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Nomad brushes with wide strokes at Macworld | iWorld 2012

Don Lee, CEO of Nomad Brush, was kind enough to meet with us for a few minutes on the floor of Macworld | iWorld 2012 last week to chat about his creation, which is one of the nicer brushes available for virtual painting on Apple's devices. Nomad's got a few different makes and models for various uses, but Lee says his goal for them is all the same: To provide a "good bridge between analog and digital painting." The brushes all do that -- they're solid brushes that respond well to the iPad's screen.

But what they don't do is what all brushes and styluses can't yet do, and that's invoke pressure sensitive information onto Apple's glass screen. Lee says that it's actually a choice on Apple's part. He says that the software can determine the size of a touch on the screen -- in other words, if your finger touches it only slightly, that's a smaller screen space than if your finger (or a capacitive brush) is completely pressed up against the glass. But Apple doesn't allow developers to take advantage of that information with their apps. "If they were to let that open," says Lee, he'd obviously be able to sell more useful brushes, but until then, brushes are basically finger substitutes, not the full tools they could be.

Now developers, being developers, have come up with lots of little tricks to get around this lack of pressure information. The app Zen Brush, which Lee says makes a nice example for his brushes, actually uses the speed of your finger swipe (along with "projected" virtual ink on the screen) to make a more realistic representation of how the brush would interact with an actual page.

Nomad doesn't have its own app, but Lee says the company "would love to talk to some developers" about possibly making an app built to work with its brushes. In the meantime, of course, they work just fine with almost any drawing app.

As for the brushes themselves, Lee says the biggest difference between them is basically just the size of the tips -- some are wider and better used at painting bigger strokes, and some are better for closeup work (only in the feeling, of course -- again, the size of the brush's contact on iOS' surface doesn't really matter, and all of the various brush settings have to be worked on in the actual software). But one thing Nomad is thinking about doing that customers have asked about is creating brushes with interchangeable tips, so that users can customize their handles with whatever brush they'd like to use.

There are a few different choices in terms of brush styli for the iPad and iPhone, but Nomad seems like a good option, and it was interesting to talk to Lee, who's actually an architect by trade. All of Nomad's brushes are available on its website now.

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