On Cyber Monday I purchased 2 pieces of software: Sketchbook Pro 7 and Snagit (Snagit Review). It was on sale for half of its usual price, and reviews were positive, and I needed a new animation software, and I wanted a paint program, and the pencils inside Sketchbook Pro are reputed to be awesome – so for all these reasons, it made perfect sense.
I think the Sketchbook Pro experience would be highly elevated using a touch device – I know that with a touch screen or touch tablet, you can rotate the canvas/paper through touch, which is incredibly convenient and similar to real-life drawing. Alas, I have neither of these devices (I have a non-touch Bamboo tablet though!) so I wasn’t able to use this feature through touch.
I’ll begin by saying how much I like the brushes of this program – they’re very clear and easy to use. The learning curve of SketchBook is definitely faster than using Photoshop. I’ve tried to use Photoshop brushes in the past and the multitude of windows and options made drawing cumbersome.
And the pencil tool is quite wonderful. My favorite tool right now.
In addition, the interface and user experience is quite lovely – after I mastered a few hotkeys, I was able to get a lot done in not much time at all. I’m really digging the right-drag menu, as I’m familiar with them in Maya, also by Autodesk.
Now for the not-so-great:
I tried to export an animation as a video file, and it flat out doesn’t. What in the world – what’s the point of an animation tool if I can’t even export it as a video? I suppose exporting the individual frames is fine, but that means I’ll need to use some external software to change the image sequence into a video file.
In addition, while in the regular non-flipbook mode, I decided I wanted to change the file into a flipbook, and instead of making my current image frame 1, it opened up a separate window. Apparently you can’t go between image to animation and animation to image workflows within the same project, which is troublesome because Adobe Flash offers this feature and it’s a very reasonable request of any software that calls itself suitable for animators.
Also, I haven’t done enough complex scenes to find this too annoying yet, but there is a layer limit, which means after a certain point, I’ll have to transfer over to Photoshop to add more layers. I do not have Photoshop.
It seems that Sketchbook was perhaps designed as an intermediate tool in the overall drawing and illustrating pipeline. It’s not nearly as robust as Photoshop or Paint Tool Sai, but truly embodies the power (and lack of power) of imitating a sketchbook.
I am still very satisfied with SketchBook, and am excited to see how they will continue to improve animation support in the future. For the time being, I’ll keep sketching and loving it.