Let’s get this out of the way: I’m no artist. At least not with a pencil, pen, chalk, or a brush in my hand. I’d love to be and I spent a good deal of time re-sketching comic book frames of Batman when I was younger, but my drawing/painting abilities on my own have always been limited. I’m just not one of those types that can look at a thing and then convert that 3-dimensional object into a 2-dimensional one on paper. Graphics, logos, website design, and general aesthetics are more my thing.
So, that makes me a terrible – TERRIBLE – candidate to review or comment on the usefulness of the new build of Krita (a free, professional-level painting application) for Android from an artistic perspective. Is it great and making paintings, sketches, and other artistic creations? From what I can tell by others’ opinions of the software, it is indeed. Is it comparable to Photoshop or able to take the place of it? That’s arguable, but also tangent to Krita’s usefulness as an artistic tool. Is it a clear sign that desktop-class software is clearly possible and awesome on Chromebooks via the Play Store? Absolutely.
That last part is what I’m qualified to speak on, so lets focus in on that for a moment. There are plenty of drawing apps in the Play Store that work fine on Chromebooks. Concepts is pretty full-featured and Google’s own Chrome Canvas is a fun tool for my kids to doodle with when they get the urge. But there is little in the Play Store at this moment that is doing what Krita is doing on a Chromebook. Let me explain.
For starters, I’ve compared this build of Krita with the desktop version and the UI is almost identical. That’s right: the developers didn’t take an existing tool that users love and remove half of the functionality to create a ‘mobile’ version. Yeah, I’m looking at you Adobe. By the way, where exactly is Premiere Rush in the whole ‘coming soon’ timeline? I’ll hold my eye rolls and head shakes for another time, but the point still stands: so far, most development houses either skip the Play Store and Android or they put out a feature-devoid, nerfed version of their software with big names that hint at real productivity and lack the actual substance.
To a point I can understand this. Android is, for better or worse, a phone OS first and foremost. When developers choose to spend their time and effort on an Android app, they have to consider the fact that the vast majority of users will leverage that app on a small screen that has no mouse or keyboard input. They generally aren’t building with larger screens or other inputs in mind, thus you get the featureless mobile versions of popular properties that are more like fun toys than true production tools.
How many ‘Photoshop’ or ‘Illustrator’ apps are there in the Play Store right now? Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Sketch, and Photoshop Express each do small parts of what the real Photoshop can do and it feels terrible to use three apps to accomplish something on a Chromebook. Adobe has been promising Photoshop and Illustrator and Premiere Rush for Chrome OS since the original Pixelbook and nothing has materialized yet. We have no firm dates on anything and at this point, I have no idea if anything will actually ever show up.
In stark contrast to this, the developers behind Krita have launched an early access version of their popular, feature-rich desktop application for Android and get this: it is only currently available on Android tablets and Chromebooks. You got that right, Krita is made for Chrome OS with Chromebooks in mind and they’ve brought over all the goodness of their Windows, Linux and Mac apps along for the ride. Forget mobile versions, missing features, and blown-up phone apps. None of that is the case with Krita for Chrome OS and the build you work with here is the same build that is available right now for other desktop systems.
This isn’t some sort of emulation or container, either. Instead, this is desktop-class software running as an Android app right on a Chromebook. Don’t be mistaken: this is a professional-level application, so the learning curve is steep and a tad bit intimidating. This app wasn’t built for casual use and it isn’t aimed at casual users. Instead, Krita is regarded as a professional tool for graphics, design, drawing and painting. Just head over to this Krita Artist website and see some of the mind-blowing creations made with this software if you need to be convinced of it legitimacy. This is a pro-grade tool through and through.
And that makes Krita very special in the Chromebook world right now. Since the beginning of Android apps on Chromebooks, we here at Chrome Unboxed have felt it was only a matter of time before developers jump on board with the idea of porting their desktop-class software over to Android for use on Chrome OS. While PWAs continue to grow in their viability and usability, native applications still have a huge place in the ecosystem because more complex operations still need that native code base to work well. Krita is really the first full-blown example of this we’ve ever seen, and I’m so hopeful that it is a sign of things to come.
After four years, it is high time that developers begin seeing Chromebooks as a legitimate target. With the Chromebook user community only continuing to grow at a rapid pace, the user base is expanding quickly and more than ever before there is a need and desire for desktop software for users across the board. It will be very interesting to watch as users begin to use Krita on Chrome OS and to see how the software develops out of its current beta status as time goes by. I’m very hopeful that this is the start of a big shift in the way Android development for Chromebooks is perceived and that we begin seeing other pro-level software arriving on Chromebooks in the coming months. Have a Chromebook and want to try out Krita (it is free, BTW)? Head over to the Play Store to get started.