Tablet As Canvas: 13 Tablet Artistry Apps, Tested

Unleashing Creativity with Artistic Software

The author posing for a tablet portrait

The author posing for a tablet portrait

When the first tablet computers were introduced years ago, the goal was to replace pen and paper. The Go Pad was going to be used by insurance agents to fill in policy applications and claim reports and Windows Tablet PCs came with handwriting recognition and a journal app (not a painting app). Yet, professional artists have been using pressure-sensitive Wacom pens and digitizing pads beside their computers for years to sketch and paint with tools like Painter. Only recently have the tools become available to turn a tablet touch screen into a true medium for artistic expression.

Fast forward to the explosion of affordable, lightweight tablets we see now and you can sketch, paint and take notes on a digital screen. You can do a lot more than finger-painting with the right software; natural media painting packages simulate real brushes and different types of paints and papers – so pastels blend together, watercolors bleed into each other and dry on the page, oil paints mix and have texture. What’s the difference from doing that on paper? Turns out that being able to undo mistakes and keep a copy can inspire almost anyone  to be more creative.

You can use natural media painting packages on a Mac, but your only option is to use a (pricey) Wacom Cintiq screen or a tablet that sits next to your Mac (or get the unofficial Axiotron Modbook tablet conversion). For Windows you can use ArtRage or Painter on a tablet PC with either a Wacom active pen or a capacitive stylus depending on the screen type, which makes it more portable as well as more like painting or sketching (although an iPad or Android tablet is more portable still – and there are tablet art tools that will wow you).

Tablet art on display

Tablet art on display