Sketchnotes on an Android Tablet

By | 10/11/2014

I started with writing my notes in conferences and so on via SketchNotes recently. I did my first experiments during SymfonyLive in Berlin this year. Here are some of the results: SketchNotes from SymfonyLive.

Recently I got my Nexus 9, so I bought a Stylus for the tablet and now I am trying to use it to train a little bit for sketch notes without wasting too much paper. The most important thing here is the app you use for that. Currently I found two apps that look real good.

1: Bamboo Paper
I found it because it was announced together with the pen I bought from Bamboo. By the way, I bought the Bamboo Solo CS-160. The app is quite good for notes and what I really like are the different notebooks and the way you can organize your notes in different notebooks. Everything works fine here but what really can be improved is at first, the shadow marker. That is the pen I use for making shadows in boxes. It works quite well, but if you want to make a more detailed SketchNote and you zoom in a little bit, it is, even with the smallest brush size, too big. Second thing is the zooming that can be improved. Sometimes I need two or three tries bevor I manage to zoom in a little bit.
But hey, it is for free and for a free app, it is really, really good.

2. SketchBookX
This is another great app. The management of the images is different here, because instead of having a notebook with multiple pages and images inside, you always make only one image. But therefor on of the things from above is solved much better here, because you can resize every pen without limits instead of having only 3 different brush sizes like in Bamboo Paper. Another advantage of SketchBookX is, that you can use multiple layers for drawing and one more thing: You have nice shortcuts in each corner that you can easily use and that you can select by yourself. For example in the default setting, a double tip in the bottom left corner works as undo. This comes quite handy.
The app is for free as well.

I would love to try Autodesk Sketchnotes, but it is not working with Android 5.0. Perhaps I update this article as soon as they manage to make it work.

ArtFlow was another app I tried and I looked quite promising. But a big problem was that the line you are drawing first shows up when you finish the line. Until that you paint in the dark. So I uninstalled it and I will it give another dry later.

UPDATE: ArtFlow fixed that bug for the Nexus 9. If i find some time today, I will give it another try!!

I also tried a lot of other apps, but I did not found anything that was working for me. If you now another app, please let me know.

But in the end, I have to say that I think it will not work doing SketchNotes on a tablet. It is nice and fun and it can be used for training and for small notes, but I think I will never be fast enough on a tablet to write real time notes like on a paper book with a normal pen.


3. Papyrus
While looking for other apps I just found one more that is worse taking a look. It is called Papyrus and it looks really promising. There is not a big selection of pens, but it is possible to have a marker and an outliner and together with a color selection and flexible brush sizes this gives you a lot of possible combinations. There is a really awesome feature in this one. Endless paper. You start in the upper left corner and you can zoom easily in and out and you can scroll down and to the right as much as you want to. Only thing, if the paper is getting too big, it is not possible to export it as an image, so you have to export your notes as pdf. The marker costs many and can be bought via in-app purchase. Another good point here, you have a 14 day trial period before you have to decide if you want to pay or not.