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The Note 8 made me feel better about my terrible painting skills

Back in college, I was working as a bank teller between classes and needed an outlet. I didn't want to drink more than I already did, and I already spent too much time reading books I didn't enjoy to enjoy the ones I wanted to read, so I decided to do something else: paint.

I embraced my inner artist and learned to love my skill-less creations.

At the advice of a friend, I went to an art supply store, got a few canvasses, a variety of brushes, and a smattering of colors, intending to go home and escape to the blissful solitude of visual expression. And express I did: a handful of canvasses awash in energetic colors, splayed randomly and with little care for the finished product. The goal was not to create a work of art, but to create art through work, and by doing so remove me ever so briefly from the monotony of the scholar's life.

I've since graduated and left that mundanity behind, but the call of the canvas is still strong. There was something about the tactility of pressing brush to palette to paper and back again that, despite the end result looking similar to a two-year-old's musings on stewed carrots on a white tile floor, I found profoundly satisfying. It tickled a different part of the brain that keeps me writing creatively and editing fastidiously. The swirls of color take no form but the darkening cloud of mixed primaries; no purpose but the process itself.

It was with great delight, then, that I found buried within the Note 8's Air Command menu a new feature called Coloring, which provides an outlet for painters, real and pretend. Brush work is not new to the Note line, but it's received, well, a fresh coat of paint with the improved S Pen sensitivity, larger display and improved user interface of the PENUP app, which now houses both a dedicated coloring book and a blank canvas with seven brush types, from water color to crayon.

After acquainting myself with the tools, I quickly returned to that familiar feeling I got from painting on a real canvas, the quieting of the brain and slowing of the breath. Doodling on a page is known to have positive effects on the human body, and the addition of a coloring book, replete with dozens of detailed pictograms waiting to be filled in, became my second screen during a half-hour TV show.

Samsung has never been known for elegant software design, but its sparse PENUP coloring interface is exactly that: it provides the appropriate tools and quickly gets out of your way. There are some frustrations — changing brushes always resets the color back to black — but they don't overshadow the work itself.

There is an element of PENUP that lets you submit your works of art to the community, in which thousands of members demonstrate just how much better they are at this than me. That's fine — I'm happy to look in from the outside and keep my creations to myself. I am proud of these terrible doodles, largely because I wouldn't have made them on any other canvas. Instead, I save them to my gallery and use them as home screen wallpapers, taunting me to re-enter the app and try to make something slightly less ugly this time around.

Apple has its Pencil for the iPad Pro, and while I respect its draw for real artists, the S Pen is something that goes with the Note 8, and its incarnation in Samsung's latest phone is nothing short of remarkable. Yes, it still has latency issues on heavy pages, so writing isn't quite as perfect as on a real piece of paper, but Samsung has built a remarkably capable piece of hardware here, one that I find both fulfilling and distracting — and that's without ever having written a note on the thing.

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

12 Comments
  • I suck at painting and drawing but il try this every once in awhile once my note arrives in 2 days. I need s pen for its other features but I think this will be good for stress relief every now and then.
  • It's one of the great joys of being a Note owner - the doodling!
  • As a designer it was the digitiser on the notes series that drew me to the device. I love drawing and painting with several sketchbooks on the run the Note phone has always been the perfect go to device without breaking out of paper. One of many reasons why the Note phone and my old 2014 Note 10.1 were so loved. There has yet to be another device on the market from any manufacturer other than Samsung to have this capability now at 4096 pressure sensitive levels and they had me at 1024.
  • I loved this feature on my Tab S3, but if I'm not mistaken, there are very few options unless you pay for more colouring books. And I seem to remember the cost being remarkably high for uncoloured images...
  • As a person who hates Touchwiz and refuses to buy a phone with it, this is the one thing Samsung makes that has me intrigued. I draw/paint mostly for entertainment, but I do get paid for it too. My main digital paint tool of choice is Photoshop though I've dabbled with other programs. I've really wanted to try a good tablet though. I was scretly hoping another NVidia Shield tablet would come out, the previous ones were about the right price for me to play with and if it doesn't work to not be sorry for the purchase. Sadly, they seem to have abandoned that and getting even an old Shield tablet to play with seems impossible.
  • Perhaps toy can find an old Note 2014. Slap autodesk #sketchbook pro and have a play. You can expert to psd etc. I use Photoshop with a wacom tablet at home but the note phone or tablet just has no equal.
  • Touchwiz hasn't existed since 2016. It's Samsung Experience now and yes, it's different.
  • I'm sure that just because they call it something else now, it's still the abomination it always has been. When they make their updates straight from Google, and overlays optional downloads available on Google Play/Market, then I'll get more excited about owning another Samsung phone. The Note is literally the only thing I'm even remotely interested strictly due to the stylus, which has not bee available on any pixel/nexus phones thusfar.
  • You know, you can get a REAL coloring book for a lot less.... ;)
  • Hehe true.:-)
  • but will it make phone call an check my facebook account all while writing this post on AC ........noooooo note 8 wins haha
  • Dang, you win! If you lean back an put it on your face, it could BE a face book though ;)