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Pssst… someone’s only gone and designed the Adobe Illustrator of iOS vector drawing apps, then forgotten to put a price tag on it. That’s what I first thought when I downloaded the free iPad vector drawing app, Inkpad.
Vectors are infinitely scalable drawings made up of common shapes and complex paths, and the iPad lends itself perfectly to the art of vector imaging. Unlike freehand drawing, vectors can be scaled, edited and modified with ease for pixel-perfect results.
Vectors refer to a special kind of graphic, one that is scalable to any desirable size. Vector graphics are comprised of a set of paths and instructions which the editor (in this case Inkpad) translates into an image. There’s a fairly common set of tools for working with vectors, including the bezier pen tool for plotting arbitrary paths and the basic square, circle and other geometric shapes.
Working with vectors requires a slightly different approach when compared to raster image editing. Drawings are still made freehand, though there’s plenty of opportunity to change, tweak and tidy as you go. The format suits certain types of drawing better than others, with technical drawings like maps or house plans being perfect suitors, with photographs being the perfect example of an image type that doesn’t translate well into vector format.
Because of the differences between raster and vector graphics, many of you reading might start out wondering where to begin. I’d always recommend a tutorial or two to get you up to speed, and there are few better resources than the vector tutorials on tuts+. If you’re spoiled for choice, how about one of their top picks from 2013? Simply pick a tutorial and recreate the subject, learning all the while about paths, boolean operators and the joys of semi-transparent gradients.
The iPad is a surprisingly good fit for a vector drawing app such as this. While freehand drawing apps like Paper and the more advanced Procreate demand a stylus, Inkpad doesn’t (but knock yourselves out). Drawings don’t occupy hundreds of megabytes, and can even be exported to the common .SVG format for further editing on a Mac or PC, or in another iOS vector app.
Inkpad for iPad
You should have guessed it by now, but Inkpad is a vector drawing program for the iPad. Not only is it blisteringly fast, stable and iOS 7-ified; it’s also completely free. This is by far the most puzzling aspect of the software, because from where I’m sitting, this is a very capable vector graphics tool.
The app contains the usual array of tools one comes to expect from Illustrator, Inkscape and the like. This includes a bezier pen tool for plotting shape paths, a selection of geometric shapes and a tool for adding text to your images. There are also dedicated tools for modifying the size and rotation of shapes, particularly handy for working quickly.
These tools allow you to construct a variety of shapes, after which you can link, mask, subtract and intersect to your heart’s content using the path tools in the bottom left corner. While the path tools on offer are extensive, don’t expect Adobe-levels of functions and buttons.
You can draw on an unlimited number of layers, with independent transparency tools for each layer. There is also a shadow tool for applying a drop shadow to shapes, right next to the colour picker that supports solid fills, strokes and gradients. There’s even a swatches panel for your saved colours, and an eyedropper that can spot gradients as well as colours.
There are a handful of options under the cog icon, with snap-to support for edges, grid and paths off by default. Finally, when you’re ready to export you can choose .PDF, .PNG and the fantastic .SVG format, the latter of which is an editable file you can continue to work on later. Dropbox can also be used to export and import work, so you can work on a piece from multiple locations (you can also import fonts via Dropbox too).
One of my favourite Inkpad features is the ability to import images from your Camera Roll. You can add an image to your bottom layer, switch layers to trace its outline then add the rest of the detail afterwards – a popular technique when working with vectors.
A Compelling Package
Whether you’re a designer looking for an excuse to buy an iPad, a keen artist with years of vector experience behind you or a complete newcomer to the world of bezier curves, Inkpad is perfect for your vector drawing needs. It’s one powerful, simple and minimalist app perfectly suited to professionals, hobbyists and complete beginners alike.
Download: Inkpad (Free)
Have you tried Inkpad? Let us know what your favourite iPad vector graphics apps are in the comments, below.
Image credit: PlaceIt