With its large touch screen, the iPad is a great device for sketching, doodling and painting without having to lug around paper, canvas, paint or other art supplies. With the right app, your iPad becomes a mobile art studio so you’re ready to create that next masterpiece whenever inspiration hits. Sketchbook Pro from Autodesk is just such an app. With its many advanced features, it proves to be one of the best painting apps in the App Store.
Sketchbook Pro supports up to six layers with opacity controls and a few blend modes like Multiply and Screen. You can resize and reposition each layer independently. The app provides undo and redo buttons for mistakes and line, square or circle tools for drawing those shapes.
Something you would be hard pressed to find in any other app is Sketchbook Pro’s symmetry tool. When this tool is active, every stroke you make is perfectly mirrored on the other side of the screen. This makes drawing symmetrical objects like faces a bit easier.
Sketchbook Pro probably has the most powerful brush engine in the App Store, with 60 different brushes ranging from pencil, soft round, and stippling to square, airbrush, and splatter; you can even opt for several symbols like tree leaves or flowers. Each brush can be customized by adjusting its radius, opacity, feathering, and spacing. You can also set the minimum/maximum radius and opacity so the brush stroke will taper or fade out at the end of a stroke. There’s even a smudge brush that will smear previous strokes—a nice tool for blending your paintings. Of course, there’s an eraser brush and a paint bucket tool for filling the entire canvas in one tap.
I also appreciated the app’s color selector, which has several color swatches and a Painter-style color wheel with a saturation diamond in the middle for choosing virtually any color imaginable. Underneath the color wheel, you’ll find sliders for hue, saturation, and the amount of black you want in your color. An eyedropper tool lets you pick colors off the screen.
Sketchbook Pro’s interface has a slight learning curve to it, but before too long, you’ll find it to be well thought out and quick to navigate. A little circle at the bottom of the screen brings up a large circle in the screen’s center. By tapping the middle of this circle and dragging your finger left or right you can quickly adjust brush size. Dragging up or down will adjust the opacity of the brush. A three-finger tap anywhere on the screen displays or hides the toolbar and other icons. Swiping three fingers right or left will undo or redo the last action. Holding a finger down on the screen for two seconds will activate the eyedropper tool. These little gestures shortcuts are much faster than navigating menus, allowing you to focus more on painting.
Once you’re finished painting, you can save your masterpiece in the gallery where you can export it to your iPad’s photo library, save it to iTunes, or e-mail it as either a flattened image or a PDF with layers intact.
Sketchbook Pro is one of the most advanced painting applications available for the iPad. If you like to paint or draw you should really consider downloading this gem.
[Tim Mercer is a technology enthusiast, graphic designer, and blogger, whose blog, digital-artist-toolbox.com, offers free resources to the digital artist and graphic designer.]