Why The Drawing & Sketching App Paper Won Apple’s iPad App For 2012

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The sketch and drawing app, Paper, recently won Apple’s 2012 iPad App of the Year Award, and it is very easy to see why. Even if you’re not an artist but are a true fan of the iPad, you will want to check out the unique, custom user interface of Paper.

There are dozens of drawing apps in the iTunes Store, but Paper is about as near as it gets to an app that resembles an analog paper notebook. Even if you just want to doodle, Paper’s smooth digital ink, and pen and brushes make you feel like an artist. Paper is a free download, which contains the basic features for getting started, and if you want to do more, there are additional in-app purchases.

The User Interface

Paper works in landscape mode only, which of course provides you with a full 2048 x 1536 space for sketching, drawing, doodling, making lists, or diagramming. You navigate the app using finger gestures and tapping.

Paper 5

The app opens with a notebook of instructions that explains many of the features of Paper. When you tap on that notebook, you instantly see why the app is a winner. You can literally use your index finger to “flip through pages” and view its content before fully opening a notebook. Not even Apple’s own iBooks app contains this type of magic.

You can tap on an existing or new page, at which point Paper’s palette tool pops up so you can immediately start drawing or sketching. There are no distracting buttons and other settings to get in the way.

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The free version of Paper includes an eraser, a drawing pen, and a set of color inks to get you started. You can only use one tool at a time, and when you want to undo something you’ve drawn, you put your thumb and index finger on the screen and rotate them quickly counter-clockwise. And of course you turn them clockwise to redo the last item you removed.

Similarly, you pitch with two fingers to close a page, and pinch again to close an entire notebook. You tap the + button to create a new notebook, and tap the lower case “i” to title the notebook, change the color and style of the cover, or choose a photo from your Photo’s library for the cover.

Paper notebooks

Paper can create PDF versions of your notebooks and export them to other supporting iPad apps, including Dropbox, iBooks, GoodReader, iOS Kindle, and the Chrome web browser.

Paper 4

Drawing & Sketching

While you can certainly draw and sketch in Paper using your index finger, you will get better results using a stylus pen. These pens come in various shapes and sizes, and some of them can be quite expensive. I suggest ordering a modestly priced one online to get a feel for how they work.


Learning to draw and sketch with a stylus pen simply takes practice. While Paper can’t draw for you, it does make what you draw look artistically beautiful and stylish. The app’s custom ink engine makes lines and brushes very smooth and realistic.

Paper doesn’t include layering like in Photoshop apps, but you can draw and brush over existing strokes and drawn items. You can even blend colors together for special effects. When the tool’s palette gets in your way, you place your index finger at the top edge of the pallet and pull down. You do the reverse to bring the pilot back up.


Paper is useful for sketchnoting, but for me the writing tool is not as effective as in other drawing and notebook apps I’ve used, such as Penultimate.

While there are numerous similar drawing and sketching apps in the iTunes Store, I highly recommend checking out Paper just for the sheer design and graphic user interface. Paper represents the heights that developers can go to produce quality apps.

Let us know what you think of Paper, and what additional features you would like to see added, if any.

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