Google Productivity Pad: App Review: Paper by FiftyThree

Thursday, February 19, 2015

App Review: Paper by FiftyThree

Name: Paper by FiftyThree
Type: Drawing
Price: Free
Stars: 5/5
For: iPad Only

This is, hands down, the best drawing app I have ever used.

Paper has been around for a long time, like thousands of years. Although we certainly have seen some improvements in it over the centuries it has remained essentially the same concept throughout its existence.

The app, Paper by FiftyThree, sets out to create an experience on the iPad that resembles the experience of a piece of paper as closely as possible. Outside of the fact that you can't fold it up into a paper airplane, they do a pretty good job.

The app, by app standards, has also been around for quite a while. And it has been receiving critical acclaim pretty much from the beginning for its creative potential. So why am I just reviewing it now? Because now it is free! Free with all of its in app purchases (IAP).

The Tools
In Paper you have six drawing tools: a fountain pen, a pencil, a marker, a fine tipped marker, a watercolor brush, and, of course, an eraser. All the tools do a good job of approximating their real life counter parts. This gives the app a feel of authenticity that I have not found with other sketch apps.

One complaint I have about the drawing tools is that you cannot change the thickness of the line you draw. You have only two options, either the regular size when looking at the whole sheet, or a predetermined precision size when you are zoomed in. This does help make the app more authentic, but it also fails to take advantage of a place digital drawing excels over analog. There is a reason for this though, which I will discuss more below.

The last tools in the tool tray are the mixer and the color palette. These allow you to choose the color your line will be. You can choose any color from the palette on the right and as long as it is highlighted your tool will draw that color. But you can also you the mixer to combine colors together to get the perfect look. The mixer will mix in or out the color you have selected in the palette as you turn clockwise or counter clockwise respectively, this is one of my favorite features.

You can also tap again on the mixer to get sliders to select your color by numbers. You will also get an eyedropper tool in the middle of the circle, if you tap on this you will be able to select any area of the page and put that color into the mixer.

At the bottom of the palette there are a couple sets of black, you can drag your new colors from the mixer into here to save them. You can also drag any color off the palette or mixer to turn the entire page that color.

As far as digital sketch tools go, undo is pretty much a standard feature. So where is it to be found in paper? Well at first I thought it just wasn't there, there is after all no reverse arrow to click on. But there is actually a feature called rewind, where you can go back in time by placing two fingers on the screen and moving them in a counter clockwise circle.

In practice I have found this gesture hard to get right, and so more often than not it results in more marks on my page that I have to undo once I finally get it. A simple button would actually have been a better choice in my mind.

Another thing it took me a long time to figure out was that you can push the tool tray away to hide it and work on the bottom of the page, then swipe up to get it back. This also ofter results in unintended marks that have to be rewound.

The last thing to talk about is the Pencil. This is a bluetooth stylus made by FiftyThree to enhance the paper experience. I do not have one so I cannot speak to how it actually works. But I can tell you that it is suppose to give you greater control and functionality. It will allow you to use pressure sensitivity in its tip to draw thicker and darker lines, or use the side of the tip for wide strokes and shading. You can also use the backend of it to erase without switching tools. Using it also enables palm detection so you can rest your hand on the screen.

The pencil looks really cool, I have been on the edge of buying one a couple of times, but at $50-$60 it is a little more than I want to spend. That is on the lower end for bluetooth styli however, so it might be a good choice for some. Currently I am still using my Jot Classic, and that is working pretty well with Paper.

I hope you enjoyed this review and you give Paper by FiftyThree a try. It is a great way get creative. And remember, live better.

Here are a few of my own sketches done with the different tools:

Color Pencil

Fountain Pen


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