Name: Crayola ColorStudio HD
Type: iPad stylus and children’s drawing app
Accessory makers Griffin have teamed up with everyone’s favourite crayon brand Crayola for the latest entrant in their App Powered line. The Crayola ColorStudio HD pairs a digital stylus with a free iPad app, letting kids get creative on Apple’s tablet without getting felt tip marks down the sofa, or worse; your slate’s screen itself. But is the ColorStudio HD set any replacement for a colouring book and a cheap set of pencils? Read on to find out.
The Griffin-built ColorStudio iMarker stylus does a great job of conjuring the feel of chunky kids colouring pens and pencils when you pick it up. The length of your average Bic pen but roughly three times as thick so as to fit clumsy toddler’s hands, it’s powered by a single AA battery that gives enough juice for 3 to 4 months’ worth of scribbles. With a power button down one end, the iMarker’s Crayola logo lights up depending on what actions you are performing, while a low humming noise lets parents know if a child has left walked off and left the pen switched on. A silver lid is provided to protect the stylus’s nib while in transit, though the iMarker seems sturdy enough to survive without this.
Though the Crayola ColorStudio HD app is free and readily available to all iPad owners, only those wielding an iMarker pen will be able to unlock all its features, as it specifically recognises the stylus’s rubber-tipped nib and inner circuitry. You could use the free app in finger mode alone, but this would mean that the majority of the features we’re about to detail will be unavailable to you.
The ColorStudio HD app is like the colouring book us adults could only have dreamed of as kids. As well as of course offering blank sheets for children to sketch their own masterpieces on, there are 30 themed colouring pages (such as scenes based on wildlife, monsters or sports), as well as the ability to drag and drop your own favourite pre-made elements from each pre-installed sketch into your own drawings. Many of these elements can be animated too, offering an interactivity missing from many rival drawing apps. Each animation can be paused, alongside the chirpy music that accompanies the app, while your best sketches can be sent to a printer, or even shared via Facebook.
Though the interface is a little complex for younger children, and could have done with voice-guiding features and in some instances larger buttons, it’s colourful and in keeping with the overall Crayola brand. Plenty of different brush sizes and colours are available by tapping on the pencil box logo at the bottom of the screen, and these scroll beautifully in a pop-up peacock tail-style semi-circle. In a nice touch, the brushes mimic the pen and crayon styles you’d get from physical Crayola gear, with solid, inky colours from felt tip pens and scratchy marks from crayons. There are also options to set the pen so as children never draw outside of the lines, though this served only to confuse our three-year-old child tester.
However, the package does have one rather unfortunate setback. The iMarker itself can be a pain to use, only really responding to the screen at near-vertical angles. It’s an uncomfortable way to hold the stylus, and doesn’t teach kids good pen-grasping habits. As such, our three-year-old often got annoyed with the pen, pushing down on the screen very hard as he couldn’t understand why it wasn’t always responding well, often resorting to finger input. It’s by no-means unusable, but hardly intuitive at the same time. We’ve spoken to a Griffin rep about the issue, who promised that as more feedback comes in, a software update will be perhaps possible to tweak the iMarker’s responsiveness.
They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but is it possible to have a double-edged pen? On the one hand, the Crayola ColorStudio is a great learning tool for the youngest members of your family; not only does it let them get creative (as well as offering the simplest animation suite you’re ever likely to see), they can be artistic without being messy, as well as learning the fundamental concepts behind modern touchscreen technology. On the other hand, the pen can be frustratingly unresponsive unless held at an awkward angle, meaning many kids are likely to soon turn back to their traditional sketching tools. If Griffin can fix the stylus nib’s responsiveness through a software update as they claim, we’d mark this one up higher. For now though we’d suggest not throwing away your wax crayons just yet.