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First Look: Layers for iPhone, natural media painting app


The very talented Ben Gotow has just released a brand new iPhone app called Layers, his third now after Mathomatic and NetSketch (iTunes links). Layers, not to be confused with the innovative screen capture application on the Mac desktop, is a natural media painting app for the iPhone. Stating the obvious, it incorporates Photoshop-like layers, as well as a variety of brush and color selection options, panning, zooming and the ability to export your masterpieces as JPG or Photoshop PSD files (layers included).

I gave it a run-through and am extremely impressed with the implementation. I am no painter, a fact hinted at by my not posting any screenshots of my own work. However, I'm adept enough with digital art to recognize that this is a very intuitive interface. Manipulating layers is done in a side view with layer previews, allowing a tap-and-drag re-ordering and one-tap addition and subtraction of layers. I especially appreciate the 30 levels of undo history, making it simple to backtrack errant swipes. The application allows for sophisticated artistic expression beyond mere "finger painting," and, with a little practice, you can create some complex imagery. The layering functionality even allows for photo compositing, using multiple layers with photos and the eraser tool to remove portions of the top layers. This is more in line with my personal skill set, so I had some fun with this. Tight erasing can be a little tricky when you have big fingers which are hard to see around, but the undo functionality and some dedication make it perfectly feasible.

The tools are accessible through a menu bar that disappears automatically and returns with a slight shake (a tilt, really) of the device. The most important tools are easily accessed through various gestures, including a press-and-hold to bring up the color picker. The color picker puts a large ring around the point of contact showing the color being selected, which is a great implementation of the tool.

A gallery of your work is stored in the application, and exporting (JPEG or PSD) is done via in-app email. If you have an artistic streak in you, whether it's a knack for doodling or a full-on talent for painting, check out Layers. You'll find it in the App Store for $4.99US. If you grab it and make something you want to show the world, feel free to post a link in the comments (or tag it 'tuaw' on Flickr), we'd love to see it!

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