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Adobe Brush Turns Anything You See Into Ink

Take a photo. Make it ink. Draw.

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Adobe has been trying to translate its mouse- and keyboard-dependent software into bite-sized apps for iPhone and iPad touch screens. Its latest app, Adobe Brush (free for iOS now), is a fun new example that lets you digitize physical textures.

Adobe Brush’s premise is simple: You place anything on a white piece of paper. You take its photo. And then, after you pull various sliders to denote size and contrast, you turn it into a custom brush. That means you can draw a line in charcoal, then digitize its sandy, smeary texture to use later. Or you can make a stroke with your favorite fountain pen, and save its precise inkflow forever. Or, if you’re like me, you can do something a little bit weirder, like take a photo of your favorite childhood toy–a chewed up Winnie the Pooh doll–and turn him into snugly ink.


In a perfect world, you would take a photo of a Winnie the Poo doll, then Adobe Brush would be smart enough to crop away that white paper perfectly, leaving you with a perfectly crisp bear. In reality, his shadow and leaky stuffing muck up the software, so you’re forced to do a lot of the cropping manually.

On an iPhone screen, even when I could pinch-to-zoom in for details, your hand begins to shake like the dentist you pray never gives you a root canal. Much of this hand tension derives from the fact that there’s a slight lag in the user interface–most likely because the processing is actually happening in the cloud rather than on your smartphone. So in one stroke, I gave my poor Poo bear a lobotomy right before discovering that I couldn’t spot the “undo” in the app’s UI (Adobe assures me it’s there, and I just don’t see it). I was reminded, yet again, why Photoshop tools can translate so roughly to the touch screen.


Even still, I found Brush to be a fun diversion with a lot of promise for a mind more creative and patient than my own. For instance, Adobe demonstrated the ability to create a Lego ink. That means they could draw in the equivalent of a Lego spaghetti noodle, creating a custom print or poster in minutes, rather than hand-illustrating 3-D Lego blocks over hours or even days.

Adobe Brush is available now as a free download. Brushes you create in the app can be used in Adobe’s Sketch tablet app, or desktop apps like Photoshop or Illustrator via automatic Adobe Cloud syncing.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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