Paper, created by design studio Fiftythree, may be one of my favorite drawing apps ever to grace the iPad. If I didnt put so much trust in reality, I wouldve sworn that the company found some way to magically turn its supply of charcoal, watercolors, markers, and inkwell pens into lines of code that, when run on an iPad, made beautiful artwork.
It has, hands down, the best digital rendering of a pencil tool Ive ever seen, and watercolors are bright and have just the right texture against the digital paper. The app itself is laid out simply, letting you sketch in the pages of moleskine-esque books, or flip from drawing to drawing. For the app, Fiftythree also invented a brilliant way to undo strokes, which involves using two fingers to swipe counterclockwise in a circle (or rewind) to take away unwanted marks.
I adore Paper, as you might have guessed. But sadly the app as-is has a few major flaws that make it exceedingly frustrating to work with. You cant zoom in on the canvas, which limits the kind of precision you can get from your drawings. Colors, too, are limited; you only get nine swatches of black, grey, white, brown, red, yellow, blue, green, and purple to work with. For those well-versed in the art of color mixing, this may not be a problem, but that sadly doesnt include the majority of the population.
Watercolors, as beautiful as they are, have serious limitations when combined with Papers pressure rendering engine. The app uses speed to control line widths and pressure; unfortunately, this means that if youre trying to color something carefully, you may very well end up with a blotch of color where you meant only a light touch. And you cant resize brushes for more fine-tuned coloring.
Fiftythree has hinted at updates coming down the pipeline which may fix some of these issues; in the meantime, Ill continue to use Paper where I can, and hope well see an update that allows me to change my recommendation from problematic love to If you havent downloaded it already, what are you waiting for?.
Serenity Caldwell is an associate editor for Macworld.