Paper’s price point of (mostly) free saved it. I have five sketching apps for the iPad, each with their own pros and cons, so I wasn’t in the market to add a sixth. But, since it was free and the UI was nice, I gave it a whirl. I don’t know yet if it will be my go-to idea sketching app, but for now I sure like to draw in it.
I was surprised to learn that it was born from Courier, MicroSoft’s prototype dual-screen tablet. Microsoft canceled the Courier, but apparently it’s developers took a few ideas from it and created iPad apps.
Paper is very simple. And its simplicity is the draw. When you first open the app you find a carousel of Moleskine sketchbooks. Choosing a sketchbook launches a cover-flow like view of it’s pages that allows you to thumb to the page you want or open a new one. Each new page is a simple blank sheet with no panels, floating menus, or settings to get in your way. The app uses semi-skeuomorphic metaphors, but it doesn’t go too far. There are no faux binder rings, or ripped paper edges.
Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal your artist’s palette, and swipe down again to hide it. Paper comes with an eraser and just one tool to draw with, a fountain pen that’s works more like a calligraphy brush. The faster you move your finger, the thicker the line gets.
The app is free, but for $1.99 each, you can purchase four other tools: there’s Write (ballpoint), Sketch (pencil), Outline (marker), and Color (watercolor paintbrush). Each of the five tools has its own personality, which makes these instruments so much more interesting than conventional digital pens and pencils. These five tools were chosen because “they encompass the five most common scenarios they encounter when mapping out ideas and art on a daily basis”.
One of the nicer features/details in Paper is Rewind, an inventive take on “undo” that succeeds where others have failed. If you make a mistake while you’re drawing, there’s no need to erase it. Just place two fingers on the screen and move them in a counter-clockwise motion. The app retraces your steps, brush stroke by brush stroke, to a maximum of 20 previous moves. Once you’ve tried Rewind, you’ll wish it were present in every other creative app you’ve tried. It’s a user interface breath of fresh air invented by Andrew S. Allen, who wanted an “undo” method that worked like the jog dials he uses to go back and forth in time while editing video.
You can trash pages, add a page, or share your page to Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. And that’s really about it. Paper is very intuitive to use and has almost no learning curve.
Paper takes advantage of OpenGL graphics generally reserved for gaming to produce realtime shadows, swift page turns, and lightning fast pinching and zooming for popping in and out of your notebooks. Graphics are one of the many elements of Paper that feel “right” from a design standpoint.
It’s not all sunshine and unicorns though. I find myself wishing I could rest my hand on the screen while I draw, and I HAVE to have more color options. I’m betting that these features will come soon…
What’s your go-to sketching app?