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Informational articles on various topics related to art tablets and digital art, tech news, and more.

google tilt brush

Google Tilt Brush app review: paint in virtual reality

Google Tilt Brush: sculpting in thin air

Google’s tilt brush app is a fun, free app you can use with Vive and Oculus Rift headsets. I gave it a whirl to try to compare it to the experience of drawing on a tablet.


“Art” in the cosmos. (credit: Tablets for Artists)

The first thing is that the software is simple, comparable to a mobile app. It takes 15 minutes or so to learn your way around the app. The biggest challenge is sensory overload. It feels absolutely real. I suggest not doing things too quickly. I didn’t make much attempt to make a finished work of art, and am still a beginner. I can see that it has a lot of potential, and would take a lot of practice to get better control over it.

Drawing is a bit challenging because your sight line and angle easily changes. For instance, this virtual snowman’s carrot nose looked a lot better in the headset. And the 3D effects aren’t coming through with this brush. Even approaching the snowman was tricky; I learned I had to walk right up to it rather than trying to reach it.

Another issue is that in a hot room, the headset can end up sliding down your face due to moisture, which can make it harder to see the controls, and affect visibility of the whole thing. It works best in a cool, dry room.


Alas, there’s no “corncob pipe” brush. (credit: Tablets for Artists)

Tilt Brush app lets you paint in virtual reality that you’re right in the middle of. The room is your canvas. Just put on your virtual reality glasses and fire it up. Anyone can use it immediately; it’s intuitive.

You hold a controller in each hand; I found myself switching brushes a lot with one and taking a lot of snapshots, videos, and gifs with the others. The virtual controller has brushes with strokes of fire, snowflakes, and stars. There’s a full color wheel and picker. You can have a lot of fun with the effects. One of the coolest ones is smoke, which produces a foggy atmosphere (reminded me more of fog than smoke).

Inside Tilt Brush, you’re in charge of the sky and the backdrop of your world. You can pick different environments, moving from skies to mountains. For gaming veterans, the interiors of Tilt Brush may feel like a step backward, as there’s nothing that fancy, no characters or elaborate worlds. But you’re the creator here.

You can import 3D objects and draw on them. This was a bit tricky due to the angles. There are even audio-reactive brushes that bounce along to tunes. You can paint along with others as a group. VR parlors provide equipment for kids to Tilt Brush at parties.

Google has enlisted artists-in-residence at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris to share their creations. They work in a range of media, from animation to murals to computer art, and bring these sensibilities to their Tilt Brush work. They created pieces including disembodied organic, geometric tangles; humorous game-inspired animation; a “junk robot” aesthetic; and, from a hip-hop artist, dancing light beams.

One of the importable objects is dress form. Why a dress form? One possible use of the app for clothing designers to quickly make 3D mockups using realistic fabrics and textures.

Tilt Brush brings the potential of digital art to a new level–that of sculpture. It can also be just fun way to doodle or play with friends. The app has recently gotten an update.

It’s definitely worth a try if you’ve got access to a headset or VR parlor near you.


See user-uploaded Tilt Brush sketches.

The Tilt Brush app itself costs about $20.00. it’s bundled with the HTC Vive. Share your Vive art in the Steam Community. You can also use it on Oculus Rift. Follow #tiltbrush on Twitter.


See article on the Mobile Digital Creativity Summi

ipad pro screen protector

Should I use a screen protector to draw on iPad Pro?

Should artists use a screen protector with the Apple Pencil?

screen protector to draw on ipad pro

Now that I’ve had my iPad Pro for a while, I’ve finally gone beyond random scribbles and dived into some apps and drawings. I now find it to be my main tablet, since I’m addicted to its portability and wide choice of apps. But, slipperiness is an issue; sometimes I feel like the Apple Pencil is skating on a tiny ice rink. Finally I got around to trying a screen protector to draw on the iPad Pro.

(Read what’s new for artists in the 2017 iPad Pro)

Slip slidin’ away on the unknown glass

Unlike Wacom, Apple does not coat its glass with a substance that gives it a paperlike bite. The benefit of not having this coating is that that the display’s colors are bright and clear. But your hand can slip around.

Nobody but Apple knows what glass is used in the iPad Pro. The Surface Pro and many other tablets, including, reportedly, the first two iPads, used Gorilla Glass, but Apple keeps the iPad Pro glass a secret.

The iPad Pro screen does come with both a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, and an antiglare coating. All the same, it gets smudged easily, and I can see my face in the screen when the tablet is turned off, so glare is there. Without these coatings, the glass might be even slicker.

The Apple Pencil is relatively heavy, and the length of it took some getting used to as far as finding my balance, making the slipperiness even worse. Its tip is hard rubber, not plastic, but the rubber is so hard that it’s plasticlike. I had put a matte screen protector on XP-Pen and Ugee tablet monitors and liked the feel, so I decided to try one with the iPad.

My choice: matte screen protector

I got the Photodon matte MHX 25% anti-glare high-definition for the 12.9″ iPad Pro, ordered from Photodon. Photodon makes high-quality screen protectors. They’re a little pricey (this one is over $20 for one), but you can get a wide variety of surfaces for just about every screen you can think of. If they don’t carry the size you want, they can custom-cut one. You can also order sample packs to try out different types. I didn’t consider a glossy one because a matte surface gives the tooth I want.

The Photodon protector perfectly covered the whole screen and the border as well, with cutouts for the home button and camera that fit fine.

The screen protector came with a cloth, a moist wipe, and a sample piece to test. I followed the instructions as well as I could, except the optional one to use a vacuum to get every speck of dust. I don’t have a vacuum like that. Luckily, the vacuum was only a suggestion. I also turned off the screen so it would be cool, as the instructions said.

Bubble trouble?

Bubbles in a screen protector are a pain. They are visible and distort the image. Oddly, drawing over them doesn’t seem to affect the drawing much unless the Apple Pencil gets caught on one. There are ways to get rid of bubbles but it’s not easy.

One solution for bubbles I’ve heard about but haven’t tried is to put on the screen protector in a steamy bathroom, but it’s over 100 degrees outside today, so I didn’t feel like creating a steam room.

Does a matte surface wear down the Apple Pencil tip?

If you press very hard, and draw all day, you might wear down the tip a bit. But your lines and painting are coming from software, not the sharpness of the tip.The tips are not that expensive to replace; you can buy a 4-pack of them.

I have only just installed the screen protector so it’s too early to say, but I doubt it’s going to be a problem.

You just don’t want to wear it down to where it’s whittled to a sharp point and tears your screen protector or scratches your screen. It’s an unlikely scenario.

Keeps Apple Pencil from scratching the iPad Pro screen

Another benefit is that it’s possible to scratch your screen with the iPad Pencil if a little speck of sand or dust lodges itself in the rubber tip. A screen protector provides protection against such a mishap.

Multitouch and handwriting

Touch works fine with the protector on. If anything, the screen protector will save your screen from smudges from your hands. It also improves handwriting.

Drawbacks to screen protectors

Screen protectors can be hard to put on; they also add some expense. Bubbles can be hard to get rid of.nti-glare coatings can reduce clarity. The film may block or even refract light, causing a slight blurriness or the appearance of colors via the refracted light. I don’t find it to be an issue in this case.

The verdict: I am pro-screen protector

I find it better to draw on the iPad Pro with a screen protector than not. I was able to draw my straightish lines a lot easier than before, when the Pencil tip would slip. It makes me draw a little slower, with more control. That ends up making me work faster, as I’m not fighting the slickness or spending much time on cleanup.

I stopped getting tons of little “hooks” on my lines that were caused by slipping. Erasing those hooks was a time-consuming task. They would show up right in the beginning and sometimes also at the end of the line, like a tail.

They happen when I’m rushing and make initial contact strike too hard. I find these hooks are really related to screen surface, perhaps related to coatings or lack of–in one of my old old tablet PCs with a hard plastic screen, it was almost impossible NOT to get them.

If I concentrate I can stop getting them, but in drawing, there are so many things to focus on at once that any help in that area is needed.

With the protector on, there’s less glare, and a lot fewer fingerprints, even though this model lacks an anti-fingerprint coating.

There is an occasional squeaking sound, but this may stop once the oils from my hands coats the whole surface. There’s less of the tapping noise that results when the Pencil meets unprotected glass. There’s now more of a soft whoosh or whisper: the “iPad Pro whisperer” perhaps.

Colors are not affected and the screen is as sensitive as before.

Lines are also unaffected by the screen protector. I zoomed in to make sure the screen protector was not subtly causing a change in the marks, then zoomed in on marks I made without the protector, but they looked the same.

Antiglare also protects your eyes, especially in bright light, more of an issue when outdoors.

As I haven’t tried other brands of screen protector with the iPad Pro, I don’t know which are best–maybe I’ll try some more.  I have tried other screen protector brands on other tablets. I think in the end the effects are similar, but the durability may be different. The Photodon seems thicker. Some screen protectors are thinner but the package contains more than one. Whatever floats your boat. Just get a good-quality, matte one.


Using a screen protector to draw on iPad Pro beats drawing without one. I recommend matte, not glossy, because matte is the kind that has the tooth. Glossy may provide some traction, but less.

Is it like drawing on paper? No. If you want paper, you can use something that can work with real paper, such as the Intuos Pro Paper Edition or the Lenovo Yoga Book. But using a screen protector to draw on iPad Pro is closer to drawing on paper.




MDAC Mobile Digital Art & Creativity Summit

Art on the go: Mobile Digital Art & Creativity Summit held in Silicon Valley


Poster done in ArtRage mobile painting app

MDAC, Mobile Digital Art & Creativity, an annual conference for digital artists who work on mobile, had its 2017 summit this month Mountain View, California, deep in the heart of Silicon Valley.

There was so much going on it was hard to take it all in–from a fascinating landscape class to a talk about drawing people from life while riding the train, to a fun, in-depth figure drawing on iPad, to animation and multimedia workshop, to learning apps such as Steller, to character design to printing. There was also a projected video art show celebrating the cultural diversity of Silicon Valley.

It was the 5th such conference. I went, had a great time, and learned a ton–there were so many programs and speakers that the two days went by faster than it takes to open an app.

The event kicked off with an art opening at the Pacific Art League of Palo Alto. Artworks were fine art paintings and photos.

These artists have made the most of this emerging medium. There were abstract, figurative, collage, landscape, you name it, under the categories of Painting, Photo, and Photo Art. Check out the winners on the MDAC site,

artgallery digital paintings

Digital artworks on display

All the art was created on iPads and Android or Surface tablets, or smartphones.

MIcrosoft was there with its Hololens, giving a demonstration. There were also developers from Procreate, ArtRage, Paper 53, and iOrnament, and an ArtRage artist doing live painting.

Online streaming digital art conference Sept. 16-17, 2017
But if you don’t happen to be in the Bay Area, it’s not too late. You can register for the online streaming conference on Sept. 16-17, 2017, where you’ll enjoy much of the same program as the in-person conference. Here’s the registration page.

You can also check out mobile art classes given by MDAC people at

The art exhibit was followed by two action-packed days in Mountain View of conferences, talks, and classes.

Keynote speaker Daniel Leighton, an artist/filmmaker/programmer who was born with Crohn’s disease. He showed how his expressive paintings got another level of meaning when combined with Augmented Reality.

Keynote speaker Dan Ayoub from Microsoft talked about creatives can empower themselves with AI and Mixed Reality. Microsoft is including free software with the new Creator Update that will even allow kids to incorporate 3D into home movies using the Story Remix app.

There were live workshops in painting landscape, figure, and portraits. It seemed like most participants used iPad Pros.

One takeaway for me was how much apps are taking the place of what once were complex operations, such as animation. Whereas making a simple GIF was always pretty easy, making timelines and multiple layers was not. Easily mixing 3D into video is a really big step as well–it’s so simple that kids can do it. While most digital art is used for illustration and concept art, its use in fine art can be a revelation.

Check out the MDAC 2017 speakers.


What’s new for drawing with the iPad Pro 2017?

2017 iPad Pro changes for artists

If you haven’t gotten an iPad Pro yet, you’re just in time to get the second-generation one, which has some definite advantages for artists over the first. The lineup sees the 9.7-inch model replaced with a larger 10.5-inch version. The 12.9 inch iPad Pro 2017 size remains the same.

Both have updated displays, a brand new chip, new cameras, and other improvements. The 10.5″ iPad Pro 2017 has 4GB RAM compared to the 2GB of the 9.7.”

The cameras match the iPhone 7, which is a pretty big deal. In the past, iPads were way behind iPhones in photo quality.


iPad Pro 10.5″


Better color

Both have a wide gamut DCI-P3 display, something the old 12.9″ inch model lacked, offering only sRGB. P3 is the same system used in digital cinema. It’s similar to Adobe RGB, though with fewer greens, and it’s an improvement over sRGB. Both new models’ screens shine at a very bright 600 nits. The 9.7″ iPad Pro had two color gamuts, including P3.

Both models now also have True Tone, which first appeared with the previous 9.7″. TrueTone detects ambient light, letting the iPad change the color of the display to look best with its surroundings.

The screens are each topped with two coatings, anti-reflection and fingerprint-resistant. Less than 1.8 percent of light gets reflected, making it easier to see in sunny or bright areas. Of course, the visibility depends how bright you keep your screen.

Size and borders

The larger dimensions of the 10.5″ now allows for a full-size on-screen keyboard, as well as a full-size layout for the optional Smart Keyboard accessory. And 10.5″ is bigger than it sounds when it comes to screen real estate than 9.7.” 10.5″ is a better size for drawing than 9.7″. (I like the 12.9″ one more, but it’s a bit less easy to throw into any old bag).

The 10.5-inch model’s borders are 40% smaller than the older 9.7’s, with the tablet still weighing just over a pound. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s borders are the same size as the original’s. This new model has a Wi-Fi and cellular version, supporting 802.11ac Wi-Fi and LTE Advanced, a boon for digital nomads. The 12.9 weighs a mere pound and a half. Both new iPad Pros have Retina displays with a pixel density of 264ppi, which hasn’t changed from previous iterations.

ProMotion means less laggy Apple Pencil

Apple’s new ProMotion technology is enables a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, double the previous models. So drawing with the Apple Pencil is now smoother with faster tracking, cutting down latency to 20 milliseconds, while also saving power by adapting the refresh rate to match what’s viewed on the screen.

Faster graphics performance

The new models sport the A10X Fusion processor, consisting of a 64-bit six-core CPU along with a 12-core GPU with an M10 coprocessor also embedded. The company says the A10X has up to a 30 percent faster CPU and 40 percent faster graphics compared to the A9X chip. You can edit 4K video or render a 3D model quickly. While the A9X chip approached a laptop in processing power, the A10X beats out some.

iOS 11

The upcoming iOS 11 should bring welcome changes to file management and multitasking. It will become more like a Samsung Android tablet. There will be a file explorer and drag-and-drop features. (You’ll be able to put iOS11 on your older iPad Pro and some of the older non-Pros). The new operating system will being major changes and bring out the potential of the iPad Pro 2017 for artists.


The changes are significant, so if you’re in the market for a new tablet anyway, Apple is now doing even more to keep creatives in its ecosystem.The faster chip means you can do more with 3D and video. Art apps, especially those that let you mix colors, such as Paper by 53, will benefit from greater color accuracy.

The older iPad Pros are still fine, especially if drawing and sketching is your main interest. You’ll still be app-dependent, so if you want to run full Photoshop, you’ll need a laptop or desktop. But with mobile apps getting more and more powerful, you might start leaving your laptop at home.

See more info and reviews of the 2017 iPad Pro (Amazon)

See top styluses for drawing on iPad and Android tablets (non-Pro iPad)

See our choices for the 11 best art tablets

Read about best tablet PCs for 2017


Two low-cost (really!) tablet PCs for drawing in 2017

cheap tablet pc for drawing

Cheap tablet PC for drawing in 2017? Acer Spin 1 and Lenovo Miix 320 fill the bill

Are you looking for a lightweight, powerful, low-cost digital-sketchbook with a pressure-sensitive pen that runs Windows? Now, a cheap tablet PC for drawing and general use can be had.

These affordable tablet PCs in 2017 are filling the recent void. Both have active pen support and use Windows Ink to keep you inking happily. These are perfect for commuting, taking to class, or backpacking.

These two art-capable PCs are actually both economical and decent. Usually, a cheap tablet PC has a low-res display, but these both have HD. Don’t expect these to become your main computers, unless your demands are not that high.


Lenovo Miix 320


Lenovo Miix 320. Photo courtesy Lenovo

Lenovo is aiming this at “millennials” who have “side hustles”–well, they’ve gotta have an angle. The Miix 320 is for anyone who wants a low-priced Windows tablet with active pen support, via the optional Lenovo Active Pen. The PC is a 2-in-1 detachable with a full keyboard,

While it’s not ideal for professional or resource-intensive use, since it’s not that powerful, you can still do a lot on it.

The Miix 320 has an Atom x5 Cherry Trail processor, Intel HD graphics, up to 128 GB storage, and full FHD touchscreen.

It’s nice and light–the tablet sans keyboard weighs just 1.2 lbs (550g), and 2.25 lbs (1.02 kg) with the keyboard attached.

The Miix 320’s battery life is up to 10 hours, only 17.5 mm thick. Dolby speakers pump up the volume.

This package is petite at 9.8 x 7″ (249  X 178 mm) and only .68″ (17.5 mm) thick. So you can easily put this in a backpack or small travel bag.

It’s got Windows Hello login capabilities and comes in Platinum Silver and Snow White.

Download the spec sheet.

See the Miix on Amazon (U.S.)

Amazon international shoppers


Acer Spin 1 (new version)


Acer Spin 1. Image via Acer

The Acer Spin 1 has been updated and is coming out July 2017. It’s still a really affordable convertible notebook that takes the Acer Active pen, which has a Synaptics digitizer. This new and improved Spin 1 has an all-metal chassis unusual in this budget category, and has a full HD display.

Its processor is Intel Pentium or Intel Celeron. Weight is 2.76 lbs or 1.25 kg, not that extremely light, but tablet PCs do tend to be heavier because of the digitizer layer. It’s thin at .55 in. (14mm) and has 4G DDR3 memory. RAM options are 32, 64, or 128 3MMC storage. IT has antimicrobial Gorilla Glass 5, with embedded ionic silver to slay germs forever.

It’s full size at 11.6″, not a mini computer. Its battery life is not bad, up to 10 hours. It can be posed in laptop, tent, display, or tablet modes, with the wide-view IPS screen offering 178-degree viewing angles.

Notably, its precision touchpad supports Windows 10 gestures. This kind of touchpad is usually found on much pricier devices, such as the Surface Pro.

You can turn on a Bluelight shield, which will make the screen look pinkish, but save your eyes and melatonin.

It’s also got fast Intel Wireless-AC. Its ports are Bluetooth 4.0, a USB 3.1, a USB 2.0, and HDMI, and a microSD card slot.

OK, it’s a cheap tablet PC, so it’s not the fastest, nor does it have the best keyboard. But it has its good qualities for art. Best for students and sketchers.

See it on Amazon (U.S.)

Amazon international link

Art software

Because these are not that powerful, I don’t suggest running full Photoshop on them. Though you can put it on, chances are it will lag if you try to do much. So use smaller apps such as ArtRage, Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop Elements, or Windows mobile apps like Fresh Paint or Sketchable.

See also See also Mytrix/Cube i7 review, a cheap tablet PC for artists

See our post on the best tablet PCs for digital artists

Learn how to pick the best drawing tablet.