Adobes Fresco brings realistic painting to the iPad

It’s one thing to see a demo or even art created with these Live Brushes, but it’s another thing entirely to try them yourself. Every time I opened the app, I was amazed at how closely they resemble the real thing. And they’re not only powerful, they’re also a lot of fun.

Indeed, the oil Live Brushes react just like oil paint in the studio. There’s dimension to the brush strokes, and you’re able to mix colors on the “canvas” in a way you can’t replicate in digital scenarios with a color wheel and solid swatches. Ditto for the watercolor dynamic brushes. Based on your pressure and customizable variables, you can watch the color flow from underneath the Pencil.

There are four watercolor Live Brushes (round detail, wash soft, wash flat and wet spatter) and seven oil options (flat, round, filbert, detail, glaze, chunky and short). Like any brush, you can change the size and flow to meet your needs. For watercolor, you can also adjust the water flow level, and for the oil brushes, you can tweak the amount of paint mix. You can also futz with variables like shape, pressure and velocity dynamics, as well as the angle of the brush. Lastly, you can turn the canvas texture off for the oil Live Brushes, and there’s the option to adjust spacing and scatter for watercolors.

Though Live Brushes have the wow factor in Fresco that many will gravitate to, the app is also a powerful illustration, drawing and painting app with a lot of desktop-quality features. There are vector and raster brushes, so you can bring in your favorite tools easily and feel comfortable working on an iPad. Layers, masking, selections and shortcuts are here as well — tools that make creating and editing not only faster, but non-destructive as well. You can also choose a simplified view that reduces the toolbars to just the active tool and visible layers. This means you can focus on drawing without the distraction of ugly side panels.

Adobe Fresco

Fresco works in tandem with Photoshop on the desktop, so you can move back and forth between the two. It also allows you to export a PDF to edit in Illustrator, should you need to do so. Adobe Fresco works with other Creative Cloud apps, too — like Adobe Capture that helps turn things you see into assets like brushes. How well Fresco and Photoshop for iPad work alongside the full desktop apps will be key for creatives deciding to add a tablet to their workflow. And given how Fresco works alongside Photoshop CC, it seems like Adobe has already figured out how to make that a reality.

It will be interesting to see what Adobe does with its stable of apps. If it’s truly able to create all-in-one pieces of software for illustrators (Fresco) and photo editing or design work (Photoshop), the company can probably afford to nix a few. Adobe isn’t saying what will happen just yet, opting to wait until Fresco and Photoshop are out in the wild on iPads later this year before deciding how to progress further. Which means if there’s a current offering you like, it’s probably going to stick around for a bit.

For now, Adobe Fresco will only be available on iPad. More specifically, you’ll need iOS 12.4 or higher and the iPad Pro (all models), iPad Air (3rd generation), iPad (5th and 6th generation) or iPad mini (5th generation). Adobe says the plan is to bring the app to more devices and platforms in the future — like Microsoft Surface and Wacom Mobile Studio Pro. However, there’s no timeline on when that might happen. And, of course, to make the most of it, you’ll need a Creative Cloud subscription.

It’s safe to say that as devices like the iPad continue to get more powerful, Adobe will have the ability to beef up its arsenal. And that probably means more full versions of desktop apps or more pieces of robust software like Fresco are on the way.

Images: Adobe (Illustrators: Tommy Lee Edwards, Kyle T. Webster, Daniel Presedo)

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Still recovering from an awkward band phase as a guitarist who dreamt of world tours, Billy now covers the audio beat, spanning everything from headphones to streaming. He lives in the great state of North Carolina where a good biscuit is the only thing that matters. He’s also a Cheez-It expert and a graphic designer on nights and weekends.

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