An Artistic Look at Phablets

Making Digital Art on a Phablet

I was recently given the opportunity to try the Huawei Ascend Mate, my first phablet. It didn’t fit in my pockets and I needed both hands to answer calls, but I found myself using it as a compact tool for making art. I normally work in traditional media, carrying around paper, pencils and blending tools, but using a phablet has changed that.

I’m not suggesting that making digital art is the same as drawing or painting on paper — it’s not. You gain features like brush size control and an undo button at the expense of some conventional techniques (not to mention a satisfyingly graphite-covered hand) and the results look different, but I was eager to try out the more portable option.

I’ve been using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a popular and reasonably inexpensive app (at around £3 across stores, with a free version available). There are many to choose from, but I was looking for a specific advantage over traditional media: layers. The Pro version allows you to create multiple layers with discrete parameters and the ability to merge the layers when you’re ready.

I worked in the app as I normally do, building from a sketched outline and shading maps, and quickly realised the benefits of drawing digitally. It’s much faster than working with traditional media — a painting that might have taken five hours now takes one. The undo button removes the stress of a misplaced brush stroke and if, like me, you’re a timid (or simply fickle) artist, you can trial a section over a few hidden layers and keep your favourite.


If you’re looking for an app that creates digital art resembling traditional work, though, then the Sketchbook family probably isn’t for you. The likes of Infinite Painter focus on replicating traditional equivalents with pressure sensitivity, realistic brush textures and on-canvas colour blending. These give a painterly effect, but I found it hard to detach my knowledge of physical media when using digital counterparts — everything behaved differently. The tools are available, but handling them isn’t particularly intuitive for a traditional artist.


I don’t mind that the work looks digital, so I’m continuing with Sketchbook Pro. On the whole, I like drawing on a phablet. The device is more portable than a tablet but easier to work on than a phone, and I enjoy the relaxed trial and error method that I’m afforded by working digitally. I can achieve everything that I want to, am able to work around the traditional methods that I miss (like blending, resolved by adjusting the opacity of the brush and layers) and I’m pleased with the results of such short work.

An app has turned my phablet into a mini sketchbook that’s perfect for long train rides, coffee shops and just about anywhere I might take a phone. Next time you see someone fumbling with a phablet on their daily commute, take a peek at their screen — they might not just be a fad-loving tech geek, but also an artist.