The hot new iPad art app has style, but there’s much still to improve
Measuring intent against expectation can be a tricky thing for an app like Sketchbook Ink. Having been revealed alongside the new iPad in all its Retina display glory, much was expected. The final app has its limitations, but is that such a bad thing?
What Autodesk has created here is a complimentary app to SketchBook Pro and an app that delivers something a little different with Retina display.
Let’s concentrate on those positive points for a little longer before we explore some of the issues that Ink suffers from. First and foremost it can be a gorgeous app to use. As with all Autodesk’s releases, the menu is simple and user-friendly. Every brush is self-explanatory thanks to its little icon on the left of the page and the colour selection is as broad as you need thanks to the traditional palette wheel.
Drawing with the app is also very simple and familiar, using your finger or a stylus to apply brush strokes. The results of this are bold, crisp lines the likes of which it’s hard to imagine you could achieve with any other app. Thanks to the Retina display on the new iPad there is no pixelisation of the lines, even at maximum zoom. It’s clean and perfect no matter how closely you look. When used correctly that means you get a final image that really pops off the page with bold, vibrant strokes and colours. As this magnification would suggest, export sizes are massive, which will please illustrators no end we would think; as will the range of export destinations, from iTunes to your Photos folder and Dropbox. Files will only export as PNG, but for exporting to work on the image elsewhere that should suffice. As a professional tool, SketchBook Ink certainly has some advantages.
Whether or not higher end users will be willing to look past certain defects is harder to say. While the lines you draw are superbly sharp, there’s a slight delay at times in how the ink is applied to your canvas that really demands a confidence in your stroke. This is not always an app for the tentative sketcher; you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. With only a limited number of brush types and no fine-tuning control beyond size, you also need to be able to work around how Ink wants you to work.
A lack of layers for your artwork may also frustrate more experienced digital artists. Being able to import an image as a background helps a little though. You can set the brightness of the image so the ink stands out better and then hide it from time-to-time to see more clearly. Not exactly a revolutionary feature, but nonetheless a necessary and handy one.
What is less handy and frustrating is some of the glitching we experienced. Things such as phantom lines were not uncommon, but appear to have been fixed with an update. Equally frustrating at times is when lines don’t appear at all for a few moments. An update to the refresh rate of the app means that this happens less frequently and if it does still happen it rectifies faster. Zooming in and out from the image at times can be similarly problematic as the image reverts back to its original magnification. The tug of war that ensues with you pinching and swiping is an annoyance, but once more this appears to be less of an issue post-update than it was when Sketchbook Ink was released.
While each of these issues were problematic, none of them were app-breaking and all seem improved upon since release. They are small distractions to what is otherwise a very impressive, if a little limited, app. Ink is not a fully featured sketching tool by any means. It’s purpose is singular and as an accompaniment to SketchBook Pro or other such apps it certainly has its place. Apps like Procreate would seem to offer similar results with more features and control besides, but Ink is the only one to offer huge resolutions and such crisp visuals. With some further updates, it can only get better and stronger.
Patience and confidence can lead to great results with Ink, but bugs mean both could wear thin.
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