Digital Painting ! Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for iPad
by Melissa G. Cabral for REACH
Autodesk has come out with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a digital illustration app optimized for the iPad. How well does it compare to the original desktop program?
Sketchbook Pro is an unmistakably minimalist app. Hence, the beginning tutorial is strangely complicated for an app that touts its simplicity of use. The app makes great use of the iPad's built-in multi-touch gestures. To draw, simply drag any finger across the screen. To zoom in and out, pinch with your fingers. To pan around your canvas, drag the screen with two fingers. To use the eyedropper tool, hold down your finger on the color you want to pick up.
Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any way to rotate the canvas. This is a strange feature to leave out, considering that a competitive drawing app, Procreate, comes with canvas rotation. In the meantime, artists will have to flip the actual iPad around instead to get their desired drawing angle.
Booting up your first blank canvas treats you to a screen devoid of any cluttered toolboxes, with a basic toolbar strip up top. Pressing the tiny ring at the bottom of the screen brings up additional toolbars on either side of the app. On the left, you have your basic art toolbox. It includes a variety of tools that are meant to simulate traditional media, including pencils, ballpoint pens, technical inking pens, paintbrushes, markers, and airbrushes. On the right, you'll find a color palette, which you can easily customize according to your personal tastes. You can also tap the screen with three fingers in order to call up the toolbars more quickly.
Once you've picked your tool, you can click on the paintbrush icon at the top to access brush settings Here, you can choose what color you want to use, as well as how big and transparent you want your brush to be. It's a little cumbersome to have to open this menu all the time, but luckily, Sketchbook Pro comes with the iconic and convenient Resize Puck. Accessing it is as simple as tapping three fingers on the screen. Swipe left or right inside the puck to adjust your brush size. Slide up and down within the puck to adjust the brush's opacity.
You can choose from a variety of brushes with different textures. The app also comes with brushes that act more like picture stamps, including realistic-looking nature images, and vector-style shapes and silhouettes.
The optional Radial Menu makes it even easier for you to access your most-used tools. When activated under the app's preferences menu, several squares will surround the puck. To add a tool shortcut to the radial menu, make sure you're currently using the brush you want to add. Then, simply hold down the square you want to put it in. You'll never have to dig through the brush menu for your favorite brush ever again.
Sketchbook Pro comes with layers, an indispensible feature for the serious digital artist. You can re-arrange layers, lock their transparency, and even change the layer modes to Multiply, Add, and Screen. Unfortunately, you can use only a maximum of six layers, which can be limiting to those who rely on dozens of layers to achieve their specific art styles.
One of the app's biggest draws is the ability to add text to the canvas, meaning you no longer need to import your drawing into a different app just to add words. You can use the Transform tool to resize, rotate, and move certain layers. Unfortunately, the app doesn't come with a lasso tool, so it's much harder to fix specific mistakes. You can also record a time-lapse video of your drawing to share with other people online.
It's fun to finger-paint in Sketchbook Pro, but it's best to use a stylus for a more authentic drawing experience. Most cheap styluses will do, though it's easy to wear down the rubber tips over time. If you're serious about iPad digital illustration, you might want to look into dedicated drawing styluses such as the Pogo, WACOM Bamboo, or the Adonit Jot Touch.
Sample simple output for a possible Romance Book Cover
Sketchbook Pro is available on the Apple and Google Play stores for only $4.99 (PhP220). For such a powerful yet simple app, this price is a steal compared to the desktop version, which costs $65 (PhP2,850). For those who are still on the fence, you can try out Sketchbook Express, the free, pared-down version of the app.