Using Your iPad to Hone Your Design Skills

A guest post by Tesia Blackburn

In my new book Acrylic Painting with Passion I layout the “rules and tools”–the design principals and elements–that are used to create all two dimensional art. By practicing these rules and tools you will get better at color, composition and design. But you need a lot of practice.

In his best selling book Outliers Malcom Gladwell states that it takes 10,000 hours to become successful in a given field. “Eeek”, you say. “It will take me forever to get 10,000 hours under my belt. Where will I find the time?” This is the most common problem I see with students. We are all so busy that carving out time to hone your design skills seems like an insurmountable obstacle.

But what if you could practice your design and color skills while “goofing off” in front of theTV or while waiting for a bus?

The iPad gives us the ability to practice our design skills in a new and exciting way. Sure you could carry a sketchpad and pencil around with you, but you would not get the full color experience that is available on the iPad. Nor would you be able to do 25 variations on a theme and save them all in a slideshow.

There are a number of ways you can use the iPad to hone your design skills.

Troubleshoot a Painting

If you want to troubleshoot a painting you’re working on then take a photo of it, import it into Artrage (my preferred art app) and work on it, changing colors, composition etc. I started with this image that I created in the studio as a monoprint.



I imported the image into Artrage and changed the color. Easy to troubleshoot!

ipad art

Create a Hybrid of Your “Real World” Art and Your iPad Art

Similar to troubleshooting above but in this case you create a completely new and different piece of art based on real world sketches, photographs or paintings. I started with the acrylic on paper painting here…



…imported a photograph of it into Artrage and changed it into the different piece.

ipad art

Practice, Practice, Practice

Draw on your iPad using a stylus or brush made specifically for the iPad like the Nomad brush. I often suggest to my students that they draw while watching TV. It makes you pay close attention because the movement is very fast. You must get the gesture and nothing more. This teaches you to eliminate detail and focus on big shapes and gestures. Perfect to warm up for a figure drawing class!


Painting Title_022 ipad art

Painting Title_014-1 ipad art


Create Completely New Art on the iPad

The possibilities are endless. Just look at what David Hockney has done. Take your iPad on location and use it to paint en plein air, in a figure drawing class or as another canvas in the studio.


amaziograph-1 ipad art

amaziograph-2 ipad art

However you decide to use it, the iPad offers you a brand new tool in the studio. No longer do we have to carry art supplies with us–it’s all at the tip of your fingers.

Suggested apps:

  • Brushes
  • ArtRage
  • Art Studio
  • PS Express
  • Inkflow
  • Auryn Ink
  • Sketchbook
  • Amaziograph

U2175_U2175.inddTesia Blackburn is a well-known abstract painter from San Francisco. She is passionate about incorporating the formal tools of art: lines, shapes, color, forms, texture and light. Tesia strives to capture harmony and beauty in each of her pieces. She is the author of Acrylic Painting with Passion.






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