Crayola ColorStudio HD for iPad review

Consumer Reports News: August 08, 2011 08:08 AM

Crayola ColorStudio HD for iPad lets you use a digital Crayola iPad marker to color, draw, and animate your artwork. It is one of the coolest applications I have seen for drawing on the iPad. If only it worked a little better.

I saw this app back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show and was instantly excited. When you draw on a rocking horse, you can then animate it to rock! Color a monster who’s peeking out of a box, and then the monster actually jumps out! You can add speech bubbles to color pages and even draw freestyle if you are so inclined. The app is certainly entertaining but at times, it can be quite frustrating.

The ColorStudio HD app is free in the iTunes store, but if you want to use the app to its full potential, you have to purchase the iMarker for $29.99. It’s a digital stylus for the iPad’s touchscreen that replicates a number of different drawing and coloring tools, depending on how you want to draw.

I had a hard time getting the iMarker up and running, though. For starters, it requires a double-A battery, which you have to install by using a small Phillips head screwdriver to remove the iMarker cover. I did not have an extra-small Phillips head screwdriver, so I marched off to Target to buy one. Now I'm into this thing for $39.99.

I was able to remove the cover and install the battery easily enough, but I couldn’t screw the cover back on. My husband tried as well, to no avail. Removing the cover stripped the iMarker of the screw divots, so now I have to hold my cover closed when I use the iMarker. This isn't a huge pain, but it makes transporting the device difficult, since it doesn’t stay intact.

Once your iMarker is powered up, you click it on like a ballpoint pen. A small motor inside starts to whir, and the device lights up in pastel colors, letting you know you are ready to create.

You have the choice of drawing with an iMarker—or without, by using your fingers. You won't have as many options without the iMarker, but children may still get a kick out of it. With the iMarker, your options are to create a coloring page from a list of templates such as a forest, beach, or child's bedroom. You can add objects such as a dog, a bear, or an igloo to those templates. You can even add action: falling raindrops and snowflakes that flitter about, for example.

The preset coloring pages are organized in themes such as sports, jungle, seasons, and more. They are pretty involved scenes. I wanted something simple to practice on but ended up with a busy page that looked like a scene from the movie “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”

When you are ready to start coloring, you choose one of the iMarker's built-in tools: colored pencil, paint brush, marker, or crayon. And you have the full array of Crayola colors to choose from.

In addition to being annoying to assemble, the pen is also buggy and imprecise. This doesn't matter much when you are forced to color inside the lines, but when you are free drawing, it does. I wouldn't use this to take up pointillism.

I also had a hard time teaching myself to switch back and forth between finger navigation and pen navigation. You don't navigate the app using the pen. You use your fingers. That didn't make sense to me at first, since I thought you should be able to use the pen for everything. Why do I have to keep putting it down?

One feature I kind of love and kind of hate is that the app won't let you color outside the lines. Once you start coloring an object, the app knows what you've honed in on and allows you to color that thing in flawlessly. Where's the fun in that? But it did mean that I am far better at coloring on the iPad than I ever was as a child. Trust me, my mother never hung my artwork.

If you want to draw freestyle, though, you can, with the Free Draw option. The app won't autocorrect your mistakes there, so your true artistry will shine through.

Once your masterpieces are complete, you can save them in a gallery or print them on an AirPrint-enabled printer. You can also e-mail them or post them on Facebook.

I suspect that updates to this app will add new coloring pages and tools. I doubt they will make the pen work any better, though. Thankfully, you can still use the free app without the pen, which is still good for some entertaining fun. But if your children want to hone their drawing skills, I'd stick with an old-fashioned coloring book.

You have the full array of Crayola colors to choose from.

Check out our Buying Advice (free) and Ratings (available to subscribers) for a wide range of products for babies and kids. And follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Natali Morris

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