iPhone App of the Week: Artstudio

May 16, 2010 Updated: May 16, 2010

The plethora of apps that allow users to draw on the iPhone are naturally expected from a touchpad device. Most are implemented very simply, and some even try to cater to real artists.

One app, Brushes, caught the nation’s eye when an illustration drawn with it made it on the cover of the New Yorker last year. Of course, the app then became very popular, but lately, development seems to be frozen.

Fortunately for artists, Artstudio has taken the lead as a finger painting app that allows you to create fine (for a phone) art.

Artstudio is virtually Photoshop for your iPhone. In fact, the official Photoshop mobile app doesn’t have as many features. It has many styles of brushes that mimic real-life implements. There are also advanced features such as a smudge tool and dodge/burn tools. It can handle layers and also has a few visual effects such as blur and sharpen.

There is a setting for smoothing out your brush strokes and it also simulates pressure sensitivity based on the speed of your strokes. It actually works quite well, but there is a tradeoff in responsiveness. It tends to bog down with bigger brush sizes and it also stops registering very long strokes as its undo buffer fills up. In actual practice, however, you may never run up against that limit since you would almost always be making much shorter strokes, but it adds to the sense that the app is not as fast as one would like.

One nice bonus with this app is that it includes a drawing tutorial with several subjects to practice on. The way it works is that it makes a few strokes and then you trace over them. When you are satisfied you progress to the next step until eventually you have a complete composition. It’s nothing close to having a real instructor, but a user could probably develop real skills through rigorous practice.

Be glad that you are drawing on an iPhone or iPod Touch, as these devices have one of the most accurate touch sensors on any current mobile device. This accuracy makes apps such as Artstudio pleasurable to use and feasible for creating more serious art.