iPhone and iPad

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

Bakari Chavanu 05-01-2013

Why The Drawing & Sketching App Paper Won Apple's iPad App For 2012 PaperThe 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 3 Free Doodling Apps For The iPad Read More 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 Kindle iOS vs iBooks 3: An Intro Of Their Newest Features [iPad] Whatever criticism is being made about the latest iPad mini, many users like myself will be using it as their main e-reading and e-book device. And two of the leading iOS e-reader apps–Kindle for the... Read More 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.



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 How To Visualize Ideas, Information & Data Using Sketchnoting If you're a student or someone who takes notes a regular basis, you may be interested in a fun and even artistic movement called Sketchnoting. Sketchnoting is like notetaking, but it includes visual notes as... Read More , but for me the writing tool is not as effective as in other drawing and notebook apps I’ve used, such as Penultimate Learn How To Sketchnote With The Penultimate App For The iPad I recently wrote an article about sketchnoting, an approach to notetaking using both words and drawings. Though many of the examples of sketchnotes you see online are produced by skilled designers and artists, it's important... Read More .


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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  1. mac patrocks
    January 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Procreate is one of the best apps (2nd to sketchbook) - this is mostly for jotting down ideas.

    Also, styluses are very important when choosing an app - compatibility is broken for some of the advanced styluses.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 7, 2013 at 2:50 am

      Thanks, will check it out. And you're right, a good stylus is essential.

  2. Bob
    January 6, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Paper? really?

    It's an ok app, for drawing at least. the undo gesture is annoying.

    Procreate is far superior for sketching and drawing imo. And Notability is a better notes app.

    Scratching my head as to why it got app of the year.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 7, 2013 at 2:49 am

      Hmmm, okay Bob, I'll check out Procreate. Thanks.

  3. Mac Witty
    January 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    It is great but you need to buy at least Essentials to make it really handy

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 7, 2013 at 2:48 am

      True. But they have to make money somehow.

      • Mac Witty
        January 7, 2013 at 7:22 pm

        Sure, and I have no problem with payin for apps. It is just that I start to get a bit tired on apps saying FREE!! and after installing you notice you have to pay for make them work properly. Feeling a little cheated - as opposed to those who openly declare that they cost

  4. Anastasia
    January 5, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I've been on an app-hunt since I acquired a stylus for my iPad, and Paper was definitely the best. the color palette interface-design is simply amazing. The only things I found myself asking for was the possibility to choose from among different sizes of brushes, and the option to import images or text to draw on top of them or to create collages.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 7, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Yep, I agree. It amazes me that they haven't added brush sizes yet, or from the very beginning.

  5. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    January 5, 2013 at 2:19 am

    I fell for paper the first time I saw it. It's simply beautiful. Even with the default supplies, it's still as useful. I wish we can lock individual notebook for personal entries.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 5, 2013 at 3:33 am

      I agree, Lisa. There are several other features this app could use, even though it is already pretty well advanced.

  6. Charles Babb
    January 5, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I own many of the sketching/drawing/writing apps that work great with a stylus. Paper is the best basic writing and sketching app. However, Sketch Club is awesome for drawing. The jury is still out on all these stylus drawing/sketching apps.

  7. Charles Babb
    January 5, 2013 at 12:47 am

    I own many of the drawing apps. I do like sketchpad for the best analog feel and blending writing and drawing. But, Sketch Club is awesome for drawing.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 5, 2013 at 3:31 am

      Hi Charles, thanks for your feedback. I've never heard of Sketch Club. I'll check it out.