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Drawing Apps

Drawing Apps:  What to look for

Your tablet or phone are perfect for sketching personal roadmaps, doodling mobo sketchnotes during a talk or simply drawing.  Drawing apps are key to the whole process.  There are a number of choose from.  Some of the important features to look for are:

Layers.  Drawing programs that allow you to draw layers are the most flexible.  You can put a template at the bottom, and fill in sketches over the template.  Or, you can place the outlines of your drawings on one layer and the color on the layer below.  This helps to keep the color from overwriting the outlines themselves.

Resizing.  Once you sketch something, you may find it’s too big or too small for the space.  So, a drawing program that allows you to resize individual elements comes in handy.

Pen Styles.  In addition to the thickness of the line, pens should have the ability to alter their color and style.  If you have a pressure-sensitive stylus, your drawing program should be able to vary the thickness of the line based on the pressure of the stylus on the screen.  This makes for a more natural line.

Brushes or markers.  To apply splashes of color or to fill in shapes with color, it is important to have brushes or markers.  These are simply wide pens with soft edges to their lines.  For example, when you make a large dot with a brush, the edges fade along the outer edge of the dot.

Freestyle lines.  Although raster drawing programs are all freestyle, that is, you can scribble to your heart’s content, vector graphics are focused mostly on primary shapes, such as ovals and rectangles.  So, look for these programs to allow you to draw a scribble and turn it into a vector path.

Color.  Most drawing programs have a variety of colors that you can use to fill in your drawings, or use as the lines themselves.  Standardizing colors across the web, screen, and color printing takes a bit of adjustment, but for the types of drawings that you will be doing, it’s not as critical to get an exact match.

Selection.  In order to move sketches around on your screen you need a way to select them.  Programs will usually include some sort of lasso selection tool where you simply draw a lasso around the raster item you want to select.  For vector drawings, programs will provide a cursor that you simply point to the object.

Text.  Since you will be using text to label your sketches, including titles and legends as you need them, the software needs to be able to handle text.  It should have a number of font styles that you can use, and allow you to enter text, rotate it, re-size it, and change the typeface.

Eraser.  Look for drawing programs with erasers that can be resized.  You will need both small erasers if you make mistakes in the details of a sketch, and larger ones when you want to erase entire elements.  Also, look for some sort of Undo function, that is, the ability to undo the last pen stroke or drawing.

File Formats.  There are a number of formats that are used on the web.  The drawing program should be able to export to the more common ones, including JPEG, GIF, EMF.

Sharing.  Since the ability to email and store drawings in the Cloud is essential to organizing your information across multiple devices, the program should be able to be transmitted or stored easily.

Easy to use.  Some drawing programs have their features hidden, and it’s hard to understand how they work.  So look for those with very intuitive user interfaces.  You should be able to see all of the options you need in a toolbox on the screen.

Although many drawing programs will have tons of other features, for the purposes of your maps, you really only need a handful of drawing capabilities to create useful and fun maps.

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