We talked with some seasoned sketchers about their app-inions and how and what works for them. Read more from Core77's Sketching App Showdown, including Chris Cheung's introduction to digital sketching, in the Core77 Tech-tactular.
Spencer Nugent is founder of IDSKETCHING.com and Sketch-A-Day.com, online networks dedicated to providing free, high quality design sketching tutorials and sketching inspiration. His professional experience includes working at General Motors, Astro Studios and heading up his own design consultancy, Studio Tminus, where he worked with several clients primarily in the consumer electronics and apparel industries. Most recently, Spencer has been involved in managing design for Spacemonkey, a cloud storage company with a twist.
What kind of design work do you do?
I’m a product and design manager for a home automation company in Utah called Vivint. I help with strategic product design and development planning as well as execution of ideas through sketching, CAD, and development materials.
You’ve said previously that sketching on a phone or tablet wouldn’t take the place of more serious sketching on paper. How does your in-app sketching relate to your other work (or play)?
I still think we’re not THERE yet with digital sketching on a tablet, however, much like a smartphone camera being the best camera because of its immediate availability, I think the same can be said for tablets and smartphones. They’re becoming your best sketch toolkit, because of their ready availability. I haven’t quite made the transition yet, at least fully.
I do enjoy being able to use a few more tools than I could possibly carry with me. being able to use watercolors or an airbrush without the full setup is pretty fun.
I sketch a lot with whole line and tend not to focus too much on color or rendering up front. Pressure sensitivity is huge for me. It was a big reason I stayed away from iPhone and iPad sketching in the beginning, despite being a big fan of the idea at the time. The Adobe Ink & Slide work really well. They’re similar to an Adonit Jot Touch, but I like the integration between the hardware and the software on the Ink & Slide. With the Slide, it’s like having a template toolkit with you at all times. There’s also cool perspective tools to help get your sketches or tighter drawings tighter.
Softgood sketch by Spencer Nugent
In an app, I want to be able to just get in and draw and not have to think about setup too much. The initial setup in the Adobe apps may take a minute, but the payoff after that is worth being able to just jump in, grab the stylus and get sketching.
The stylus feels great in the hand and they’ve added nice touches with an RGB light to add personalization. I can change the color on the end of the stylus using an in-app action that is pretty cool.
Which, if any, other apps provide similar features?
The only thing I’ve seen that’s somewhat similar is Paper by FiftyThree and their Pencil stylus. They’ve done some pretty cool in-app interaction to simulate pressure or rather the area of contact by the “lead” on screen.
Sketch by Spencer Nugent
Do you think sketching apps are useful tools for students and why?
I think they’re potentially useful for students. I travel a lot doing workshops and as part of my presentation, I talk about sketchbooks. Instead of carrying around a thick sketchbook or stack of paper, most of us already have a powerful computer on us at all times—our phones and tablets. I think sketching on these devices allows students to always be ready to capture ideas or even showcase their process or portfolio on the fly. I think this is powerful.
Being ready for opportunity as it strikes is incredibly valuable.
Any pet peeves about the app(s) you use? About sketching apps in general?
In general, my main pet peeve with all things digital, and it’s getting better, is the coldness of the work as it’s produced on a digital tool. There are tricks and ways to overcome this, but much like the differences between a vinyl LP and digital music to the trained ear, the differences in digital and analog work, to me, are stark. I wish there was a way to preserve a bit more human-ness in the work that’s digitally produced.
I miss the sensation of the tip of a felt pen on a pad of paper and the resistance, the flow, the unforgiving process of ink on paper. It’s something I miss a lot.
Figure drawing by Spencer Nugent
What do you do with those sketches when you’re done?
I usually just leave them on my iPad or occasionally share with friends. lately I’ve been practicing figure drawing, so that has been fun to explore with new tools.
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This article is part of the Core77 Tech-tacular, an editorial series exploring the myriad ways that technologies are shaping the future of design.