Tablets — the iPad in particular — have revolutionized how we browse, communicate and work. Where only the humble graphics pad used to provide a physical human-to-computer interface, large, sensitive touchscreens now enable us to interact directly with our content. This has provided hobbyists, and artists who are used to using physical media, with the first practical tool with which to create digital art.
Initially, many iOS scribbling apps were focused on note-taking, and on handwriting recognition — the business end of things, in other words. Then, along came Paper by FiftyThree, which pretty much blew every other drawing app out of the water. It provided simplicity and beauty in equal measure, allowing artists to unleash their creativity in digital form, and making doodling a joy.
A similar ethos seems to be behind a new drawing app, named Tayasui Sketches. One of the first notable creative app releases in recent months, Tayasui Sketches is designed to be beautiful, and to be the very best app option for those wanting to create stunning illustrations.
Is Tayasui Sketches merely very similar to Paper by FiftyThree, though, or is it closer to being a clone? There’s only one way to find out…
Interface and Controls
A number of highly practical, and (incidentally) visually pleasing, design choices have been made in the development of Tayasui Sketches.
The tool palette is placed on the left of screen, taking advantage of the iPad’s greater width (when held in landscape orientation). It contains a number of pens and brushes, each represented by a pleasantly detailed on-screen replica, and the palette also holds a colour selection slide-out, a fill tool and an eraser. Other than that, there isn’t much else going on visually in the artistic area of this app, which means your artwork can receive your full attention.
The only issue I have with the interface of Tayasui Sketches is, somewhat counterintuitively, that it leaves a little too much to the imagination. This became a problem when I finished my first doodle, and wanted to do something with it — something like save it, share it, or export it. Given that I had forgotten the instructions which are flashed when you open the app for the very first time, it took me ten minutes to find a way out of the drawing area. This was largely my own fault, I realize, but a basic help menu would have fixed this. For your information, an escape can be accomplished using the reverse pinch technique, usually used for zooming out of maps or similar.
The other gesture-based controls in Tayasui Sketches are greatly more welcome, though. Undo and redo can be instigated with a two-fingered swipe to the left and to the right, respectively. The usual pinch-to-zoom option is also available, and you can navigate your way around a zoomed-in image with two-fingered dragging.
Let the Doodling Commence
The obvious first port of call when it comes to drawing in Tayasui Sketches is to check out the various implements at one’s disposal.
There are, by default, six tools available, ranging from the digital equivalent of a fine pen, through to a chunky crayon. It is a selection which spans the basic requirements of illustration, and the look which is produced by these digital pens and brushes is very natural. The fine pen tool, for instance, produces a flow of “ink” which is somewhat patchy and inconsistent — just like it would be on real paper.
Tayasui Sketches also includes a handy fill tool, which offers numerous forms of infilling — solid colour, dots, diamonds, lines and grids — and its effects are applied by scribbling on the area you would like to fill. In the top-right of the fill menu is a small, but handy control, which is a toggle between solid and blended layering.
Colour is handled particularly nicely by Tayasui Sketches. The slide-out colour drawer, as mentioned above, contains 16 slots for presets, and these can be filled with colours of your choosing. For the free selection of colours, Tayasui Sketches offers a colour wheel, which includes sliders to control brightness and opacity.
Whilst Tayasui Sketches is free to download and use as you please, it does have an optional upgrade, described as the Pro package, which equips the app with some extra functions and options.
In addition to the two extra drawing tools provided by the $1.99 upgrade (an airbrush and an acrylic brush), the Pro package provides the option to adjust nib or brush size and shape, as well as an eye-dropper tool for lifting colours directly from your artwork, and a blending mode.
Organization and Export
Unlike some of its competitors, Tayasui Sketches does not offer the option to create notebooks or folders, so your artworks reside in a very, very large stream of digital canvasses. Whilst I’m not artistically productive enough for this to cause me any great problem, more enthusiastic digital artists will quickly find this lack of organization very debilitating.
Exporting and sharing your Tayasui Sketches creations, however, is a very pleasant experience. As you flick through your artwork, you can place a picture into an envelope at the top of the screen, and then choose one of the on-screen postage stamps — marked Facebook, Photo Stream, Mail, and Twitter — to stick onto your art-filled letter. This process is on the one hand completely unnecessary, and on the other, utterly charming.
Okay, so it must be noted that Tayasui Sketches does do a very fine impression of the much loved Paper by FiftyThree, but I think it would be extremely harsh to describe it as a clone – not least because I think, in many regards, Tayasui Sketches is actually better.
Paper by FiftyThree’s popularity has largely been based on its simplistic elegance, and Tayasui Sketches matches it in this regard, whilst actually fitting more functionality into a similarly minimalist UI.
Artists, no matter what their preferred medium may be, all have their favoured kit, and their choice is often based heavily on feel and style. Speaking in a practical sense, though, Tayasui Sketches has the feature-set to cope with nearly any form of digital art. The range of tools is not large, but it is varied, and each implement is very customizable. Equally, the gesture-based controls are (mostly) intuitive, and the look and feel of Tayasui Sketches is extremely pleasing.
It must be said that the lack of notebooks, or any other form of organization in Tayasui Sketches is, at best, a concern, and for some it will be a dealbreaker.
Overall, though, I would have say that Tayasui Sketches is a very fine environment for the creation of touchscreen art, and for some artists, it may even take over from Paper by FiftyThree as the best illustrations app available to the creative iPad owner.