Paper by FiftyThree: Bait and switch

Spoiler alert! Paper by FiftyThree is a digital bait and switch. The free app looks cool until you realize the things that make it cool cost $8. Three stars.


Are you old enough to remember those ads in comic books that said things like: “Become an artist overnight with the Instaviz?” They may still have them, but the only comic books I read now are digital or collected into graphic novels with no ads.

But I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You spring for the device and discover you can, in fact, be an artist overnight if you already know how to draw. Or, if you’re one of those people who thinks everything you do is wonderful even though no one ever seems to leave your gorgeous handmade gifts lying around their living rooms for every one to see.

Paper by FiftyThree, this week’s App of the Week, is a free digital sketchbook. As with all of Apple’s selections, it promises to be gorgeous. The preview and initial free download is ingenious. Think of it as a Moleskine for artists with customizable notebook covers. You can sketch and flesh out your ideas, keep them collected and post the images to friends.

In many ways the product is ingenious, and the interface intelligent. You can create as many art paper notebooks as you want then pinch and tap to navigate. Should you realize you screwed up, a simple two-fingered gesture toggles a dial that let’s you rewind through every change you made from the time you opened the page.

Paper by FiftyThree is more than just a sketchpad. You can brush in color with a watercolor brush, and sketch with pencil or pen. Don’t think I did this, however; this is one of the sample sketches supplied with their inspiration notebook.

Paper by FiftyThree is not a full fledged art program, nor does it have any text features. This is simply a place to jot down ideas. You can’t paste images onto the page (a serious flaw). What you can do is use this for inspiration. Use it for design thumbnails or flow charts for web sites. Or you can use it for mock up sketches to import into your real art apps to finish.

To make it easier to browse through notebooks, you can add your own photos to the cover. You can even move them around and scale them to get the exact focus you want. For instance, you can create an account with Stock Exchange for textures you can save to your photo app and use for cover images.

You can create as many notebooks as you want and customize the covers. This includes adding your own images. I used a screen shot from Angry Birds Space HD.

To be honest, Paper by FiftyThree is a tool for professionals who spend time sketching ideas. If you don’t know how to draw, this app won’t help your ideas look any better. Nor will you get the complete set of tools. The free download includes only a calligraphy brush, and, trust me, you won’t come close to creating the cool sketches in the sample book with that.

Each additional brush cost $2, or you can get all four for a volume discounted $8. You can try each one out for free, but Paper by FiftyThree won’t save your sample.

Each additional brush costs $2 and you won’t be able to take advantage of the app without at least three of them. In fact, without those brushes Paper by FiftyThree is nothing more than a pretty app.

If I were still doing professional design work, I might have a use for Paper by FiftyThree. Honestly, however, you would probably get as much use with a standard notebook app that lets you paste images from your art program.

Jenny Manytoes rates Paper by FiftyThree

Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to Paper by FiftyThree. It could be useful, but with a real cost of $8 she thinks you could do a lot better.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.
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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 3 Stars - nap, Free, In-App Purchases, Scrapbooks and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Paper by FiftyThree: Bait and switch

  1. Pingback: Graphic Design SchoolsWeb Page Graphic Design Can Help Make A Better Website

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