Ink drawing can be a bit intimidating to get into, and a bit expensive if you're not sure you're going to stick with it. Thankfully, once again the App Store has come to the rescue. We checked out Zen Brush 2
, a slim and slick app for artistic expression.
"Pared-down" is really not a strong enough description for how feature-light this app is. You've got one brush that you can control the size of, three brush settings (wet, dry, and standard), and the ability to change the brush between a few opacity options and an additional red pen. The brush is supposed to mimic the soft, fluid feeling of an ink brush -- and honestly, it does a great job at it. The app "lags" a little by design, so you'll perpetually watch your line appear a fraction of a second after you draw it. We absolutely loved it for loose, aimless doodles, because it has a fairly authentic inky feel.
We tried using Zen Brush 2 as an app to do more "serious" art pieces with, and we found there to be too much in the way. Without a layer system, it falls prey to the same issues as apps like Paper.
There's also no way to pair a Bluetooth-enabled stylus, so resting your hand on the screen will prevent you from drawing freely, which makes drawing incredibly tedious after a few minutes. There's a very limited undo system in place, giving you the chance to undo just a few steps before you can't undo anymore.
This left us deleting entire drawings that we'd spent a considerable amount of time on, which was a pretty big letdown. There's also a bit of an issue with precision. We found that the line doesn't always show up exactly where you think it's going to, regardless of whether you're using your fingertip or a thin-tipped stylus like Stilo. If you've got your loose sketching down pat, you might find this to be the perfect drawing companion -- but if you're a painter or cartoonist, you might find this fights you a bit.
Even if it's not an actual app that you'd use to create art, that doesn't mean that it lacks worth. In fact, its simplicity is what makes it truly accessible to a wide range of people, regardless of age or skill. The app boasts tons of different paper options, so sending fun themed doodles to friends is easy. Not to mention, Zen Brush 2 was designed to do something very important: be relaxing. And if you find doodling to be a relaxing activity, we think that it does its job well. Zen Brush 2
is available for both the iPad and the iPhone, and costs $2.
Who should snag Zen Brush 2:
If you're looking for a quick and cute sketchpad, this isn't a bad option.
Who shouldn't snag Zen Brush 2:
If you're like us, and prefer lots of layers and options, we would steer you away from this, and toward a more robust app.
-- Amber Neely (@SurferAmber
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