SketchAR app

SketchAR – App Review (iOS)

In this post, I will be sharing with you my experience using SketchAR, which is a fully-fledged tool for teaching drawing using augmented reality, machine learning, and neural networks. I just finished a long session of drawing using this app and diving into its exciting features. I want to share with you my experience and tell you why I love this app so much.

What is Sketch AR?

SketchAR is a unique and interesting app that was developed to help people learn how to draw. The app puts virtual images on either pre-marked surfaces, or on wall or floor surfaces by utilizing ARKit and ARCore AR platforms (this feature is currently in beta as of the time of writing). After a surface is detected and the sketch is placed, users can trace the sketch step-by-step and learn through the drawing process.

Sketching a horse in augmented reality
Sketching a horse by following the free bundled lesson. You can see the virtual sketch placed on top of my drawing.

Before you start sketching, you need to market the paper with four crosses as illustrated by the app. These are AR markers, which help the app recognize the drawing’s area boundaries and accurately position the overlayed virtual image on top of it. So if the user or the paper moves, the virtual images can be repositioned and maintain its accurate overlay on top of your real sketch.

The crosses should be clearly visible to your mobile device’s camera, else the app can lose tracking of the AR markers. Furthermore, it’s recommended to use a clipboard so the paper won’t moving during the sketching process. Furthermore, it’s recommended using the app with A4/A5 size paper.

Sketch AR is a great app for beginners making their first drawing steps. It also allows you to create a time-lapse video of the sketching process and share it with the world.

The build in library contains dozen of free sketches for you to use.
The library contains dozen of free sketches for you to use.

The app comes with a free unicorn character sketch. You’ll need to pay in order to unlock the other bundled lessons. Furthermore, the app comes with a free built-in Library section, where you can browse through dozens of sketches in various categories (e.g. animals, architecture, face parts, figures, portraits, vehicles and many others) or choose sketches drawn by professional and famous artists who have submitted their sketches to SketchAR. Just keep in mind that those sketches don’t have step-by-step guides like the bundles paid lessons.

Another two very useful options are the ability to import your own sketch images or take a photo and apply an advanced sketch filter on your images to create a custom sketch. The sketch filter features contrast and filling (sketched shadows), cropping (custom, 4:3, 1:1, 3:4, 2:3) and horizontal flip options.

The app is available for iOS (ARKit), Android (ARCore) and also for Microsoft HoloLens.

My Experience

Paper, wall, and floor draw canvas options
Choose how you want to place the drawing, on a paper, wall (vertical surface) or on the floor.

I personally think that this app is best used with AR Glasses.  I found it quite annoying, needing to hold my iPad with one hand and sketching with the other hand.

I personally recommend using some sort of a phone or tablet holder. I personally tried it with the Merge Cube plastic phone holder and it worked fine. However, the problem is that in order to maintain good visibility, because you draw by looking through your phone’s screens, you need to position the phone above the paper.  Another option is to use a flexible phone holder and attach it to the table so it is positioned right in front of your face.

Custom sketch using SketchAR app
A custom sketch created using the built-in sketch filter tool.

SketchAR allows you to enlarge (pinch) and change the opacity of (tap-hold-and-slide) the virtual drawing. This allows users to clearly see how the image looks like without the virtual overlayed image (although you can just glimpse at the paper if you want, if you have AR Glasses it’s obviously a required feature), but it’s also good when you draw using pencils or crayons with different colors or thickness.

I personally recommend downloading the SketchAR template files and print it out if you intend to use the market option, but it worked well with hand-made markers.

Sketch AR app turned out to be much more extensive than I thought it would be. The built-in sketch filter did an amazing job in creating a beautiful sketch image, especially the “Fill” option which applied sketched shadows.

The app was first released on April 18, 2017. Since then the app has continuously been updated with useful features and took advantages of the latest advancements in AR technologies.

Here is me trying to sketch for the first time.

Conclusion

SketchAR is an ingenious app that made a novel use of AR technology to help beginners to learn how to draw and help deliver a fantastic tool to help experience and enthusiast artists improve their skill and help them achieve precise target results.

SketchAR utilizes leading AR and computer vision technologies to help deliver a flawless and diverse sketching learning experience.

I have many years of experience in using Photo-editing tools. I was always fascinated by drawings and the sketching process. I always like: “How they are able to do that?”.  Even with that said, nothing really motivated me to get into it, until I start using SketchAR.

A friend came by today and saw the drawings on the table. He asked me when did I start drawing? He is actually an experienced painter. I showed him the app and he was so thrilled by it. He told me that he can actually use it to come up with more creative ideas for his drawings and he really liked the custom sketch filter tool.

I still think that SketchAR is based used with AR glasses than via a phone or tablet. I’m sure it is much more comfortable using a phone than a tablet. In fact, the app isn’t optimized for tablets—you get that black frame around the app’s screen.

The other great thing about this app is that it continuously receiving new updates. which shows the developer’s commitment to deliver an impeccable UX and effective learning experience.

SketchAR is an inspiring Augmented Reality app and for me, it’s definitely a keeper. I do wonder how effective it is as a learning tool and whether there are important learning topics related to drawing skills which weren’t included in this app. Having said that, it definitely made me aspire to spend more time learning how to draw different things. I’m sure that once AR Glasses become more widespread, the demand for those type of apps will rise significantly. Hopefully, when this day comes, SketchAR will become even more advanced and have many new cool features. A Highly recommended educational app for creative individuals, painters, and artists.

SketchAR also receives our Editor’s Choice Award!

Editor's Choice Award 2018

TIP: you can use a photo or your boyfriend or girlfriend, import it into the app, and do a sketch on a paper, and surprise your loved ones.

You can download SketchAR iOS app from the App Store here.