New brush features available today
Update to popular app brings "cohesive aesthetic" and improved usability.
Surface Pro and Windows tablet PC users have an amazing array of great software at their disposal and most of it costs only a fraction of what you will pay for a license from Adobe or Corel.
But recently Mann has been experimenting with the indie Windows Store app Sketchable and he's already produced some enviable work.
In his latest video, Mann provides a sneak peek at the new UI and tools included in an alpha version of Sketchable 3.0. I'm a big fan of Sketchable and its young developers Silicon Benders. Their program is without a doubt the most robust Windows Store painting app available. I can't wait to try these new features myself.
Silicon Benders' Sketchable is the most ambitious art app currently available in the Windows Store. Taking many design cues from the iPad, the app demonstrates that Modern UI programs can be just as powerful and flexible as their desktop counterparts.
For only $11.99 all-in, it's worth purchasing just to reward the indie developers for their continued dedication to the platform.
Below is the press release announcing the latest update.
Gainesville, Florida—(December 3, 2014) – Silicon Benders has released Sketchable 2.0 to the Windows Store.
When a creative is on the go, they never know when they will cross paths with inspiration. Sketchable was created for the sole purpose of capturing these moments. Sketchable was designed to take full advantage of modern hardware, making it the fastest and most responsive sketching application possible. This is beautifully complimented by the UI’s mantra, artistic expression without limitation.
Meaning, even in a mobile app where simplicity is expected, Sketchable gives an artist the levels of control they crave.
While Sketchable provides a first rate experience, its feature set has broader implications. Sketchable fits into a creative’s workflow better than any mobile art application before it. It is the first and only mobile application that provides layers and PSD export that can dovetail right into a Desktop application running on the same device. This makes Sketchable the ideal application for developing artwork, because it can easily and quickly be transferred into professional desktop software for final edits.
Notable Feature Highlights
- Resolutions up to 4k on 64 bit devices
- Pick up right where you left off with no consequences.
- Upon launch, Sketchable opens the last image you were editing, with all the undo history retained. This lets the user keep their focus on the idea they want to express rather than menus or file systems.
- Documents can support up to 8 layers with industry standard controls, and commands.
- Transform Tool
- In addition to all the typical transform options, and combinations, Sketchable provides an X-ray Glasses mode to render obscuring layers semi-transparent.
- Virtually lag free touch interaction due to GPU acceleration throughout the application.
- Optional, precise text input.
- PSD Export
- Nine distinct painting tools with presets, and for those who want more control, an elaborate preset editor.
- Color Picker control HUB
- Artistic color scrubbing (add pure hue, white or black by a simple press and drag)
- Resizable Icons for other commonly used features, such as the brush preview scrubber, dropper tool, transform, and the layers palette.
- GPU accelerated painting and sketching engine.
- Resolution Independent UI
- Unlike most desktop applications, the UI scales to adapt to both low and high density displays.
- Resizable UI, Sketchable provides two custom scale factors, one for touch, and another for mouse/trackpad use.
- Scales from 7 inch tablets to 4k monitors, even Perceptive Pixels.
- Auto Hiding UI – To give you an unobstructed view of your work, as you paint near UI elements, they will automatically hide, then return after the stroke is finished.
- Economy of Movement – more expressiveness with less motion.
- For devices with an active stylus, Sketchable provides a way to assign independent tools to both touch, and stylus eraser. (For example, a user can set their single touch input to the dropper tool or smudge tool, and their stylus eraser to any paint tool they find themselves switching between. Two finger gestures still zoom and pan the canvas.)
- PolyEraser – press and hold with the stylus eraser button to enable a lassoed area to be erased.
Sketchable is free to download and offers several in-app purchases. Single tools can be purchased for $1.99 while the color picker costs $2.99. Layers can only be accessed if the entire app has be purchased. The most economical approach to this is purchasing the bundle. The full bundle costs $11.99 USD and includes all functionality, including layers. Users who have already purchased a bundle will receive the blending tool and layers free of charge.
Before I was hoarding Windows 8 tablets and convertibles, I was an insatiable iOS art app collector: always on the lookout for the application that would unlock the iPad's creative possibilities.
I know this is a silly pursuit because truly talented artists have been able to produce masterpieces on their iPads from day one. But those of us who never mastered finger painting like to convince ourselves that we would be better artists "if only" the hardware and software we used had feature x or y. And though I'd never used a Cintiq, I also knew that there had to be a better tablet drawing experience than the fat Q-tip feel of most of the iPad's early pens.
If you were paying attention to this space back in 2011, you may also remember reading about Microsoft's Courier project, which was a wholly unique take on the tablet form factor that was unceremoniously killed before getting to market. When some of the creatives behind the Courier resurfaced in early 2012 as iOS developer Fifty Three, their first product Paper for the iPad was accompanied by gushing press reviews. Seriously, just take a moment to contemplate the following quote from The Verge:
...the humanistic sensibilities that made the Courier so attractive are very much present in this app, unbound from the chains at Microsoft.
Ugh. Anyhow, I purchased Paper and found it to offer one of the more pleasant brush engines available on the iPad, though it was hindered by a strange sketchbook metaphor. Overall the app felt better suited to notetaking or doodling than serious drawing and I quickly set it aside (along with the iPad and a dozen or so other iOS art tools when the Surface Pro was finally released).
Sketchable is a virtual clone of Paper. The programs are so similar I had to ask Harris whether he or his developer brother were former employees of Fifty Three or Microsoft. (They aren't.) The brothers Harris are based in Northern Florida and enlisted the aid of industry veteran John Deery (co-founder of Painter) and artist Don Seegmiller during their 18-month development process.
Just like Paper, Sketchable uses a sketchbook metaphor. Each sketchbook defaults to ten pages, but you can easily add or delete pages as necessary. And also just like Paper, Sketchable is a free app, but each tool requires a separate in-app purchase. Although this model isn't ideal, it's hard to quibble since the all-in cost is only $11.99.
Where Sketchable stands out vs. Paper is beneath its simplistic surface. Nearly every feature is customizable. There are 13 standard sketchbook cover options (though curiously I wasn't able to add my own with the camera icon). Each tool (eraser, brush, airbrush, pencil, marker, pen, inking nib and chalk) comes with four presets which can be overwritten and expanded to eight. Double tapping on any tool brings up a long menu of options for stroke background, shape, diameter, roundness, feather, angle, spacing, scatter, stroke opacity, concentration, accumulation and more. There are also 18 standard paper textures, each with its own set of customization options.
Sketchable is clearly a pretty amazing application. But many potential users may be turned off by its similarity to Paper. My advice to the developers would be to branch out in a new direction stylistically so they won't be mistaken for mere copycats. All this effort shouldn't risk being dismissed at first glance.
A version for Windows RT was just released, making Sketchable one of the few "serious" art apps available for the Surface RT and Surface 2. However, in my experience, the coarse digitizer on the Surface RT made it very difficult to produce desirable results with any of the capacitive stylii I own, including the higher end Adonit Jot Pro or Wacom Bamboo. Most of my strokes had some degree of jitter and the RT often missed strokes. Users of the Surface 2 will have to tell me whether that device's digitizer fares any better.
The program runs extremely well on both the Surface Pro 1 and 2. It's great to see a pressure sensitive Windows Store app and I hope other developers follow suit. I didn't have a chance to test Sketchable on either of my N-Trig convertibles yet, but I assume they'll work correctly. I'll update this post if I find out otherwise.
Although I wish more of the power features were exposed in charms, the program is still extremely touch/tablet friendly and should definitely be considered by any Windows tablet user.
Even the color picker is sold separately.