Review by Mark Chen, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2019
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Tayasui Sketches

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Slick and satisfying illustration app on par with the competition

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts

Skills
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
3–12
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Pros: Features some handy tools/functionality like layering, folders, and screen recording.

Cons: Takes some patience to learn the interface; free version lacks layering.

Bottom Line: This tool, while a bit of an adjustment from pen and paper, gives students ample room to grow creatively.

As more pro artists and designers transition to digital, it's useful to get students practice using digital drawing tools. But despite Tayasui Sketches' motto ("Stop thinking about the device, enjoy the sensation of drawing on paper"), drawing on a tablet (or phone) will require some adjustment (but also offer some benefit) for those used to paper. To help, there's some built-in instruction that, like the app itself, has a minimalist style, mostly showing illustrations of how to use various tools or gestures. This will give students a quick initial idea of the app's capabilities. Full documentation and tutorials on the Tayasui website are linked from the app.

To supplement built-in help, teachers can have students get each other up to speed. Try dividing up the different brushes and tools among students or groups of students (e.g., one group is assigned the watercolor tool). Have them explore their assigned feature and then (using the built-in screen recording function) record a short video tutorial demonstrating that feature. Students can then review those videos and get a sense of what's possible. Once students are feeling comfortable with Tayasui Sketches, the possibilities are endless. To keep things organized as students create, teachers might want to have students use the folders feature. Students could organize their work by assignment type, unit, or month/semester/year. This latter option would allow students to see how their work evolves over time. 

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Tayasui Sketches is an illustration app for iOS and Android. It has an elegant, minimalist design yet isn't lacking for features. Upon startup, users see a grid of previous drawings as well as a blank cell with a plus sign to create a new drawing. Students can start with a blank canvas or upload a picture from the device's camera roll. It's possible to create folders (represented as sketchbooks) for different illustrations and to group projects or styles together. Students could create a folder for each semester or year and see their improvement over time. It has a full array of different brush types (pencil, ink, watercolor, airbrush, etc.) as well as an eraser, undo history, layering, and cut and paste features. It's super easy to use, with the column of brushes and tools on the left, and an open canvas in the middle. Once a tool is selected, students can pick new colors and adjust the opacity and size of the current brush on the right. One nice touch for classrooms is the screen recording feature, letting students and teachers capture their drawing process and then share on YouTube or elsewhere.

Like other apps in this category, some of the more intriguing and useful features (e.g., layers) require an in-app purchase or upgrade to the Pro version. This means that more advanced students will want to upgrade to the full version or find a different app that features the use of layers for free. It can be frustrating when using the free version to get pop-ups advertising the paid upgrade. This happens when you click on unsupported brushes or tools, and a few moments after launching the app.

This is a popular illustration app for good reason. It has an attractive and fairly intuitive design, lots of brushes and tools, quick access to color and opacity options, and some standout features like screen recording, folders, and layering, which have tons of value in classrooms. Still, teachers will have to upgrade for some of these features -- like layering -- that make an app (vs. pen and paper) particularly useful for learning arts and design processes and techniques. For instance, in either the free or paid version, students can adjust the opacity of brushes. However, if they want to practice creating light base sketches and then layering on more opaque lines until they achieve their finished product, they'll need to upgrade. 

Ultimately, as with any creation tool, engagement is heavily dependent on the task and students' intrinsic motivation. That said, Tayasui is designed in a way that makes it easy to get started, and with the Pro upgrade, even advanced artists will feel like their needs are met. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

It's a relatively easy-to-use drawing app that's fun to use, and even better with specific, inventive learning goals.

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

The focus is on creating, and it walks the line well, offering novices and seasoned artists what they need. Nothing beats the pleasure of pen and paper, but features like layers and cut and paste make digital drawing appealing.

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

Good starting tutorials and a super simple design make it easy to get a handle on things. There's a strong community, and useful support is accessible in the app or on the web.


Common Sense Reviewer
Mark Chen Researcher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jason T. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Great way to digitally draw with a variety of tools and layers. A stylus is a must to get the most of this app!
The apps that I recommend to students must be accessible, meaning that there is no cost version. I like Tayasui Sketches as drawing app with more features especially the option to have layers. A stylus (apple pencil) is a must to be able to draw and get the most of the app. It is a great tool for students to use to create and for students who think they cannot draw, the entry point to draw digitally is lower as they can just erase what they did without having to ask for more materials. The app is ...
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