HBL Analysis: iPad art and craft

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A number of apps for smartphones and tablet computers now mimic the process and end result of traditional art and craft practices, and practitioners have quickly adapted their working methods to incorporate this new technology. WGSN-homebuildlife examines how the tablet computer is already changing the way art and craft practitioners work.

David Hockney, using Brushes

Renowned British artist David Hockney made headlines when he switched from paper and paint to Brushes, an iPhone app which simulates the process of painting - complete with a choice of brushes, detailed colour palette and multiple layers. Building on the analogue process of painting, Brushes also records every stroke you make on the screen and saves it as a video so that your working process can be retained.

Hockney says of the program, “The loss would be a physical texture. The gain is speed with colour that’s quite unusual. With a brush it would be slower — swapping brushes in the hand takes time.” He also winningly confesses to still wiping his hands on his trousers after swapping from a darker colour to a lighter one, to avoid potential contamination.



This iPad app was funded through Kickstarter using crowd-sourcing, and was popular enough to raise more than double its start-up target of $15,000. LetterMPress is a beautifully-designed application which emulates the process of letterpress, a traditional craft technique which uses shaped wooden blocks to print ink into paper.

Its creators say, "The design process is the same as the letterpress process — you place and arrange type and cuts on a press bed, lock the type, ink the type, and print. You will be able to create unlimited designs, with multiple colors, using authentic vintage wood type and art cuts." The app has proved popular with professional letterpress artists and amateurs alike, who can both benefit from the possibilities for digital experimentation that it provides.

iHandy Carpenter

ShopCalc has gained credence in woodworking circles, allowing carpenters to add and subtract measurements in a number of different formats, so you can use imperial and metric measurements together and work more quickly. iHandy Carpenter for the iPhone, meanwhile, contains five carpentry tools, including a spirit level, ruler, and plumb bob.


Metalsmith Suite is a comprehensive working app for the professional metalsmith, comprising nine calculating tools and three information guides (a measurement conversion guide, and list of the properties of metals and gems). The app can do everything from estimating the amount of metal needed for a wax cast to reprice the cost of an object fabricated in different metals.