I’ve been making use of iPads in my art lessons for a number of years. Together with my pupils I have experimented quite a bit, discovered some very bad apps and some very good ones. I’ve enjoyed having a camera always close to hand, easy and rapid access to the internet and discovered that an iPad also works really well as a tray for carrying cups of coffee through the corridor!
There are still things that I am searching for. For instance I am yet to find an app that works well enough and fine enough to give satisfying results for modelling and designing for a 3d printer. But maybe someone out there has a suggestion for me.
So what are my favourites when it comes to combining the digital possibilities of the iPad with the more conventional materials in the art room? First of all let me explain a couple of criteria I have (or are forced to have):
· Due to department and school restrictions the app must be free to use
· It mustn’t be overly and unnecessarily complex
· It must be reliable, no crashes or freezing screens
· It must offer truly creative possibilities, not just readymade routes to polished results (this is a particularly important criteria, there are way too many apps that simply do too much for you)
Below are a few of my favourites at the moment and examples of pupil work that has been produced using them.
Photoshop mix (Difficulty level: initially seems quite complex, but really isn’t)
Cutting out, rearranging and editing photos on the iPad in the first instance looks like it is going to be difficult with a relatively small screen and complex to do without a mouse. Photoshop Mix from Adobe though makes this remarkably easy to carry out quite fine work and even the younger pupils grasp the principles of the app rapidly and are soon able to manipulate images made up of multiple parts on numerous layers.
DRAWING AND PAINTING
Bamboo Paper (Difficulty level: easy)
The free version of Bamboo Paper comes with only two drawing tools and a limited collection of colours. Despite these apparently enormous restrictions I use it every year with my youngest pupils. It’s easy to use and has the by-product of forcing the pupils to be creative in discovering just what is possible with so few things to work with.
Brushes Redux (Difficulty level: easy)
Like Bamboo Paper, Brushes Redux doesn’t go overboard on the tools that it offers. There are unlimited colours and a large collection of possible brushes but not a great deal more. It is also a lot less graphic in the quality of the images that you make. It brings you closer to a painting or drawing with pastels sort of experience. The sampling of colours by touching a colour on the image on which you are working is useful, as is the possibility to import an image and work over the top of it is a facility that I have used in class. Also the app allows you to reply i high speed animation of the drawing that you have been working on, a feature that is always popular with my pupils.
Medibang Paint (Difficulty level: more complex, but offers so much)
Medibang Paint (with its truly awful name) is a very complete, free, drawing app with a huge amount going for it. Yes the screen space is often very crowded with the controls that are on offer, but get used to that and you start to ese the potential. There is a huge selection of brushes on offer that can be modified, photos can be imported and worked on and it has and interesting control feature that lets you manipulate the ways and directions in which your brushes work. My older classes love it.
GRAPHIC PAGE DESIGN AND POSTER LAYOUTS
DesignPad (Difficulty level: more complex, but works well, even on the iPad’s relatively small screen)
I use DesignPad with all age groups that I teach, beginning with a simple book cover design assignment with twelve year olds as a sort of orientation challenge. After that comes poster design before progressing onto using it to plan the entire layout of a self-made book with my groups of fifteen year olds. It requires a certain amount of getting your head around how it all works, but after that it is possible to use it for quite complex design challenges without ever having to leave the classroom to go and search out the desktop computers.