Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sketchbook Pro for Nexus 7 Tablet

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

January in England is very dull. So dull that I have to walk the dog by 3pm because by 4pm it's dark and I can't see what I'm treading on, or in. Therefore most of my creative pursuits involving colour are done between 9am and 1pm. However, thanks to Santa I can now draw and paint in colour even in the dark, I have a tablet with SketchBook Pro.

My tablet is a Nexus 7, I use it to check my email and listen to radio stations around the world using tunein. I can store and edit photos as soon as I've taken them using Photoshop Touch, and I watch arts documentaries from the BBC archive, like the one below.

Tove Jansson documentary on BBC iPlayer
I installed SketchBook on Christmas Day, it cost $2.99. I made drawings over the holidays, each one a little quicker and a little more pleasing than the last, then on New Years Day, I happened to see a review of SketchBook Pro on "PC Advisor" web site. After reviewing SketchBook Pro they gave it 3.5 stars out of 5. I ask you! This app costs less than a cup of coffee and a lot less than a tube of paint and they give 3.5 out of 5. Not only that, but the reviewer didn't show any drawings, which leads me to assume he can't draw. So I'm here to redress the balance and give you my honest opinion.

My own experience of SketchBook is that it runs smoothly on my tablet, it's easy to learn and that it's a pleasure to use. The biggest hurdle to drawing on a tablet is using a stylus but this can be a big advantage. I discovered years ago that my paintings improved if I used a bigger brush. (Ron Ranson demonstrates using a 2 inch brush and an eye patch). Using a stylus feels like painting with a big brush. The stylus (I use a $2 stylus from Amazon), initially feels clumsy, like tying shoe laces while wearing boxing gloves, but after a few goes you start to adapt and get a feel for it. As you can see below, the stylus tip is very big, which is good, it stops you fiddling.

Brushes - Photograph by Tim Irving
Painted in oils with brushes shown

Big tip of stylus can feel clumsy - it stops you fiddling
One you get a feeling for drawing with the stylus SketchBook Pro has everything you could possibly need for drawing. It has 150 brushes, each one adjustable. Infinite colours presented as either, colour picker, colour chart, colour wheel etc, plus you can store favourite colours and brushes in a library. Between the brushes and the colour controls it's possible to make any mark, fat, thin, opaque, transparent, scumbled, cross hatched and anything else. I drew the matchbox below with Sketch Book to illustrate a few of the painterly marks you can make

On my tablet the brushes are pressure sensitive, just like a real brush.You can draw with layers! Like using clear acetate you can put each part of your drawing on separate layers, foreground, distance, sky, colour and figures. You can choose from 3 canvas sizes, it's possible to draw on a big canvas that can be exported as a Photoshop, PNG or JPEG file.
SketchBook Pro painting by Tim Irving

Going back to the "PC Advisor" review, what's not to like? Improvements! An Albrecht Durer auto drawing mode would be a nice addition to the next up-grade. Other than that I can't see what else is required.

I love this little app, it does all the above and more for less than the price of a cheeseburger.
I give SketchBook Pro ♥♥♥♥♥♥

SketchBook is available for Android devices, Ipad and Iphone.


  1. An enticing post. All those yummy color and brush capabilities!

    Everyone around me has been talking about "this app" and "that app", everything from stargazing to lying their phone on the bed at night to track REM sleep. Amazing. I tend to run a bit behind the crowd in obtaining electronic devices. I get comfy using what I already have and lazy about learning to use new equipment. But in recent months the desire to have an ipad or similar device has been bubbling to the surface. I'd like one in order to easily access the music, programming and communication features you mention. I have an iphone which is great, but it's too small to conveniently meet my "entertainment needs" (not as arrogant as it sounds). So I feel an ipad is in my near future, and reading your Sketchbook Pro review has turned up the heat under my bubbles.

    Your matchbook color sketch is a great example of what the app can do, even watercolor blooms. Keep showing us your progress. I find the little oil painting very lovely too.

  2. I agree, they should have given sketchbook pro at least a 4.5 if not a five. I started drawing using coloured pencils and then starting using my Nexus. The app is fantastic and suits my particular style where I like a lot of colours which fill line outlines.



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