Recently I have been given the opportunity to check out the iMarker by Griffin Technology, a stylus that is designed to work with the Crayola ColorStudio HD app, a coloring book for iPad.
I was excited to do so because my son, now five, has just gotten fully interested in coloring books, crayons and markers as his fine motor skills have become developed enough to start writing and effectively coloring while holding a pen or pencil correctly.
The iMarker resembles a large, chunky marker - ours specifically a lovely bright blue shade which my son really enjoys. Adults will need access to a very small, jeweler-sized phillips head screwdriver as the iMarker needs one AA battery to function. I was surprised by this as other styluses that we have do not need power to work, but I am impressed by the iMarker's ability to cancel out the contact one’s hand may have with the screen as contact here will not leave marks on the page - unlike working with other tool such as this.
After battery installation, one will notice that when the top button of the iMarker is pushed, the Crayola sign on the side of the stylus will light up with an LED that fades into different colors. There is also an audible “hum" sound from the iMarker, part of the mechanics that makes this stylus compatible with the Crayola ColorStudio HD, a sound which I found distracting, but neither my son nor my husband made note of this noise.
Crayola has been a brand of art supplies I focus on buying due to their quality and safety record, so Crayola and their branding are quite familiar to my son, who was quite tickled to receive an iPad accessory which looked like his favorite Crayola markers or jumbo crayons and took to the ColorStudio HD app quite rapidly.
I must admit that I read some other reviews about the iMarker. Based on what I read, I was expecting certain issues with this hardware. I must say, however, that we have had no problems with the use of this stylus whatsoever. We are able to draw using the Crayola ColorStudio HD with ease both on the iPad 1 with no screen protector as well as the iPad 3 which does have the screen protected.
I was expecting to need to press overly hard or only to be able to draw with the iMarker pressed fully upright on the iPad - which would have been awkward, to say the least, but this was not my experience, as I can comfortably write or draw with the iMarker at any angle with ease as if it were a real marker.
It is worth noting that the iMarker only works with the Crayola ColorStudio HD - a coloring app consisting of seven differently themed coloring sections, such as “Jungle,” “Seasons,” “Farm” or “Spring.” Each of these areas includes six pages of images as well as music which correlates nicely with the theme at hand.
The navigation of these pages is quite easy as my son took over the iPad, choosing the book and drawing that he wanted to work on.
At the bottom of the page, tap the box of crayons to open up the area that contains the different colors and tools one can use to color, as the tool one colors with can be changed to emulate six different art supplies such as a crayon, felt-tipped marker, pencil or paintbrush, as well as an eraser. Also note that the point size with which one can draw also has three sizes as well and including “paint bucket” mode in which the entire section of the image one is drawing in can be filled in with a single tap.
As one changes between the drawing tools, do note the different colors one can scroll through to choose, as the number of colors vary between material. The most plentiful choices are that of the classic crayon, but it would have been nice to see a name attached to the color one selects, as reading the color on a Crayola crayon is part of the fun. This information would also be helpful in re-selecting a color one might want to use in a touchup of one's work as this can be surprisingly hard to eyeball.
It is also worth noting the different options this app has to offer which includes a pause button - helpful in pausing areas of this app which are mildly animated and a “go back” as well as “forward” buttons - functions I always like to see in a coloring book. There is also able to “delete” and “save,” where the image will be added to this app’s gallery in present condition as well as a menu button of more extensive options.
There is area where one can send the coloring page one is working on via email, Facebook as well as saving the page to the photos on one's iPad.
A button is available which begins a narrated walk-through of this app as well as a “Home” button.
I like these various options offered, but the “delete” button is actually a “New Page” button, showing a blank page with a “+” sign, and I can see children misunderstanding this and deleting their work by accident - even after tapping the “OK” green check mark. Because of this, I think a garbage can sign commonly used for "delete" may be less confusing.
Likewise, I can see children not understanding that the image of a "disk" may mean “to save,” or image of an open door will bring one back to the menu, whereas a house button meaning "home" may be a better choice - minor notes that parents can explain to their children, I am sure.
Other options included are the choice of being able to mute the included music or sounds effects individually as well as being able to enable (or not) the zooming in of these pages to color in with more details as well as a finger paint mode.
I am most pleased by the inclusion of a “Stay inside the lines” option - a perfect choice for those not using “Paint Bucket” as this mode allows the user to scribble within an area, using the stylus like a crayon yet without making marks wildly outside where one intends. This is huge for me as I have not had a lot of positive experiences using coloring books until now without the use of “Paint Bucket” mode as I have found it impossible not to make a mess of coloring pages while coloring in areas free-hand.
I also enjoy how as one stays inside the lines, one can color over other shapes that may be in the way of the area being colored without having to avoid them as the app will remember the area one is focusing on, be it small and detailed or a large background with different details in the foreground.
There are some additional elements within the “Paint Bucket” mode which I equally enjoy, as a single tap will fill in a space taking on the quality of the tool that was used, be it a paintbrush, colored pencil, or marker. The biggest use of texture is seen using the crayons as this effect reminds me of coloring over paper with minimal texture to create a marbled quality with the paper showing through. Further taps will deliver more opaqueness to the section.
I have enjoyed experimenting with the translucence of the crayons this way, layering different colors together to create a visual style reminiscent of fancy hand-made paper of combined colors and textures. I also have had a great experience coloring in areas of this app drawing with the iMarker to use the textured translucency of the paint bucket mode over the lines previously drawn to create batik-like effects.
My son, however, just likes to color, and color he does. This app can keep him busy for a long time as he focuses on his work, listening to the pleasant background music, sometimes coming across a hot spot that triggers other animation or sound effects.
The animated moments included are mild and without distraction, but may in fact show areas of the coloring page that were hidden until the animation begins and not colored in - holes that I am compelled to complete but my son does not bother with.
Although my son at this point has focused his attention on the provided coloring pages, be aware that blank pages are also included where children can not only color free-hand but also practice printing letters, numbers or draw freehand - an area I hope my son will venture into soon.
Another interesting feature is the chance to create one’s own coloring page, choosing among six backgrounds as well as a blank page. A nice selection of objects, animals or other characters is available that one can include with rotating and resizing as well as being able to choose which of these elements will be in the foreground if more than one of these details is to be used. Simple, animated rain or snow are options as are differently themed music or sound effects which can be chosen as well.
My first response to this app is that although my five year old son is very happy with what has been offered, is that there is not a lot of content for older children or adults, as the quality of the included drawings can sometimes remind me of free “clip art.”
This concern is dampened to some degree by being able to create one’s own coloring pages which can be found once saved in the gallery ready for coloring.
It would be nice, however, if this app could be updated with more pages as even with being able to design one’s own images to color, the choices are not endless. I can see my son becoming weary of the same coloring books over time - an issue as the iMarker only works with the ColorStudio HD app and retails for more than other styluses that work with any application including ColorStudio HD if set to Finger Paint mode. Because of this, I would love to also see some cross-over in other apps from the same developer. Although I am a fan of in-app purchases typically, I do believe than other activity books or coloring pages to purchase inexpensively would give the purchase of this moderately expensive stylus more utility.
I do hope that others who buy the iMarker will have as easy an experience using this stylus with their iPad. My son has used other styluses that we have in the house as well, but they never were as much enjoyed as this chunky iMarker. Although I prefer the hand-feel of smaller, heavy styli, this is personal preference.
The iMarker has given my son a chance to color in coloring books in bed or on the sofa - places where markers or crayons are not welcome. I would also be quick to pack the iMarker if ever traveling instead of messy, easy-to-lose art supplies.
I would never expect or encourage the iMarker and the Crayola ColorStudio HD to take the place of coloring by hand with crayons on paper, but my son is quite interested in digital toys and tools. I am happy that he can continue to work on his pencil grip now while using this app, but I would love more apps or more material to be developed that would also work with the iMarker.