Adobe is planning to release its much-anticipated app Adobe Fresco for iPad devices across the world. The company initially announced the app as “Project Gemini’ at the annual Adobe MAX conference in 2018. The app is hailed as the “next-generation” mobile app for drawing and painting. Ever since the launch, the company has shared regular updates about the development of the app on its blogs along. The launch of the app comes just months after Adobe announced the branding to “Adobe Fresco”. The name comes from Fresco, a painting technique used from all over the world.

Adobe reached out to use to test-drive the beta version of the app. During the briefing, the company shared its vision of how Fresco fits in its ever-growing portfolio of mobile apps. To clarify, this is different from the Photoshop for iPad announced last year. After using the app for about about a week, here are my thoughts on the future that Adobe is working on.

Adobe Fresco User interface

Before we start things off, it is worth noting that this review is based on a test version of the app. Even though the app is quite polished, it is likely to be more stable and refined in the final release. Now with that pointer mentioned, let’s talk about the user interface of Adobe Fresco. Taking a look at the start screen we get a familiar feeling to what we saw on any of the desktop apps. You get a grid with your recent artworks along with a “Start a new document” section. The app also showcases a number of sections including “Home”, “Learn”, and “Gallery”. Fresco also includes quick links to different locations including your “Cloud Documents”, and “Deleted” artwork.

Adobe Fresco User Interface

Adobe Fresco Home User Interface

Opening a new document is a familiar affair the left side laid out with useful tools in a vertical setup. The right side of the app features other important tools such as layers panel and the layer properties button. The top panel located just above the panting canvas showcases the name of the document you are working on and more. These tools include “Undo” and “Redo” buttons, Help button, artwork export button, and access to the “App Settings” section.

Overall, the interface seems like a step up from what we have seen in other Adobe apps from the past including Adobe Capture, Draw, and Sketch. In fact, it sports a more user-friendly interface than what I have seen in the current industry leader Procreate. Adobe has also done a good job to ensure that the home screen experience is not empty as what I have seen in Affinity Designer or its own Adobe Draw.

Functionality Highlights in Adobe Fresco

During the briefing before using the app, Adobe did a good job in clarifying where Adobe Fresco sits in its ecosystem. The company went back all the way to its Adobe Ideas app that launched with the first iPad back in 2010. It went on to state that Apple Pencil will be one of the central tools to power Adobe Fresco. Adobe believes that the combination of stylus and touch will help spark a new revolution in the world of digital illustration. Fresco is its attempt to capture this segment with the tag line “Power of the Paintbrush”. Adobe revealed that this app is made for professional illustrators but easy enough at the same time for casual users. The highlights of the app include the ability to use Photoshop brushes, and scalable vector brushes in the app.

Adobe Fresco First Impressions 3

However, the most important feature that makes Adobe Fresco special is the introduction of “Live brushes”. Adobe has worked with scientists to figure out how watercolors will interact with each other on paper. Users will also get the option to paint using oil paints on a canvas. The company clarified that it is working on improving the number of mediums available in the future. In practice, the options available currently work like magic in a hyper-realistic manner. You will have to wait for the final version of the app to use and see it for yourself.

Adobe Fresco First Impressions 2

The company revealed that the app will sit between and integrate with illustration workflows using Photoshop and Illustrator. Fresco will work as a dedicated app meant for painting and drawing in the Photoshop ecosystem. It will also complement other Adobe apps for iPad including Lightroom and UX design. The app includes the option to customize the sensitivity of Apple Pencil, double-tap action, interface, and interface color. Yes, it comes with something similar to the dark mode. Digging a bit deeper, there are some features that are not present on the app including the option to add text, using a ruler for specialized work and more. But, it is likely that the company will add these features after launch.


Adobe Fresco First Impressions 5

Image Credit: AdobeDaniel Presedo

I was quite impressed by the Live brushes feature as a casual user. It is one of the stand-out features present on Adobe Fresco, brought directly from the desktop app. This feature also allows the app saves the state of paint. This allows one can carry forward after hours, days, or even weeks. The tight integration with Apple Pencil and total control on my creation resulted in a quick, crude “painting”.

The software is not final yet. But, I didn’t face much problem in uploading heavy PSD files online or quickly exporting them on my iPad Pro (2018). I also noticed an “Experimental” section which may be similar to the one in Photoshop for Desktop. The app does need to catch up to Procreate in some areas but considering the expertise, I am sure that it won’t be a problem.

First Impressions

Adobe is quite late to the game with Adobe Fresco. For context, Procreate first launched in March 2011, about 8 years back. However, the company is back and with a measured bang. The app still has to go a long way to cover up in its feature deficiencies. However, the ease to use, user-friendly interface, and tight integration with Adobe suite of apps are likely to give it a huge boost. The company will launch the final version of the app for free before Adobe MAX 2019 in November. The final version will also have premium features including access to all Fresco brushes, 100GB cloud storage, and high resolution and PSD export options. In addition, Adobe also revealed its plans to release a Microsoft Surface and Wacom Mobile Studio Pro version at a later date.

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