Available on: iOS, Android, Windows & Desktop
Our Rating: 🌑🌑🌑🌒🌕
In previous weeks, the kinds of apps we’ve featured have included brain teasers, time management, news sources and face swapping. This week we’ve continued to try and keep our App of the Week varied, as well as get a little bit artistic. SketchBook is an app that will let you do anything from casual doodles to highly detailed sketches, although whether you’ll be able to compare with the sample screenshots on the app store is another matter.
From Autodesk, SketchBook is not only a mobile app but also a desktop application, available on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac. And since it’s our App of the Week, we also thought we would share some of our own creations we made using SketchBook. They are what you’d call ‘masterpieces’!
So, how does it work?
Having grown used to being required to complete some sort of sign-up form when starting a new app, it was a nice change to be able to load up SketchBook and immediately begin experimenting with what it can and can’t do on a blank canvas. This led to messing around for a few minutes with the different tools, including all of the standard brushes you would expect in a typical drawing program. After getting a feel for the app, which is responsive and doesn’t feel too clunky being on a mobile screen, it was time to clear the canvas and start again for real.
With SketchBook we found that, unsurprisingly, using some sort of stylus works a lot better than a finger or thumb. Not only because this lets you be more precise, but also that with a smaller screen you’ll often find yourself blocking your own vision of what you’re trying to do. Using a tablet lessens this, of course, but as it feels more natural, a pen is the best way to go.
In a recent blog post, we talked in-depth about freemium apps and how they separate many of the best features behind a paywall. SketchBook is no exception, where the base app is free but additional features need to be paid for. The Pro version, which costs a little over four pounds, adds extras including custom canvas sizes and a much larger variety of brushes to choose from. Yet for a free app, SketchBook comes with plenty of features that are more than enough to get started with.
There’s a fullscreen mode that removes all other UI elements on the screen, making it easy to work without anything getting in the way. The canvas can be rotated using finger and thumb, and allows you to zoom in and out for greater accuracy. With each brush you can adjust the size, opacity and thickness using sliders, and change the colour with an easy-to-use colour picker. SketchBook also gives you much more control than something like Paint, as it lets you use layers to separate parts of your picture.
There are plenty of ways in which you can customise the app to your liking. Brush tools can be dragged and reordered so that your favourites are always nearest to you when you need them. There are also hidden shortcuts which you can access by double-tapping the corners of the screen. Even better is that these can be changed in the settings, letting you quickly access tools like the colour picker or undo. And once you’ve finished sketching, you can save and export your creation – and share it on social too so that the whole world can see it.
SketchBook takes a bit of time to get used to and figure out what each tool does, yet it is quite a robust app with a lot to work with. There is also plenty to help a new user get started, including detailed Help and Support sections. If you can see yourself using the app a lot, then the Pro version does seem to be worth it in this scenario.
There were some downsides to the app that we did encounter. One of the most useful features you would expect in a drawing app like this, being able to re-size the canvas, is unfortunately locked within the Pro version. Additionally, we found that rotating and zooming in and out on the camera felt quite a bit awkward to adjust. It would be handy to have buttons which auto-rotated the screen at 90 degree angles. SketchBook is also quite intensive on battery power – though this doesn’t take away too much as it is kind of expected for an app like this.