Brushes 3 offers minimalist paint tools for the iPhone 5 era

Brushes 3 is a new iOS release from Taptrix. It’s the third incarnation of the company’s popular Brushes app, previously highlighted by Apple as one of the apps showing how the iPhone and iPad could benefit creative types. The new version is available as a free Universal download with an optional in-app purchase — $0.99 at the time of writing — to unlock support for up to 10 layers to paint on.

Brushes 3 is designed to be a simple, no-fuss painting app rather than a highly technical drawing or design solution. The basic tools are kept simple — users may pick from a selection of preset realistic brush styles, adjust their size and pick a color, then it’s a simple case of “finger-painting” on the screen. More advanced users can create their own brush presets using an impressive array of options.

It’s also possible to import photos from the camera roll (though not to take a picture inside the app, oddly) and clear, fill, desaturate, invert or transform individual layers to create various effects. Once a picture has been completed, it can be saved to the device’s camera roll, copied to the pasteboard, duplicated, posted to Facebook or Twitter (both using iOS 6’s internal connectivity to these networks) or emailed. Dropbox compatibility also allows users to import images stored on the popular cloud storage service or export their creations as Brushes, PSD, JPG or PNG files and store them online.

If the user chooses to save their project as a .brushes file, the app saves not only the image and its layers, but also records all the user’s brush strokes for later playback. These may be watched in the app itself or using the proprietary Brushes Viewer software provided by the developer — though this is only available for Mac OS X at this time. The lack of a facility to export the playback as a video clip to either the device’s camera roll or social networks such as Facebook and YouTube feels like something of a missed opportunity, though.

Brushes 3 is noteworthy for being one of the first apps to officially support the iPhone 5 directly. When creating a new painting, users have the option of a number of different preset resolutions, including that of the original iPhone’s screen, the iPhone 4/4S Retina display, the iPhone 5’s taller screen and the two iPad resolutions. It’s also possible to create an image at a nonstandard size, and all pictures may be rendered in either portrait or landscape orientation.

Brushes 3 does what it sets out to do very well — it provides a virtual canvas on which aspiring (and established) digital artists can quickly and easily express themselves. Its lack of more specialized drawing and design tools — there’s no facility to add text, for example — may disappoint some, but that’s not really what the app was designed for. It would, however, benefit from some form of in-app documentation or help, as the user is thrown straight in without any explanation of the various features. Most are fairly intuitive, but some are left for the user to discover for themselves — the most noteworthy being the “eyedropper” color selection tool, which is brought up by tapping and holding on the screen rather than via a discrete icon. The app doesn’t explain this anywhere, instead relying on the user’s pre-existing knowledge of iOS interface conventions and intuition.

This issue aside, Brushes 3 is a solid app for all iOS users who enjoy pure creativity with minimum fuss, and a good showcase for the iPhone 5. The fact that it is completely free to use in its most basic form will help attract a healthy userbase, and while the in-app purchase to add layer support is so cheap, it will likely make some money, too.

Brushes 3 is currently ranked at No. 112 in Top Free iPad Entertainment Apps and No. 194 in Top Grossing iPad Entertainment Apps. It is not currently listed in any other leaderboards. Follow its progress over time with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.