Common Sense Review
Updated September 2012

Brushes 3

Versatile, simple art app for many skill levels
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • Color wheel displays a multitude of beautifully nuanced shades for students to choose from.
  • The gallery allows kids to view all creations and return to work on them again and again.
  • Brush options are many and include complex vocabulary; a visual aid helps kids conceptualize what the choices mean.
  • Tap the play button on any image students make to view a step-by-step creation playback.
Pros
Simple user interface enables new art students as well as seasoned artists to use this toolkit according to their abilities.
Cons
Some very complex words in the options lists may confuse some students, and there's no tutorial to explain.
Bottom Line
Brushes 3 looks deceptively simple, but it's actually a sophisticated tool that can help students express their creativity.
Dana Villamagna
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

The multitude of painting options provided alongside simple starter choices help engage kids of all art abilities, from beginners to advanced high school artists.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

All learning is via experimentation and reflection; there is no formal tutorial. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

Kids can watch their creations play back step by step and share with others via Twitter and email. There's no formal tutorial.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers can use Brushes 3 as a digital complement to their students' work with real-life brushes. One of the benefits of creating digitally is that you can easily achieve effects that are difficult to achieve when creating freehand with brushes. One exercise would be for students to compare and contrast techniques as they appear on canvas versus how they appear using the Brushes 3 app. Can they duplicate the experience? For beginners, teachers may want to talk about all the different brushes. What mood can different brushes evoke in your art? Don't expect your students' drawings to be magazine-cover worthy when they first start using Brushes 3. Its numerous features can create masterpieces or messes.

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What's It Like?

Brushes 3 is a digital drawing and painting app with many features that offer students an outlet for creative expression. To use it, kids begin by simply tapping the "+" tab to open a new blank palette. Then, by swiping in a circular motion around the color wheel, tapping a color, and choosing one of 12 basic brushes (which can all be tweaked with numerous options), students can create whatever they envision. In addition to creating from a blank palette, students can paint on a photo or photos from their device's library. Pinch to zoom or change the palette size. The interface makes it easy to undo mistakes. Paintings are automatically saved in the in-app gallery or via Dropbox (if connected), and students can share creations via email (JPEG or PNG files), Facebook, or Twitter. Standouts: A cool feature that can help kids reflect on their artistic process is the playback feature -- tap the Play tab on saved art in the in-app gallery and it replays, step by step, how it was created.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Kids can learn about artistic composition, the color wheel, characteristics of the lines and shapes different brushes can create, vocabulary such as density and intensity, and more. Students can practice drawing and painting digitally using different forms (photos or a blank palette) as a starting point. They can also assess how changing brushes, the size of the canvas, and colors using a digital art format affects their creative process. If kids share their creations and watch the playback feature, they can also learn how other classmates' paintings were made, step by step, and they may learn a new technique or two from one another. A tutorial covering function and vocabulary would offer a boost to learning potential, although students who particularly enjoy learning through exploration and trial-and-error may not find the lack of a tutorial frustrating. One of the many benefits of using Brushes 3 is that there's no exposure to potentially iffy content, unlike some art apps that include access to online galleries. What's on Brushes 3 includes only what the students using the device create.

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