Vector-Based Line Drawing With Sketchbook Ink

There is an incredible range of drawing apps available for the iPad. Some apps have just a few color choices and one drawing tool while others are full of tools, making for essentially limitless possibilities. I have tried out a lot of these applications in the few years that I’ve owned an iPad and while the feature-filled applications are often my choice, at times I just want a simpler app.

Autodesk’s newest application, Sketchbook Ink, has helped to meet that desire. Sketchbook Ink is a vector-based drawing application in which you have access to 7 different pens and all the colors you can think of. It’s definitely a simpler application, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Read on to learn more about the app and what I think about it.

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Getting Started

We’ll start the examination of the app in the gallery area, which is essentially the “home” space for the app. In the gallery you can view and edit all of your drawings. You can also start a new drawing, delete a drawing, or even duplicate a drawing in order to edit a copy.

The gallery screen - my drawings thus far.

Once you start a new drawing, you are taken to the drawing screen. The interface is fairly simple and self-explanatory. Pens and erasers are in a toolbar to the left, colors are to the right and everything else is in the bottom toolbar. The bottom toolbar includes tools and options such as undo/redo, full screen viewing, the ability to change the size of the pen and navigation/export options.

The main drawing screen.

The pens, of course, deserve a bit more explanation. In Sketchbook Ink, the pens available are really more reminiscent of different nubs you could put onto a fountain pen. In fact, rather than the ink sitting on top of the canvas, it is actually virtually absorbed into the canvas. It’s a pretty cool feature that makes the app a bit more realistic. There are 7 different types of pens included which really allows you to get a pretty decent variety of lines going on in the drawing.

A letter for each of the 7 pens - a decent variety, to be sure.

Take note – erasers are conveniently located within the same toolbar as the pens for easy access.

Color selection is the other important tool to consider. On the right of the screen, you see a toolbar full of 30 different color swatches. If the color you are looking for is not in the toolbar, it is easy to change and add colors. Just utilize the color puck in order to select colors by mixing them yourself, adjusting HSB/RGB values or using the eyedropper tool on the drawing at hand. Any color you select can easily be pinned to the swatches for easy access as you continue the drawing.

Choosing colors with the color mixer.

After you have finished a drawing, the last thing to consider is export options. Sketchbook Ink allows you to export to the Photo Library, to iTunes, directly to Dropbox or you can simply email the image. A definite plus of the vector-based rather than raster-based program is that drawings can be exported at huge sizes without losing any quality. This is great if you are planning to print a drawing and need it to print at a decent size.

Exporting the image to iTunes - a huge array of sizes are available.

What Works and What Doesn’t

All in all, Sketchbook Ink does what it set out to do pretty well, in my opinion. The fact that it is vector based, allowing for essentially unlimited zoom and export size really helps to sell the app for me personally. Additionally, I love the way that the pens work. It’s quite a pleasant application to use and I consider it well worth the price.

That being said, there are definitely a few things that don’t work for me. First, the application is a bit laggy. It was better on a newer iPad (of course) but the undo/redo buttons were still pretty slow even on an essentially brand new iPad. The export options are also fairly limited – I would like to see a few more options to easily share your creations rather than just options to save privately. It is also incredibly frustrating that you cannot add more than the original 30 swatches to the color bar. Any color you save must replace a swatch that is already there. Hopefully this gets fixed sooner rather than later as it makes the color selection much more of a pain.

The extremely limited export options.

There are also a few features I would love to see Autodesk add to the application. First of all, layers are much needed. This is a fairly common feature, and while I know that Autodesk was aiming to make a much simpler application, layers seem like a tool that really should be incorporated. A paint bucket tool would be nice as well. Coloring in the background with a pen, even at the largest size is super time consuming and really not a lot of fun.

Final Thoughts

I believe Sketchbook Ink is well on its way to becoming my go-to drawing application. When I don’t need quite all the bells and whistles of an app like Sketchbook Pro, Art Rage or any of the other big drawing apps, Sketchbook Ink works quite well. I do hope that Autodesk continues to add to the application. While I don’t want the application to have too many features, as that sort of defies the purpose, I would like to see just a few more of the basics that I discussed above. Layers and a paint bucket tool would really make the app just about everything that I need.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you tried Sketchbook Ink? Do you think it’s ok just the way it is or is there are feature (or five) that you would like to see Autodesk add to the application? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


A vector-based drawing application courtesy of Autodesk. The app features 7 pens and a variety of colors to make simple or incredibly detailed line-based artwork on your iPad.