FiftyThree brings realistic sketching to the iPad with Paper

Since the advent of the electronic revolution, creatives of all kinds have longed for a digital parallel to traditional drawing methods. In the early days, Apple gave us the mouse—a breakthrough in human computer interaction but greatly lacking in any fine control for detailed graphics. Seeing a huge opportunity in this space, Wacom, with their various drawing tablets and stylus products, has been a leading innovator for as long as I can remember when it comes to drawing tablets. Enter in the iPad, mobile company FiftyThree, and their creation Paper.
Paper is a gesture-based iPad app that eloquently allows you to paint, sketch, and take notes with either a stylus or simply with your fingers. The interface is best described as clean, simple and unobtrusive. Unlike other drawing apps, you will find no hints of binder rings, lined paper, or other forms of skeuomorphism here.

The Paper app interface is simple and clean. One of the default journals (shown above) shows you the various tools available to you with an in-app purchase. One is provided for free.

You are at first presented with three sketchbooks, one on how to use Paper, one provided for sketches, and another for ideas. This is their way of queueing users that with Paper, you can organize notebooks into various subject matter. To move in and out of your sketchbooks, use gestures such as pinching, swiping to cycle through sketchbooks, and flicking to turn pages. Buttons are not a common component in Paper and can take a few minutes of experimentation to become familiar but you’ll soon find that gestural navigation here is quite natural with only a few hang ups.

A look at the full Paper toolset

“I love using Paper. It’s replaced my notebook as well as my sketchpad. I feel less pressure having a digital sketchbook where as a physical one I feel once I have a crappy drawing in it I feel like the book is ruined. This eliminates that irrational fear. While I truly love the app I really am hoping for some updates soon that help it become a more versatile tool.”—Collin Green

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A sample website sketch in Paper A sample drawing from Collin

Paper features we love:

  • Paper features a beautiful and simple interface, which, keeps things from becoming cluttered
  • Gesture controls are ease use
  • Responsive to finger and stylus movements so you can still use the app even if you have left your stylus elsewhere, unlike drawing tablets of the past
  • Share your drawings via email
  • There are a small and well selected number of drawing tools. Users are not overwhelmed with tools that they would likely never use anyways
  • Easily undo, or as Paper calls it “rewind,” up to 20 previous steps by a simple two-fingered counter-clockwise gesture
  • Create as many journals as you want
  • Delete and add pages to your journals
  • It’s fast—this app loads and responds very quickly

Things on our “room for improvement” list:

  • Since your hand can’t touch the surface when drawing or writing, it is slightly awkward to take notes with Paper (either with or without a stylus).
  • Page turn gestures: Sometimes you inadvertingly write or turn a page. This can be problematic, as leaving a page erases the rewind history so if you don’t notice that you (or your friend looking at your awesome drawing) made an accidental mark on a sketch and then turns the page…congratulations that’s now a part of your creation.
  • Brush size options amongst the existing toolset would give users more variety and further control of the look/style of their drawing.
  • The limited color palette, while very nice, is well…limited. We would love to see the ability to select or create more color options available in the future.
  • There is currently no support for page or journal reordering
  • At the time of this writing, there is no export or backup system to save your journals outside of Paper
  • Edges of the UI are too responsive causing flyout menus to open when doodling. This is probably the one time where you want to introduce a button rather than rely solely on gesturing.
  • More paper background options would be nice as well, e.g., watercolor paper, plain paper, canvas, etc.

So overall, we give the Paper app very high marks and think it can help even the unlikely artist create something worth sharing. We greatly look forward to future updates on this creation from FiftyThree as we continue to look for ways to brainstorm and collaborate amongst our teams in new and effective ways. One of the greatest things that any tool can offer, is giving its users the freedom to create and find new ways to express ideas no matter where you are—and Paper for the iPad does just that.

Have you tried Paper yet? If so, let us know what you think in the comments below.