SketchBook Pro 2

Alias, home of the mighty Maya 3D graphics software, has updated the drawing tool SketchBook Pro to version 2 following its debut on the Mac last year. The upgrade is superficially subtle, leaving the user-friendly interface intact, with a white canvas filling the screen and minimal on-screen tools.

A digital palette is docked at the bottom-left or -right of the screen, giving access to brushes, pens, layers, tools, etc. With the aid of a digital pen and tablet you can be creating away in an instant. Pen responsiveness is excellent, with none of the drag and bloat associated with some of the more heavyweight Mac drawing applications. If you want proof of its ease of use, look
no further than Ray (age 5) and James (age 3). Borrowed for the day, the pair mastered the basics of SketchBook Pro with relative ease, producing digital drawings within minutes. Their verdict? “Great.”

Dig a little deeper and you’ll see the enhancements added since version 1.1, based on Alias’s response to user feedback and a vibrant online community. The ability to expand and crop the canvas size and specify pixels in inches and centimetres allows greater control over output. Images now gain sharpness and clarity in other applications, such as Photoshop, where layers are also now preserved. You can move, rotate and scale a layer quickly and mirror and flip layers individually. Keyboard usage is still kept to a minimum, but you can pan, zoom and rotate tools by holding down the ‘V’ key.

The real world mechanics of physically rotating a piece of paper is reproduced digitally enhancing further the hands on feel of SketchBook Pro 2. Brushes can be resized on the fly by dragging them across a round resize icon or pressing the ‘B’ key. A DIY brush function allows users to modify and create new brushes, name them and save them for future use. Holding down the shift key produces straight lines, while a substantial library of background images is free to users via the Alias Web site.
SketchBook Pro 2 now reads and writes TIFF, BMP, GIF, JPG and PNG files although there appears to be no support yet for importing native Photoshop PSD files.


If you’re looking for an alternative to Photoshop or Painter that is all things to all men, then look elsewhere. Although the Alias Web site contains stunning images produced with SketchBook Pro, what it excels at is the simple stuff. For roughs, sketches or stimulating those creative juices, SketchBook Pro 2 should be your weapon of choice.

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