Review: NomadBrush LLC Nomad Brush for iPad
Digital painters, rejoice: now there's a paintbrush designed specifically to interact with the iPad and iPad 2's screens. Seven and a quarter inches long from end to end, NomadBrush LLC's Nomad Brush ($24) uses a mostly carbon handle with walnut on one end and a hybrid natural/synthetic fiber brush tip on the other, capable of properly interacting with the iPad's screen for painting, drawing, and other applications as well.
Our experiences in testing the Nomad Brush were mostly positive—the limitations of the accessory are primarily attributable to the iPads’ hardware and the types of software that are currently on the market for Apple’s tablets. A major plus is that the fibers thankfully don’t require any sort of firm pressure in order to work, making the brushing process relatively gentle and easy. The experience is entirely unlike all of the styluses we’ve previously tested, enabling softer strokes while furthering the distance from hand to screen.
Using applications such as ArtRage for iPad, you can sweep the brush across the screen and see streaks of paint, airbrush tracks, or pencil lines appear without anywhere near the physical effort of applying a finger to the glass surface. With the right apps and on-screen tools, painters familiar with traditional paintbrushes will be able to work on the same angles and with nearly the same results as they would achieve with physical media. Nomad Brush also does a pretty good job of scaling to the level of precision needed: we were able to write legibly, if not ideally, using the Brush in conjunction with a pencil tool. Your results will vary depending on the suitability of a brush for your intended inputs, and the extent to which the brush works with the tools in your chosen app.
The challenge going forward will be to locate apps with special support for Nomad Brush input. It’s possible, conceivably, for the iPad’s touch sensors to measure the size and speed of an interacting object, and though the apps tend to presume that a finger is going to be doing the drawing, a setting could be added to accommodate the variations introduced by an actual brush. So too should user interface options shift somewhat to include a “Brush Mode,” as even an otherwise impressive application such as ArtRage becomes somewhat challenging when furious brush strokes can inadvertently change colors, activate additional tools, or sweep across other controls nestled on the screen.
Overall, Nomad Brush does what it’s supposed to do: it’s a very nice design, comfortable in the hand, and as close to a replacement for fingers and styluses as iPads have seen since becoming viable artistic tools. We look forward to seeing the software catch up to the potential of these input devices; in the meanwhile, Nomad Brush is generally recommendable, regardless.