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Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

  • 1.  Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-23-2023 06:42 PM

    I have a client who really needs to "think out loud," calculate, and cogitate on paper. He gives me a verbose wish list, I put it in the plan, and then he tells me that's not what he wanted. Traditional methods of communication and collaboration are not working.

    So - I need digital sketch capability to mark up plans in real time during virtual meetings. I think, ideally, it would be an e-ink device with stylus and color drawing capability. It needs to connect to my laptop for virtual meeting screen sharing, but I also want to work remotely without being tethered to a computer or power cord. In a perfect world, it would double as a device for photo editing and marketing design. Am I asking for too much?

    I've read reviews for various devices that seem to check a few, but not all, of those boxes. Would greatly appreciate recommendations for devices and software that have worked well for others for digital drawing markups.

    Many thanks -

    Jessica Zeigler-Cihlar, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB
    Village Architecture & Preservation

  • 2.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-24-2023 05:33 PM

    You might want to try the Morpholio Trace app on iPad with an Apple Pencil.  This is the closest digital version of physical trace overlays that I've found. You can screen share the iPad in Zoom from a Mac.  

    Allan Farkas
    Eggleston Farkas Architects
    Seattle WA

  • 3.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-27-2023 06:31 PM
    I think those are all good suggestions........but I work differently,  I find having one platform that
    I am facile with is pretty effective and very efficient.  I use Archicad and can draw simple walls and roofs and more
    in a screen share session (or in person) quickly and modify as you go along in a conversation, bringing up 3d views also. 
    I try to cut down the learning curve on multiple software systems as much as possible.  
    Staying within one BIM program means there is no transfer of information between platforms which reduces digital fatigue.

    I agree that Morpholio and an ipad is an excellent system, just not a good fit for me.
    Good luck



    Saxon Sigerson AIA
    Check out my architecture blog
    Sigerson Architects
    P.O. Box 1836
    Fair Oaks, CA 95628
    Office/iphone  (916) 863-6470

  • 4.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-28-2023 05:34 PM
    ...Morpholio is/was nice...but I'm a Windose user...

    Anyway, perhaps take a look at the Concepts app. This is originally an Apple application but is rapidly being paced by their Windows version.
    You can bring in almost any file format, edit PDFs, and overlay photographs so that you're drawing over a pic of existing conditions and such.
    Concepts is really worth a look. Most recently they added the ability to "scale" your sketches (or sketch/draw to scale).

    Is anyone else using Concepts?

    Stephen E Seitz Architect AIA
    Seitz Architecture

  • 5.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-27-2023 07:46 PM

    I have been a Morpholio user.  However, I switched to Adobe Fresco.  Fresco is a big improvement over Morpholio in my opinion.

    1. The primary reason is you can start a line and quickly move to the end point, hold for a split second, and the line snaps straight, to any angle.
    2. There is an on canvas, moveable touch button that provides many functions quickly but most importantly for architects, it will trim lines to the crossing point.
    3. The app offers both vector and pixel brushes in the same canvas.
    4. The pen feel and the brush availability is much improved over Morpholio.
    5. Fresco offers many of the Photoshop features such as the Selection tools (i.e. Magic Wand) and masking.


    Fresco has been a game changer for me.





     Tom Vallée




  • 6.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-24-2023 09:06 PM

    I agree 100% with Allan - I'd get a 12.9" iPad Pro if possible; though you can use 2nd Gen Apple Pencil on the new iPad Air. 2nd Gen Apple Pencil is key - make sure whatever you get works with that. Morpholio Trace is amazing - and they just came out with v6.0, so perfect timing. Make sure you watch a bunch of Morpholio's vids on YT too - very helpful!

    Eugene Kniaz AIA
    Tempe AZ

  • 7.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-24-2023 11:45 PM

    I don't have any problem just using AutoCAD during my meetings online or in person. I turn off what isn't needed, have a pdf available also so I can switch to it if needed and they see me draft and measure and run through the parts of the project we might be struggling with.

    Leah McMillan AIA
    Mill Creek Architecture, LLC
    Boise ID

  • 8.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-27-2023 08:35 PM

    I would recommend that you check out Sketchbook. It allows you to add "layers" (similar to flimsy) over an image of your floor plan. Then you can use a mouse or stylus to draw over the top. It also works on all platforms and is very easy to use. In the end, the file saves as a photoshop file so it preserves all the layering and visibility that you can use later for more advanced graphics.

    Stephen M. Black, AIA
    Stephen M. Black Architecture

  • 9.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-25-2023 09:26 AM
    Edited by Angelo F. Marasco AIA 03-25-2023 09:30 AM

    The best natural architectural sketching app is Morpholio Trace. Intuitive and easy to get started with. Very similar to drawing on trace paper, but with digital, you get unlimited undo! It is only available on an iPad, so you must be OK with that. I'd recommend the full-size iPad Pro and Apple Pencil setup for more room to draw. Very, very, good tactile feel and drawing experience. The next best option, from my experience, is the Concepts App. It has an infinite canvas (you aren't limited to a physical paper size) and is fairly intuitive. A big plus is it's cross-platform, so that you can use it on iPad or a Windows tablet. In the Windows world, all tablets and drawing experiences are NOT equal; many are really lacking. You will experience a lot of lag and plastic-coated screens that feel disconnected from what you are trying to draw. Microsoft significantly upped its tablet drawing experience in the last few years, and its stylus is quite good now. Their 2-in-1 laptops are also powerful enough to do fairly robust graphics work, and light BIM work. If you want to find reviews on specific tablets or 2-in-1 laptops, Brad Colbow on YouTube has many videos talking candidly about the drawing experience on each device. 

    For presenting, I set up one of these apps with my BIM plans or 3D views imported with a trace overlay and start highlighting and drawing as we work through the design. If you are on Zoom or Teams, don't try and use their whiteboards; use one of these apps, as they are so much better! Good luck!    

    Angelo Marasco AIA
    Cadence Design Studio
    Denver CO

  • 10.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-28-2023 11:11 AM

    The commercial construction world utilizes Bluebeam extensively for pdf markups.  It is not great for sketching but it can be used by not only the architect, but it has a very low learning curve so that owner and contractor can use it as well.


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    Hensley Lamkin Rachel, Inc.

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  • 11.  RE: Seeking recommendations for digital sketch tools

    Posted 03-28-2023 04:23 PM

    Unfortunately many people see, desire and communicate differently than what passes for main line cognition.
    Good sales people ask many questions and the same question many ways. This is an art form which designers would find useful.
    Sometimes technology isn't the answer. 

    John Dugger AIA
    J S Dugger, AIA & Associates
    Gloucester MA