I’ve recently acquired a new tablet computer. To be honest when I bought it, using it for sketching and designing wasn’t my first thought. It’s not a powerful tablet as it’s meant to just watch video, surf the web and handle some simple applications. But since it is a 10,1” screen I thought it could just as well serve as a sketchbook when nothing else is at hand. So I searched through googles play store and downloaded some free drawing applications for android.
Some have in app purchases or pro versions with more options and tools but I’m not interested in those since my main go to sketchbook is still an actual sketchbook.
The apps are:
- Autodesk sketchbook
- Sketchbook express
- Sketch n’ go
- Tayasui Sketches
- Infinate Paper
Autodesk sketchbook is quite a powerful sketchbook tool. It offers everything you need. Tools like pencil, airbrush, marker paintbrush (round and flat) and eraser are all present. For sketches that’s really all you need. You can set opacity and size for every tool awaylable. They are all limited to the same options.
The best feature for me is that it offers the option of layers. The downside is it only supports up to 3 layers + a background layer. You can’t draw in the background layer rather you can only change its color.
The color picker is really nice with a huge palette to choose from. It features a color dropper tool. The cool thing is you can adjust every RGB color channel individually and the same goes for hue, situration and brightness.
It offers quite a lot of additional features in the top menu like making it easier to draw symmetric images. It also features a round and square shape tool.
Sketchbook express is basically an even more pimped out version of Autodesk sketchbook. It features all the same tools (but in a different layout) and more.
An additional tool is the fill bucket that Autodesk was badly missing.
The already prominent layer feature enables you to set each layers opacity individually.
A nice addition are also the transform options to scale objects on screen and the option to add images and text to your art (even though you are limited to a small palette of styles).
This is definitely a go to app for any artist.
The first thing that I noticed about Draw is that the orientation is limited to portrait mode. That can be an issue for any artist.
There is really only one tool, the pencil. Ok there’s also an eraser but that’s a given if you ask me.
The app can import images and it features a strange option that I’ve never come across before. You can use the pencil tool to draw a preset string of text.
The color picker is flexible but lacks the settings for individual color channels. It does support color hexcodes though but only throught the menu.
The fact that it only features an undo option can be an issue. It has no redo option.
Sketch n’ go
When I first started Sketch n’ go I was bombarded with an add. So that’s a minus I guess. But the adds wouldn’t be such an issue if the app were actually full featured.
The brushes are only listed by name and even then the names can be really cryptic sometimes. That means you have to try out every single brush before you really know what it looks and handles like. There is no option to change the brush size, opacity or any other detail either.
It has only the undo button and even then it goes back only one step. If you press it again it redos the step.
In my humble opinion this is not worth checking out. Even the little features it has are not flexible enough to be worth it.
Drawing also features only one orientation. This time only in landscape mode. It has only the brush tool with limited settings. You can set it to no effect (hard brush), spray (soft brush) and embos (embossed brush). There is also no undo option.
To me this app would not be worth checking out if it weren’t for one specific feature. It has a “kids mode”. That means it uses only one brush setting but it automatically changes the brush color every time you draw a new stroke. That’s a great creative idea for children. It’s simple but it works. Even I had fun trying out some things in the kids mode. So this is definitely worth checking out if you have little children around.
The free version of Tayasui Sketches is very limited. It looks very nice though. You have a selection of basic brushes and pencils but they are limited to presets in the free version. That means you can’t change size or any other options for that matter.
The undos are limited to 9. You only get one layer and a limited color palette with preset swatches.
Sketch is another decent app. It features both landscape and portrait modes but you have to choose the one you want before you start drawing.
It features an eraser, thin and wide marker, pencil, ink pen, brush and fill bucket.
The thing that caught my eye is it features a smudge tool enabling you to make smooth transitions between colors.
It also features an array of magic wand tools. They don’t work as the one in Adobe products but they rather act as pattern brushes. The only bummer is they are limited to a set palette of textures.
It has a decent color picker.
The app has no layers but it does feature an option to arrange the objects on stage to bring something to the front or back. That brings me to the next feature…
You can import images and add stock images that are built directly in to the app. Most artists wont use these but they can be a fun option if you are just goofing around.
The free version of Infinite painter is a mixed bag. Understandably since all the cool features are in the premium version of the app.
Creating a project file is straightforward. You can set custom canvas sizes or even select one from a roster of templates.
The canvas rotates with the tablet. That’s a big plus.
All the brushes are there for the free version. You can set their size, opacity and color.
The undos are limited to 12. You have no rulers or layers. You can still import photos though.
Even thought the functions are limited this is still a decent app. But because the app comes as a 7 day demo and let’s you experience the full functions of the app the lack of more options leaves you longing for more. Which is actually the whole point of a demo so I guess that’s not a bad thing :).
Artflow has two modes. Demo (free) and license (paid) mode. As stated I only checked out free apps. The first thing I noticed is that the canvas does not rotate when you turn the tablet. You can create a custom canvas and rotate the tablet to kind of cheat but menus don’t rotate along.
You can only undo your actions 6 times before it locks the option.
There is a wide array of brushes but most of them are locked in the demo. Still, for basic sketching these would be more then enough. You have a normal pen (with all options unlocked even in the demo), pencil (also everything unlocked) with a nice graphite texture to it, a crayon, brush, airbrush, texture brush, a texture roller, a magic brush and shape brush.
The nice thing about all the brushes and pens is you can modify them to your liking. Size, flow, opacity, softness, spacing, etc. That sets it apart from most apps where you can only adjust the size and opacity.
Another thing that sets it appart is the smudge tool.
You can adjust the standard eraser.
The fill bucket tool and color picker.
Another awesome feature are the paint tools. You can set it to freehand, line, shape, ruler and compass mode. That modifies how you draw on the canvas and can be a great help. Most free apps don’t have most of these options.
The symmetry tool is very customizable. You can set the angle and move the symmetry line around the canvas.
Instead of layers you can also import images and another nice feature of layers is the layer mode options. This is really a mini Photoshop on your tablet with all the functions. You can also merge and customize each layers basic properties and effects. You can transform (moved, resized, etc.) and clear them fast. Also the background color is it’s own layer (not part of the 2 layer limit). To delete a layer you just drag it of the layer panel.
The thing is Sketchbook express is dominating the market at the moment. Justifiably so. It’s an amazing app with a whole lot of functions. But Infinite painter and Artflow are really giving it a run for it’s money.
Out of all the apps I found Artflow the best suited for my needs with most functions considering it’s a free version of the app.
Runner ups are Sketchbook express and Infinite painter with Autodesk sketchbook a close third.
Tayasui Sketches and Sketch are nice to use but lack some functionality.
I would avoid all the other apps to be honest, except for Drawing maybe. It has that one cute feature that might be fun for children. The “kids mode”. I can imagine kids having fun with it and maybe some adults for a quick chuckle but past that it’s not worth downloading.