Core Forums/Reviews

Sketchbook Pro on the Apple iPad

Adam Willis April 16, 2010


I’m a loyal Apple fan myself, but I must admit, part of me was willing to wait on the next version of the iPad or at least a few months to see what new apps and features would inevitably come out of the woodwork – that was until I saw this – Sketchbook Pro for the iPad.

When you boot up the application for the first time, you’re presented with a series of instructions on how to use the applications built in multi-touch shortcuts. For example, to pull up the menu at the top of the screen, place three fingers on the screen, or to undo, either double tap in the lower left corner (just like the sketchbook mobile app for iPhone and iPod touch) or swipe three fingers across the screen to the left to undo.

The Sketchbook Pro UI

It’s pretty minimal, but you may be missing a few things from the desktop version. For example, There’s no popup menu, lagoon, or even lasso tool (which I found a little strange given the larger screen and more powerful processor).


When the menu bar is activated, you’ll find a button to see your Gallery, add a new sketch, info about the program, undo and redo shortcuts, brushes, symmetry, brush mode/shape tools, zoom to fit to screen, layer transform and layers buttons.


You get 5 panels of 15 brushes each for a grand total of 75 standard brushes. As far as I can tell however, there’s no way to make custom brushes on your own. Hopefully this will change in a future version.

My favorites are the airbrush, ballpoint pen, and the chisel marker for knocking out colors. The other brushes on panels 3-5 seem a little gimmicky, but I’m sure they could have their uses at some point.

Even though you can’t make a new custom brush and save it for later, there are enough settings for each brush that can be activated and modified to get the feel you want. There’s a smudge tool if you’re into that kind of thing, but no blur tool in the brushes included.


Layers in Sketchbook Pro for the iPad are activated on the toolbar and show up in a popup menu. It’s not persistent and goes away when you’re done and back to sketching.

Unfortunately (and fortunately) you’re limited to 6 active layers at any given time. I suspect that this is done in an effort to be efficient with memory or processing power.

You can adjust transparency on layers, but there are no blending modes ala photoshop or painter.

Layer deletion and changing the layer order are both simple and intuitive.

Other Tools / Info -

Shape tools are included in the package, however, it’s not done with the same implementation as Sketchbook Pro for the PC or Mac. While on a PC or Mac you can sketch on a path using the ellipse or line tools, Sketchbook Pro for the iPad only allows you to draw the shape as part of your sketch. So if you were looking forward to sketching on paths, it’s time to brush up on drawing with your shoulder!

Layer transformation can only be done with the aspect ratio intact. You rotate and scale by pinching or rotating two fingers on the touch screen.

Symmetry sketching is snappy and works pretty well. I don’t use symmetry much, but I imagine this will be a godsend for some.

I mentioned the smudge brush before, but again, some people may like this.

Resolution for sketches seems to be limited to the iPad’s screen size – 1024×768 pixels – small and definitely not high enough resolution to print say big 11×17 inch pages, but big enough I imagine that printing on an 8.5×11 inch piece of paper would look decent.


This has been one of my main gripes with not only the program, but the iPad. I’d like an easier way to transfer images to my laptop or desktop. Sometimes it’s necessary, though blogging using the wordpress app on does tie in my completed sketches as long as they are in the right place.

In Sketchbook pro, images aren’t automatically saved to the iPad’s photo library. You are required to access the built in gallery, then export in two ways – to the iPad’s gallery as a PNG file or you can email the file to yourself as a PSD (yes layered!) or as a flattened PNG file with transparency.