App Review: Paper by FiftyThree

Paper by FiftyThree


Paper is the revolutionary application for iPad Retina and iPad mini devices, designed to enable users to create on-the-go. It was designed to work just like a real life paper and journal, therefore simplicity was integral to the design and functionality of the app.


One of the first apps I downloaded on my iPad Mini was Paper which I was keen to try out and review for myself, (I don’t currently have Pencil, so this review is based on using this app with my fingers).




 Paper is free to download and comes with two features- fountain pen and erase, however I immediately purchased 4 additional brushes (priced at £1.49 each or £4.99 for all four) and a blend tool (£1.49). Prior to purchasing these, Paper allows you to sample each of them to see for yourself the effect they produce- a functionality that I found to be extremely helpful, and was what persuaded me that I needed these brushes.




First impression


As soon as I started using this app I was astounded by the incredible digital rendering of brush strokes. The pressure and speed of your strokes determines line thickness, and the realism of how the different brushes and pens are realised on your screen is so lifelike that the image could easily be a photo of a real drawing.


User interface


As for the user interface- there barely is one, which is perfectly in line with the simplicity at the heart of FiftyThree’s characterization of basic drawing tools. To open your journal you only need to pinch or tap the screen, and to scroll through the pages requires a mere swipe of the fingers. Creations can easily be shared via social media, email or saved to your camera roll, and examples of other users’ work is also available to be viewed for inspiration.




Helpful features


When creating my illustrations, I found the zoom feature particularly useful for adding detail to an area of the page, and again just a simple finger gesture is all that was required to select the portion of the page I needed to change. This allowed me to easily layer up colour and combine different pens/brushes to create an array of colours and textures.


What I hope will be coming in future updates


Despite being able to successfully mix colours and textures using the techniques outlines above, the limited amount of colours could prove a challenge for some users. Purchasing the blend tool could assist with this issue, however the option to purchase (or even better, be offered a free upgrade) with additional colours would provide users with a greater scope to explore the possibilities with this intuitive app.


A minor difficulty I encountered was using the watercolour tool to shade smaller areas, as the ink tended to go over the lines too much or go on too thickly. However, I feel that this problem could easily be ironed out by providing users with the option of selecting different brush sizes.




Areas of difficulty


The main thing I struggled with was the ‘undo’ function. I don’t know if this is just because I haven’t used this feature much yet, but it seems to take me several attempts (and some unwanted scribbles on my page) in order to get the rewind tool to work. Admittedly, I probably just need to use this feature more, because I can’t imagine that an app as sophisticated as this would have a poorly performing tool.



So far I have only used this app for drawing detailed illustrations, but I can already see a number of situations I would use Paper in, such as drawing diagrams, taking notes in a meeting or quickly sketching ideas.


I have been blown away by the intuition and accuracy achieved by the creators of this app, and as a huge fan of painting and drawing, I wish I had been able to use this years ago. While there are some minor ways that this doesn’t compare to drawing and painting in real life, it is as close to drawing on paper as you can get, and avoids the inevitable mess, usage of paper and tidying up which are my least favourite parts of drawing and painting.


I love this app so much, read more about it on FiftyThree’s website and definitely download it for free to see what the fuss is about. As aforementioned, you can sample the other brushes and pens for free too, so there really is no excuse not to have a look.






Next I would love to use and review FiftyThree’s accompanying Pencil. Pencil is a hardware offering which uses bluetooth technology to pair with the iPad device and mimic a real-life pencil by incorporating an eraser on the tip and using palm-rejection technology. It is priced at USD 50-60 (about £30-40), and based on videos, reviews and examples of other artist’s work, it looks like another superb offering from FiftyThree. 


Pencil would allow me to achieve the accuracy that I can’t currently master using my fingers alone, and also means that colours and can be blurred together when fingers are smudged on the screen while Pencil is connected to the iPad device. This would allow me to create in-focus foregrounds and blended backgrounds which would give an additional depth to my creations, however it may be a while until I get my hands on one due to them currently being out of stock and the price commitment.


To read more about Pencil, have a look at FiftyThree’s website and stick this nifty little bit of technology on your wishlist.




Short Description
The revolutionary drawing app named by Apple as App of the Year