The painting and drawing app's latest upgrade for iPad, iPhone, Android and Amazon Fire has a cleaner interface, a two-handed mode, predictive strokes and more.

Autodesk’s digital drawing app for the tablets and phones SketchBook – aka SketchBook Pro – has released its latest update, promising to give users a more natural and convenient drawing experience including a larger canvas size, more layers, enhanced tools  and a smoother user interface (UI).

Improvements allow artists to create and share digital sketches on the fly, especially helpful when creating concept art.

SketchBook 4.0 is released first for iOS, and we expect upgrades for Android and Amazon Fire to follow. The Mac and Windows versions of SketchBook have a different release cycle – and are currently on version 8.4.

Sketching on your iPad

Autodesk SketchBook for iOS is currently one of the best painting and drawing apps for your iPad, offering a wide range of brushes and editing capabilities either for free or under subscription. SketchBook is designed for creative professionals who draw on a regular basis, with the intent to make the digital drawing process feel as natural as possible.

The last update improved and simplified the interface whilst adding a few extra options, and SketchBook 4.0 enhances its user interface even further.

Take a look at the new features with the release of SketchBook Pro 4.0.

UI Enhancements

The latest UI improvements include a two-hand mode canvas, a marking menu, quick-access toolbar, sliders for quick brush size, opacity adjustment on the brush menu and customisable colour swatches stored on the layer editor.

The marking menu (seen above) keeps convenient tools a tap away so they won't clutter the canvas. Users can bring up the marking menu by tapping and holding on the handle to access tools like the colour picker, double puck and flip canvas.

Two-hand workflow

Users usually prefer to work with one hand and use the other to quickly access the tools they need the most while remaining "in the zone", according to Autodesk. To provide this experience SketchBook 4.0 has made access to brush, colour and layer menus while in the 'clean canvas mode' much easier.

Users can place a thumb on the 'paddle' to bring up any of the three menus. When you lift your thumb the entire interface will disappear, meaning users will no longer have to fiddle in and out of UI modes. Although the paddle is made for right-hand users, it can be dragged to the opposite side for left-handers.

Improved quick access toolbar

The most popular options that were previously kept in the menu tree will be moved to the quick access toolbar - such as selection, fill, rulers and guides, symmetry, shape tools, import image and time-lapse record features. This makes them much easier to access hastily.

Improved rendering engine

A newly designed SketchBook 4.0 rendering engine is expected to use the full computing power of modern iPads, including GPU acceleration. SketchBook 4.0 will feature a 100 MP (10,000 by 10,000 pixel) maximum canvas size, layer stack not limited by the software, and a smoother feel when drawing with a stylus. You can check out our best stylus picks here.

The brush engine has also been redesigned to introduce brush texture, new pastels, blend mode brushes and fine art pencils - creating more than 60 new brushes and bringing the overall total to over 190.

Predictive Stroke

Predictive Stroke is one of the most popular features of the SketchBook desktop app, and with the update it's available for iPad. Although some artists may like the freedom and natural aesthetic of hand-drawn shapes, this feature can create precise circles, rectangles, triangles, and straight lines. It works when 'toggled on' and your hand stroke creates an image close to those shapes.

If you’re drawing freehand and want to apply 'smoothing', predictive stroke will add the right amount of smoothing to any curved lines for a more polished artwork.

Enhanced symmetry tools

With the update, users can create a drawing with up to 16-sector radial symmetry with an offering of new symmetry tools. Reposition the line of symmetry anywhere on the canvas for precise control over the drawing.

New ruler and true ellipse tools

You are also able to customise your own drawing guides by moving and scaling the ruler and ellipse tools with multi-touch gestures. Draw circles in perspective or elliptical shapes by adjusting the position, size, rotation and aspect ratio of the ellipse guide.

SketchBook 4.0 pricing and availability

SketchBook 4.0 is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Autodesk hasn't said when Android and Fire versions will ship.

With a £4.99/US$4.99 Sketchbook Pro in-app purchase unlocking the full set of features. Alternatively you can purchase a Pro membership that gets you the desktop and mobile versions of SketchBook Pro here for US$29.99 (around £23) a year or $4.99 (£3.80) per month.

SketchBook Pro subscribers will have access to SketchBook 4.0 immediately, which covers all updates and extended features across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. 

A subscription also gives you access to further brushes, the SketchBook Motion iPad app, more layers and advanced selection and gradient fills tools.