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Mobile Creativity with Drawing Apps

By Andrea Hill [member name Andrea_Hill]

Illustrators are no longer restricted by the constraints of their desktop computer and stylus. With recent advances in technology, they can now take full advantage of the freedom provided by new vector drawing applications for tablets and other mobile devices. Illustrators and artists alike find they are able to create vector masterpieces on the go, whether they are on the bus, finding inspiration at a local café or enjoying a beautiful day in the park.

Artists are replacing their sketchbooks with tablets, providing them the ability to sketch on-site, make notes, and record inspiration and ideas quickly. Added benefits of using this technology include the flexibility of multiple undos and redos, the accuracy of creating standard shapes or using the bezier tool for smooth paths, a variety of color swatches and multicolor gradients, custom brushes, export options and much more.

Vector drawing applications vary greatly in terms of price and features. We've outlined a few of the more popular apps for iPad below to aid in determining which ones might be most suited to your needs.

iDraw
iDraw is one of the most popular vector drawing apps currently available. It is highly rated, and recently recommended by Apple as the #1 graphics and design app. It can be used to create anything from detailed technical drawings to beautiful artistic illustrations. Using iDraw is akin to having a slightly simplified version of Adobe Illustrator right at your fingertips.

iDraw has a wide array of features that are too numerous to list here. Illustrators can start with their choice of several canvas-style templates, including graph paper, notebook paper, blueprint and more. All templates are fully customizable, allowing for even greater flexibility. The rulers for each template can be set in a variety of standard units such as pixels, inches, centimeters and millimeters.

Versatility is provided to the artist with multiple undo and redo options, as well as the ability to add multiple layers. Layers can be merged, deleted and reorganized. In addition, shapes within the layers themselves can be grouped and ordered from front to back, as well as aligned to positions relative to one another. A reference photo can be placed on a layer to help the artist create their illustration.

Standard shapes are preprogrammed, while custom shapes can be created using union, subtract, intersect, exclude, join and divide operations. These custom shapes can be saved into shape libraries and reused in future illustrations. Unique shapes can also be created with bezier curves by using the pen tool. Custom strokes and fills can be applied to these shapes using different opacities, and drop shadows can also be added to create a more three-dimensional effect.

For more traditional artistic illustrations, there are the brush and pencil tools for painting and sketching. Calligraphic brushes can be applied to an object's stroke, and can be customized for roundness, angle and diameter. Arrows and dashed lines can be added to strokes as well.

Inkpad
Inkpad is a vector illustration app specifically designed for high performance on an iPad. While it may not have quite as many tools as other vector drawing apps, it is rich with features and can quickly select, scale and rotate hundreds or thousands of shapes without slowing down.

Artists gain flexibility by being able to use multiple layers in their illustrations. The layers in this app are unlimited and are easily renamed, reordered, deleted, turned off or locked. Layer transparency can be adjusted and active layers isolated to make complex illustrations more easily editable.

Paths and compound paths are created easily, and shapes can be customized using unite, intersect, exclude, and subtract front operations. In addition, the pen tool can be used to create bezier paths and custom shapes.

Photos can be placed on a layer for easy reference and the eyedropper tool can choose colors from the placed photo to save in a swatch library. Gradients can be applied to objects with interactive editing done directly to the shape itself.

iDesign
iDesign is an additional vector illustration app that is designed for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. The unique feature of this app is the offset controls that allow you to draw professional-quality illustrations without your finger getting in the way or blocking your view. In addition, iDesign offers incremental autosave.

Illustrators can choose standard-size canvases with this application, including A1 through A5, letter, tabloid, and also create custom sizes. Rulers are provided on the canvas in standard units, including inches, points, feet, millimeters, centimeters and meters. Precise drawing is easily attained with the snap-to-grid feature.

As with most of the popular vector apps, photos can be set as a background image for easy reference and color selection. Colors can be saved to a swatch library and have opacity controls. With this app, standard shapes can be used, including stars and polygons, and custom shapes can be created using Boolean operations.

Adobe Ideas
Adobe Ideas has fewer features than some of the more complex vector draw apps already discussed, however it is a powerful sketching and drawing app that excels as a digital sketchbook. Illustrators and artists can create a beautiful landscape scene while on location, or sketch out ideas anywhere they go.

Adobe Ideas includes ten drawing layers, plus a photo layer for easy reference. The eyedropper tool can be used to pick up color from your reference photo or other parts of the drawing. Layers can be duplicated or merged, as well as moved, rotated, scaled independently, and the opacity is also adjustable. There are several drawing tools available that create different effects, including the pencil tool, pen, paintbrush, marker tools and eraser tool. The paint bucket tool can be used to quickly apply color within shapes.

Regardless of the application chosen by the illustrator, much freedom and flexibility will be experienced when using tablets to create vectors. After creating their masterpiece, users can export their file in a variety of formats, including PDF and SVG. Files can be brought into Illustrator for final polishing and touch-ups.


While we have focused on several popular and functional apps for use on an iPad, the range of devices and possibilities are vast. With apps like these, mobile design has never been more accessible and versatile. It is clear that with technology and the creative freedom it provides, digital illustrations and vectors will continue to push boundaries.


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