Adobe's Fresco app will bring real painting physics to iPad art

The tool, formerly Project Gemini, arrives later in 2019.

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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
A sampling of Adobe Fresco art

A sampling of Adobe Fresco art


Fresco is Adobe's new name for its forthcoming iPad drawing app that builds in the physics of ink, paper and paint. The app, which Adobe debuted in October as a research effort called Project Gemini, is due to arrive later this year.

There are lots of apps for drawing, sketching and painting on iPads, Android and Windows tablets . Among them are Procreate, ArtRage, Paper, Zen Brush and even Adobe's own Sketch. What sets Fresco apart, Adobe argues, are "live brushes" that simulate the interaction of ink or paint with paper. It's a facet of the artificial intelligence work that Adobe brands as Sensei.

Simulated paint colors can smear together with Adobe Fresco's live brushes.


That means that watercolor paints flow and blend -- you can even paint with just water -- and smeary blobs of oil paint can intermix. Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky boasted Sunday that the live brushes are "something that no other drawing and painting app can match."

Digital drawing has been around for decades, even offering subtleties like styluses that are sensitive to the angle you're holding it at and how firmly you're pressing against the drawing surface. But modern tablets -- notably Apple's iPads equipped with the Pencil stylus -- are opening up new creative possibilities with the combination of high-resolution displays and standalone computing power. And app developers now can reach a much larger market than just the creative pros who could justify tablet purchases in the past.

Adobe explains how live brushes' more "organic" painting style led to the product's name:

Fresco ("fresh"in Italian) is a painting technique that has been used for centuries all over the world. The artist spreads a layer of plaster on a wall or ceiling, then -- while the plaster is still wet -- paints the image using a simple mixture of pigment and water. A chemical reaction binds the pigment to the still-wet plaster and the image becomes a part of the wall. Once the plaster is dry, the painter has to stop – the chemical magic is gone.

Fresco also includes more traditional non-live brushes -- the shaped brushes that long have been an option for artists working in Adobe Photoshop and the more precise vector brushes that are akin to what you might use in Adobe Illustrator. Elements of your artwork can be split into independent layers, a tool aimed at pros and serious artists, but Adobe hopes the app will be approachable for beginners, too.

It'll be available for iPad first, but Adobe plans to release Fresco for other stylus-enabled and touchscreen devices later. Adobe typically offers its full suite of software through its Creative Cloud subscription plan, which starts at $53 per month. But the company isn't yet sharing pricing details about Fresco, including whether it'll be available in any less expensive or standalone form.

Watch this: Apple is bringing iPad apps to your Mac