iDraw: Vector Drawing on the iPad

There are plenty of apps available on the iPad for doodling, sketching, and drawing. Ever since the App Store was introduced people have been looking for the best apps that incorporate drawing on the iPhone and iPad without a stylus. While those apps have been reviewed over and over, there are not nearly as many great apps available for vector based drawing on the iPad.

Enter iDraw. Now in version 1.3, this reasonably priced app ($8.99) seeks to replicate the features of the well-known Adobe Illustrator software and bring those tools to the iPad. Although I have little experience with Illustrator, from what I can tell those who have used it will be able to quickly pick up iDraw and begin creating masterpieces. You can use iDraw to do a variety of things, from projects that involve graphing and blueprints to creating works of art.

Before we continue I should forewarn you – I was not an art major and the drawings you’ll see in these pictures probably wouldn’t even make it onto my mother’s fridge. If you can appreciate “abstract” art or you’re simply just intrigued, by all means read on!


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Channeling My Inner Picasso

When you first open iDraw you can choose from a number of different templates to start such as blank, note paper, blueprint, grid, etc. I chose blank and then began to explore. The toolbars run along the top and left hand sides and the rest of the area is your canvas. Frequent Illustrator users will probably know most of the tools already, but for the rest of us there are help guides included.

Instruction Guide

There are a number of detailed documents provided for learning all you can about the app.

The instructions are easy to understand and give lots of detail. Almost any question that came up during my time using the app could easily be answered by referring to the included documents. My one complaint was that you can’t easily swipe between the instruction pages.

Because the pages have each been created using iDraw you must look at each page as a separate document even though they are numbered 1/5, 2/5, etc. So, when I tried to move between pages I ended up rearranging layers of the instructions document because it was made in iDraw and wasn’t a locked JPEG or PDF file. While the rest of the app seemed very intuitive, this seemed a little too thrown together for me.

Once I rearranged my instruction guides so that I could understand what I was doing, I ventured out into the world of art… by drawing a square.

Starting to Draw

There are many tools and settings available for tweaking your art work.

Exploring the Features

From here I began playing with all the different tools that are included and really starting to get a feel for what you can do with iDraw. Overall, there are quite a few settings options and a number of tools to work with. You’ll find yourself mainly switching back and forth between using the tools along the left hand side and the layers palette on the top where you can select each layer separately, create new layers, merge layers, and change blending modes and opacity settings.

Toolbars

Toolbars run along the left hand side and top of the application.

iDraw saves what you’re working on automatically when you switch back to the documents browser, but if you want to discard your changes you can tap and hold on the documents button to bring up the option.

I was impressed with how many pre-made shapes were included in categories like floor plans, iPhone mockups, and symbols. You can easily save more shapes, styles, and gradients for later use as well. While there are a number of fonts included to begin with, there are some pretty typical ones missing such as Myriad Pro. However, you can add more fonts right in the app. Also, for those who use brushes a lot there is not much variety of brush options available in this version.

It’s not always easy to make small adjustments. When you attempt to move an object iDraw shows an outline of where you are moving the path to show the object’s final destination. Also, there are buttons in the Geometry panel for slightly nudging objects.

Making Touch Work

In order for this type of software to work well on the touchscreen iPad there were several things that needed to be thought out. Without the typical mouse as a form of input there were some special features that the iDraw developers included.

For instance, I very quickly grew sick of tapping to move between the move tool, other tools, and the layers palette. The developers have solved this by including a two finger shortcut. Just tap anywhere with two fingers to quickly switch from any tool to the move tool and back. The only exception to this is using the two finger tap to switch between the pen tool and path selection tool instead of the move tool.

Working with Paths

Experienced artists will find the different settings for working with paths familiar.

A second finger can be used similar to the shift key on a keyboard. Tapping anywhere with a second finger after starting to resize will lock an object’s orientation or allow you to move it in only one direction vertically or horizontally.

One of the most thought out features though is the loupe. The loupe accounts for how your finger tends to cover what you’re doing when drawing blocking you from seeing what you’re doing. So, the loupe shows you a blown up, real-time version of exactly what is happening under your finger in the upper corner of the canvas. I found this incredibly handy, but if you find it distracting the option can be disabled.

The Loupe Feature

The loupe feature was great for when my finger was just too fat to see what I was doing.

Overall Thoughts

There were still some areas that I found lacking in this version that I’d like to see updated in the future. I couldn’t find a way to select multiple layers at once and you are not able to select a layer by tapping on it, you must first choose the layer in the palette. This can slow down someone who wants to use the app heavily. Also, trying to move around the document wasn’t easy. I eventually figured out that using two fingers you could move around while zooming in or out, but I would have preferred to have a hand tool similar to other drawing software to move around the document.

Aside from all the features already mentioned I was excited that it worked well for importing and exporting SVG files. I also discovered that there is a Mac version available for $24.99, so you can start your work on the iPad and then continue with more extensive editing on your computer. While there is still work to be done on this app, overall it’s nicely designed and packs a lot of features. I’m looking forward to seeing the improvement and addition of those features that are lacking in future updates.

Is iDraw an app you could see yourself using? Does the thought of vector drawing on the iPad intrigue you? What feature of the ones I mentioned is your favorite?


Summary

iDraw is a feature packed vector drawing app for the iPad. A work in progress, this app still packs a lot of power and should satisfy most users looking to work with vector graphics.

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