Any 2D artist will tell you that the most important tool to have handy during any meeting or ideation session is their sketchbook. The ability to take notes and scribble ideas on paper is about as important in any early concept stage as having a consumer base in mind for your finished product. Alias has developed SketchBook Pro as an intuitive and responsive alternative to carrying paper, pencils, and color media around for this purpose.
As its name implies, Alias SketchBook Pro is a sketchbook for artists who want to quickly and easily record their thoughts and ideas digitally. Closely mimicking working with traditional media, the application doesn’t overwhelm with unnecessary filters, effects or tools. It’s a very light program in comparison to Adobe’s Photoshop or Corel’s Painter, which means fast load times and it won’t bog down your system with memory demands.
Concept artists, product designers, storyboard artist and even novice artists will enjoy the simplicity of the program. After installation, it was a matter of minutes before I was working on my first illustration with the program. There is no complex user’s manual to read or much of a need to consult the online help files.
The Artist’s Tools
Designed for use with tablet PCs and Wacom art pads, Alias SketchBook Pro relies heavily on stylus input rather than pull down menus or keyboard input. The interface is uncluttered and easy to understand with graphic icon representations of all tools and selections. Selecting tools is a simple process of selecting the appropriate icon and flicking the stylus in one of 8 directions (up, down, left, right or diagonal) for the needed item.
A flick of the stylus selects items from the tool bar quickly.
A standard selection of drawing tools is available which includes: pencil, ballpoint pen, paint brush, airbrush, highlighter, smear, eraser, chisel brush and felt pen. I was very impressed with the way in which the tools closely mimic real tools. For example, the marker will actually bleed and seep into the digital paper by dragging your stylus slowly across your work canvas. The pencil tool reacts to changes in stylus pressure beautifully with variations in line weight and intensity. Users can also customize the tools to their liking and save them for later use. Adjustments can be made to each tool’s edge, size, opacity, roundness, slant and stamp spacing.
One disappointment that I found with the tools was that the default selections from the main menu interface were not customizable. When drawing on the canvas and then flipping my stylus over to use the erasure end, I found that the diameter of the erasure tool was much too large for my needs. Since the erasure tool defaults automatically to a set size and there is no adjustment, I found it easier to keep the tool selection window open and select the erasure from there. This, in effect, makes the other end of your stylus useless (unless you want to erase large areas on your canvas).
If you use SketchBook Pro on a desktop PC you will find that your non-drawing hand is left with not much to do. The software is designed for Tablet PCs; therefore Alias hasn’t included many hot keys for you to quickly select tools. Being an avid user of Photoshop I found myself distress at not being able to ALT-select colors from the canvas.
Photoshop users will also be a little disappointed with the lack of a selection mask tool for isolating areas of the illustration for editing. The selection tool available in Sketchbook Pro will only select rectangular areas, allowing you to perform move, copy, cut or crop functions on the selected area. I found erasing areas of airbrush overspray to be a task that could have been eliminated with a proper selection mask tool.
The rectangular area selected can’t be used as an area mask because the area deselects once you choose another tool from the menu. However, I don’t consider this to be a critical item for the purpose of sketching. Maybe something that would be a nice addition to future versions of the software.
Image by Rich Walters
Image by Rich Walters