Autodesk, the makers of AutoCAD and 3ds Max, has had several Android applications out on the Market including a tablet version of their industry favorite AutoCAD and of course, our favorite sketching application, SketchBookX. Well today, we will be going over some of the features and goodies available that make this free app the bee’s knees when it comes to drawing on your Honeycomb tablet. As a disclaimer, we will be reviewing the application using our Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. So, we can’t speak to the experience across the whole spectrum of Honeycomb hardware, but since the Tegra 2-powered tablet seems to be the industry standard, it wouldn’t be far off to expect the same, silky smooth performance we had the pleasure of working with.
Right on load, you see a very clean canvas interface. Across the top of the canvas there is a toolbar with several key features. First, is a gallery that displays all the sketches you’ve been working on (more on this later). Then, is a one-touch “New File” button, an informational help button (basically a user manual), Undo, Redo, color selector, line type selector (options for free form, straight line, square, and circle), a predefined transform selector, a manual transform selector, text tool, and a layer selector. Pictured below is the color selector tool that also allows you to do some fast switching between brushes. You can see that it is a color wheel system but it also allows for direct slider input of RGB values for your color matching needs.
One useful tool was the live transform tool. Basically it looks like a squiggly line with a dotted line next to it. This tool allows you to draw and have your drawing mirrored either horizontally or vertically. Great for drawing those pesky symmetrical shapes.
The minimalist brush controls pop up upon the user pressing the small, unobtrusive, circular control centered at the bottom of the screen. When the control pops up you see several brushes that are available for your drawing needs. The icons around the metallic wheel are pretty self-explanatory. At the 12 o’clock position, there is a pencil brush. Going clockwise, an airbrush, thin brush tip, thick brush tip, pen tip, eraser, color fill, and a clone stamp tool of paint splotches. At the center, is a wheel that allows you to control your brush opacity (moving up and down) and your brush size (moving horizontally) on the fly.
At the corners of the screen are additional buttons which are customizable. Long-pressing each corner gives you options for changing the soft keys to Clear Layer, Frame Canvas, Undo, Redo, Last Brush, Last Color, and of course, none.
Drawing in the SketchBookX app took a bit of getting used to, but it was ultimately a joy to experience. Unlike other sketchbook or paint programs, there was minimal lag in touch tracking (lag would manifest itself as a delay in a line being drawn as you drag your finger across the screen). In our test drawing, there were several key features that we leveraged quite often. The first was of course the Undo/Redo tools (you can’t imagine how many mistakes a newbie to drawing makes). The next key feature was the ability to use layers.
By leveraging the layers feature, we were able to “color inside the lines” so to speak with very little effort. Shading was accomplished using the Airbrush tool and the opacity controls via the Layers option in the toolbar and voila! Our very own little DroidDog.
The only hiccup we ran into was that we ignored all the low battery warnings and our tablet died before we were able to save. Heartbreaking, I know. Luckily, AutoDesk has thought of that too! Now, we don’t know how often the autosave interval is, but we were able to recover our whole drawing without a hitch.
All in all, it was a very satisfying first run. We were able to save, re-edit, and export as a PNG to share with our staff.
Aside from Canvas View there is a gallery as we mentioned before. There isn’t much to report other than that it is very clean and keeps with the minimalist focus that the rest of the app leverages so well.
Each drawing can be Starred as a Favorite for quick and dirty organizing of your files. Across the top right of the screen there are several soft keys like Edit, New File, Export (PNG or JPG), Create a Copy, and Delete. Selecting a file opens a full-frame view of the picture.
Long story short, we had a great time with AutoDesk’s SketchBookX. It is an amazing Honeycomb offering and it really does bring a lot to the overall experience. If there was anything lacking we would have loved to see the ability to use more layers and perhaps a custom clone stamp ability in addition to more brushes. However, let’s keep in mind this is a free offering and really, it doesn’t fall short in any one category. It does what it does very well. The clean interface makes it easy for the most novice artists to get started and knock out a masterpiece in no time.