Category Archives: Apps

Review: Adobe Muse (Beta Version)

Muse start screen

Last week I talked a little about Adobe’s latest creation: Muse. With tons of controversy circling this web design-simplifying software, it’s no wonder Muse is the focus of so many web designers’ attention.

To summarize Muse in just a few lines, I would have to say it takes much of the coding out of web design, lending itself to a very visual GUI interface. The layout is similar to InDesign with a few of the same tools, giving it a much more intuitive feel than traditional web design software. Plus many of the features are added to avoid touching text, almost to the point of obsession. It’s been touted as a replacement for iWeb, but how does it really weigh in?
Continue reading Review: Adobe Muse (Beta Version)


Adobe’s Mobile App Evolution

Adobe has always been a frontrunner when it comes to design software. Their Creative Suite is the standard for designers all over the world. It stands to reason they would get in on the mobile app game early.

Adobe released their first illustration app, Adobe Ideas, in 2010. Since then, designers have been patiently waiting for the day Photoshop would become truly mobile. Continue reading Adobe’s Mobile App Evolution

App Review – WhatTheFont

It’s a designer’s nightmare – You come across a typeface in an ad and your brain screams “That’s it!” You desperately flip through your mental list of fonts, trying to figure out its name but it eludes you. You don’t have time to take it back to the office and rifle through the thousands of fonts on your computer.

WhatTheFont to the rescue! Or so it would seem. Continue reading App Review – WhatTheFont

App Review: Adobe Ideas, Brushes and ArtStudio

I’m straying from our usual path but I have a good reason. I wanted to talk a bit about three of the drawing/painting apps that are available for iPhone and iPad.

The reason I see this as a relevant topic for a design blog is because it relates directly to what we are… designers. I’m sure most of you are like me, you come up with something, let it flow from your imagination, but can’t quit tinkering with it. That’s where these apps come in, they allow you to create, and in some cases, tinker with your ideas on the go.

The first time an artistic app really became mainstream was when Brushes was used to create a cover for the New Yorker magazine. Until then most people saw them as something fun to fiddle with but not something that should be taken seriously, like Photoshop or Illustrator. This particular cover, as well as successive covers and all the interviews and ratings usually tied with new technology, thrust Brushes to the forefront of the creative apps. It even won the Apple Design Award for 2010.

Despite the advantage of having a lot more facetime than either Adobe Ideas or ArtStudio, I have seen some fairly serious drawbacks to Brushes. That’s part of why I wanted to write this review for you. Let’s start with a short list of pros and cons for each.

Adobe Brushes
It’s made by Adobe, a company with decent tech support
Pre-loaded color palettes

Not enough brush options
Layers are only available if you pay
No blending

Granted this is actually supposed to be a drawing program, not a painting program, it still falls a bit short of what we all know Adobe is capable of. I’m hoping they come out with something more along the lines of an app version of Photoshop or Illustrator, but this is still a decent first effort and one of the earliest of the drawing apps.


Nice variety of tool and brush options
Intuitive interface
Good color and opacity control

Price – $5.99, which is steep for what it does
Slightly glitchy when it comes to touch sensitivity
No blend or blur options
Photo cropping is terrible

I bought this one because of all the hype. I have seen entire web galleries dedicated to nothing but Brushes artwork and have been following a blog for over a year now that is dedicated to one man’s Brushes art.

The color and brush variation is like butter and you can create some really incredible softened edges with it. This being said I have to mention that there is no actual blur tool. To get a blended look you have to endlessly adjust your opacity.

It does have layers, which we all know is incredibly helpful.

Photo issues are based primarily around having no image control. It crops any imported photos automatically and not necessarily in the most flattering ways. It would be nice to see an option for cropping and placing images.


Every option you can imagine in an app of only 4.8M
Offers a blur tool
Fairly easy to use for those with Photoshop and Illustrator experience

Interface is not very intuitive and requires an opening page with a few instructions
Difficult to find what you are looking for
Tools can clutter screen needlessly

For the price ($2.99) ArtStudio offers a ton of features. In fact, it might be too many features. For those that ask “Why can’t they make an iPhone version of Photoshop?” well, this is your answer. There are times where you will have a side menu and the bottom menu open at the same time and this makes it very difficult to work on your stuff if you haven’t figured out how to minimize the menus.

There are three different types of menus including a “shake menu” that brings up options that could have been fit better into the main menu.

To be honest though, once you get beyond the learning curve, this one is fun to work with. It has features the other two haven’t even dreamed. It has built in layers, various image importing and exporting options, layer opacity change, several extra tools, the list goes on.

Also, ArtStudio has a great online gallery you can access from the app. You can post your art to it as well straight from the app so it leads me to believe that there is a good deal of community support for it, though I haven’t checked that out yet.

It’s a bit like a swiss army knife, well, one that has so many different pieces that it’s hard to fit in your pocket. Great to know you have so many options but a little difficult to use.

Common features:
All three have good color control
They all let you work with photos
All have opacity control on their brushes

All of the programs do what they do well with the tools they have. I wouldn’t give a strong negative to any of them, in fact I think your individual needs should be the major deciding factor. If you have no money to spend, then Adobe Ideas or the lite version of ArtStudio might be for you. However if you have a few bucks in your pocket and need a good portable paint program, I’d suggest ArtStudio.

If ease of use is your primary concern and you have the money but not the patience to learn a bunch of features, then Brushes is great. Plus you can find a HUGE amount of Brushes artwork online.

Hopefully this will help a little if you are trying to put together an ultra portable design studio. Happy creating!

UPDATE: Adobe has released an update with some really cool features for Adobe Ideas. You can check out my review of it here.