Digital Canvases – Graphic Art in the Age of the Tablet

Digital Canvases – Graphic Art in the Age of the Tablet

A growing number of artists are moving towards a fully digital production cycle. At the same time, thanks to improvements in storage and memory, tablets are rapidly becoming a viable and cost-effective way of producing digital art.

You may be wondering what the best tablet for you might be – and you have good options from Apple, Samsung, and Lenovo – but you may also be looking for apps and programs that you can use to make the most of your tablet. Here, we will briefly explore some of the options available to artists in the modern mobile market.

As should be expected, comparing the capabilities of the best tablet apps to those of more robust desktop software packages is a futile exercise at this point. Currently, a variety of tricks can be employed to turn your Apple, Android, or Windows tablet into a makeshift graphic tablet for your PC (as seen with GIMP on Android). Hacks like this can often provide a simple way for the majority of artists to cheaply replicate the more expensive alternative of shelling out for a Wacom Cintiq or similar piece of specialised kit. For those who wish to create and manipulate art exclusively on their tablet or smartphone, a range of software options exist.

Beginning with an old favourite, Adobe brings us Photoshop Touch for Apple and Android. This app provides full and powerful photo-manipulation functionality, and although it lacks some features seen in the desktop version (masking, for instance, is conspicuous in its absence), they are fairly few and far between. Although it comes with a fairly high price point for a mobile app, it represents the most comprehensive package available, and in terms of Adobe’s usual approach to pricing, can’t really be considered too expensive.

ArtStudio (iOS) probably represents the most complete option available to the iPad user for both drawing and painting, having a comparable feature-set to Photoshop with a similar feel, professional design, and a relatively low price point. For Android, its closest equivalent is probably SketchBook Pro (iOS & Android), which has a similar range of features, but with a slightly less user-friendly interface, with some of its more basic features proving a little tricky to locate. 3-D modelling is also better served for the iPad than Android, with Posable (iOS) providing a simple and cheap piece of software ideal for creating dynamic, 3D scenes that can be viewed from any angle.

Beyond these more professional options, several more basic (though still high quality) drawing apps are available. For Android, the most notable is probably Infinite Design, which comes in Free and Premium versions, and boasts both a fluid user-interface and the unique feature of an infinitely zoomable canvas (by garcia). For the Apple market, the most versatile of these is probably Paper, a freemium app that allows access to a host of customisable features through in-app purchase.

Perceptive readers will have spotted a major absence in the above stakes: Windows. Of the three major competitors in the market, Apple and Android’s share of drawing and graphics apps currently far outstrips those available for Microsoft-based devices. Unfortunately, thanks to their relatively late entry into the market at a competitive level, the latest crop of Windows 8 tablets are woefully underserved in this regard (despite the new OS’s emphasis on touch). However, it is relatively early days for Windows in this area, and we can probably expect to see significant developments in graphic art for the Windows tablet over the coming year.


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