June 12, 2012

Limitations = FREEDOM. #MadeWithPaper drawing app review.

You may have noticed a slightly different style appearing in some of my drawings here since I got the iPad 3. I bought several drawing apps – they’re luxuriously cheap and some have nearly all the bells and whistles of Photoshop or Illustrator.

But my special favorite is a very simple app called Paper by 53. You can’t zoom in it… …there are no layers …you can't change the brush size...and the colours are limited. So why do I love it so?

Just download the free app and take a look at the books.

Choose one and open it up. It feels nice.

The ink drivers flow beautifully, and the limitations actually force a creative thought process.

I find I don't want to be bogged down by too many choices.

I can tear away from the temptation of time-consuming perfection and detail.

Working within restrictions can somehow set you free.

I guess drawing in Paper is a lot like drawing on paper, but with a really great eraser!

Here’s a quickie guide:

  • The tool tray slides up and down. 
  • The quill is speed sensitive – the faster you draw, the thicker the line. 
  • The water colour brush will deepen the longer you linger. 
  • All colours are transparent, except black and white.  
  • A circular motion with two fingers on the screen counter-clockwise will undo. 
  • The page is not white, so white ink shows nicely. 

Everyone who draws with Paper can't help smiling.

I would change two things though – first, I’d offer more colour palettes. Not unlimited colours, but more trays of set colours. The current colours are starting to bore me; it’s hard to differentiate one artist from another cuz we're all using the same colours. Prolly good for the initial branding of a drawing app but it's getting old. And  secondly, since I’m a cartoonist it would be useful to make copies of drawings; that way I could work on a succession of drawings, with subtle changes between them.

The basic version of this app is free but if you want all the brushes they cost about $2 each. A whole $8. Also... Paper just won an Apple Design Award yesterday - Congrats!

I drew my three children on my iPad, using Paper and a Wacom Bamboo stylus.


  1. I totally agree with your assessments of the app - #1 for me would be getting a few more colors. The app has been out long enough now for that upgrade to take place. I watched a video with the creator or Paper on the Verge.com website and one thing that came across is that although they know what they're doing at 53, they are totally constrained by not having enough staff - the creator of the company is the guy that programmed the rewind/eraser feature, but he's also the salesman and face of the company so his programming time is limited. Hopefully as the app grows in popularity they will get additional staff to help out. I'm not complaining about it though, I still love it for the freedom of not trying to be too perfect when drawing! T.J.

    1. Ahhh that makes sense, but I think the app has got so much attention now, they won't be hurting for staff cuz they're hiring! We should see upgrades soon.

  2. Since we are iPad-less, I don't have to feel too bad about skipping over an actual response to your review to say:

    You know, I don't think I've yet seen a style of art from you that isn't endearing and evocative.

    1. THANK-YOU. That is a really, really, REALLY nice thing to say to me and I'm glad you did it here where I can keep it forever. And drool over it.

      Carry on.


Cuz You Rocketh.