There certainly was a lot of buzz around Paper, fiftythree’s new sketch app exclusive to the iPad. Even I bought into the hype and wrote a quick review of it when it came out. It’s a pretty neat app and definitely gave me plenty of diversions in the evening whenever I wanted to flex my creative muscles. My doodles eventually got me thinking about a number of the other free and paid sketch apps that are currently on the device, and it would be remiss if I didn’t at least bring a few of them to your attention.
There are plenty of sketchpad apps on the iPad, and I’m sure you’ve heard of and read reviews on many of them including Autodesk’s SketchBook, Raizlab’s Sketchpad HD, not to mention Draw Something! (which I know isn’t simply a sketch app, but you definitely have a lot of fun drawing). Today, though, I want to draw some quick comparisons between Paper and Savage Interactive’s Procreate.
From my previous review, Paper brings a wide range of pen tips and colours to a slick, but sometimes frustrating UI. It’s able to mimic the pen tips very accurately and you can get some pretty stunning results out of it. Paper, effectively, tries to mimic actual paper and bring that type of experience to the iPad. Procreate, on the other hand, draws its flow and inspiration from Photoshop and touts itself as the “most advanced mobile illustration studio”. Based on the time I’ve spent with it, Procreate certainly does a great job living up to that claim.
Unlike Paper, Procreate has all the basic bells and whistles that you would expect from a Photoshop derivative – layers, a complete colour palette across the full spectrum and variable size strokes and density. On top of that, Procreate extends on the number of brushes available from Paper with unique textures and the ability to smudge the layer for interesting effects. The end results are art pieces that are visually impressive and altogether something you would expect from a full-fledged desktop illustration suite. Here are some quick compare and contrasts with press images from both Paper and Procreate.
This one’s from Paper. Without being an art expert, I’d say that the image is very effective, if not simple. The brushstrokes are simple, but precise and does the job in visually captivating.
Here’s one from Procreate’s PR press kit. Notice how with their different approach, Procreate allows for graphics that are significantly more detailed and visually impressive. Also unlike Paper, Procreate also allows you to import images as a base, allowing you to work off an existing image for extra inspiration. Here’s a quick example of that.
But the real question is how regular non-artists handle these types of apps, and, in another attempt to embarrass myself online, here are some quick (and very rough) sketches from both apps with some of my thoughts.
This first one’s from Procreate. The learning curve for the app was surprisingly quick (for a professional grade app), and the end results weren’t as bad as I originally thought. The single brush available (the size and density of which can be changed with the sliders on the right) made it pretty easy for me to just doodle, though it often felt like I was using a felt-tip marker on a whiteboard, especially with some of the smudging effects that you can use in-app. The layers definitely helped in isolating different parts of the image (i.e. the “tree” from the “beach” and the “ocean”) and prevented a lot of the smudging problems that come from actually using a whiteboard. Overall, it was kinda fun, but a lot of the features were a bit overkill for a lay-person like me.
Here’s an attempt of something similar in Paper. With a limited colour palette, the image just doesn’t pop as much as the other one. I also found that I had to really think ahead in terms of the brush I had to use and changed the pen tip pretty often. Because the menu isn’t as easily accessible as that in Procreate, I found I made a lot of pen marks at the bottom of the image trying to bring up the colours and tips. Even so, I felt that my strokes are more precise in Paper and makes for a more detailed image.
Between the two apps, I ultimately found Procreate to be easier to use, and probably more effective in creating an image that is visually striking. This verdict comes as little surprise. While both apps are sketchpads, their ultimate goals are fundamentally different. Paper tries hard to mimic the paper sketching experience, while Procreate is meant for illustration professionals to create on the go. As someone who’s been using pen and paper less and less, the creative flow in Paper just seemed foreign to me compared to that of Procreate. This comes at a price though. While the basic version of Paper is free, Procreate is $4.99 right off the bat. Extra brush and texture packs are $0.99 each, with individual packs containing around 8 thematically grouped brushes and textures each.
As someone who has a lot of friends who do visual art as a very serious hobby, I’m very excited in what the iPad allows them to do, and given both sets of professional works from Paper and Procreate (not to mention SketchBook and others like it), these apps appear to be an exciting extension of the iPad that will become very popular very quickly.
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