When you launch Paper you’re greeted with a series of beautifully rendered book covers. Beginning with three pre-populated sketchbooks: Sketches, Ideas, and Making Paper. Sketches and Ideas are empty and waiting for you to fill them with wonders of your own devising. Making Paper is pre-filled with samples of what those creations can involve: pretty much anything you could whiteboard, scribble, or sketch.
Paper is exactly what the name implies, a fresh canvas ready and waiting for your ideas, inspiration, and art. While hand drawing and handwriting note-taking apps aren’t new to the iPad or App Store, Paper feels qualitatively different in kind. It has a flow, a humanity, and a technology about it that somehow come together to create one of the most natural creative experience I’ve had on the iPad to date.
Tap or pinch open a book and it unfolds in front of you into a browsing and sharing mode. You can quickly leaf through the pages, add or delete pages, or share pages via Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Email or save to Camera Roll.
To start creating, tap it or pinch on an open book and the page fills the screen and becomes editable. That’s it. There’s no user interface unless you call it up or leave the page. It’s just you and the glowing electronic paper. To leave a page, pinch it closed. To move between pages, swipe from one side to other in the direction you wish to go. To bring up the tools, swipe up from the bottom up. To close the tools, touch them and swipe back down.
Paper comes with six tools: Draw (an ink fountain pen), Sketch (a pencil), Outline (a marker), Write (a fine line pen), Color (a watercolour brush) and Erase.
Each tool does pretty much what you’d expect them to do. Which is a remarkable achievement. Almost immediately I was building up logo sketches with the pencil tool, and it felt a natural and comfortable way to sketch digitally. Likewise inking with the draw fountain pen tool was great. Paper even simulates stroke width. The line went where I expected it to go and looked the way I expected it to look.
Paper also has an innovative undo/redo system. Placing two-fingers and tracing either a clockwise or anti-clockwise circle on screen you can effectively rewind (or fast-forward) the ideas you have jotted down on screen. It takes some getting used to, but is a nice feature.
For those of you who prefer a more accurate way to interact with the app, you can choose from a number of quality styli to achieve this. My personal choice would be 53’s own effort ‘The Pencil’. Rectangular shaped to stop it rolling about your desktop, this beautifully designed tool soon becomes easy to use.
Neither Paper nor the iPad will ever be able to match the texture of a real sketchbook, the smell of graphite or ink or whatever the chemicals are that make erasers smell the way they do. It can’t get paint or marker on your hands (or nose), or drip water down your canvas or onto your foot. It’s not real. But it’s really, really good, and the advantages Paper and the iPad have over traditional media make them a better choice for many tasks.
Paper is available for free. The Pencil stylus currently retails for £39.99 for the Graphite finish aluminium option. The more traditional Walnut finish option retailing for £49.99.