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    This thing, you need. Run your smartphone for days.

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    Even if you consider yourself a casual doodler or note-taker, you’ll love this well designed stylus. Built for Paper by FiftyThree, the iPad app — however, many other apps support Pencil.

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Entries in paperbyfiftythree (3)


Using Paper by FiftyThree

This sketch demonstrates how I use Paper by 53. I like to create notes and mind-maps by combining the Watercolor tool with Draw, Write, Sketch and Outline.

Paper is a art, design and productivity app for Apple iPad that I've mentioned several times before, here at Says Brad and elsewhere. It's a beautiful, minimalist sketching, drawing and writing tool that looks great on the new iPad with retina display — but inherently, Paper by FiftyThree has strengths and weaknesses similar to a sheet of physical paper.

A blank page can be intimidating.

The app developers at FiftyThree have included some neat features in the app to make it less intimidating. There's a sample journal and walk-through video, but one of their best creative aids is very subtle. Each new journal (or notebook, pages) starts with just 10 pages. Ten: it is enough to feel expansive and real without being intimidating. Sometimes unlimited pages that you can't see seems daunting. You can always add pages or subtract them (by deleting).

Still, if you're going to pay $8 for a sketching app…

You may want to know more about what you're getting and what you can do with it. Reading through the App Store comments, one thing has become clear: Paper is misunderstood by many. At first, I didn't like it. I didn't think it was a real art tool. If you are curious what else can be done, search using the tag #madewithpaper at Twitter and Tumblr — some incredible artists have used Paper in amazing ways. Each tool can be purchased separately for $1.99, but I'd recommend getting the complete collection if you're going to use Paper… else stick with the free Draw tool.

How I like use Paper by FiftyThree

My favorite part of Paper is its custom ink engine. It is expressive and natural, and one of the first that really understands capacitive touch screen use. Without pressure sensitivity, the iPad is (in many ways) at a serious disadvantage compared to Wacom tablets. Many apps intimate, approximate, and imitate pressure by adjusting ink flow based on speed. The results often suck.

The Draw tool in Paper is thin when drawing slowly and gets thicker as you increase speed. Without zoom, this makes tiny, detail work and writing much easier than apps like Penultimate.

The Watercolor tool has a nice look and colors blend together beautifully. I like to create contrast with it, and color code related items.

I use the other tools to create basic shapes and add words, sketches and doodles.

Fast and Messy

When I first used Paper, I tried to keep everything neat and perfect, as I would in Autodesk SketchBook Pro. At that time, I didn't like Paper. I felt it was missing things, things I thought I needed.

At some point, I decided to just scribble — I decided to make a mess. It was fun.

Keeping things loose and not worrying about perfect lines, I put ideas on paper fast than ever. I could brainstorm or experiment, create lists and designs, and the results, while messy, were beautiful. Paper is exact enough to get a point across or capture an idea, and loose enough to stimulate new thoughts because it doesn't fill in all of the blanksintentionally.

Paper by FiftyThree has become an everyday tool for me, and I've never had more fun creating scribbles. It's helped me to breathe life into old ideas, and flesh out new concepts, including things I want to do here at my blog. Sharing pages is simple and quick, and the full journal PDFs look great, too. Paper is another reason to own an iPad!

I hope their next version will offer a way to rearrange Paper's papers.

How do you use Paper? Do you love it, or hate it? If you have thoughts or suggestions on Paper, leave a comment! Also, send them directly to the guys at FiftyThree! They care about feedback.


iPad can do anything, quickly

The iPad really is an amazing tool — in can do practically everything!

(Yes, I know that the browser lacks Flash, but with HTML5 sites these days and the sheer number of iOS devices out there, Flash is on the decline, anyway.) Years ago, I was a skeptic; like many others, I saw the iPad as an oversized iPod touch, but once I actually held one and played with it, I realized what an impact the screen size makes. The iPad has come a long way since then, adding retina display (2048x1536 resolution, greater than 1080P)

It's much more than a toy. Just yesterday I painted a graduation card for my sister using Procreate, and I routinely use ThinkBook, Infinite SketchPad, NoteTaker HD, Byword, iA Writer, Evernote & Skitch, Blogsy and Noteshelf (now with retina graphics and Smart Pen support) for writing and note taking.

That might seem overwhelming, so here's an example of a simple, attractive way to capture ideas.

I use an oStylus DOT and Paper by FiftyThree to create simple, attractive mind-maps.

Paper is a minimalist sketching app I've become fond of for its unique style and dedicated community. It isn't a full-featured drawing tool, and many have complained about the freemium pricing, but if you can get past that, you may discover that Paper is a rich environment that can make you more productive.

Instead of fussing with neatness, perfect shapes and clean-lines, I put ideas on paper.

I like to start by capturing the mood with the watercolor brush, and add text, basic shapes and sketches with the write, draw and sketch tools. I like to connect concepts using lines, and group ideas by color. Paper allows me to work quickly; each page can become an outline or a piece of a larger mind-map, and an entire book can be complete within minutes. Individual pages can be saved as a photo or published to social networking sites, like my tumblr.

With the new version of Paper, I can export a notebook as a PDF and view it in iBooks.

For me, a capacitive touch stylus is essential, but you might not need one. Steve Jobs didn't like styli and designed the iPad to be finger-friendly… and it is. I use my oStylus DOT less than 50% of the time. However, certain tasks require precision not suited for fingertips — such as writing and drawing.

I'm constantly amazed by the amazing iOS development community; there are some stunning apps for iPhone and iPad, better than anything I've ever used on a desktop or anywhere else. Let me know what you think of Paper and the other apps I've mentioned, or if you know someone with an iPad, please bring them to my site!

If you have iPad questions, you can contact me directly: my name at gmail.


Paper by FiftyThree actually awesome!

If you sketch, doodle, jot, draw or paint, you will love Paper by FiftyThree.

That's what I think, anyway, especially if you use an oStylus (Bradtastic Approved, of course!) the world's best capacitive touch stylus. Of course, you need an iPad.

Download Paper by FiftyThree (from the App Store)

They've announced on their blog that Paper has been downloaded 1.5 million times, an impressive number, especially for an app that isn't a game (and even for a free app). They also announced the number of pages that have been created, though I don't know how they know that without spying on people's usage… a scary thought. I will have to ask them.

Initially, I didn't like Paper.

I thought it was overpriced form over function, more style than substance. My opinion was formed using the one free tool, and though I'd like to think that the App Store reviews did not influence me, I'm sure that that was a factor as well.

I was comparing Paper to "pro" drawing and painting tools. In doing so, I missed the beauty of Paper — simplicity. I saw its minimalist interface as a negative, something between crude and kitschy. I thought of paper as one thing trying to be something else, and decided to dislike it on that alone. Throughout, I still acknowledged that custom ink engine and crisp feel were special — noteworthy… good.


About a week or so ago, I downloaded The Essentials (the $7.99 USD IAP) after discussing it with several people, reading reviews and emailing FiftyThree. I decided that it made more sense for two reasons:

  1. The Essentials may include other features or tools in the future.
  2. it's a hassle to download each individually at a savings of 3¢.

I first got the full Paper experience first on the iPad 2, and was immediately struck by the difference. The trial versions (called "Try it!" in the Store) do not do justice. Paper instantly transforms (think butterfly) from dull to dangerous. This wonderful sketching app delivers a rich, satisfying experience, perfect for doodlers and serious designers alike.

Some ways to use Paper

Paper can be used to make masterpieces — I've seen some — but that's not its strength. Here are a few ideas.

  • mind-mapping
  • visual notes

Both of these have dedicated apps, but the simplicity and aesthetics makes Paper a good choice for concepts.

  • doodles, scribbles
  • diagrams
  • graphology (handwriting analysis)

  • telephone notepad

good for phone numbers and jotting quick thoughts while on the phone; also great for idle moments and rants (while you're placed on hold)

  • logo ideas
  • conceptual design
  • scenery
  • symbols

artists of all skill levels and types will likely find that Paper's tools are a great balance between speed and control.

Four stars, work in progress.

Paper isn't perfect — it's WIP. FiftyThree is still adding features. If you have suggestions, contact them; I did, and got a very sincere reply. Being critical of an app and offering constructive feedback early on will help to shape the direction of this tool.

Some people just don't like Paper, and that's okay. There are a lot of drawing apps on the iPad, and many great professional tools such as:

  • Procreate
  • ArtRage
  • SketchBook Pro
  • Layers
  • Brushes

And there are inexpensive alternatives with wonderful functionality as well:

  • Sketch Club
  • Infinite SketchPad
  • Noteshelf

There's also fun, social stuff like Clibe.

I created an Infinite Sketch discussing key points of Paper, pros and cons, and additional features that I'd like to see.

Check out a web version of the Infinite SketchPad outline that I made. I would love to hear your ideas as well, so don't hesitate to comment or message me!

Coming soon: more detailed thoughts on Paper, including comments on specific tools and the UI.

(btw, I love being able to set auto-post times for blog entries, allowing me to write when I'm feeling okay, yet stagger the entries. I know this isn't a new or revolutionary feature and that many people use it, but still… it's brilliant!)