Review: You don’t need the full hardware setup to enjoy SketchBook Pro

Sections: Graphics / Design, Mac Software, Reviews

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Where does he get those wonderful toys? The short answer is Autodesk. Today’s creativity app is SketchBook Pro 7 and that’s where the toys are.

This one has been a bit tough. There are a lot of nifty features in this one and I could spend a lot of time playing around with them all and never get to the review. Since that is not why Technology Tell pays me, I have stop having fun and start writing about it, so here goes.

I’ll start by admitting I did not have the opportunity to test this version with a touch pad, and that does limit the functionality, but the results were nice, nonetheless. SketchBook Pro is primarily for creating original artwork but can also handle more commercial graphic design work. You get a nice set of tools, including an array of brushes, pens, markers, pencils, erasers, an airbrush, etc. All of them behave very much like the real world tools. You also get a ruler, French curves, perspective lines, image mirroring plane and so on. Don’t forget the color puck and the brush puck, as well as a lagoon to help keep your tool types organized.


What the puck? Yes, puck; no, not Shakespeare or hockey. The color puck is sort of a digital ink well where you can tap to select the exact color you want. The brush puck lets you adjust the size of the brush stroke. There is also a slider icon at the top of the brush pallet which allows you to set controls like opacity, brush width, paint load and so on. The same sorts of controls apply to the markers, pencils, pens and even the erasers.

Along with the pallets and the lagoon you can create custom brush sets and toggle through them to have just the right tools at your fingertips. If you are doing work on your new graphic novel, a nice selection of pencils, markers and thin brushes may be the set you want. If you want to do a landscape, maybe some varied width brushes and a couple of blending brushes. You can set up your tool kits with whatever you like.


SketchBook Pro is also very good at creating and manipulating layers. Lay down the framework of your scene and start adding new layers and elements. These can be selected and changed, saving time or making sure things match just the way you want them. You also have access to a flip book for animations. You can set the number of frames you want, the frame rate, and the canvas size (in pixels). Create your images and play them back as you go. If you are creating a long animation you might need to chain multiple files—the flip book stops at 1,000 frames.

SketchBook Pro

As mentioned, the app is geared for use with a touch sensitive input pad. The program responds very well to differences in pressure to produce bolder lines or load more paint on the canvas. I know, all of the language I’m using is in relation to analog art, but that’s my background. Everything is digital, but it does a nice job of imitating the analog without all the ink on your fingers. The tool set isn’t all inclusive; for paint brushes, I’d like to see a wider variety of types like filberts and fans to go along with the rounds, flats and blenders. One thing I would like to see with the chisel tip markers is a way to control the thin stroke. There is a control for the angle of the tip and the width of the pen stroke, but not for how sharp the thin side is. This is something I look at because I am a hobbyist calligrapher; it may not be the most important thing for most artists and designers.

SketchBook Pro

As for how to use all of the features and tools, there are plenty of online tutorials which can be accessed from the in app help files. I checked out a couple and they are very informative and helpful. If you are serious about going to digital art, do check out the videos online for this app; it’s time well spent. Besides, I could sit here typing for the next month and not cover everything. That said, I have fiddled with most of the tools in the app, and they all work fairly intuitively for the artistic types. Everything from using the tools to manipulating the canvas is straightforward and easy to use.

One oddity to note is that when using things like the ruler and perspective lines, don’t forget to start from the point away from the reference dots and draw towards them. A few times I tried drawing a line from the vanishing point to the foreground and ended up relocating the vanishing point. Oops. Don’t forget—command Z is your friend. Another oddity with my MacBook Pro is that even though the icon was on the launch bar, tapping it didn’t re-launch the app. I had to close the app and re-open it from the app icon. Odd behaviour, but not really off-putting.

Suffice it to say if you invest in this particular art app, it is money well invested. It may not do everything, but it does quite a lot and very well. I would strongly recommend using a touch pad and good stylus for control, but other modes can get good results as well. SketchBook Pro isn’t cheap at $65.00, but it is a serious and capable tool.

Now go out there and create something.

Appletell Rating:

Provides: Painting and illustration toolset
Developer: Autodesk
Price: $65.00
Availability: Now

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