More Portable, Less Messy

The size, clarity, and portability of an iPad begs for it to be used as a digital oil painting canvas or sketchbook page, and now you can do just that. I'm consistently amazed at the apps for artists that are being released on smartphones and tablets. Developers have reached new levels of realism, with paint that smears and layers like the real thing. To me these are the most interesting apps–ones that mimic the tactile world of painting and drawing, just in a more portable and less messy way.

ArtRage painting of Arielle Kogut by David Jon Kassan @StonehengeNYC.

ArtRage painting of Arielle Kogut
by David Jon Kassan @StonehengeNYC.

From the Editors of American Artist magazine

ArtRage is arguably the best app for capturing the experience of putting paint to surface. The app keeps track of how much paint you put down and how "wet" it is, so you can blend, smear, and build up color with the brush and palette knife tools. The watercolor option is particularly lifelike: It measures the wetness of the brush and the paper you're using to create hard-edged strokes or soft gradients. Surface options include fine to rough canvas, watercolor paper, sketchpad, and special substrates.

The app also has the ability to import photos and "pin" them for reference, and you can even convert the pixels of a picture to appear with the texture and properties of oil paint. Watch artist David Jon Kassan use ArtRage to create this portrait.

The Brushes app is an oldie but a goodie that focuses on–you guessed it–the brush. There are loads of brush and size options, a color wheel/picker, and layers.

Perhaps the best part of the app is the playback feature, which creates a slideshow "video" of your work so you can play it back and watch the magic unfold.

Brushes is quick and easy to use, making it one of the most popular painting apps out there; the New York Review of Books revealed that artist David Hockney is a closet Brushes fan.

"It's always there in my pocket, there's no thrashing about, scrambling for the right color," Hockney told the publication. "One can set to work immediately, there's this wonderful impromptu quality, this freshness, to the activity; and when it's over, best of all, there's no mess, no clean-up. You just turn off the machine."

Drawings by David Hockney, using Brushes.

Drawings by David Hockney, using Brushes.

Jorge Colombo 2009 New Yorker cover.
Jorge Colombo 2009 New Yorker cover.

Additionally, artist Jorge Colombo used the app to create the June 1, 2009, New Yorker cover. It took him an hour, using just his finger, an iPhone, and the Brushes app.

To really feel like you're painting, however, you need a real brush. The recently released Sensu stylus for tablets simulates the feel and response of an actual paintbrush. On one end there's a rubber stylus, and on the other end a paintbrush made of synthetic hair. The hair is infused with conductive properties that help your tablet react to the brush as it would your finger. With this brush, and your device, you can truly paint anywhere. Check out Sensu in action.

Watching artists use these new digital tools to create art has been inspiring for me. How about you? Have you integrated a smartphone or tablet into your artistic process? If so, leave a comment and let me know how, and what your favorite apps are. Even better, upload a pic of your digitally created artwork!


Amy Petriello is the art director of American Artist magazine.


Related Posts:


The Artist's Life Blog

2 thoughts on “More Portable, Less Messy

  1. You asked for favorite Art Apps art work and some examples. Since I bought my iPad2 last year I have been trying several Art Apps. One faorite is InspriePro.

  2. How do you prevent the glare on an iPad screen when painting or drawing outdoors. I bought ‘Brushes’ with the intention of using it for sketching en plein air but couldn’t see my image because of the reflected glare on the screen. Never bothered with it since……