Review: ArtStudio for iPad

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ArtStudio for iPad is an indispensable app for a wide range of artistic practices. Its accessibility, comprehensiveness, and wide-open capabilities inspired me to make images for the first time in decades. The app is marketed for sketching, painting, and photo editing purposes, but it is flexible enough to be used in a variety of ways. Features include a flexible canvas size, portrait and landscape orientation, sixteen tools, 150 brushes, palm rejection, favorite brush settings, customized stroke settings, open/closed shapes, layer options, bluetooth stylus support, import/export options, undo/redo buttons, forty filters, image resize, and comprehensive adjustment settings.

The app’s layout is logical and tidy. There are toolbars on each side of the screen, a menu bar across the top, and a toolbar along the bottom. The bars can be made to disappear with a tap of the ‘full screen’ button in the top left corner. Tools can be accessed on the left, colors on the right, and on the bottom, favorites, layers, brush size and opacity, and undo/redo settings.

One can learn to work with ArtStudio in an organic fashion, as well through a User’s Manual, Forums, and Tutorials. The manual’s illustrations are accompanied by captions. The instructions are short and to the point, and aren’t always helpful.

  

Images can be imported to the canvas (as well as exported/saved/emailed). In making my own abstract pictures, I utilize the import/export feature a lot. For example, I’ll start an image like Green Abstract in ArtStudio, export it to Photos, manipulate it in another app or two, save it, import the re-worked image to ArtStudio, and continue distorting it with the various filter options. I’m always willing to take risks because I know I can ‘undo’ anything I don’t like. It’s also possible to work in different directions by exporting a version of an image, continue working on the same image in ArtStudio, and also work on the exported version in another app. This type of flexibility is one of the app’s strengths, and is an aspect that makes the artist practice an end in itself.

The ability to manipulate, add/subtract layers is a feature I have not needed much and, therefore, have not mastered. Unfortunately, the ArtStudio manual presumes the user already knows what layering is, and when and why to use it. Layers have been useful when I’ve worked with text (the app tool has dozens of typefaces to choose from), and/or collaging techniques. A layer of text, for example, can be locked, hidden, and placed in front of or behind another layer.

The left toolbar is where the drawing and painting tools lie. From here you can access settings for the pencil, wet paintbrush, paintbrush, spray paint, dots, eraser, and more. Below is an image of the wet paint brush options. There are numerous brushes to choose from (and more available from the Store). The brush effect can be normal or blurred; the size, opacity, wetness and spacing can be increased or decreased. The size and opacity can also be changed along the bottom toolbar.

One of my favorite methods of distributing color is through bucket fill. It’s a feature I haven’t seen in many art apps. In the image with six squares, I drew the box, chose a color, then tapped inside it to fill it. This is the technique I used in the Red Abstract image. If you want to change a color when you are dozens of steps away, you can re-fill with a new color and it won’t blend with the bottom color.

I learned to make colors intuitively. It is a fairly straightforward process though I have questions that are not answered in the manual. Paint swatches can be conveniently favorited on the palette, and they can be re-set fairly easily under Settings.

The ‘filters’ section, which is accessible from the menu bar, offers a lot of possibilities for manipulating and filtering pictures. In all, there are 40 different filters. Distort and Stylize are two settings that I like to play with a lot. In the latter, I often add texture to an image via Bumpmap, and the former I am fond of the Twirl setting.

 

 Contrast, hue, temperature, color balance, and posterize are a few of the photo-editing adjustments native to the app.

ArtStudio allows for an infinite number of visual combinations with its filters, settings, adjustments, tools, text, etc. It’s one of the most complete and well-made iPad apps — in any category. If I could only have one art app, there’s no contest.  

Here’s an App Store link for ArtStudio for iPad; it’s priced at $4.99

Disclosure: This app was independently purchased by the author.

Teresa España

Community college art instructor, indie music fan, SF Giants diehard, iPad fancier.

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