Reviews, VFX

SketchBook Pro 8 understands the potato you drew is actually an ellipse

SketchBook Pro users enjoy a whole year of improvements and new features for a price of about €30/year. A few months ago, Autodesk’s sketch app was upgraded to version 8, which comes with textured brushes, a new predictive stroke and direct access to brush libraries created by leading professionals. I checked out what the new stuff is all about.

SketchBook Pro is available for Macs, iPads, Windows 10 and Android systems. I tested the macOS and iPad (Air 2) versions. Mind you, the iPad version is currently at 4.1, with the latest update adding support for the newest iPad Pro’s 120Hz display refresh rate.

My two versions share only one new feature: predictive stroke. I started with that one. For some time now, SketchBook Pro has enabled you to smoothen your lines. Drawing a really straight line or curve is never easy, so the smoothing feature lets you first decide on a smoothing strength and then draw your lines as usual. The app smoothens the lines you draw to perfection.

Predictive stroke is different. It doesn’t just smoothen, it guesses what you want to draw and replaces your attempt in real-time with what it guesses you wanted to draw in the first place. I tried it with ellipses and that worked like magic. Suddenly, my shaky circles that always look like potatoes now looked as if an invisible drawing genius had taken possession of me.

I also tried this with straight lines, squares, rectangles and triangles. All worked wonderfully. Then I tried it with a pentagon and a star and both failed. The pentagon was consistently re-drawn as a circle and the shaky star, well, remained a shaky star. Predictive stroke has its limitations and this is one of them. It guesses most primitives but beyond that not much. However, I do expect that to change in the future.

Textured Brushes are the second new feature. Textured brushes let you create more natural brushes with more character to them. You can add more depth to paint layers and, of course, you can create your own textured brushes. To do so, you will need to first create a texture. This can be as easy as drawing a few vertical strokes in SketchBook. You can then capture that texture into the brush settings panel. There’s a whole page dedicated to this topic in the online Help Guide ( Suffice it to say that it is child’s play to create textured brushes, but fairly hard to create useful ones, let alone beautiful ones — SketchBook Pro does require you to have some creative insight…

Finally, the new version of SketchBook Pro on the Mac gives you access from within the app itself to brushes created by other people — industry professionals — for your own use.

As I said before, SketchBook Pro is subscription based, but the price is very reasonable for what you get in return. Among others, SketchBook Pro has a perspective guided drawing mode, a mode for creating kaleidoscopic drawings, a very powerful brush engine, support for graphics tablets such as the Wacom Intuos Pro on the Mac and for a whole bunch of Bluetooth styluses like the Adonit Pixel I just recently reviewed and much more. At €30/year that’s a lot of power and fun for a modest price.