Adobe Fresco takes drawing back to the basics, conjuring memories of stamps and pens and dipping brushes into wells of paint right on your drawing tablet. Digital art software lets you be more creative than ever with a mouse or trackpad. And while it may not look entirely real on paper, the overall experience comes second.

Adobe has created an app designed to do just that, provided you have an iPad or iPhone, Microsoft Surface Pro, or Creative Cloud Desktop for Windows (sorry Android users, you're not in the know by now). We explored the iPad version for the purposes of this review.

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Adobe Fresco: Pricing and Plans

  • Free with other Adobe subscriptions or separate monthly fee
    Adobe Creative Cloud subscription options:

  • 12 month plan – €9.99 per month (total cost €119.88) (Opens in a new tab)

Fresco runs on a freemium model, so it's not completely free drawing software. You can download it for free and get access to a limited set of features, but if you want the full experience, you'll need a separate monthly subscription. However, if you're already subscribed to the Adobe Design Mobile Bundle plan, Adobe Photoshop Single App plan, or Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan, Fresco is integrated into it. All you need to do is sign in to your Creative Cloud account.

Adobe Fresco: installation problems

Do you want to warp and distort objects on your canvas? With the recent addition of the Liquefy tool, you can (Image credit: Adobe)

  • A problem with the keyboard when recording… only for us or something that Adobe will have to fix?

It should be noted that our setup experience was marred by an unusual issue. We were using the latest version (4.1) on a XNUMXth generation iPad Air. We were asked to enter our Adobe ID, but the keyboard would not activate.

We had to resort to typing the information into another app and then copying and pasting it into the appropriate fields. The same thing happened when we tried to log in on an iPhone. Let's hope this isn't a harbinger of things to come...

Adobe Fresco: Interface

Adobe Fresco running on an iPad Air

If you're familiar with Adobe's professional desktop software, you'll feel right at home in Fresco's interface (Image credit: Adobe)

  • A familiar interface if you're used to other Adobe products

If you're familiar with the Adobe line, you'll feel right at home in Fresco because the interface looks incredibly familiar.

You start with the welcome screen, which gives you several options on the left side, including Learn and Discover, which takes you to a wealth of tutorials and works created by other artists to inspire you.

The main part of this window is focused on choosing a canvas. There are a few default sizes depending on the destination of your project (either digital or print), or if that's not to your liking, you can enter your own custom dimensions and set your preferred units and resolution. Even better, you can save your custom format to effortlessly reuse it for another project later.

Once you're in the app, you'll find a toolbar on the left side, controls on the top, and panels on the bottom right, just like any Adobe app you're used to.

One aspect that wasn't immediately obvious to us was what happens when you rotate the iPad: the tools and other parts of the interface rotate with it, but your drawing doesn't. However, you can rotate it independently using a two-finger rotate gesture on the canvas. This gives you the flexibility to work in any orientation, regardless of the position of the tools - a very versatile interface.

Adobe Fresco: Tools

Adobe Fresco running on an iPad Air

Fresco offers a huge variety of brushes, ranging from pixel to vector, with some trying to replicate how watercolors and oils really work (Image credit: Adobe)

  • Wide variety of brushes, as well as the usual tools

Aside from the usual tools you'll instantly recognize from similar digital art and drawing software, Fresco's forte is its brushes. You will find three different types, the first three icons located at the top right of the toolbar.

The first houses the Pixel Brushes (similar to the ones you'll find in Photoshop), though our favorites are the Live Brushes. It's obviously a personal preference, but there's something magical about a digital tool that tries to replicate the look and effect of watercolor or oil painting.

Third, we have vector brushes, which allow you to paint in a zero resolution environment. In fact, you can open such a file in Adobe Illustrator and continue working on it if you wish.

Adobe Fresco running on an iPad Air

With these helpful tools, you can draw straight lines or easily add circles, squares, and polygons (Image credit: Adobe)

With so many brushes to work with, it can be a bit overwhelming. With that in mind, the ones you like the most can be "favorites," making them much easier to find (they'll still be separated into their Pixel, Live, and Vector categories).

The brushes work surprisingly well, whether you're using an Apple Pencil or the like, or your finger, and you can control the thickness, color, and intensity of the brush.

Another tool that we liked was "Drawing Aid", which you will find in the lower right part of the interface. It lets you display a ruler to help you draw straight lines, or add a perfect circle, square, or polygon to your canvas, which you can then fully customize. With multiple undos and redos, there's a lot of fun and experimentation to be had with Fresco.

Adobe Fresco: Gestures and Shortcuts

Adobe Fresco running on an iPad Air

Fresco includes a clever feature called Touch Shortcuts that is extremely versatile, as seen in the Help feature (Image credit: Adobe)

  • Smart touch gestures designed to speed up your workflow

Speaking of undo, we really liked some smart interface implementations, like gestures. Although you have undo and redo buttons at the top of the screen, you can also tap with two fingers to undo and tap with three fingers to redo. Depending on how you work, you may find this a huge time saver. We use it so often that we forgot those buttons existed.

Even better, the touch shortcut. This is represented by a translucent circle, located by default at the bottom left of the interface, but you can tap and drag it wherever you like.

This is a very clever tool designed to help speed up actions that might not be as easy to perform via a touch screen interface. Everything you can do with it can be done in other ways, but learning to use this tool can help make your interaction with Fresco faster, more fun, and more enjoyable. For example, if you're drawing with a brush, hold down this button to temporarily turn that brush into an eraser, saving you from having to select the eraser tool in the sidebar. You can also use it to select multiple layers at once, to perform an action on each of them at once.

The list of functions that this simple tool contains is quite extensive, so much so that the Help section of the application has a long list of everything you can do with it. Most impressive.

  • Gestures and shortcuts: 4.5/5

Adobe Fresco: latest features

Adobe Fresco running on an iPad Air

Brushes infused with multiple colors for interesting and quirky effects are an integral part of Fresco (Image credit: Adobe)

  • An ever-expanding feature list – here are our recent favorites

As with all other Adobe apps, Fresco is updated regularly, and we found a few recent additions of particular interest.

Our favorite might just be the multi-colored swatches. It only works with some pixels and Live Brushes, but the effect is extremely nice. As the name suggests, some presets allow you to paint with multiple colors at once, with the result changing depending on the brush used. Even better, you can customize these samples.

Movement paths have also been recently improved. Fresco allowed you to apply movement to elements for a while, but now it has a grow/shrink tool. With it, you can set two different sizes (the original and the modified one) and have your object resize as it moves along the path. Even better, he has the option of switching between these two sizes multiple times during his trip. There is also a "roll" option to rotate your object forward or backward as you go. These two settings can be used together, for a wider range of animations.

The latest version introduces a bunch of new brushes, including some fall-related ones (like dry grass and fall leaves). You'll also find an interesting Liquify tool, which allows you to inflate, rotate, and deform an object at will (oddly, the info says this is iPhone-only, but it was available on our iPad as well).

Adobe Fresco: Board

Swipe to scroll horizontally Row 0 – Cell 0 Row 0 – Cell 1 Row 0 – Cell 2 Pricing and plans Freemium model, multiple subscriptions for flexibility Adobe Tools4ToolsExcellent variety of tools and brushes4Gestures and shortcutsSmart gestures and shortcuts improve flow Creative Work 4.5Latest FeaturesLots of newly added features4

I should buy?

Adobe Fresco running on an iPad Air

(Image credit: Adobe)

Buy it if ...

You like to draw directly on the screen, you need a lot of control to get the exact look you want, and you like compatibility with other Adobe software.

Don't buy it if ...

You don't like to draw too much, you're looking for something simpler with less functionality, or you need to work on an Android tablet.

Adobe Fresco: Alternatives

Similar iPad apps like Adobe Illustrator, Procreate, and Pixelmator are good alternatives for tablets.

For more inspiration, try the best graphic design software.

Adobe Creative Cloud Deals

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