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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crayola ColorStudio HD and Griffin iMarker bring stylus coloring to the iPad



crayola3.jpgWhen the iPad first was introduced, the potential impact for artists was obvious. Drawing pads for computers have been available for awhile, but the iPad integrated the computer and the drawing pad, effectively creating a digital sketchbook. Many drawing apps and styli are available for artists and there are quite a few coloring book apps for kids too. So although the Crayola ColorStudio HD is a capable coloring book app it's the Griffin iMarker that really sets it apart from the rest.

The iMarker is an electronic stylus that looks like a fat, black Crayola marker. Packaged with the free Crayola ColorStudio HD app it unlocks additional content and features that are only available when using the iMarker. One of the unique aspects of the app is it's ability to differentiate between finger and stylus input automatically. At least that's what it's advertised to do.

The iMarker runs on a single AA battery (included) which drives a small motor inside that makes the stylus vibrate slightly at the tip. This vibration tells the app when you're using the stylus and allows you to switch back and forth between using the stylus and your fingers. When you download the app, it's in finger mode by default. To unlock the app for stylus mode you have to use the stylus to connect the dots in a pattern. This unlocks the additional features which include free draw pages a section where you can create your own animated coloring pages.

The iMarker stylus works very well after you get used to applying the right amount of pressure. Finger mode works equally as well, although coloring is less precise. The coloring pages contain surprise animations that come to life when you touch objects on the page or in some cases, tilt the iPad. Click on the Crayola box at the bottom of the screen and a pop-up tool wheel lets you choose from an array of colors and artistic implements ranging from brushes to markers. In both modes you have options to control sounds and music, stop or start animations, turn zooming on or off, save your projects to the camera roll and toggle finger mode on or off. You also can email, print or post your coloring book creations to Facebook.

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Everything worked well for me except the automatic switching between stylus and finger. With finger mode turned off the iMarker works great. With finger mode turned on, fingers work well but the iMarker is very choppy and unpredictable. Since the ability to switch back and forth between your fingers and the iMarker is one of the main selling points of this product, I wondered if I was doing something wrong. I tried it over and over for more than two hours and still couldn't get it to work.

The coloring functionality of the app itself is very nice and I'm sure kids will like it. For finger coloring only, you get 10 animated coloring pages in the free version and that may enough for some people. For those who want to use a stylus and have greater precision plus additional features, the iMarker works well and you can still use your fingers too, you just have to toggle between the two modes. Too bad it doesn't work the way it was advertised. The app developer needs to fix this and also should consider selling an unlock code for those who want the rest of the app's features but want to forgo the use of a stylus.

[Last modified: Friday, August 12, 2011 2:57pm]


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