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Can this digital software make you a better artist?

Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro 7 art software is liberating – once you get your head around its interface.

This Manga-esque piece was created jointly by CreatureBox’s Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin in Sketchbook Pro

This Manga-esque piece was created jointly by CreatureBox’s Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin in Sketchbook Pro

Autodesk's SketchBook Pro (opens in new tab) app has become such a huge hit on tablets that it’s easy to forget it began its life as a desktop program. The latest version (£50 or £40 for an upgrade) reminds us that it’s still very much alive and well on large and unwieldy computers and, in fact, better than ever.

There's a bit of a learning curve, especially if you've never used SketchBook Pro before. The interface is a little simplistic, with no labels and lots of slightly confusing colour wheels and menus.

The openness of Autodesk’s software inspires lighter and more fluid art. Image courtesy of CreatureBox: Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin

The openness of Autodesk’s software inspires lighter and more fluid art. Image courtesy of CreatureBox: Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin

A slightly odd element for those new to SketchBook is the Lagoon, a quarter-circle menu that gives you quick access to essential functions and features.

Yet once you grasp its workings, SketchBook Pro 7 is revelatory. It looks and works like no other, and the minimalist approach means that it feels freeing.

Useful new features in SketchBook Pro 7 include a Flipbook option and these perspective grids.

Useful new features in SketchBook Pro 7 include a Flipbook option and these perspective grids.

New to version 7 are perspective grids and the nifty Flipbook feature that enables you to create flipbook-style animations. There are no tweens or skeletal animation systems here: instead, it's an introduction to proper old-school, frame-by-frame cel animations.

Despite our initial problems getting our heads around SketchBook, it's still one of the best pieces of art software out there.

Autodesk has even added a subscription plan - you can use the software for a very reasonable $25 a year, and there’s a stripped-back free version that you can try for as long as you like, before buying the full version. But, most importantly, it makes digital drawing plain ol' fashioned fun.

Images: CreatureBox (opens in new tab)

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX (opens in new tab) issue 115.

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Beren Neale
Beren Neale

Beren Neale is the deals editor at Creative Bloq. After working in print media for over a decade, editing several creative and design magazines, including the graphic design mag Computer Arts, he found his home on the biggest global art and design website, helping digital creatives get the best deals on the kit that they need.