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ArtStudio 3.0

Price $330 | Company Toon Boom | Web www.toonboom.com

ArtStudio hasn’t won as much attention as some iPad art apps, but this third release confirms that it’s a capable tool for mobile artists. It offers a generous selection of brushes and image-editing tools, making it effectively a mini-Photoshop in intent.

The interface gets the basics right, but isn’t without its little quirks. The main toolbar remains hidden until you tap the bottom-right corner, when it then appears at the bottom of the screen. Tapping any icon reveals a sub-menu. Major painting tools such as brushes, pens and the eraser are all accessible through the leftmost icon. It’s a shame that the array of icons in this sub-menu aren’t supported by labels, especially when the nearby effects sub-menu does just that.

Certain tool selections, which are indicated by a tiny gearbox icon, reveal custom options when you tap and hold them. Brush options offer a rich choice of presets, spacing and jitter controls, so some experimentation will yield brushes that’ll be more to your liking than the rather ordinary defaults. You can save up to 20 brush presets for later use. We did find that ArtStudio occasionally lags behind your finger movements, with strokes slow to appear on the screen.

So far, then, ArtStudio offers a thorough toolset but doesn’t really stand out from rival apps. The biggest distinguishing factor is probably the availability of drawing lessons directly within the app. You can choose a topic from the 17 provided: ArtStudio then draws a subject line by line, pausing so you can draw over its lines. The lessons are basic, but introduce beginner concepts such as grid construction and perspective. It’s a facility that could be developed with more in-depth training, perhaps supported with in-app purchases and downloading of new material.

ArtStudio has promise, but lacks a degree of refinement. A more consistent interface, more naturalistic brushes and improved training could really see it contend with the big names of iPad art software.