Paint Space AR

Named by Apple as one of the best apps on iOS of 2017, and most downloaded AR entertainment app on the iOS app store.

Paint the World

I designed, developed, and released Paint Space AR independently with the goal of creating the best mobile AR creative experience possible.

Here’s how Paint Space makes painting the world fun and easy.

Challenge
How do we create a powerful 3D drawing tool for people who have never experienced AR, and who are used to drawing in 2D?
Solution
Use a 2D drawing system combined with six degree of freedom movement to create a drawing experience that is familiar, with lots of room to grow more proficient at creating paintings in 3D.

Here's some of what went into making Paint Space great

Build, fail, repeat.

Here's an example of a 'Paint by Number' app that I was working on. I believe this could be a great app for kids with some additional polish, but ultimately I felt restricted by it.

It took me a while to fall on the core concept of Paint Space. I was constantly trying ideas out, then having to sidebar them. These were great learning experiences, and I think with more time, some of them could be really interesting AR apps in their own right, but in the end they just didn't have that 'ah ha' moment.

I am glad I made them. Each 'womp womp' moment contributed in it's own way toward making Paint Space great.

Keeping the period of low fidelity short and sweet.

I used sketching as a tool in the initial point of feature development in Paint Space to illustrate both the overall interface as well as the 'under the hood' concepts that made painting feel awesome.

Importantly, I would transition out of low-fidelity and into prototype stages as quickly as possible, because the devil is in the details in AR.

Being able to quickly draw out a concept then see how it felt (over and over and over), was instrumental to creating augmented reality interactions that just worked.

User testing, despite all odds.

Paint Space was constantly being tested at all stages of development to launch. I was frequently shoving my phone into the hands of friends and family and asking them to complete tasks, or simply experiment with the app.

Mobile AR with 6DOF was relatively unexplored territory as I was creating Paint Space. I was designing this app pre-ARKit launch, and I knew that I was trying out a lot of 'new' concepts in Paint Space that needed testing. Because the only people who could actually run Paint Space before launch were other developers, I had to put a lot of effort into recruiting people for feedback.

I ended up recruiting users on development forums, AR enthusiast networks, and more.  These efforts were rewarded with a beta testing group of around 75 users. With frequent beta updates, I was constantly learning about whether or not my new features were intuitive and fun. 

The effort here really payed off - Paint Space has a rating of 4.7/5 on the app store after about 200 reviews at the time of this writing.  Thank you testers!

Iterating on every aspect, including launch.

I spent a lot of time figuring out how to talk about Paint Space. I needed to be able to describe it succinctly, and in an appetizing way. 

The context of the Paint Space launch matters a ton here, as it was going to be releasing the same day as the new ARKit functionality hit phones. I knew that people wouldn't know what AR was, or how to use it. I knew that I couldn't say 'it's AR painting!' - I would have to describe it in an easier to digest manner.

To aid user understanding, I worked hard to create the introductory video at the top of this page. Seen to the left is one of the 'that doesn't feel quite right' concepts I made for the marketing video. How do I know it doesn't feel right? Well I forced tons of people to watch it and give me feedback!

As with every aspect of Paint Space, even the marketing materials went through a period of many failures until it felt 'good'.

Here's how Paint Space makes painting FEEL good.

Draw Like You’re Used To

Paint Space utilizes the touch screen to allow everyone to draw the way they have been practicing since they were children.

As people become more familiar with the possibilities of moving their phone, it enables them create dynamic lines in 3D space without having the mental overhead of ‘re-learning’ a new way to draw.

Your Hands are Your Tools

Paint Space is essentially futuristic finger painting. Many sculptors refer to their hands as a tool — in Paint Space, your fingers (quite literally) ARE your sculptural brush.

Taking advantage of multi-touch helps Paint Space sit nicely as a 1:1, hands on, tactile experience that easily turns your fingers into powerful tools.

Size Matters

Paint Space uses pressure sensitivity to keep drawings from feeling flat by making lines that are expressive, unique, and reflective of the painter.

Pressing harder makes lines thicker, pressing more lightly makes them thinner. This allows juicy, wispy, and dynamic lines to be drawn with the same intuitive physicality you would get with a paint brush in the real world.

Great Looking Paintings are Easy to Make with Paint Space

Smoothing

AR has jitters sometimes. Paint Space uses an automatic smoothing algorithm to gently correct for natural variations in tracking and physical movement, making every line appear graceful.

Color Pallet

Choosing the right colors for a drawing can make all the difference. To simplify this process, Paint Space provides a beautiful selection of preset colors to allow for fast and easy creation of aesthetically appealing lines.

Depth Snapping

Without help, getting lines to join up with one another can be an experience of trial and error. To this end, Paint Space automatically detects when a line is being drawn close enough that it ‘should’ be attached, and aligns the drawing surface with the connecting line.

Paint Space Embraces the Phone

Inserting Media

In many ways, people carry their lives in their pocket. Allowing people to weave pieces of their own life and experiences using photos and videos lets them make deeply personal and exciting creations. This also provides the flexibility to ‘set the scene’, add a friend who isn’t there, or even bring in a reference photo.

Sharing Creations

Mobile phones are all about sharing. From the start, Paint Space has focused on the ability to share the things you’ve made with friends by capturing or recording your creation. Creating something awesome is much more satisfying when you can share it!

Fixing Mistakes

Even the most clear vision of a creation tends to need a bit of touching up as you go. That’s why Paint Space lets you select, move, and modify any line, photo, or special effect you’ve added to your scene at any time. Additionally, there’s always undo when you want to try to paint a line again.