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Adonit Forge for iOS review: Adonit Jot-optimized sketch app Forge performs some new tricks

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The Good Adonit Forge provides the beginnings of an interesting product for iterating through designs and comparing variations. Despite directly supporting only Adonit's styluses, it works pretty well with others or even without.

The Bad To be truly useful, it needs to flesh out its layer handling and capabilities more.

The Bottom Line Jot stylus users have nothing to lose by giving this app a shot, and they may find it useful. As the solution to a problem, however, it needs a little more polish.


7.7 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Interface 8
  • Performance 8

There are tons of creative apps for the iPad , all bent on reproducing traditional sketching, drawing and painting experiences. They're typically meant for solo use, opting for the skeuomorphic sketchbook or canvas. The most collaborative app I've seen thus far has been Adobe Illustrator Draw (formerly Adobe Line ), which integrates with Adobe's Behance site by letting you upload and solicit comments from the community. Stylus maker Adonit's debut app, Forge -- iOS only, at least for now -- takes the experience one step further by attempting to reproduce the typical in-person collaborative design experience. It combines a basic sketching app with a virtual wall that you can use to organize and rank sketches, as well as iterate on sketches to build and compare new versions.

The app is free with an in-app purchase option. Gratis, you get two projects (Walls), each of which holds sketches (Ideas) that can have a maximum of five layers each. For another $4 (roughly equivalent to £2.6 and AU$5.10) you can boost that to unlimited walls.

Forge really only fully supports Adonit styluses; I tested it with the latest Jot Touch . You can use it with a passive stylus (like Wacom's Bamboo stylus ) or a finger, and surprisingly it works pretty well that way 0r with with Wacom's Creative Stylus 2 connected via Bluetooth as a generic stylus.

There's a typical hold-stylus-here-to-connect interface within the app. With the Jot stylus you can program the buttons for undo, redo, hide/show drawing toolbar, toggle eraser and new sketch; there's also a Writing Style option with three variations of stylus holding angles for each hand. I found the palm rejection excellent, and the app reconnects with the stylus very quickly as it moves in and out of transmitter range.

The app offers a handful of programmable button shortcuts. Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

To begin, you create a new project, then add a new sketch. You can add images layers by importing local photos from your device or via Dropbox; integration with Creative Cloud is the next in line. You control layer opacity by sliding sideways on the layer thumbnail, which allows you to use image layers for tracing. You can also draw on image layers, which can get a little confusing if you frequently forget to switch layers (as I occasionally did).

The toolset is pretty basic: pencil, pen, paintbrush, marker, airbrush and eraser. The only control you have over the brushes is size. It's all sufficient for freehand sketching, though I'd love some predefined shapes. I really like the way the tool background reflects not just the color and size of the current brush, but shows you what the strokes will look like at decreasing amount of pressure.

The palette interface works quite well. The three dots to the right of the five swatches delivers a drop-down with a variety of five-swatch palettes. To add new colors you can either edit one of the existing ones or swipe left on a five-swatch to get the duplicate and delete options.

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