4.5 star rating

SketchBook Express Review

Pros: Easy to use; Robust drawing tools; Incredible value
Cons: Can only create six layers in one image
The Verdict: This robust free app will satisfy both casual doodlers and would-be comic book artists.



While Windows has always had MS Paint, Mac has long been lacking a simple and inexpensive tool for creating quick sketches or drawings. Thanks to the Mac App Store, causal doodlers now have access to SketchBook Express. Developed by AutoDesk, SketchBook Express is the gratis version of SketchBook Pro, which retails for $79.99 in the App Store. The biggest difference between the free and paid versions is that Express lets you create only six layers and the layers cannot be saved individually; the image must be flattened before saving. (SketchBook Pro offers unlimited layers.) It's unlikely that casual users will miss this functionality, so we recommend the free version without hesitation.

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When you open SketchBook Express, you're greeted with a fresh white canvas. Pens, pencils, brushes, and erasers are located in one window while general controls for shapes, colors, undoing, and redoing are located in a separate window. Finally, there's a crescent in the bottom left of the screen for easily accessing these windows, as well as settings and files.

Drawing with SketchBook Express is as easy as selecting a pencil or brush, choosing a color from the color wheel and holding down your MacBook's touchpad button while dragging your finger over the touchpad. For serious drawing endeavors, you'll probably want a Wacom tablet, but for casual designs, we found the touchpad to be more than sufficient.

SketchBook Express has several drawing tools from which to choose and all are customizable. The app also offers several color options, including web-safe colors, Apple colors, developer colors, and even crayons. Each hue may be adjusted and tweaked with a color wheel, but we preferred to choose colors from the virtual box of crayons that identified colors with fun names such as Blueberry and Licorice.

This is easily one of the best apps in the Mac App Store. SketchBook Express is easy to learn, easy to use, and a lot of fun--regardless of your artistic skills. Perhaps best of all, this robust app is free of ads and pitches to upgrade to the paid version. If you've ever longed for MS Paint on your Mac, you'll want to download SketchBook Express.

Tags: SketchBook Express, Apple Mac App Store, Mac App Store, Snow Leopard (Mac OSX 10.6), Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Mac OS X, Apple, multimedia software, Software, reviews

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SketchBook Express

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