Inkist: Sketching Simplicity

I have a Wacom tablet, and I love using it for a variety of purposes. If I want to do any sort of digital drawing or painting it is, of course, my tool of choice. Sometimes the drawings get quite detailed, full of many layers, colors, textures and more. In cases like those, opening Photoshop is completely justified. If, however, I just want to do a quick sketch or mock-up, opening Photoshop (or Corel or Sketchbook Pro or any other feature-heavy digital drawing/painting program) doesn’t always seem justified. When I find myself in that situation, I’m never quite sure what to do. Lately, however, I’ve been utilizing a great program called Inkist.

Inkist is a great new bitmap-based drawing and painting program that is great for simple drawings. The app works well with drawing tablets, boasts a small but intuitive feature set for a quick program, and is quite well designed. It’s definitely worth looking into, especially if you find yourself constantly waiting for Photoshop to load for just a few minutes worth of work. Read on to learn more about Inkist’s features, how it works and what I really think about it.


First, let’s discuss some of Inkist’s great features. The app developer created the application with simplicity, quick loading, and ease of use in mind, so the features are fairly limited in order to maintain the simplicity. Despite the attempts for simplicity, it didn’t trim too far, as you can still use layers in your drawing, something often left out on more basic drawing apps. You can use the layers toolbox to add/delete layers, hide and view layers, and even toggle the layer opacity.

Adding and editing layers is simple, unlike other programs.

Next, the colors palette is important to note, as I quite like the way that the developer designed it. You have the ability to use a visual color selector to choose and save colors to the palette. I often like to have several shades of the same color available in the palette for easy use in shading. In Inkist, the brightness and temperature sliders make it easy to save a mid-tone and then just make simple adjustments from there. You can then easily save a great pallet of colors for use in the drawing.

The color selector along with the brightness/temperature sliders are a unique design concept, but definitely a good one.

The brushes are easily the most important component within the tools section, as the program would not be of any use without the brushes. Within the brush panel you can utilize any of the pre-installed brushes, adjust brush size, switch between the various modes (brush, erase, blend and line) or even create your own brush preset. Inkist does include support for pressure sensitivity on the graphics tablet, so when editing a brush you can change parameters such as minimum and maximum size, opacity, softness, jitter, and much more. It’s easy to create a huge variety of brush presets, although be warned that only the first 9 brushes have keyboard shortcuts.

A huge variety of brush parameters available.

Last but not least, the miscellaneous tools section contains a great variety of extra tools. Here, you can find a variety of selection tools, options to change the hue/saturation/lightness, and even a curves tool. This is also where you can do some basic text work, with the ability to change options such as font, size, and color.

A variety of miscellaneous tools, including the ever useful text tool.

Using the Program

Now that you have read up on the basic tools and features included in Inkist, it’s time to discuss how the program actually works in day to day usage. It’s important to first understand that Inkist was made by the developer in order to serve as a faster, cheaper, and simpler alternative to expensive graphics programs such as Sketchbook Pro and Photoshop.

Simplicity was at the forefront of the developer’s mind, a mindset that really governs what Inkist is good for. Inkist doesn’t boast a huge feature set. That’s ok – there are other programs for that. Instead, I utilize Inkist for rough mock-ups and quick sketches. It’s a fantastic program for that type of usage, evidenced by some of the examples detailed below.

A quick mock-up for a layout I was working on. It’s the perfect program for this kind of work.

The design and interface really lend themselves to simplicity and ease of use. First, the space is easily customizable, no matter your needs. The toolbars are all able to easily pop out and be moved around the application. You can dock the toolbars again with just one click. Size is adjustable, as well as shape. This is, of course, a given feature in applications like Photoshop that are more expensive. However, too often cheaper applications have just one immobile dock and set of tools. I appreciate that for price Inkist has the ability to pop out different toolbars for space flexibility. I do wish, however, that changing the position of the dock was also an option.

Another great feature of the layout/design which adds to the simplicity and ease of use is the size of the buttons. I was reading up on the blog about the app, and apparently the buttons are all 30 x 30 pixels in order to take up the least amount of screen space while still being easily clickable even when using the pen on a graphics tablet. They are the perfect size and it’s nice to have the interface focused (at least in part) on the experience solely when using a graphics tablet.

Toolbars are easily modified, dragged into different sizes and shapes in a variety of locations for your perfect workspace.

You’ve learned the interface and the tools. Everything is where it needs to be, but one question remains unanswered: How is the actually drawing with Inkist? You’ll be glad to hear that it’s pretty nice. It’s an uncluttered program, which really let me focus on the project at hand. It’s easy to select colors and brushes, all lending to an intuitive and cohesive drawing experience.

Keyboard shortcuts are definitely a plus within the app. Keyboard shortcuts are available to select the brush mode (brush, erase, blend or line). You can easily select any of the first 9 brushes in your palette with a keyboard shortcut. You can also select any colors already on the palette thanks to a keyboard shortcut. I do wish that the selection of shortcuts would be expanded. Brush size, for one, is something that I wish was easier to adjust. There isn’t a keyboard shortcut and I can’t use the dials on my tablet. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to make the transition to the mouse every time I wish to change a simple setting like the brush size. A greater preference section for things already included in the program is something I think the app could definitely benefit from.

Keyboard shortcuts – an absolute must!

Final Thoughts

Inkist has proved a pretty great purchase thus far – it’s easy to do digital sketches and mock-ups and I’m not forced to spend a lot of time waiting around for a big program like Photoshop to use. The features included in the program are fairly intuitive and easy to understand. I don’t think that many adjustments are likely required in order to make the program usable for your situation.

It is, of course, important to consider what the program is made for – it’s not for intensely detailed digital paintings. It’s a quickly loading, simple and user-friendly alternative for those times when you just don’t need Photoshop. Given a few features – some additional keyboard shortcuts, for example – I’ll soon be a very dedicated Inkist user.

So, there’s no doubt I’m a fan. What about you? Have you tried Inkist? What do you use it for? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Draw simple sketches, mockups and diagrams easily with Inkist, a digital drawing program that is quick, easy to use and perfect for small jobs requiring a graphics tablet.