app that combines the freedom of traditional sketching with the power of digital tools. It offers an infinite canvas, layers, and precision drawing tools.

Exploring PencilKit in React Native

Bring the power of PencilKit, Apple's awesome drawing framework, into your React Native apps. With React Native and compatible libraries, you can tap into the full potential of PencilKit for cross-platform development. Let's unleash your creativity!

To incorporate PencilKit into your React Native project, follow the steps mentioned earlier in the article to add the "react-native-pencilkit" library. This library bridges the gap between React Native and PencilKit, enabling you to create rich drawing experiences on iOS devices.

Building the Drawing Interface

Now that we have our project set up and PencilKit integrated, let's move on to building the drawing interface. We will create a canvas where users can freely express their creativity. Here's an example code snippet:

import React from 'react';
import { View } from 'react-native';
import { Canvas } from 'react-native-pencilkit';

const DrawingScreen = () => {
return (
<View style={{ flex: 1 }}>
<Canvas style={{ flex: 1 }} />

export default DrawingScreen;

Adding Advanced Features

To make our drawing app stand out, we can incorporate several advanced features. Let's explore a few options:

1. Color Selection

Allow users to choose from a variety of colors to enhance their drawing experience. You can implement a color palette with predefined options or even provide a custom color picker.

2. Brush Selection

Offer different brush styles and sizes to cater to users' preferences. Users can switch between brushes such as pencil, pen, marker, or even create their own unique brushes.

3. Undo and Redo Functionality

Implement the ability to undo and redo actions, giving users the freedom to correct mistakes or experiment with different ideas without limitations.

4. Layers and Opacity

Enable users to work with multiple layers and adjust the opacity of each layer. This feature allows for more complex and visually appealing compositions.

5. Export and Share Drawings

To provide a seamless user experience, it's essential to allow users to export and share their artwork. Implement functionality that allows users to save their drawings as image files (PNG or JPEG) to the device's gallery. Additionally, enable sharing via various platforms such as social media, email, or messaging apps.

React Native Draw: A Cross-Platform Drawing Component Based on SVG

React Native Draw is a cross-platform React Native drawing component based on SVG. It provides a flexible and powerful foundation for building drawing apps in React Native. With React Native Draw, you can utilize the capabilities of SVG, including the Path element, to create more complex and visually appealing drawings in your app.

React Native Skia: A Native Drawing App Solution

React Native Skia is a fully native, 60 FPS, free-hand drawing app that can be used to build a simple free-hand drawing app in React Native. It offers features such as free-hand drawing, color selection, variable stroke, undo/redo functionality, and the ability to export the drawing to the standard SVG format.

The Popularity of React Native

React Native has experienced significant growth in popularity over the years. According to recent statistics, the number of apps and games built with React Native grew 111% in 2018, and its popularity has continued to grow, with double-digit increases in 2022.

This surge in popularity is attributed to the efficiency and effectiveness of React Native in mobile app development.

Optimizing Performance and Memory Usage in React Native

To ensure your React Native drawing app performs optimally, you can employ various techniques.For optimizing performance and memory usage in your React Native drawing app, consider the following strategies:

  1. Component Performance OptimizationAnalyze your app's components and identify any performance bottlenecks. Optimize the rendering process by using techniques like shouldComponentUpdate or React.memo to prevent unnecessary re-renders.
  2. FlatList and VirtualizedList: Utilize React Native's built-in components like FlatList and VirtualizedList for efficiently rendering large lists of items. These components use windowing and recycling techniques to minimize memory usage and optimize performance.
  3. Image Optimization: Optimize the loading and display of images in your app. Use image caching libraries like FastImage to improve image loading speed and reduce memory consumption.
  4. Async Rendering and Offloading Work: Improve app performance by implementing asynchronous rendering and offloading heavy computations or rendering tasks to separate threads. Libraries like React Native's Interaction Manager or Worker Threads can help achieve this, ensuring smooth app performance without blocking the main UI thread.
  5. Memory Management: Ensure efficient memory management by implementing techniques like releasing unused resources, disposing of event listeners, and utilizing the AppState API to pause or cancel unnecessary tasks when the app is in the background. This helps optimize memory usage and ensures smooth performance of the app.
  6. Code Splitting and Lazy Loading: Split your code into smaller modules and load them lazily when needed. This approach reduces the initial bundle size and improves app startup time.
  7. Performance Monitoring and Profiling: Use tools like React Native Performance Monitor, Flipper, or Chrome DevTools to monitor your app's performance, identify performance bottlenecks, and optimize critical sections of your code.

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) Considerations

When building a drawing app, UI and UX play a crucial role in providing a seamless and enjoyable user experience.

Here are some considerations:

  1. Intuitive User Interface: Create a user-friendly and intuitive interface for effortless navigation of drawing tools, color selection, brush options, and more. Utilize familiar design patterns and clear visual cues to provide guidance and enhance the user experience.
  2. Responsive and Interactive Drawing: Develop a touch-responsive drawing canvas that provides real-time feedback. Implement gestures for zooming, panning, and rotating, offering a natural drawing experience.
  3. Contextual Menus and Toolbars: Organize the drawing tools and options in contextual menus or toolbars that appear when needed, reducing clutter on the screen and allowing users to focus on their artwork.
  4. Undo/Redo and Autosave: Implement undo and redo functionality to enable users to revert or redo changes in their drawings. Additionally, consider implementing autosave to prevent accidental data loss.
  5. Guides and GridsProvide optional guides or grids to assist users in creating precise and accurate drawings. This feature can be especially useful for technical or detailed illustrations.
  6. Feedback and Error Handling: Provide clear feedback to users when they perform actions, such as changing settings, selecting brushes, or exporting drawings. Handle errors gracefully and display informative messages to help users resolve any issues.
  7. Customization and PersonalizationAllow users to customize their drawing experience by providing options to adjust brush properties, canvas background, and interface themes. Personalization enhances user engagement and satisfaction.

Create exceptional drawing experiences with React Native. To design a compelling UI/UX, understand your target audience and their needs. Conduct user research, gather feedback, and iterate on your design for a delightful experience.

UI/UX Design in React Native

When it comes to creating a clear and intuitive UI/UX in React Native, consider the following practices:

  1. Wireframing and Prototyping: Start by wireframing and prototyping your app's screens to establish the layout and flow. Tools like Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD can help you create visual representations of your app.
  2. Visual HierarchyDesign your UI elements with a clear visual hierarchy to guide users' attention. Use typography, color, and size to differentiateimportant elements and establish a logical flow.
  3. Responsive DesignCreate a responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes and orientations. Use Flexbox or Grid systems to ensure your app's layout adjusts dynamically.
  4. Intuitive Navigation: Design a navigation structure that is intuitive and easy to use. Use common navigation patterns such as tabs, bottom navigation, or stack navigation to help users navigate between screens seamlessly.
  5. Consistent Branding: Maintain consistent branding throughout your app by using a unified color palette, typography, and iconography. This helps create a cohesive and recognizable user experience.
  6. Accessible Design: Ensure your app is accessible to a diverse range of users. Use appropriate color contrast, provide alternative text for images, and adhere to accessibility guidelines to make your app usable by everyone.
  7. User Testing and Feedback: Conduct user testing to gather feedback and insights on your app's usability. Iterate on your design based on user feedback to improve the overall user experience.

Here's an example code snippet that demonstrates a simple UI layout in React Native:

import React from 'react';
import { View, Text, StyleSheet } from 'react-native';

const DrawingApp = () => {
return (
<View style={styles.container}>
<Text style={styles.heading}>My Drawing App</Text>
{/* Add your drawing canvas component and other UI elements here */}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
container: {
flex: 1,
alignItems: 'center',
justifyContent: 'center',
backgroundColor: '#FFFFFF',
heading: {
fontSize: 24,
fontWeight: 'bold',
marginBottom: 16,

export default DrawingApp;

In this example, we have a basic container with a heading text component. You can add your drawing canvas component and other UI elements as per your app's requirements.

By following these UI/UX design principles and utilizing React Native's component system, you can create a clear and intuitive interface for your drawing app, enhancing the overall user experience.

Advanced tips for coding and developing a React Native drawing app

1- Use efficient data structures for managing drawing data.

2- Implement optimized redrawing techniques for faster rendering.

3- Achieve smoother line rendering with Bezier curves or Catmull-Rom splines.

4- Develop a robust layer management system for multiple layers.

5- Implement an efficient undo/redo system.

6- Allow users to create custom brushes with customizable properties.

7- Regularly profile and optimize app performance.

8- Prioritize code modularization and reusability.

Optimize performance, implement advanced drawing features, and maintain clean code in your React Native drawing app for a high-quality and efficient experience.


Congratulations! You now have a comprehensive understanding of how to build a highly functional React Native drawing app using PencilKit. By incorporating advanced features, leveraging React Native Draw or React Native Skia, and optimizing performance, you can create a top-notch drawing app that provides an exceptional user experience.

Develop drawing apps easily with React Native. Its cross-platform capabilities, extensive library support, and performance optimization make it ideal. Create a native-like experience for iOS and Android, save time with code reusability.

Continuously refine and enhance your app with new ideas, user feedback, and UI/UX principles for a functional and visually appealing experience.

Best of luck on your journey of building outstanding mobile apps!


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