Touchscreen computing lends itself very well to graphics use and the Autodesk SketchBook Express drawing app is one of the simplest to use, having only a limited toolset.

The Windows 8 flavour of Autodesk SketchBook Express may not come with any instructions, but is simple enough to work out how to use. Autodesk has kept the number of tools to a minimum, allowing you to experiment – start drawing freehand, click on the colour wheel to change to another shade and you're off. Dragging your mouse across a narrower shade selection lets you be more precise about the shade you want, but you can't save your favourites to return to later. Clicking on the red arrow in the tool palette cancels the last stroke, and multiple undos are supported. Helpfully, you can reinstate deleted etchings too.

Autodesk SketchBook Express's standard blank canvas can be changed for vertically or horizontally symmetrical ones. Pens can be swapped by clicking on the paintbrush icon and choosing a pencil, airbrush or eraser. Line weights are adjusted via a circular brush size icon in this Windows 8 app; click and hold the mouse button, then drag to make your brush larger or smaller. You can't create brush strokes of less than five pixels across, though, and there's no zoom if you're using a non-touchscreen computer. (See also: Windows 8: the complete guide.)

It's rather tricky to draw accurately using a mouse and trackpad alone – we installed a Wacom graphics tablet to use Autodesk SketchBook Express. Even so, most of our drawings came out looking rather wonky. We would have appreciated functions such as a straight line tool, a grid view and the ability to save an object and then move it elsewhere onscreen while we worked on another area of our drawing.

There are no options in Autodesk SketchBook Express to import existing graphics or to use shapes included within the app. Text isn't supported either, so you'll need to save the image and open it in Word or another graphics app if you want to add a caption, for example. Images can be saved as either PNGs or Jpegs.

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Autodesk SketchBook Express: Specs

  • Windows 8 PC, laptop or tablet
  • Windows 8 PC, laptop or tablet


SketchBook Express is fun to use, but lacks a zoom feature. Add a straight-line tool and the option to save favourite colours, and we'd be happy.