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Home>Howto>Draw, Color & More In An Uncluttered Environment With Sketchbook Express [Mac]

Draw, Color & More In An Uncluttered Environment With Sketchbook Express [Mac]

By Joshua Lockhart2013-01-30

sketchbook express for macPeople have always adapted technology to their creativity, and computers are no different. What originally started out as a gigantic calculator became a device for communication, office filing, and now, artwork.

With Sketchbook Express for Mac, you can draw all kinds of pictures with the aid of a pen and stylus. Furthermore, it’s free, and although there’s a price for its older brother – Sketchbook Pro – you can use Sketchbook Express for more basic image creation or as a trial version to see if you want to upgrade.

The app is a relatively simple one. Clearing all distractions from the screen, it provides a desktop haven for pure and uninhibited doodling. Based on the artwork I’ve seen, it’s also full to the brim with capabilities! With lots of pens, brushes, and colors to choose from, there’s a little something in it for everybody.

Sketchbook Express for Mac – The Interface

Sketchbook Express thrives to emulate the pen and paper in a digital format, and it does so in a relatively successful manner. Your first view of the app will be a single blank canvas, free from distracting toolbars or windows. This isn’t to say there aren’t any toolbars at all, for there are. However, they are very aesthetically pleasing and are designed to simply not get in the way, purposefully placed to the sides. Personally, I thought this was a nice feature.

Compared to Photoshop, Sketchbook Express focuses on one word - minimalism. The menus and toolbars are designed to work with as little interference as possible. As a note, these menus are also designed for a tablet (such as the Wacom Bamboo pen tablet), and although they work with your mouse or trackpad, you’re better off otherwise.

sketchbook express for mac

Menus operate with a unique circular click-and-drag function. For instance, if I select an icon, a series of other icons appear around my cursor that I can then choose from. This is where having a tablet and stylus comes handy, for the menus are definitely designed for this kind of tool. Admittedly, at first it is a bit awkward, but after a while, it becomes second nature.

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With that said, the contextual menu for your stylus also offers several options using this selection feature, allowing for less menus on the main screen. Furthermore, all resizing and other goodies are handled using the stylus in a manner akin to the click-and-drag.

For example, the move/resize tool places a circular menu on the screen with options that you click from. After clicking, you can move the stylus around to change the position or increase and decrease the size percentage.

sketchbook express mac

How It Functions

Sketchbook Express is a drawing app and nothing more. You won’t find yourself wanting to manipulate photos or creating crazy image compositions at all. With that in mind, it is not a replacement for Photoshop. However,  I do see Sketchbook Express as a type of competitor in that many artists have adapted the Adobe product for their drawn artwork. Even still, it was originally created as a photo manipulator, so it won’t be hurting for business.

With several brushes to choose from, your artwork can be created to the fullest of its potential. There is really nothing to hold you back at all in this realm. Colors are chosen from the spectrum, so you can basically use whatever you want. Furthermore, with the brush puck, you can use that same click-and-drag function to increase or decrease the size of your brush.

Drawing with a tablet is easy and seamless, and the app offers an amazing pressure sensitivity function. 

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Also, Sketchbook Express does support layering, but it’s a little hard to find at first since you have to open it from the contextual menu. Unfortunately, the app currently only allows for six layers, but the upgrade to Sketchbook Pro will allow for more.

sketchbook express for mac


Sketchbook Express for Mac is a solid introductory app for those wanting to get into the realm of digital art. It has its limits (being exclusively for drawing and occasionally painting), but it is great for putting out a few simple sketches. Sometimes, if you put your mind to it, it can be great for even more complicated ones.

What are your thoughts on Sketchbook Express for Mac? Have you ever drawn a picture using Sketchbook Express?

Topics: Mac

Tags: creative, drawing


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