Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Drawing programs and stylus

Revision 3.16.2013
I have started teaching a class at the White Bear Center for the Arts on iPad drawing.  I am also speaking on the subject this coming Monday at Open for the MCBA Journal Collective.  This particular post was one of my first, quickly written, and I was so excited about actually starting the blog I just let it rip. Having reread it and having thought a lot more about this subject lately I am doing a much-needed revamp.

I have recently whole-heartedly embraced a new medium in my art. Drawing on the iPad.  I have always wanted to try digital drawing, but couldn’t fit the steep learning curve of illustrator into my schedule. I am an architect and my cad programs change every 2.5 years and that keeps me busy enough. When I draw it is a release and learning a new program just hasn’t made its way into my attention span despite all my good intentions to do so.  However, technology has a way of hitting a certain hurdle where the technology gets sophisticated enough to make it user friendly. Think 3d modeling’s history and the recent Sketch Up by Google. This leap just happened with digital drawing.

There a ton of drawing programs for the iPad. I have researched and downloaded at several of them.  You can drive yourself crazy with the option, but luckily they seem to be learning from each other and are starting to merge into a similar interface.   I believe you need to pick one or two and dance with it. I say dance because if you fight with software, you will not win!

I eventually settled on 3 programs I use on the iPad and one program for the iPhone.

The programs are:

1.  ArtStudio – by Lucky Clan – http://iphoneclan.com - This is my general workhorse.  I also chose this platform to teach my class. The learning curve is quick and the tools are powerful and easy to understand.  The few things I wish it had, like a color wheel are very minor.

2.  Sketchbook Pro – by Autodesk – http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/pc/index?siteID=123112&id=6848332 - In the beginning this program was a little more sophisticated than ArtStudio by a very small margin although they have started to become very similar.  The learning curve is about 15% steeper for Sketchbook Pro but the interface with the finger swiping and the control orb is SO much fun to use. This program was definitely designed for use with the finger and not a stylus. It can be done, but not as naturally.  I often prefer drawing with my finger so this works for me.  There is also a desktop version with a similar interface that is pretty affordable.


3. Auryn Ink - http://graphicssoft.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=graphicssoft&cdn=compute&tm=9&f=00&tt=59&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.auryn.com/ - A water color simulator that is just amazing, but takes a little practice to learn how it thinks.  The power of his app is to create digital images that don’t look like digital images.  This app has less options than any of the others (this is not a bad thing, you can drive your self nuts with all the options available) but what it does it does really well.

4. Brushes – this is my preferred program for the iPhone for 2 reasons. It has just enough options and they are perfect. The second option is that it kicks out little movies of your pencil strokes. Not in the exact order but close.  This is a very very cool feature.  I haven’t tried brushes for the iPad, but I know it exists and that people like it.

 “What stylus do you use?”

The majority of the time, I do not use a stylus at all. Part of this comes from never having it with me when I want to draw. The other issue is that the tips of the nicer pens are almost as thick as your finger.  It takes an hour or so, but your hand eye coordination forgets that it is used to having some sort of stick in hand when producing art.

Having said that, I do enjoy using my styluses.  Especially now that a carry a small travel kit with me everywhere and that includes my stylus collection.  Another reason to use a stylus in Minneapolis is that gloved hands don’t work on iPad or iPhone screens. (although I do have a very worn pair of bike gloves that do work and I don’t really want to think to hard about why.)

At one time I bought several, spent too much money, and like my guitars, it just so happened that I most enjoy the expensive one and the cheapest one.

These are the 4 that I currently have purchased 2 years ago:

 Pogo - The pogo Ten One Design stylus is the cheapest at around $14.  It is very slim and has a small tip.  This is more like drawing with a chopstick, but the tip is small. The tip doesn’t feel as good on the screen as the others, but this is a very small difference.  This is a great stylus for drawing on the iPhone.

           Bamboo -  makes a great stylus (similar to the current Pen Go series) that has a very similar feel to the Just-Mobile AluPen, Silver-AP-818. Both of these cost around $30. The Bamboo feels more like a regular short pencil but I enjoy the aluminum shape and aesthetic as well.  In my opinion both of these products are tied. Both have the larger tip that works well and feels good on the screen. The size of the tip takes getting used to.

         Adonit - http://www.amazon.com/Adonit-Stylus-iPhone-Kindle-Tablets/dp/B00931K1QK/ref=pd_cp_kinh_0 - This is an interesting take on the stylus. A see through plastic disc replaces the large tip that is required. There are some limitations and the feel is not as soft, but this is a very nice stylus.  I understand a newer model has a dampener and there is even a blue tooth pressure sensitive model.  I haven’t had the chance of playing with these.

There are also a number of brush type styluses that I have not had a chance to play with but look like fun. I feel that I have spent enough on these toys and have been focusing on creating the art.  

It is very easy to get lost in the options and forget the goal is to create art.

I hope this brief overview encouraged you to give this medium a try.

James Nutt

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