Friday, March 25, 2011

iMad Scientist: iPad App Painting Experiments

Tech-phobes beware: inspired by the IF prompt "Toy" I've decided it's finally time to put aside my ink-stained Luddite ways & share my thoughts about my favorite, magical new toy/torture device: the iPad. I received it as a surprise Christmas gift, for which I'm enormously grateful because I would never have bought one for myself, & now I'm completely addicted to this brilliant little package of wonders. It's the perfect size, just like a sketchbook, easy to use on lap, desk, or cafe table (even in bed-- & no paint spills! -though I try not to do that too often). It's not feather-weight, but still relatively easy to lug around, & full of possibilities.

Of course, one of the first things I did on Christmas Day (after recovering from my swoon when I opened the package) was to download a paint app & give it a go. Now I must warn you that in some ways, painting on the iPad is an exercise in frustration, especially for precision-freaks like me, because no matter how carefully you place your finger or stylus, & no matter which app or tool you use, there is always a 5mm floob-factor of where the mark will show up. (It reminds me of learning to drive on my folk's huge & ancient station wagon, when turning the steering wheel just sort of vaguely indicated where the car might go.) Takes some getting used to if you're a perfectionist, but with practice you can still accomplish quite a lot even with this limitation. And if your natural style is loose & free, this really shouldn't be an issue at all. Sorry I even brought it up, you lucky looseys! ;)

Another major frustration is the lack of pressure sensitivity. For artists used to the wonders of Wacom & super-sensitive programs like Photoshop & Manga Studio, it's quite a leap backwards. I nurse a fond hope that Apple will someday develop an iPad tweaked for artists, with greater precision & a pressure sensitive stylus. Despite my cheapskate ways & severe mall-phobia I think I might join the crowd waiting in line for that one!

But in the meantime, I refuse to let a little frustration stop me from experimenting with new art tools & new tricks-- it's just part of the learning process, right? So I've been downloading paint apps one after the other, in search of the optimal iPad paint experience. So far, while each app has its good features (some quite amazingly good) I still haven't found that one perfect app that does everything just the way I like it. (Greedy, moi?)

By contrast, I've also done some stylus exploration, & here I've found a clear, hands-down, knock-out-the-competition favorite-- the Nomad Brush. It is surprisingly beautiful, handles like a real paintbrush, moves with a silky smooth touch on the pad surface (unlike some pen-type styli that have an irritating rubbery drag factor or require excessive pressure) & can be held at any comfortable angle (again unlike many pen-type styli). For now it only comes in one size, but I eagerly await the developers' promised size & bristle variations-- of course the inherent limitations of the iPad again come into play here, but a smaller brush might still be nice for greater stroke visibility & somewhat improved precision.

I still feel like a rank beginner at this & have been very shy of sharing my wobbly efforts, but I think the time has come to be brave. So. The image above was created with the Brushes app, using my fingers & the Nomad Brush. The background texture & text were imported from scans of non-digital stuff, saved to my iPad photos, opened by Brushes & used as the base layers. All blending, layer effects & such were done on the iPad.

Next post: I will begin sharing my experiences with all of the different paint apps I've tried, comparing features, offering tips &c. If you thought this post was tedious & long-winded, gird your loins for a real verbal onslaught, folks! But I hope it will be full of info that will help you avoid frustration & wasted money if you want to make art on the iPad.

You can find more iMad Scientist paintings & reviews here.

edit: Just found out "Toy" was added to the Nomad Brush Gallery! Thanks, Nomads!


Emila Yusof said...

this is great for an iPad painting! i should get one too.

Linda Hensley said...

Thanks for writing this up. I'm not ready to give up actual paintbrushes, but your description of things is good to know. Cute critter :)

Patti said...

I think it's always fun to learn new ways of creating. Fun dog. Have a great time with your toy!

Jack Foster said...

Wow Leah! You have taken to the Ipad like a fish to water. This is great. Love the character.... and the style and colors ROCK! Nice one!

erin said...

very fun pup! I got my "toy" as a surprise b'day gift and love it.

Sylvia Liu said...

This is really nice, and I appreciate the thoughts on working with the iPad. I also love my iPad!

Karen said...

Love what you did and hearing your ipad tales. Still waiting for my surprise iPad....I'm sure I NEED one ;—)