Paper by FiftyThree

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Have you ever showed up in the App Store looking for an app in a particular category and been overwhelmed at the number of choices present? This is certainly the case for the drawing and art app category. But, there is at least one art app that stands out clearly from the others: “Paper” by FiftyThree.

Paper brushes

Best Brush

The best feature of Paper is the one you get for free: the fountain pen. It is easily the best brush I’ve used on any art app. I’ve tried Sketchbook and Sketchbook Ink. They are no where close. It has the most beautiful tapered edges. It responds best to speed and direction. It comes the closest to a real fountain pen.


The rewind/undo feature is invaluable when drawing. It is immediately available by using two fingers. You can activate it anywhere on screen. This makes for very fast iterations on a drawing. It’s both intuitive and fun.


The app has a great style. It’s minimalistic and focused. The notebook collection is fun. The page flip is fun. The UI is simple and powerful. The focus remains on the drawing, where it should be.


Sharing is straightforward and fast. Exporting your drawings into your photo library is easy. It’s just as easy to share on the web. Tweet with “#MadeWithPaper” and you’ll show up on their blog.


I get the fountain pen brush for free, and I’m happy. You pay $2 to get each of their 4 other brushes. The next coolest is definitely the water color brush. It totally makes sense to pay for these top-notch brushes. Each brush takes considerable time and effort to develop. Other apps – I’m looking at your Sketchbook – might include a pile of brushes at a lower price, but they are simply not as good.

Wish List

There are a few things that I think the app is lacking:

  1. The color palette is too simple. I would love more options. Apparently this is in the works. There are many interesting suggestions for expanding the palette made on their forum. Update: The latest update has a sweet color mixing tool.
  2. A zoom feature would be nice. The difficult thing would be mapping it to an intuitive gesture, especially differentiating it from the super-awesome rewind gesture. The resolution is high (2048x1536), but it sometimes doesn’t feel very high given that detail work is hard without a zoom.
  3. Being able to change background/paper options would be awesome. At this point, all you start with is a plain, off-white background with no texture. The app is called “Paper”, afterall. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some more options here?

The product features are well-thought and the FiftyThree team obviously has a design philosophy. So, my pining for new features is patient. I love what they have thus far.


Using Paper really has been one of the magical moments of using the iPad. It gives a slick experience that gets me drawing fast. There are masterful, well-honed tools that make my art look good. The use of gestures makes great use of the direct input ability of the touch device. I’ve enjoyed many hours using Paper, and I look forward to more products from FiftyThree.

What is your favorite feature of Paper? Or of another art/drawing app?