SketchBook Mobile Review

SketchBook Mobile Review

Oct 18, 2011

The nice thing about phones is that they are with us almost everywhere we go. Out at a ballgame and have a sudden surge of creativity and want to get that idea drawn out before it fades into the black abyss, but don’t want to leave the game? Thankfully, Autodesk has a solution that will allow users to quickly sketch that idea right on their phone, and that solution is SketchBook Mobile.

This app starts by giving users a canvas size of 1024 by the resolution width of the device this is running on. Next is the clever shortcut panel that allows quick access to all the pens, brushes, eraser, and fill tools. Users may fine tune the size and opacity of each brush via holding a finger in the middle of the screen and then dragging up and down for opacity or left and right for size. It takes only a few moments of use, but once acclimated, swapping between drawing devices is quick and effortless.

A big item for any app of this nature are the use of layers, and thankfully they make an appearance here. All the layers are on transparent background and that includes the first layer. These are then movable, so something like placing an outline of a house on top of the color so it looks better is not only doable, but it is painless as well. Toggling specific layers on and off further adds to the total control.

Finally, saving work comes with a variety of choices. Options include saving as JPG, which will flatten everything out (merges all layers together) or exporting as a PNG, which will flatten the image while maintaining a transparent background. The most impressive of all the file formats is a PSD (Photoshop file) that preserves both the transparent background and all the layers, thus allowing for superior integration with Photoshop.

While this is a powerful tool, there is a few kinks that keep this from being the best doodling experience around. The text tool is intuitive to use, but once placed on the screen and the OK button tapped, those words are stuck in that position with no way to re-edit them. Also, finding old drawings on the device is a bit cumbersome at first. The most notable issue will be the delay between drawing with the finger and the actual results showing up on the screen. This delay was not terrible, but it is not a 1:1 response, and that leads to more work in the end. 

Will this replace tradition art tools like Photoshop, pen and paper, or a Wacom tablet? Most likely not. However, those that can live with the shortcomings will find this is a great addition to any workflow, especially for those that are on the move or just like to work away from the office. The price is low enough for anyone to pick up, but those that take time to master all the intricacies of this app will benefit from a great tool that never runs out of ink at the most inopportune time.

SketchBook Mobile Review Rundown

User Interface - A small radial button stays at the bottom of the screen, thus staying out-of-the-way yet allowing for quick accessibility. A solid help section breaks down the more intricate settings of the UI, but users will be painting masterpieces in mere minutes.

Functionality - This take the Moleskine to a new level of greatness. Quick and easy to get doodles drawn out and the Photoshop file exporting is most welcomed.
Performance - The app is quick to load and export files. Drawing is almost a 1:1 affair, but a small delay was noticeable during testing. Even after slapping on five layers, this app still ran well.

Usefulness - Quick and easy to use, great amount of versatility, and it runs like a champ. This app could replace pocket notebooks and colored pencils for a great number of artists.
Overall - This is an app for anyone who likes to doodle or jot notes down on a regular basis. Those that acquire a stylus will find this extremely powerful when creativity strikes, yet a Wacom tablet and computer are miles away.

App available on the Google Play Store »

Demo version is also available on the Google Play Store »

Chris Nitz
Chris has been playing games since the day he got his hands on an Atari 2600. Chris enjoys long walks on the DOA beach, candle lit dinners with Raziel, and flower power from Super Mario World. Chris now spends most of his time on the PC, PS3, DS/PSP, Droid, iPhone, and iPad.
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