Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sketch Time on iPad 3: Sketches & Review

Sketch made with SketchTime on the new iPad (Click for full size)                                                                        




















SketchTime by developer Hansol Huh is still one of the best apps for quick sketching available for the iPhone and iPad, but unfortunately there are a few issues using SketchTime on Apple's 3rd-generation iPad. I am told the developer is working on these and a solution may be in the works. For now, though, don't expect to replace your Wacom Cintiq just yet...

For those artists (like me) who made the jump to digital thanks to the outstanding responsiveness of the industry-leading Wacom Cintiq, there's no going back. Instead, we're now watching Apple and third-party developers to see whether when the ultimate dream of Cintiq-like performance on a tablet as thin and light as the iPad comes true. Wacom's patented pen technology with over 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and up to 40 degrees tilt control probably won't make it to the iPad anytime soon, but that doesn't mean Cintiq-like speed and responsiveness isn't seriously within reach. Of course, Apple has made things even more interesting by producing the fastest, most pixel-intense and most graphically powerful iPad yet. I won't waste space here gushing about the 3rd generation iPad's much-hyped Retina Display. Suffice it to say, I'm convinced it is every bit the luscious game changer Apple claims it to be, and in time all computer displays will be Retina. It definitely has artists around the world standing up and paying attention. I for one can't wait to use my new iPad as a truly responsive, portable digital sketchbook.  (more after the break).


Guitarist (my first sketch using SketchTime on the new iPad)

SketchTime is great for laying down LOTS of lines quickly...

When I was looking for art apps to use on my iPhone 3GS, I was disappointed with the lag on painting apps like Art Rage, Brushes, Layers, and SketchBook Pro/Mobile. For many artists it's not an issue, but my thing is lines (lots of 'em), and I draw fast (in case you missed it, here's an example of one of my drawings made on the Cintiq). I wanted to be able to lay those lines down as fast as my hand moves. If there's more than a slightly perceptible lag, I get distracted and it ruins my flow. 

When I found SketchTime by developer Hansol Huh, I rejoiced. Finally, here was a drawing app that could keep up with the speed at which I draw, even on my iPhone 3GS! I couldn't wait to try the app out on my new 3rd generation 32 GB iPad...

In general, SketchTime is an excellent app for those who primarily draw in black and white with quick strokes: sketchers, iphone and ipad sketchers, urban sketchers, etc. My hope was that SketchTime would translate to the bigger surface of the iPad, hopefully outperforming its iPhone cousin. Alas, it does not entirely deliver on this; however, it still remains very possibly the best sketching app out there for iOS.

The basics are all there, and as good as before. The speed (overall) is still good (more on this below). It's about as fast as it is on my iPhone, although as I say I had hoped it would be faster. Like the iPhone version, SketchTime on iPad retains the ability to taper lines by adding speed to the stroke and has the same staggering amount of undos (one of my favourite things about the app). The iPad version thoughtfully adds a virtual palm rest, which you can move around the bottom half of the screen (for left or right sketchers), that effectively acts as a shield so you can place your hand on the iPad screen and draw without activating multi-touch gestures like zoom and pan. The problem is that the palm rest is finicky. I found it works better when I placed a single finger on it (like I do when I'm drawing with my finger, not a stylus) rather than the whole side of my hand (which I tend to do when I'm drawing with my Wacom Bamboo stylus for iPad). After a while, however, I got used to keeping my hand still enough so as not to activate multi-touch gestures... Now I use it quite freely; however, it did take some practice to figure out.

But the biggest problem in the current version of SketchTime is a greater degree of lag - not all the time during the sketching process, but rather just when you switch instruments (from pen to eraser, for example) or when you first fire up the app. During those times, strokes are choppy, curved lines are impossible and often lines come out as points or don't come out at all. It's like the app needs to catch its breath in order to continue heaving around the increased number of pixels in the new iPad... Similarly, after opening up the app, zooming in takes a few tries, and on at least one occasion, I couldn't erase a mark I had made no matter how many undos I tried. The net effect isn't a deal breaker (as I said, this is still one of the fastest sketching apps on iOS); however, I did get tired of always having to undo the first two or three strokes after switching pens or first opening the app.

One explanation I've heard is that, although the new iPad has a graphics processor (GPU) that is four times faster than the one on iPad 2, it retains the same central processor (CPU) as the old iPad. In order for art apps to take full advantage of the speed the new iPad can provide, they need to draw more power from the GPU (like games do), and rely less on the ageing CPU. This is one of the things the developers of Procreate for iPad noticed. I'm looking forward to trying out version 1.6 of Procreate when it becomes available and letting you know what I find! Similarly, I just downloaded an update to Autodesk's SketchBook Pro for iPad (version 2.4), and it is noticeably faster.

I hope Hansol Huh updates his excellent sketching app soon in order to take advantage of the iPad's killer graphic capabilities. The power of SketchTime is its simplicity: it's not bogged down by having to render complex brush mechanics or handle layers like other art apps do. Consequently, it's one of the fastest drawing apps around (note: it's not just black and white; there's a colour picker for colour lines too). If Hansol can get it to take full advantage of the new iPad, I have no doubt it will once again be a screaming good time... as close, possibly, to Cintiq-like performance on the iPad as we'll get in the near future. Bring it on! I love what is happening around sketching and digital art right now.

Are you a sketcher? Do you have a favourite art app for iOS or Android? Have you tried SketchTime or want to? Why not drop me a line in the comments section - I'd love to hear from you! 

4 comments:

threads yasir said...

I have been intelligent for hours and I haven't gone through such awesome stuff.
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Matt said...

Great post. I love sketchtime as well and we recommend it to our customers who buy our Sensu brush. I am using an iPad 2 and have not noticed any of the problems you mention. If you haven't already, you should send your observations to Hansol. He is great and very responsive. -Matt

Tom said...

Thanks guys for both your comments! Sketch Time continues to be my favourite go-to sketching app on the iPad and iPhone. Matt, I totally want to try it with the Sensu brush! Incidentally, the problem I mentioned about lag has now been fixed by the developer...

Nicolene C Swanepoel (Nikki) said...

I particularly want to know if there is software for Tracing photographic images into stark / high contrast black and white drawing or sketch-like lines, most possibly with the use of a stylus, and presumably for a newer version of an i pad. I need easy to use / software for dummies as I find something like Photoshop much to complicated for my level of understanding and too complex for my requirements. Several of these drawings then need to be amalgamated into an a3 size sheet that can be converted into “posies” or Positives” for transferring to silkscreens for printing. If you have any suggestions I will appreciate it.