SketchBook Pro 2015

3dtotal's Marisa Lewis tries out Autodesks SketchBook Pro 2015, with new features such as perspective grids and an animation flipbook. Discover the verdict!

3dtotal's Marisa Lewis tries out Autodesks SketchBook Pro 2015, with new features such as perspective grids and an animation flipbook. Discover the verdict!

Product: SketchBook Pro 2015
Company: Autodesk
Key features:
support for a variety of tablet devices
over 100 tools and brush types
perspective guidelines
flipbook animation tools
enhanced color blending

Autodesks award-winning SketchBook Pro aims to be the ideal professional-standard tool for illustrators and concept artists. We review what the latest iteration, SketchBook Pro 2015, has to offer.

At first glance, SketchBook Pro 2015 offers a sleek, tidy interface, with a pleasant emphasis on icons and visual cues rather than text menus. Its outward simplicity belies an impressive selection of over 100 customizable pens, brushes, and tools; this new version ushers in a raft of additions and upgrades, such as more blending modes and gradients, improved selection and crop tools, and more color wheel functions.

The new FlipBook tool allows users to create their own frame-by-frame animations, with onion-skinning

If, like me, you havent used SketchBook Pro before, you might need some time to adjust to its peculiarities (the big round thing is the 'Lagoon' and the little round things are 'pucks'). Some aspects of the navigation arent to my taste, such as having to hold down and drag on icons when clicking would be much quicker, and its unclear why the pucks are necessary other than for their looks. Simple functions like resizing brushes are much better served by using keyboard shortcuts, but the default options are limited and theres no way to customize your shortcuts and hotkeys. Though the tools themselves have plenty of options to play with, the UI and menus dont offer the same freedom.

The new perspective guidelines feature is terrific and will be an invaluable aid for any concept or comic artist

Flood Fill now includes options for Linear and Radial Gradients, allowing users to edit the levels of gradated color

However, there are still many features to recommend SketchBook. The new perspective guidelines feature is terrific, advised by concept design pro Scott Robertson, and will be an invaluable aid for any concept or comic artist. If you find it difficult to assemble your perspective lines on a digital canvas, compared to the ease of a pencil and ruler, youll be in for a treat with this feature. You can select from one-, two-, three-point, and fisheye perspective, and draw in as many guidelines as you need, at the scale you want. It doesnt do all the planning for you, in case you were worried that its a cheat. It simply provides useful crosshairs and guides your hand so the lines are accurate. Plotting out the scene, drawing a sufficient number of guidelines, and making the best use of them is all up to you. Its a great resource that takes the preparatory fuss out of perspective drawing, while still being an instructive tool and not feeling like youre cutting corners.

The new Distort Transform tool at work

The new Flipbook feature is the other big addition to this version, allowing you to create your own hand-drawn animations. Creating a Flipbook brings up an animation-specific interface with a timeline where you can draw your scene frame by frame, helpfully retaining access to all your brushes and pens. There are options for onion-skinning multiple layers, and adding static layers such as backgrounds. The results are saved in SketchBooks own SKBA format and can only export to PNG, so the Flipbook would best be used in conjunction with other editing software to achieve a more fully fledged animation. Nonetheless, its a solid feature with plenty of potential for the casual animator.

Users can draw scenes with accurate perspective using the new Perspective guidelines

Most of the other updates are minor but useful, such as the ability to group layers into folders. SketchBook can save layered files to TIFF and PSD, both of which successfully preserve layer groups if opened in other image-editing programs such as Photoshop. Its a pity that youre limited to only working on one canvas at a time, whatever the format, but the overall cross-program compatibility balances this out somewhat. If you use other programs in your workflow or collaborate with people who do, SketchBook Pro fits in without fuss, as well as standing on its own as a program that will cater to most artists needs.

The software offers a host of great tools on top of all the essentials you need for drawing and painting

SketchBook Pro 2015 is intended for business use, but for individual users, the standalone equivalent SketchBook Pro 7 contains all the same features at a lower cost. And for that cost, the software offers a host of great tools (its worth checking out for the perspective tools alone) on top of all the essentials you need for drawing and painting. The UI feels at times like its trying too hard to do things differently, not always being as clear and efficient as it could be, but this doesnt detract from the programs praiseworthy core features. Overall, its a robust choice for an artist looking for professional results on a modest budget.

Heres one I made earlier
Marisa Lewis

Score: 4/5

$210 for SketchBook Pro 2015 (for businesses)
$65 for SketchBook Pro 7 (for individuals).
Free editions with limited features are also available to try.
Educational license: Students and educators can visit this page for more details:
Release date: Available now!
System requirements:
Windows: Windows 7 or 8 (32 or 64 bit).
Mac OS X: 10.7 or later
1GHz CPU and 1GB memory
256 MB graphics card with OpenGL 2.0 support


A trailer of the program in action here

Related links:

Check out SketchBook Pro 2015 and 7 overviews (with video)
Visit the SketchBook Pro 2015 and 7 shop page
Download a free trial of SketchBook Pro 7
Read an overview of new SketchbookPro 2015 features

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