The cool thing about Flowpaper is that it makes you feel like an artist, even if you’re not. At the same time, it has the necessary tools for those lucky/talented few who can paint or draw to create something breathtaking. It’s a drawing tool that plays on a flowing vector paintbrush mesh pattern, wherein beauty gushes and swirls from your fingertip — even as you proceed to trace the shape of a squiggle.
Flowpaper reminds me of an old screensaver from the 90s that constantly generated waves of colored lines that swam around the screen, enrapturing me for minutes at a time. Drawing your own waves, it turns out, can be just as captivating.
Get in the Flow
You can change the background — even after you’ve started drawing — as well as the brush color and style. The greatest control comes from tweaking three sliders. One affects opacity, another length, and the other “flow.” Flow relates to how much webbing flows out from your line as you draw, while length affects the distance between threads in this webbing.
It’s easy to draw something cool.
There’s also a choice between Touch or Continuous. In the latter, brush strokes continue flowing out after you lift your finger. Used skilfully, this makes drawings more natural and elegant. Used poorly…well, let’s just say you want to get good at judging where and when to lift your finger in Continuous mode, and how to adjust the sliders for best results.
That top slider should be kept to the left if you want to use Continuous without something like this happening.
Flowpaper isn’t just for abstract art; if you’re skilled and patient enough to learn its idiosyncrasies, you can draw pretty much anything. The app’s marketing material includes drawings of flowers and fish, while my girlfriend and I were able to sketch people and paint a variety of things.
You can do some incredible things if you have an eye for art and a steady hand, but also if you’re willing to just let loose and blindly slide your finger all around the screen. Flowpaper enhances creativity, encouraging and rewarding experimentation. You can annotate existing pictures, or use a blank or colored background, then export the finished product.
There’s lots of fun to be had with sketching and annotating.
Niggling Interface Flaws
Flowpaper’s shortcomings stick out like a sore thumb once you’ve mastered its tools. Changing brushes or adjusting the sliders necessitates popping into a menu on a separate screen. Apps like Sketchbook Mobile have floating menus that you use with gestures from the drawing screen. Flowpaper would do well to incorporate something like this for quick changes, as right now making any change in brush or canvas settings is a frustratingly long winded procedure.
You can undo the latest stroke (usually — this is another confusing quirk), but you can’t erase anything unless you erase everything. You’re often creating layered paintings, but, unlike in most digital paint programs, you have only one canvas layer.
There’s no erase tool, so if you want to change something later on — like here where I’d like to soften the chin — you’re pretty much stuck.
It is like taking a leap forward while the ground below moves back. Flowpaper is a joy to use right up until the moment you want to change something. Then it becomes a chore until you can get back to drawing.
Waves of Beautiful Color
For all its little niggles, it’s hard not to love Flowpaper. It gets to the core of what makes drawing and painting compelling, helping you create something beautiful from nothing without negating the feeling of accomplishment when you’re done. You don’t need an art degree, or the slightest inkling of artistic talent. Just put your finger on the screen, draw, and experiment, then enjoy the cool waves of color that appear. It’s that simple.