Adobe Fresco has seen a lot of changes since its debut back in 2019. Since then, it has brought illustration, digital painting, animation, and more to the Adobe mobile program roster.
We've talked about a lot of digital art apps in the past, but what makes Adobe Fresco tick?
That's what we're here to find out.
From this in-depth review, we hope that you'll be able to see what makes it worth a look and why it might be the digital art app for you.
Let's jump in.
- Adobe Fresco is a cross-platform compatible digital art and painting app with two types of animation capabilities.
- It uses pixel and vector brushes that are also compatible with Adobe Photoshop on iPad and desktop.
- You can use Adobe Fresco for free, but you'll get more new features and brushes if you use a paid subscription.
#alt# An image of the Adobe Fresco app interface open on a blank canvas.
Why Adobe Fresco?
With so many options for digital art creation, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, Adobe Fresco stands out due to the fact that it's a drawing app with vector and raster brushes.
This makes it possible to use Fresco with other Adobe programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. Raster layers and vector layers are kept separate and can be easily identified by their own icons for better organization.
If you want to know more about how Adobe Fresco compares to other digital art apps, check out our article here: Adobe Fresco vs. Procreate.
Known for its subscription models, Adobe has made Fresco available for free using a freemium model. However, you'll find that your options in the free version are limited in terms of format resolution and brush selection. Even so, you can still upgrade to experience the full power of the app with a number of subscription plans.
Quick note: Before we cover the plans, Adobe Fresco works for iOS devices (iPhone & iPad), Mac, and Windows and can be downloaded from Adobe.com or the appropriate app store.
Currently, Fresco is not available for Android devices.
Adobe Fresco is available with a subscription to any of these plans:
- Adobe Design Mobile Plan for $14.99/month.
- Adobe Photoshop Plan for $20.99/month.
- Adobe Fresco Single App Plan (Yearly) for $9.99/year.
- Adobe Fresco + PS Plan (Monthly) for $9.99/month.
- Adobe All Apps Plan for $54.99/month.
We know this is confusing, so let's break down the differences and what’s included in each plan.
The Adobe Design Mobile Plan includes Adobe Fresco, Illustrator for iPad, Photoshop for iPad, Adobe Express, and 100 GB of Creative Cloud storage. It's designed to be an offering of their best design apps for the iPad in a 50% off bundle. This plan streamlines the entire mobile workflow of a designer, and it can be used for everything from drawing and photo editing to creating social media posts.
The Adobe Photoshop Plan includes Photoshop for desktop and iPad, Adobe Fresco, and 100 GB of Creative Cloud storage. Adobe Photoshop for iPad has made a lot of strides since its initial release in late 2019. You can make pixel-precise edits and composites right on your tablet. Meant to be a companion program with Adobe Fresco, this bundle solidifies the intent of having these programs work together.
The Adobe Fresco Single App Plan (Yearly) delivers the premium features of Adobe Fresco as a standalone purchase with 5 GB of cloud storage. The Fresco app is always available for free with limited features, like a smaller brush selection, minimal Creative Cloud storage, and no high-resolution image support. If you want to take your Fresco experience to the next level but don’t want to subscribe to other Adobe products, this is the best way to do it.
The Adobe Fresco + PS Plan (Monthly) includes the premium version of Adobe Fresco, and the Photoshop for iPad program as well. As companion programs they were designed to work together, with all of your Fresco documents appearing in Photoshop for iPad as well. You'll also get to enjoy 100GB of cloud storage with this plan.
The Adobe All App Plan is the most expensive because it includes all 20+ Adobe apps. You can get experimental with this plan while drawing and designing because every software tool Adobe makes is at your disposal. It's also worth mentioning that all premium subscriptions from Adobe include access to Behance, Adobe’s social media platform, where you can post, share, and follow other artists' work.
Adobe Fresco is often paired with Adobe Photoshop because they are companion apps that were made to complement each other. If you want to move your work between raster and vector while staying in the Adobe ecosystem, this is your solution. What Adobe Fresco lacks, Photoshop can pick up where it left off.
#alt# An image of a digital watercolor painting of a pear in the Adobe Fresco app.
Digital painting and illustration
Adobe Fresco is an impressive tool for digital painting and illustration because of its brush selection. There are over 150 brushes that come with Fresco, and there are plenty more that you can install within the app.
Adobe Fresco uses three different brush types:
- Pixel or raster brushes create the elements of your piece using small dots or pixels. This is what makes these brushes great for adding a lot of texture to your work. Even a simple brush like the Pencil produces a beautiful grainy texture.
- Live brushes are impressive displays of technology and will be a digital painter's best friend. They were designed to realistically mimic wet oil painting and watercolor paint thanks to the power of Adobe Sensei. You can adjust the level of water that your watercolor brushes use and layer your paint strokes to create increasingly real effects without the mess.
- Vector brushes allow you to create scalable art without losing quality. And it's as simple as drawing your strokes directly on your canvas. This is great for beginners because you won't have to worry about plotting any points. While vector graphics are typically very sleek, Fresco has Jitter brushes and settings that give your vector strokes more texture.
Under each brush type, there are subcategories, making it easy for you to choose the brush you need.
In addition to realistic brush capabilities, Fresco also has other unique brush features. Color dynamics allow you to change the color of select pixel brushes in a single stroke. Change the hue of your brush and use the Hue jitter to increase the level of color variations.
Multicolor swatches are built-in swatches that make brushes 3D. The swatches range from colorful spheres and stripes to stars. They're great to use to create unique 3D lettering, gradients, and more. And while they only work with select Pixel brushes and Live brushes, there are still plenty to experiment with.
With an Adobe Fresco subscription, you also get access to seasonal brush pack releases from Kyle T. Webster that are compatible as both Fresco & Photoshop brushes. A lot of the brushes are designed using real textures, and often take inspiration from nature.
#alt# An image of a digital painting of a child chasing a fly with a net created in the Adobe Fresco app.
Animation & motion
Beyond just drawing and painting, you can also animate in Adobe Fresco. The two methods of animation are frame-by-frame and motion path animation.
You can use frame-by-frame to transform any layer into a timeline that you can animate on. This is very similar to timeline animation in Photoshop. With unlimited frames for your animation, there are a number of ways to add dynamic movement to your work.
For animation novices, there are motion paths. This lets you take any element on your canvas and have it follow the path of any drawn stroke. From there, in the Properties panel, you can make it sway, shrink, grow, and more.
No matter which method of animation you use, any object on your timeline can be scaled, rotated, and transformed for added flexibility as you create. The Settings menu includes a number of fine-tuning sliders that allow you to change the speed of your playback, change your playback type, and more.
#alt# An image of a young woman with red hair and a blue sweater on a yellow background with light blue strokes in the Adobe Fresco app.
Working with images
Including traditional photography with illustration can be a dynamic combination. Importing existing images into Adobe Fresco is as easy as choosing them from your Photo Library, Files App, or Creative Cloud. You can also take a new photo with your device and instantly bring it into your canvas.
Because Adobe Fresco is a companion app of Adobe Photoshop, you'll notice a lot of the same kinds of Transformation tools like Skew and Distort. You'll also see Selection tools like Lasso and Magic Wand, which let you isolate parts of your image in just a few taps.
While Fresco wasn't designed for photo editing or compositing, you can still do light editing like distortions and selections in the app. There are also a variety of liquify tools and smudge brushes. For more advanced editing, you should defer to programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
Want some color inspiration? When you import images, you can also automatically create an extracted color palette based on the image. If you don't want the program to create these palettes by default, you can always disable this feature in your App Settings.
Creating a scene in perspective is made easier when you can have the perspective of any image extracted using Perspective Grid Capture. Then you can have your lines snap to the Perspective Grid to follow the vanishing points exactly.
#alt# An image of the word "Hello" in the Adobe Fresco app.
Working with text
Typography can be a powerful element for any kind of graphic design. With any Adobe program subscription, you have access to thousands of fonts through the Adobe Fonts library. Adobe has partnered with font foundries from around the world to give you access to fonts to fit every project.
Even with such a wide library, you might still want to import more fonts. Expand your library by activating fonts through the Adobe Fonts website or the Creative Cloud app. The Creative Cloud app works as a hub for managing all of your cloud documents, fonts, and more across your Adobe programs.
You can also import your own font files from the Files App on your iPad Pro by opening your Fonts panel and hitting the + icon.
To get more use out of fonts in Adobe Fresco, text layers can be converted to a Pixel layer or expanded to a Vector graphic. This makes them more versatile, depending on the project you're creating.
#alt# An image of the Gestures menu open in the Adobe Fresco app.
Gestures & features
As has become standard across many digital drawing and painting apps, you'll find many of the classic gestures in Adobe Fresco. There's 2-finger tap to undo, 3-finger tap to redo, and draw & hold to make a straight line (known as Snapline in Adobe Fresco). You also have the option to show your touches in Adobe Fresco, which comes in handy when creating tutorials and instructional videos.
However, Adobe Fresco has also made waves in the form of the Touch Shortcut. It's a small button that changes the behavior of your tools when you touch and hold them. It's a new way of creating and an interesting way to interact with your drawing app.
The Touch Shortcut has Primary and Secondary functions, which change depending on the tool you have active. For example, with your brush of choice active, you can tap the Touch Shortcut and turn your brush into an eraser. You can also move it anywhere you need to on your screen for added customization and comfort.
What if you need to draw a perfect shape? Drawing Aids are what will help you trace perfect circles, squares, polygons, and more. You'll also find the ruler there, which is handy for creating straight lines and can be rotated freely.
#alt# An image of the Your Files section of the Adobe Fresco app.
Organization, file management, & storage
Organization is very important for digital artists because it makes finding and sharing files a lot easier. Thankfully, Adobe Fresco makes it easy to keep your files organized.
From the Your Files section, you can create and name folders where you’ll drag and drop your work. There are also options to show everything in a list view or thumbnail view. Plus, you can sort your files by Name, Date Modified, or Date Created.
In terms of Cloud Storage, with a premium Adobe Fresco subscription, you'll get 100GB of Creative Cloud storage. This means that your files are constantly syncing and saving in the background. Along with being able to recover deleted files, this feature offers every artist additional peace of mind.
You can also make any of your files available to work on while you're offline by selecting Make Available Offline. Once your connection is restored, all of your files will update automatically.
More than just working on files, Adobe Fresco uses a feature called Version History. This is a benefit of using cloud documents that allows you to revert back to older versions of your file. You can even bookmark certain versions to keep them from being automatically deleted.
#alt# An image of a satyr sitting on a flower open in the Export menu of the Adobe Fresco app.
Exporting & platform compatibility
While you can use Adobe Fresco on your iPad, it's also compatible with a number of touch devices, including Windows Surface tablets and select Wacom tablets. Paired with a pressure-sensitive stylus like an Apple Pencil, you’re ready to take advantage of everything Adobe Fresco has to offer.
Adobe Fresco can export to the following formats:
- PNG Sequence.
Keep in mind that the free version of Adobe Fresco limits your ability to export to high resolution and prevents you from exporting to PSD or PDF formats.
You can expand your workflow using the Open a copy feature. This sends your work to open on Adobe Illustrator on your iPad or desktop. As noted in previous sections, Adobe Photoshop is Fresco's companion app, so you can also open your Fresco files in Adobe Photoshop for the iPad and on the desktop.
Adobe Fresco offers great overall compatibility and versatility for artists to create practically anything they can imagine. You don't have to choose between vector or pixel, and you can enjoy the benefits of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
If you're already familiar with Adobe programs, you'll have an even easier time using Fresco, but the user interface is still simple enough for beginners.
Want to learn even more about Fresco? Check out the Adobe Fresco User Guide here.
Before you jump in, don't forget your Paperlike. The added resistance makes drawing and notetaking feel more natural on the iPad. The reduced glare that allows you to work outdoors doesn't hurt, either. Get one today and feel the difference for yourself!