Even a glance at the PenGo website makes it plain that this is a company on a mission to rethink how iPad and touchscreen art can be made. Alongside PenGo Paint, its flagship app, PenGo is also developing a range of styluses that go beyond the conventional flat rubber tip. There are some exciting possibilities for tailoring the stylus and app to work in close harmony.
So it’s almost deflating to open up PenGo Paint and find what looks like a perfectly standard painting app. Touching a nub at the top of the screen reveals a standard-looking toolbar, with icons giving access to brush selection, layers, undo and a colour palette. This is hardly reinventing the wheel. And then you start to paint, and discover the details that make all the difference.
First is a Dynamic Brush mode, toggled on and off by a three-fingered tap on the screen. This mode responds to the speed at which you move your finger or stylus: the faster the flick, the lighter your brush stroke. The iPad screen isn’t capable of responding to pressure in the same way as a graphics tablet, but this is a reasonable facsimile. You can also optionally adjust the brush opacity with your stroke speed.
If you apply a stroke with two fingers then PenGo Paint has another trick up its sleeve. As you apply the stroke, you can broaden or narrow the distance between your fingers to control the stroke’s width at each point.
These options combine with the choice of stamps for each of the five brush and pen types to offer an exceptional painting and, in particular, drawing experience. The lines you can create have a liveliness and suppleness that you don’t typically associate with iPad painting. It’s hard for new art apps to force their way through the crowd of established players, but PenGo Paint looks like it has enough going for it to make a splash.