Adobe Fresco for the Desktop: First Look

Jan 14, 2021 at 04:00 am by Barbara Din

Adobe Fresco for Desktop: First Look

When I first heard about Adobe Fresco I got really excited, only to find out it was only for mobile devices. Since then, I’ve been waiting for the desktop version and now it’s finally here. I’m going to take a look at it and tell you my first impressions. It was conceptually developed for touch devices, so I’m curious to know how it translates to the desktop (my preferred way of working).

According to Adobe, the idea of Adobe Fresco is to combine vector and raster brushes, plus revolutionary live brushes, to deliver a completely natural painting and drawing experience. For artists, illustrators, animators, sketchers, and anyone who wants to discover, or rediscover, the joy of drawing and painting.

At first glance, it looks and feels very much like most contemporary mobile device graphic apps look. That would be ok, given you can work comfortably from the desktop (after all, this is the desktop version, right?) Oh, wait…

After playing with my first few strokes here and there, I wanted to activate the eyedropper tool to pick a color from the canvas. I naturally pressed the button 1 on my stylus, which is what I do when I want to do this from most painting programs, like Photoshop. But nothing happened.

So I went to look for help and I found that in order to use the eyedropper tool on the fly, you have to first activate the “touch shortcut” button and then touch and hold anywhere on the screen until the eyedropper tool appears under your cursor. This might be great for touch devices, but for desktop users it is highly annoying. Even worse if you take into account that you can only activate this by having an actual touch graphic tablet or graphic monitor (I have a multitouch Wacom Cintiq, so I was lucky, but most desktop users won’t). I really, really disliked this. This simple tool is one that a digital painter uses profusely and infinitely, it can’t be a pain in the butt to activate. I’ll give Adobe the benefit of the doubt in imagining that they will address this in future desktop versions, since I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who will feel like this.

Same thing with brush size, for instance. The only thing you can choose your stylus button to do is to use just the eraser, or erase with the brush you’re using. Whaaat?!

Sorry if I started with the bad first. I was really excited to try this one, so this was a bummer and I had to mention it. Not all is bad, though!

There are three types of brushes: pixel brushes, which are similar to the ones you’re used to in Photoshop; live brushes, which use the power of Adobe Sensei to mimic traditional media like watercolors and oils; and vector brushes, which you can use in the same canvas as the rest.

What is conceptually new in Adobe Fresco are the live brushes, so I’ll focus on that.

I’ll put it simply and quickly: they are great! Both watercolors and oils flow and work beautifully, with enough parameters to make them work exactly as you want them to. I must say, though: I’m particularly in love with the watercolors. I’ve tried my share of programs that mimic traditional media and these are truly amazing. You really, really, feel as if you’re using the real thing. The way the colors interact, the way the water flow influences what happens, everything looks and feels as it should.

You can even use oils and watercolors in the same layer and make them interact. This would be really weird in real life, but thankfully you can play this way digitally without making a mess!



I must confess I have mixed feelings about a program that I was really excited about and waited some time for. The under-the-hood engine part of it, I loved. But in order to use it comfortably and periodically, I would need for the desktop version to be more in tune with the desktop way of working. If you read any of my software reviews, you know by now how important I think the workflow and ease of use is.

I can only hope Adobe will take this into account in future versions of Fresco and give us desktop users a comfortable way of painting with such lovely tools.



Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links:
Barbara Din YouTube Channel
Barbara Din Instagram



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