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Apps for Learning - Art

So here we are, 7 months after the original Apps for Learning article and we reach the last one of the year. If any of them have helped steer you towards a new hobby, a practical solution to a teething problem or just a means to avoid boredom, they've done their job. Picking one to round out the year wasn't easy, I thought about delving back into more academic subjects, or perhaps something more related to computing again like the coding one, but in the end I thought it would be best to tackle something fundamental: art.

Art is obviously a very broad term, applicable to any number of things, but with drawing, painting, sketching and the like, touchscreen technology has significantly changed the way people are able to build their skills. These apps are all very different, but they all share the potential to help you improve your artistic prowess from shaky doodling to Rembrandt. I might be exaggerating, you'll just have to get the apps to find out if I am.

Art Set

It's simply not possible to replicate the way artistic materials behave on paper or canvas on a touchscreen with total accuracy, but Art Set gives it a damn good go. It's not the most complex or deep art app out there, but it boasts an extraordinary variety of different drawing and painting materials and allows you to 'paint' in such a way that you learn about colour blending, mixing and shading in ways that are certainly applicable to the real thing.

As well as creating your own work from scratch, Art Set allows you to import your own photos and play around with them. The zoom function and advance pressure sensitivity allow you to do incredibly detailed work, you can undo actions as far back as you need and once you're done you can export your work just about anywhere.

MoMA Art Lab

More aimed at a younger audience, MoMA Art Lab is something of a bridge between art and art history, using real world examples to create a guide to different artistic techniques. Each technique is outlined by 'Know This' and 'Try This' segments, which pretty much speaks for itself. You can also learn more about the Museum of Modern Art itself.

Once again, it allows you to save and share your work as you please, and everything you learn as you go through the app can easily be transferred to the raw materials. The historical side of the app is also hugely valuable, as it covers a wide range of different artists from those featured in the actual museum to luminaries like Henri Matisse and Elizabeth Murray.

DailyArt - Daily Dose of Art

Learning art needn't necessarily be confined to technique, the history plays a role as well. You don't have to have a deep understanding of art history to be a good artist, but it certainly doesn't hurt. DailyArt enables you to build that knowledge piece by piece without having to spend hours on end sifting through web pages taking notes and leaving bookmarks, it simply gives you one piece of artwork a day, some background information, historical context and other relevant material. The language and presentation is accessible, the image quality is great and the content is vast and varied.

After a while, it becomes routine, you boot up the app once per day and get your fix, it eats up perhaps 5 minutes a day. Routine is proven to be one of the best memory aids, so after a while, you may well find that without even realising it, you've developed a far greater working knowledge of art history. Some days you might want to delve further into the backstory of the painting, or the artist, but even if you don't, the work is being done behind your eyes. 

Art in Motion

Alright, I'm not entirely sure how much educational value Art in Motion really holds. It's certainly a skill, but a very self-contained one that would be fairly difficult to apply anywhere outside of the app. I'm including it here because it's so beautiful I could die, and isn't that what you really want out of an art app, fundamentally? Instead of creating sketches or paintings, Art in Motion allows you to create fluid, moving scenes from light particles which behave and interact in different ways.

Once the orbs and particles start moving around, you can manipulate and interact with them at will, changing the framework of the scene as you please. The amount of variety on offer is staggering, as you can change the physical attributes of each particle, and in so doing alter the way it behaves in relation to its surroundings, as well as its glowing brethren. It's virtually impossible to go into Art in Motion and not come out with something lovely, even if you only use it for 5 minutes at a time.

Inspire Pro

When you really start to delve into the market, you'll find that there are hundreds, if not thousands of painting and sketching apps on offer. How much you can actually learn from each one varies heavily, and Inspire Pro might have the most educational value of all of them. Why? Because it can almost perfectly replicate the way wet paint behaves when it meets canvas. This might seem fundamental, but it's missing from a great deal of art apps, since they tend to assume you'll only ever want to create digital artwork, rather than transferring your skills across.

The interface is simple and easy to understand, with a guide showing you which brushes will work best and how they interact with each other. You can create eye-catching work in a matter of minutes, but equally you can spend hours playing around and practicing different stroke techniques until you have it down to, excuse me, a fine art. Professionals have done some amazing things with Inspire Pro, but it's definitely widely accessible.


This one jumps out at me because it kind of acts as a bridge between writing and artwork, or a means of presenting your writing in a visually striking way. Simply type out the text you want to use, fiddle around with parameters like the colour (one or several), shadow, size, rotation and whatever else, and the app will turn the words into a brush which you can guide across the screen. You can either start with a blank canvas or import an image that you want to enhance, or even just create a watermark for.

It sounds basic, but it really isn't, the possibilities are vast. The interplay and shading options offered mean that you can create really intricate images in a unique style which also gives you a better understanding of how to use light, shade and different strokes. If you're an aspiring poet, this can also serve as a way to learn more about presentation, particularly if you're planning on self-publishing.


Perhaps the simplest way to justify Procreate's presence here is this: it is thought to the be the best sketchbook app ever made. The now defunct Sketchbook Pro held the best selling spot for a long time, but Procreate maintains a 4.5 star rating aggregated from almost 5,000 reviews, which if you know the app stores bloodthirsty clientele, is a huge deal. It holds a lot of sway with professional artists, but it's actually remarkably accessible and educational at all levels.

The level of touch sensitivity and the sophistication of the brush strokes allow you to do amazing things, and the materials behave in distinctly realistic ways. You can put hours into it, starting with basic brush sets and moving into more complex ones, playing around with smudge tools and taking advantage of the litany of YouTube tutorials available. Admittedly, the app developers can't take much credit for that, but such a huge amount of extra help wouldn't be available if the app wasn't so popular, ipso facto. Pour enough time into Procreate and you could easily find yourself well on the way to becoming an accomplished artist. 

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Apps for Learning - Art Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 Rating: 5

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