Castle Painted on Android Galaxy Note 8 in Sketchbook Pro

Best Painting Apps for Android Tablet or Phone

Drawing and painting apps for Android tablets and phones have been looking up lately. True, there are still not nearly as many Pro level Android offerings as you can cram into an iPad. Still, if you like a variety of versatile tools, you now have a wider choice of painting apps for Android devices with offerings above kindergarten level.

Is Sketchbook Pro still the best of the painting apps for Android bunch? A day or two ago I’d have said yes. Now I’m not so sure.


Photoshop Touch has blossomed out with 24 new brush tips for its painting tools. 24 flowers made from Photoshop Touch brushes

New Brushes in Photoshop Touch. Stems are the strokes. Flowers are the dabs.

Added to the new brushes, Photoshop Touch has some natty wysiwyg (What You See Is What You Get) brush adjustment sliders. Once you get the hang of them, these are exceptionally easy to use. Mountains

I painted these mountains in Photoshop Touch a while ago. Delighted to have the new brushes.

Battle of the Brushes

The two main contenders for the crown of the Painting Apps for Android kingdom are created by giants of the graphics world. Autodesk makes Sketchbook. Adobe makes Photoshop Touch. Smaller makers are now joining the fray. Infinite Painter, Serious Paint and Art Flow all bristle with tools, layers and other geeky pro gizmos for the Android artist.

Infinite Painter is Pro to the point of being overwhelming.

  • There are well over a hundred Infinite Painter brushes, each with a wide range of settings and fine adjustments.
  • Brushes can have their own colour, or at the tap of a button go into blend mode and pick up colour from the canvas. This can give beautiful effects. (One down for Sketchbook here in the painting apps for Android contest. Infinite Painter is in contrast to Sketchbook, which only allows a one-brush blender, only in the Pro version, and even there shamefacedly buries it four brush palettes deep).
  • An interesting addition to Trace mode here is Rub. This allows you to paint a clone from an original much in the manner of doing a brass rubbing.
  • Infinite Painter artwork can be up to 2048 pixels square.

Not for nothing does Serious Paint call itself Serious

  • You start off in Serious Paint with a mere 25 default brushes. These are simply presented.
  • Long press a selected brush, however, and complication looms again.  You have a huge range of editing options. As with Infinite Painter, this choice allows very fine tuning, but can be daunting to all but the dedicated digital art enthusiast.
  • Still, the choices are clearly set out. Pick, choose and fashion a brush exactly as you want it for a specific effect, and you can save it for future use.
  • Serious Painter has not raised any objection when I’ve opened a canvas 4000 pixels square. This is the same as in Art Flow but considerably larger than Infinite Painter allows.

Art Flow is easiest to use  

  • Although there are over 70 brushes in Art Flow, these are simply presented, subdivided into 9 groups to choose from.
  • Then, refreshingly, you have only the few most useful adjustment sliders for each brush. Custom brushes can be saved.
  • You can smudge with only one brush, but this has a useful demo bar where you can see the effect of sliding the sliders for Size, Flow and Softness.
  • Your canvas in Art Flow can be up to 4000 pixels square.

How to Draw a Sad Face.

Do you really know how to draw a sad face? Admittedly drawing  a sad face can be a dismal occupation. It’s only when despondency starts to creep up through your pen and festoon your brain with cobwebs that you know you’re getting there.

Courage! There’s nothing for learning like doing.  Take up your pen – or preferably your tablet, phone, finger or stylus – and draw a sad face, here and now.  Scribble a few even sadder faces.

If you instantly get stuck for capturing a sad expression, help is at hand. Just remember the simple rules for creating a smiley.

The sad face smiley is simply a reversal of the familiar smiley smile.

Hang on though. Is that right?

You know the accepted wisdom of the smiley world.

1.  A smiley can be any colour as long as it’s yellow. Round yellow sad smiley face
I hate to disillusion you, but a sad face smiley to use when you are blue is more effective if it’s – well, yes. Round smiley face coloured blue

2. Furthermore, smileys, super or sober, 3d, animated or plain, must always be round.

…Except when they are another shape. If you are having a go at making a sad face, you could try a tear drop.
Teardrop shaped blue smiley 3. Lastly, smileys show they are unhappy with an upside-down smile.

Wait a minute! Try that in the mirror. Pull down the corners of your mouth as far as they can go. You may get a comical ‘Oooh-Er!’ grimace. You might even look like a smiley. But do you really look sad?

Hmmm. You may feel a bit on the saggy side when you are feeling low, but in fact the middle of your lower lip goes up when you are really sad. You only look ‘down in the mouth’. Escalate to a full scale crying fit and your upper lip stretches sideways. Your whole face scrunches up towards the middle as if to squeeze out the tears. Only the outer parts of the brows go down. Sad emoticon Sad faces of the more realistic kind can work better for other symbols like the classic comedy and tragedy theatre masks theatre masks

Graduate to a Blue Gloomy.

PS. To add instant sob power to a sad face, simply give an upward twitch to the inner ends of the eyebrows. Sad blue smiley cartoon

Which is the Stylus Best for You?

Upward view of petticoats made of lines drawn with finger or stylus
Which is the Stylus Best for You?

What’s this? A worm’s eye view of layers of petticoats. Each petticoat was drawn with varying pressure on finger or stylus on an iPad or a Galaxy Note 8 tablet.

Petticoat petticoat tell me true.

Which is the stylus best for you?

Do you like a variable line?

Finger Painting

You can draw with your finger on all touch screens. (Well, provided you’re using the right drawing or painting app and settings.) Finger painting, however, gives a flat unvarying line, however hard or lightly you may press.

Drawing with a Stylus on an iPad

If you have an iPad, you can go pressure sensitive with a special stylus. Wacom Intuos Creative is about the best of the pressure sensitive (though expensive) Apple compatible bunch. These are battery powered. Most have a wide squashy tip. This, like your finger, tends to hide the point at which you’re painting. Sorry to say so, but I’ve also found it to be a bit draggy.

Styli for iPads and Android tablets
My Tablet Drawing Tools
Left to Right: for iPad: Pogo, 2 Wacom Bamboo, Intuos Creative. For Android: 2 S Pens for Galaxy Notes 8 & 3, 2 Bamboo Feel, soft and firm. For desktop: Intuos 4.

Drawing with a Stylus on an Android Galaxy Note

The Samsung Galaxy Note series and some other tablets have a special layer built into the screen. This allows a pressure sensitive stylus to operate better and without a  battery.

A Galaxy Note stylus can also have a firm pointed end. This makes writing easy and allows for precision drawing like a pen or pencil. The S Pen comes slotted into the Samsung Galaxy Notes and is ideal for quick jottings. For extra speed and sensitivity, do try the Wacom Bamboo Feel . The Bamboo Feel just glides along, and even gives you a choice of hard or soft nibs.

You can also set up some painting apps like Autodesk Sketchbook to allow you to rest the heel of your hand on the screen while drawing with a pressure sensitive stylus.

Love Birds. A Phablet Painting on Galaxy Note 3.

A pattern of pigeons
A pattern of pigeons on Galaxy Note 3

Drawn and  painted on a phablet, using a phabulously pressure sensitive new soft nib in a Wacom Bamboo Feel stylus.

I’ve taken to drawing wood pigeons as they waddle up and down outside my window. The only paper to hand is usually only memo pad scraps. Thus the screen of my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phablet  didn’t seem so small when I came to doodle a pigeon in my best-known painting app, Sketchbook Pro. I do have a perfectly good Galaxy Note 8 with more screen space, but having got going on the smaller device I forgot it.

Maybe it’s the high resolution and pinch-zooming to home in on detail that makes the Note 3 display seem larger than it is. Then of course you can snap back to screen size to assess the overall effect without having to dash to the opposite side of the room to view it from afar.

But I digress. What I really wanted to enthuse about was the new nib I was using for the first time in my Wacom Bamboo Feel stylus.

The Bamboo Feel stylus nib comes in two varieties, Soft and Firm. I have yet to try the Firm, but the soft is a joy to use.

I’ve tried many a touch tablet stylus, for both iPad and Android tablets. The Bamboo Feel is so far the fastest and most pressure sensitive. With a soft nib it’s even better.  The point remains fine and, once set up properly, pin point accurate. Ideal for drawing – and of course writing, which can be pretty dire with a finger.

In the past I’ve given a private snort when told this stylus or that can respond to up to 2048 levels of pressure, varying the width, transparency or both of the line it’s drawing. Surely I’m not the only one who has struggled to manage even ten variations of width on a touch screen tablet. More often it’s only two.

Purple owl butcher with string of sausages

The Bamboo Feel stylus with soft nib does give a really variable line. Let’s hope it’s soon compatible with more than the current limited number of screens.

The Joy of Drawing on a Tablet