Instruction Manual v4.5

Few things in life satisfy like creating with your hands. Concepts is a power tool for both quick-and-dirty and accurate, intricate design jobs. It's portable and powerful, and it helps you get things done. This is your instruction manual.

As Concepts supports both iPad and iPhone, you’ll see some references that apply only to iPad or iPhone. You’ll also see suggested follow-up videos you can watch on YouTube or Youku (in China).

This manual is available in English, German, Japanese and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) at You can also download a PDF version of this manual (2MB, 36 pages).

The first time you open Concepts, you’ll start in the Gallery. This is where all of your drawings are stored. They’re organized into “projects”.

Figure 1. The Gallery

  1. Start Something New. New drawings, new projects, import an image, or take a quick picture for later markup.
  2. Breadcrumbs. You're now in the Gallery, in the Something project.
  3. Pro Shop. Show your status and support us!
  4. Project Scrubber. Slide your finger to quickly scroll through projects. Or, swipe left/right to go one-at-a-time.
  5. Help. Always available with a tap.
  6. Your Profile. Tap for stats and preferences.
  7. Project Meta. Tap to change.
  8. Drawings. All of your drawings (for this project). Swipe left/right to page between projects.
  9. On the Clipboard. This shows when there is something pasteable on the clipboard.

How to use it

(Video) Using the Gallery

To create a new drawing or new project, tap the "+" button.

To return to the Gallery from a drawing, use the very first (top) button in the drawing toolbar. This is covered more here.

To scroll through projects, swipe horizontally, or drag the dotted bar at the bottom of the screen. To view more drawings in a project, swipe up and down.

To select a drawing, just tap-and-hold it. When you let go, some options will appear above the drawing allowing you to Copy (Duplicate) or Delete that drawing.

To move a drawing, either inside a project or to a different project, tap-and-hold it to pick it up, then move it around. If you move towards the edges of the screen, you’ll move between projects. Let go to drop it anywhere you want.

To delete or duplicate a drawing, tap-and-hold it, then let go. Options for both will appear directly above the drawing. Deleting a drawing requires confirmation.

To restore a deleted drawing immediately after deleting, shake your device to Undo.

Project Meta

Each project has its own set of information attached. These come in handy for organizing, searching, and keeping things straight in your head. If you’re on iPad, this will be on the left side of the drawings, or above the drawings if you’re on iPhone. Just tap any field to update.

To rename a project or drawing, tap the existing name; likely “Untitled”. Enter a name, then tap the Done key or the close button to solidify it.

Dates show when you created the project, and when it was last modified.

You can set a location for the drawing, which is handy for remembering where a project site is, or where you came up with your brilliant idea. You can set it by tapping the location button, which starts out as “Unknown”. You'll see a blank line that can hold whatever location you like, or you can opt to set the location automatically. Tap the crosshairs to enable it — you'll see a prompt that asks if it's ok for us to use your current location. We respect your privacy. If, for some reason, you hit “Don't Allow”, you can re-enable it in the Settings App → Privacy → Location Services → Concepts. It's worth noting that enabling automatic location recording will start tagging every new drawing you make with your current location. Of course, you can turn it off in the Settings App or override it whenever you like.

Setting the author for a project is much the same. We'll assume you drew everything, but you can override that with a simple tap on the author field. Enter a name, then tap the screen or Done to apply it.

The “Me” button

This isn't really an account. There's no password and we don't store it on our servers (unless you subscribe to updates). It is a place you can personalize your experience a bit, see some interesting stats, and stay in touch with us. We love hearing from you, and we love sharing what we're working on, too. It also gives you important information about us, where to reach us, and to whom we owe gratitude. You might find it interesting.

Your avatar is pulled from using a hash of your email address, and can be updated there.

The Interface

Let's begin with freehand sketching; the most familiar way to capture smooth, flowing strokes. Ink flows naturally from your finger or stylus, and is beautifully responsive.

Figure 3. Freehand Interface

  1. Back to the Gallery.
  2. Favorite Tools. A quick way to switch between tools; each is configurable.
  3. Undo / Redo. Redo appears when available. See Settings for gesture shortcuts.
  4. Precision Mode See below.
  5. Layers. First five free. Infinite in Pro Pack. See below.
  6. Objects. A scrollable menu of pre-made vectors you can drag-and-drop-and-edit. See below.
  7. Import. Bring in images from your clipboard, photo library, Dropbox, Adobe CC, etc.
  8. Export. Send your images anywhere in many different formats.
  9. Settings. Configure your paper size, units, stylus, and more.
  10. Change Tool. Affects the active “favorite” from the main toolbar.
  11. Tool Size. Tap to show slider, or just drag up/down while closed. Tap-and-hold to set a specific size.
  12. Opacity. Tap to show slider, or just drag.
  13. Smoothing. Or wiggle factor, whichever you prefer. Tap to show slider, etc.
  14. COPIC Color Wheel. Thanks to our good friends at COPIC Marker. See below.
  15. Color Recommendations. Colors that work well together mathematically. Scroll up and down for additional options.
  16. Favorite Colors. Tap-and-hold any color button in the wheel to save into this scrollable list.
  17. Pin/Unpin. If unpinned, the customization menu will collapse when you draw.
  18. Help. Always a tap away. This is part of the HUD described below.

How to use it

Draw with one finger, and zoom and pan the infinite canvas with two fingers.

Using a Stylus

Of course, you can use any standard capacitive stylus. There are many good ones, but we like the Wacom Bamboo stylus for its solid weighting and unassuming pocket clip, or the same one with a built-in pen.

We also support the most popular Bluetooth styli, which bring greater control over line weight through surface pressure and in some cases, configurable shortcut buttons. We also support Palm Rejection, writing angle adjustments, and pressure curve trimming. Here are the models we support, and Amazon partner links to them:

(Video) You can also watch instructional videos on how to connect your Wacom, Adonit or Pencil by FiftyThree stylus.

The shortcut buttons on the stylus can be configured through the Settings panel once the pen has been connected. You'll see two new menu options appear: Button One and Button Two. There are several options available: No Action, Undo, Redo, Toggle Precision Mode, Adjust Last Stroke, Eraser (momentary), Toggle Tool Wheel, Toggle Color Wheel, and Toggle Interface (which hides/shows the toolbar and HUD).

Note when using Palm Rejection: Make sure you turn off "Multitouch Gestures" in the Settings app (under General). It causes conflicts and you'll see the screen jerk around a bit if you don't disable it.

Left-Handed Support

Concepts works great for lefties and righties. Check the Settings screen for Interface -> Preferred Hand -> Left Hand.

Infinite Canvas

Concepts is equipped with an infinite canvas, which is our way of saying you can extend your paper in any direction you need it, as far as you need it to go. You can pan using two fingers, or one finger while using a special View Only Mode.

Use a two finger pinch/spread gesture to zoom. Lines stay sharp no matter how far you go. You'll notice there are "zoom steps" at common increments which help you find standard sizes by feel.

If you move far away from your drawing, you'll see some pointers appear on the outside edges of the screen. Tap one to quickly navigate to the closest off-screen stroke.

View Only Mode

If you want to move around the canvas without making any accidental marks (useful if you hand your device to someone else), turn the active tool off by tapping it. Then you can use one finger to pan around safely.

Heads Up Display (HUD)

Used by fighter pilots and Iron Man, the HUD shows you options and information that are useful to the state of your drawing. If in Precision Mode, for instance, the HUD gives you one-tap options for turning Snap and Measure on/off. If you're Adjusting something, you can change selection options or measurements through the HUD directly.

On iPhone the HUD is located in the blue bar on the top of the canvas. It will always show you the level of zoom and rotation, but you can tap it or swipe it down to show more. Either tap the canvas or swipe up to hide it again.

On the iPad the HUD is located in the top right corner of the canvas. You can collapse the HUD by swiping it to the right. Either tap the resulting button or swipe it left to unhide.

You can also configure a shortcut (either Stylus button or two/three finger tap) for “Toggle Interface” that will show/hide the HUD and Toolbar with one touch. Look in the Settings screen to configure.


The toolbar contains five spots for your favorite tools (or seven on iPad Pro). Each one can be set to any tool, size, color, smoothing, and opacity. When you start a new drawing, the tools and settings you used in your last open drawing carry over to the new one. When using iPhone in landscape the toolbars can be scrolled to show all the available options.

To set a new tool, tap the tool button; it’s the first button that sits next to the main toolbar. If the menu is collapsed, that button will open it. If the menu is open, that button probably says “Pen” or “Pencil”, etc. Then spin the wheel until you find the tool you want. Each pen is a live preview of the color you've selected so you can see what it looks like on-canvas.

The size, opacity and smoothing buttons are actually sliders. Tap once to see the slider and change it, or just start dragging (kind of quickly) over the button as a shortcut. You can set a specific size with a tap-and-hold of the size button.

(Video) You can also watch this video about the tools and favorites.


Your base palette is 358 beautiful hand-selected colors, compliments of the amazing people at COPIC Marker. Learn about COPIC and their products for professionals at

Figure 4. COPIC Colors

  1. COPIC Color Wheel. 358 shades of pure bliss.
  2. Custom Color Entry. Tap to show more options.

While the color wheel is showing, the HUD has additional information and options for changing colors. On iPhone, the HUD says “Tap to see Color Options”. On iPad, you’ll see color information for the current color. You can tap any of those text-based colors to enter a configuration screen. Use any field to input your own custom colors.

Favorite Colors, History & Recommendations

In the same color configuration screen, there are two rows of colors that can be set as favorites. Using the custom color fields mentioned above you can create new colors, then tap-and-hold the current color box to set it as a favorite. Tap-and-hold any favorite color to remove it.

Back on the canvas, the current tool menu has two color bars (one combined one if you’re on iPhone).

The first section includes the top five colors used in your drawing, and the following five sections are based on pure color math. There are Shades, Analogous, Monochromatic, Complementary, and Triadic colors based on the current color. Scroll through them vertically to change palettes.

The second is a quick-access bar for your favorite colors, so you have them instantly available. This is also scrollable.

(Video) Favorite Colors

Pinning the Menu

Below the favorite colors bar there’s a pin button that allows you to keep the tool preferences menu open at all times, or allow it to close whenever you’re busy working on something. It’s a great space saver. On iPhone, the menu is “un-pinned” by default (outline icon), while the iPad version is “pinned” open by default (filled icon).


Watercolor: This wet brush blends with consecutive strokes in the same layer, as long as they’re not interrupted by other types of strokes (like Pen). You can use the eraser tool (details below) to mask different pieces without affecting the blending. Use with infinite layers to get a nice edge effect.

Wire: This tool behaves more like a traditional CAD or vector program would; the line width is maintained at any zoom level, making it perfect for wireframes, light CAD drawings, perspective layouts, and more.


Text labels are an easy, clean way to add annotations to your drawing. You can manipulate text the same easy way you manipulate other strokes and images - with gestures.

First, you'll need to set the active tool to Text using the tool picker. It might already be on your toolbar.

Then, tap anywhere on screen to add a new label. The keyboard will appear; type or paste text, then dismiss the keyboard to solidify the label.

You can select it with a long press the same way you'd adjust any other stroke or image; with a tap-and-hold.

Snap affects not only placement but also rotation at 15 degree angles. Just activate Precision Mode on the toolbar while your text is selected to enable it.

To delete a label, select it, then tap the delete button on the toolbar. Copy, Lock, Flip, and Opacity options are also available.

Concepts has full support for any language your device can input, plus emojis. We are currently limited to a single font, but we plan to allow font selection in a future update. Let us know if that’s important to you.

Adaptive Eraser

If you're comfortable with tools like Adobe Photoshop or Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, it may be easier to think of the eraser as a masking tool. Since every stroke is adjustable, the eraser tool visually removes anything underneath it, but the data isn't actually gone. You can still retrieve old strokes later, or adjust your mask as your drawings progress.

If you want to remove strokes completely, try selecting them with a tap-and-hold and then use "delete". This is covered more in Adjust.

Shortcut! Double tap the eraser button to clear your canvas and start fresh. Here's a video.

The eraser stays the same size regardless of your zoom level. That means the further in you zoom, the smaller it's effects will be -- very useful for working with details. You can also change the size of the eraser using the Size slider, and its effects will scale the same way.

(Video) Transcend the Eraser


Mistakes can be wonderful, but sometimes they're not. Concepts has an undo button (and a redo button), but you may end up using it less than you think. If you've purchased the Pro Pack, you can just select and fix the offending line, or delete it completely, anytime. It's a way of going back in time and selectively removing or altering, rather than a brute force undo that loses all your latest work. We think you'll prefer it.

If you prefer undo/redo, you’ll be happy to know we have configurable shortcuts, both on an active stylus and via two + three finger tap gestures. Check out Settings to configure them.

Selecting for Adjust

Adjust Mode is for fixing things. Or for playing in your creative sandbox. It's for people that can draw, and people that can't.

You can move, stretch and rotate lines, create objects, change the tool it was drawn with, delete it, make copies, flip it, even lock it down to the page. Combined with Precision Mode, you can snap it to other important points or set the line length just by typing a number. It's really powerful, and really fun to use.

How to use it

Adjust is based on a selection, meaning you'll need to select something to adjust it. There are a few ways to do that.

  • Tap-and-hold any point on the screen. This is a point select that will search a small radius around your finger, and may or may not return some options. This is detailed below.
  • Tap-hold-drag from any point on the screen for a lasso. This lets you select a whole bunch of things all at once. More info below.
  • Set one of your favorite tools to the Selection tool. This removes the need for a long-press, which might be helpful if you find the sensitivity is too high, or you like the old-fashioned (desktop) way. Tap anything to point select, or drag to lasso.

There are a few cases where selection isn't available. Specifically, when a Shape Guide is on screen, you won't be able to long-press. Using the Selection tool will automatically disable an active Shape Guide. Also, selection is not available in View Only Mode.

Point select

Because your finger is thicker than a mouse pointer, we search the surrounding area for strokes, images, text, and even eraser marks. Here's what you'd see if you tap-and-hold the screen (quite steady — it's sensitive) WITHOUT being directly on top of something.

Each button has the tool type it was drawn with and a line pointing to it that indicates the color of the target item. Tap any button to select it, OR keep dragging to start a lasso and select multiple things.


You can select more than one thing at a time with a simple tap-hold-drag. Or just a drag using the Selection tool in the Pen menu.

Related: Grouping

Selection Filtering & Display

By default, selection works across layers. Sometimes, you might want to only select a group of strokes in a single layer (ie. grab only the marker strokes). To do this, make a selection, then look in the HUD under “Looking in Active Layer / Looking in All Layers”. You'll want “Active Layer” for this example.

Similarly, you may want to grab only the strokes that are completely inside the selection lasso. Look for “Partial Strokes Included / Partial Strokes Excluded”, and make sure you use “Excluded”.

These options are also included in the Settings menu in the toolbar.

You'll notice that Concepts automatically highlights the selection by graying out everything else. You can disable that in the Settings menu as well, under “Highlight Selection”.

Adjust Mode: Make Changes!

Now that you have a selection, we can make changes to it. Let's go down the list.

Figure 7. Adjust Mode

  1. Deselect
  2. Duplicate Selection
  3. Lock / Unlock Selection
  4. Delete Selection
  5. Group / Ungroup Selection
  6. Extract to New Layer
  7. Undo / Redo
  8. Precision Mode. Enables Snap & Measure
  9. Flip Horizontal
  10. Flip Vertical
  11. Change Properties. Now that we have a selection, all of these buttons affect the current selection.
  12. Active Selection and Popup Menu. Everything else turns gray. If Measure is On, live measurements appear. Tap one to solidify.
  13. Active Selection Handles. Pull to stretch, or tap to activate Distort / Skew / Warp.

Move a Selection

Use one finger to drag a selection without changing any other property. You can also move with two fingers, but it may Stretch or Rotate unless those actions are turned off in the HUD.


Moving two fingers in a pinch / spread motion will lengthen and shorten the selection without changing the line weight. This is useful if you make one side of a box a bit shorter than the rest, or if you're making two concentric circles for a ring.

You can disable Stretch on the popup menu. Stretch -> Scale -> Stretch Off.
Stretch is On Stretch is Off


Like Stretch, but also affects the line weight of the selection (ie. makes the lines thinner and thicker as you pinch and spread your fingers). The button is a three-way toggle with Stretch on the popup menu. Stretch -> Scale -> Static.
Scale is On

Non-Uniform Scale / Stretch

Or, how to stretch something in a single direction... Just pull one corner handle when you have something selected. Boom. Put a second finger on-screen to lock the aspect ratio.


Moving two fingers in a rotating motion (clockwise or counterclockwise) will rotate the selection. The HUD will show the relative rotation angle to the last time you rotated.

You might find that disabling Stretch (above) helps you rotate your selection without altering the size.

You can disable Rotate in the HUD under “Rotate is On”.
Rotate is On

Copy / Paste

You can copy any selection to your device’s clipboard for use across multiple drawings or in other apps. Simply make a selection, then tap “Copy” in the pop-up menu (pictured above). If the Objects menu is open (discussed later), you can drag any selection to it to Copy.

To paste, tap-and-hold any blank spot on the canvas, then hit the Paste icon in the pop-up menu. You can also paste from the Import screen, using the thumbnail displayed on top or drag in the first object from the Objects menu.


You can make copies of any selection by using the “Duplicate” option in the pop-up menu, or using the duplicate icon on the toolbar. See above screenshot.


Items in a selection can be deleted using the pop-up menu that appears when you have selected something, or via the trash can icon on the toolbar. See above screenshot.


Sometimes you may want to keep an object where it is, like a background image for tracing. Once selected, tap the Lock button in the toolbar to lock it down. Tap again to unlock.

Extract to a New / Different Layer

If you have a selection you want to move to a different layer, open the Layers panel, then drag the selection to any layer and drop it in. You can also drop it on “+ New Layer” or on the active layer to move it to the top of the layer.

Flip Horizontal / Vertical

Having mirror images of something can give your design consistency and even make it more visually appealing. Once selected, tap the Horizontal or Vertical Flip buttons on the toolbar to flip your selection.


You can create temporary objects using the Group icon in the toolbar. Next time you want to grab that selection, just use a regular tap-and-hold and everything will pick back up at once. This is useful when you're layering objects but want to maintain edit-ability.


Changing tools with an active selection will re-draw the selection using a new tool type. For example, you can go from Pencil to Pen, Pen to Airbrush, or Airbrush to Eraser. This may be useful if you drew the perfect curve in pencil and you want to keep the same line when you start working on darker outlines.


A selection can be updated live with different line weights, too. Drag the slider to see the change reflected in realtime. This is useful for creating thicker lines around the outside of an object (like a building) that should draw more attention.


Similarly, you can change the color of any drawn stroke, after the fact. This is useful if a client wants to see a single chair in multiple colors or shades, for example. Tap any color while a selection is active to apply it.


You can fade an object, such as an image for tracing or a color layer that needs to blend in, by dragging the opacity slider while a selection is active.


If you want the perfect line and you draw it quite slowly, you'll get extra waviness thanks to Concepts' sensitivity. You can straighten these out after-the-fact using the smoothing slider, which works in orders of magnitude. Small waves will disappear first, then progressively larger waves, all the way to a completely straight line.

(Fun) Another fun use for smoothing is to “encode” handwriting into a series of tiny, short strokes (smoothing: 100%). If you pass it to a friend, they can “decode” the message by selecting it, then dropping the smoothing to 0% where it's readable again. Your teacher will think they're just random chicken-scratches. :)

(Video) See this video about selecting and editing objects or strokes.

Advanced Transforms

(Video) How to Use Advanced Transforms

Concepts gives you the ability to transform any selection (strokes, images, text) in ways that, until now, were only available on powerful desktop applications. Cast shadows with Skew, reshape facial features with Distort, or Warp any floor plan into an elevation.


Once you have something selected, tap one of the corner handles to highlight it (turns into a filled circle), then pull it using one finger. Anywhere on the canvas is fine, which should make it easier to position accurately.

Perspective Warp

Tap two selection handles, then use a two-finger pinch or spread motion to squeeze or repel the handles. Tip: use the point the boundary lines connect as a vanishing point.


Tap two selection handles, then use one finger to move the two handles along their shared axis. This is great for making shadows, or magically turning a square into a parallelogram.


Vector transforms are awesome because they’re not permanent, and they don’t mess up your stroke quality. You can reset whatever transforms you made by double tapping the selection.

Object Library

(Video) How to Use Objects

Relevant to both Selection and Manipulation, Objects are groups of strokes like any other selection, but designed to be purpose-based and re-usable. We’ve built an official Object Library with hundreds of hand-made, royalty-free* objects designed to help you learn and speed up your workflow.

Included objects range from basic shapes and body forms to UI helpers, flowchart symbols, architectural symbols and a whole lot more. We’re updating regularly, so let us know what you want!

* Royalty-Free refers to our license, where you’re free to use any object you’ve purchased from the Library for any purpose, business or personal, with no continuing obligation or attribution requirements. In other words, use them for any art you create with no additional fees or attribution.

Figure 8. Objects

  1. Objects button. Activate the Objects menu (2).
  2. Objects menu. Contains all the objects in a given pack. Drag-and-drop creation.
  3. Clipboard. Shows whatever is on your clipboard. Drag here to copy. Tap-and-hold to clear.
  4. More button. Tap to bring up the Object Library (5).
  5. Object Library. A collection of high-quality vectors.

The Menu

You can activate the objects menu from the toolbar, pictured above. If you like gesture shortcuts you can also activate the menu using a two or three finger tap, configurable through Settings. Also in settings is the ability to change the position (on iPad) from Right Side to Bottom. On iPhone, it’s always on the bottom.

There are lots of objects in each pack, and to reach them you’ll need to scroll the menu with a swipe.

To use an object, just give it a tap, or better still, drag it onto the canvas. When you let go, the object will be inserted on the same layer you’re using (with a few exceptions). If you decide you don’t want it (and you haven’t let go), drag it back over the menu. If it’s already on the canvas, tap the trash button to remove it. Of course, if you’ve already solidified it on screen, you can tap-and-hold to select as described above.

Objects are used the same as any selection. Drag it around, resize with two fingers, distort and warp with the handles, etc. Pretty awesome, right?

Where appropriate, Objects in Concepts automatically inherit the properties of your current brush, so if you have the menu open and you switch from pen to pencil or change the color, the objects in the menu will change too. It should speed up your workflow even further.

To clear the clipboard, just tap-and-hold that clipboard option (the first object) on the menu.

To create your own objects in the current pack (creating packs discussed later), select anything on screen, then drag it into the menu. Rearrange the menu with our standard tap-and-hold gesture, then drag into position and drop. Note that packs you buy are read-only.

To delete an object, tap-and-hold it in the menu, release it, then tap the trash icon.

To rename an object, tap-hold-release, then tap the rename icon.

The Library

Objects by nature are seemingly endless, so the Object Library is where you’ll see your packs and find new ones. We update these regularly, so check back often for updates. Tap the “More” button to access the Library.

Each pack is described by its contents. Scroll up and down to see more packs, and left/right to see the contents of any given pack. There’s also a Search bar (just above the object packs when you scroll) that will give you a live look at the packs relevant to your search.

On the left side of each pack is a color bar. Blue means the pack is available for purchase. Grey means it’s already yours. Red means it has recently been updated.

If you tap on a blue pack, you’ll see a short description, an Object count, a Buy button, and a Sample button. Every purchase-able pack has at least a few samples, so you can try them out for free. There are no limitations on those samples, and all objects are Royalty-Free as described above.

If you tap on a grey pack, it’ll close the Library and load up the Object Menu. Tap or drag the objects and adjust away!

Create your own packs by tapping the “+ New” button in the top-right corner of the library. The library will close and you’ll see a nearly-empty menu appear.

From there it’s easy; make a selection, then drag it to the “+” icon. See “create your own objects” above.

You can also reorder packs in the library with a tap-hold-drag, or delete packs with a tap-hold-release.

All object packs have a set of meta information you can access and control with a tap-hold-release on the pack. This info will help you search and filter for it in the event you have too many packs to browse through.

Also included is a Properties section that gives you control over what happens when you drag an object onto the canvas. For example, if you’re dragging a basic shape on screen, you might want it to automatically apply the current brush to it, or the brush width or color. These are selectable individually for convenience, and may not apply to every object.


If you love the Stickers feature in iMessage (iOS10+), you’ll be thrilled to know that any object you create as described above is also a sticker. Make your favorite emojis, characters, or other useful symbols and send them to anyone. Look for the Concepts app in the App Store above the iMessage keyboard (already there if you have Concepts installed) and select your favorite pack, then tap the sticker or drag it in to use it!

Precision Mode & Accuracy

What if you want the perfect line to begin with? Use Precision Mode -- a switch that enables precision and accuracy using smart “drawing aids”, while still allowing freehand sketching. It's lightweight CAD designed for touch. Here are the features that enable it.

Snap-to Sketching (Auto-complete)

Like auto-complete for your strokes, Snap-to Sketching automatically connects your line start and end points to nearby strokes, making your drawing flow faster and more accurately than ever. To use it, just turn on Precision Mode and start sketching.

If there is more than one good option nearby, you'll see some small blue snap bubbles pop up. Tap one to connect if it's useful, or ignore if it's not.


Snap automatically connects important points when they are close to each other. Snap is used in conjunction with Adjust and Shape Guides.

With single stroke selections, snap points are the beginning and endpoints of any given line.

With multi-stroke selections, snap applies to the four corners and the center point.

When used with Shape Guides, snap applies to the handles and the center point.

While the Snap option in the HUD is a quick way to turn snap on / off, you can fine tune your settings in the Settings panel. There are options for enabling / disabling Snap-to Sketching, Snap to Grid, Snap to Keypoints (significant points on the canvas or layout guides), and an option to Snap only to the Active Layer.

Shape Guides

Shape Guides are the quickest way to get perfect geometry, like a virtual straight-edge or compass. Our inspirations came from real-world objects (like a flexible index card for arc and an elastic band for ellipse) so using them should feel completely natural and will speed up your workflow well beyond their physical counterparts.

Shape Guides are designed to give you finite control over your lines, rather than acting like stamps or patterns which could be easily made by drawing something (optionally complex) once, then duplicated using Adjust, Grouping, or Layers.

Figure 9. Precision Mode

  1. Precision Mode on/off.
  2. Shape Guide buttons (uncollapsed). Normally, only one is showing until you tap.
  3. Handles. Drag one to pivot or two to change shape. Use two fingers AWAY FROM handles to scale and rotate without altering the shape.
  4. Crosshairs. Exact center of shape guide. Drag to move without altering shape. Double tap for special function.
  5. Measurements. Active if Measure is enabled in the HUD. Tap to solidify any measurement to the drawing. Change value with a tap-and-hold. Takes scale and units into account.
  6. Max Line Weight. Indicated by gray shaded area. (Will turn pink if eraser enabled.)
  7. The HUD: Guide Settings like Stretch & Rotate control two-finger off-handle behavior. Snap & Measure settings enable, obviously, snap and measure. The Scale Shortcut allows setting scale based on a known value, such as in a picture.

The maximum line width for the tool you are using is shown as a light gray shaded area along the guide path. If Measure is On, the dotted line becomes true to scale and functions like a real ruler or compass.

How to use it

First, enable Precision Mode using the Grid button on the main toolbar. The shape guide button will appear on screen underneath the color palette button, above the color recommendations.

Tap the guide button to enable it. The list of shapes will drop down so you can select one.

There's also a gesture for quickly enabling / disabling shape guides; tap the screen anywhere with two fingers.

We'll try to recall your last position, if you haven't moved the canvas too far away.

Start by moving the handles, one or two at a time. Using one handle will pivot around the opposite one, while moving two handles closer together or further away will alter the shape itself (except for the straight line guide). It won't take long to get the hang of it.

Letting go of the handles brings more options. Use two fingers away from the handles to scale and rotate the shape guide without affecting the shape itself. You can lock the guide against scaling/rotation using the HUD options labeled "Scale is On" and "Rotate is On".

You can drag the center crosshairs to move the shape without altering it.

Double tap the center crosshairs for a special function.

  • The Line tool will limit your strokes to between the handles.
  • The Arc tool will become a perfect half-circle.
  • The Angle tool will snap to 90 degrees.
  • The Ellipse tool will become a perfect circle.
  • The Rectangle tool will become a perfect square.

To solidify the line, just draw over it, or next to it (away from the handles). If you have Snap-to Sketching enabled and you're close to a handle, your line will automatically start/stop at the handle.

To disable the guide, tap anywhere with two fingers, or tap the guide button on the toolbar.

(Video) See these videos about using arc, ellipse & rectangle and line & angle shape guides.


One shining argument for digital creation is the built-in capacity for calculation. Concepts leverages this with the ability to pick up and move pen strokes, use shape guides that are more flexible than their physical counterparts, and lots more, but it also lends itself perfectly to measurement calculations that take units, scale and even screen resolution into account.

Every stroke is measured, and we expose that information in a way you can easily access, save, alter, or ignore. You can even create floating measurements that aren't attached to a stroke or group for more general use like adding a scale indicator on the drawing.


To turn Measure on, Precision Mode needs to be enabled. Tap the Grid button, then look in the HUD for “Measure is Off”. If it's already on, you're all set.

The other important piece is setting your preferred Units & Scale. Units are the base measurement system: Metric, Imperial, or Screen (point or pixel). Scale is a multiplier that defines how big an object is in real life as compared to its size on screen. Popular scales for model airplanes (for example) are 1:24 or 1:72, which indicates that the drawing is 1/72nd of the real size. You can set both of these in the Settings panel.

There's also a handy shortcut for setting Scale based on a known object in a picture. Lets say you're a forensic scientist and have a picture of a footprint with a dollar bill next to it. You know the dollar bill is 6.14 inches long and you want to measure the size of the footprint, but the picture isn't actual size and you don't want to do the math. Let Concepts do it for you!

  1. Import the photo using the Import button on the toolbar.
  2. Turn on Precision Mode and Measure.
  3. Turn on the Line guide and match the handles up to the long edge of the dollar bill.
  4. Tap “Scale is 1:1” in the HUD. You'll notice the first blanks have been filled in with the current length of the line guide.
  5. Enter 6.14 inches in the second set of boxes (under Scaled) and tap anywhere to close the overlay. Now when you move the Line guide handles to encompass the length of the footprint, you'll see the real-world value of that footprint. Mystery solved!

Two Types of Measurements

There are two types of measurements in this world; those that are attached to a stroke or object, and those that are not.

  • Attached measurements tell you the length of something specific. Editing these affects whatever they're attached to.
  • Detached measurements can define a random width or offset. Editing these has no effect on anything else.

Saving and removing measurements

Anytime you see a measurement pop up, it's fair game for saving. Tap any measurement to save it to the canvas.

Removing a measurement is only slightly more complicated, because of the two types of measurements stated above. For both types, tap-and-hold to select the measurement.

If the measurement is attached to something (like a leader pointing directly to a line, or a width surrounding a bounding box), just tap it to de-solidify.

If it's a Detached measurement, tap the Delete button in the toolbar.

Editing a Measurement

Sometimes you want to change the length of something to a specific value. Here's how:

For individual strokes, select the stroke with a tap-and-hold, then either tap-and-hold the measurement, or tap the “L: 100“ in the HUD.

For Shape Guide measurements, activate the shape guide (and Measure if not already on), then tap-and-hold the appropriate measurement.

For an angle drawn with the angle tool, tap-and-hold the stroke (or guide), then tap-and-hold the angle measurement.

For the bounds of an image, tap-and-hold the image to expose the bounds, then tap-and-hold the appropriate measurement on screen or in the HUD.

For an offset, select the object-to-be-moved, start dragging it with one finger in the intended direction, then tap-and-hold the offset measurement that appears at the center of the object's outgoing edge.

For detached measurements, tap-and-hold the measurement to select it, then tap-and-hold again to modify it.

Configuring the Canvas

Concepts adapts very nicely to your individual workflow and project needs. Let’s look at the Settings panel:

Paper Type / Background Color

Your creative space needs to be comfortable so your ideas can be wild and crazy. Concepts includes a number of familiar working backgrounds, from paper to transparency. We've included everything we've had requests for. Select your favorite from the Settings menu, and we'll apply it until you say otherwise.

It's worth mentioning that your paper type (texture) affects certain types of strokes, like Watercolor, for a more realistic appearance.

Paper Size

Drawing in Concepts is like drawing on a real piece of paper. We've included most of the standard sizes for working on architectural plans, app mockups, film industry storyboards, even business and index cards. Or, go infinite.

To change the configured size, open the Settings panel, and tap the size entry in the left column. Enter any custom value, or select from the common options at the top of the keyboard, like "Retina iPad" or "Ponoko P0".

You can reposition the paper boundary on screen with a simple tap-hold-drag on the blue border of your drawing.

While exporting, look for the "Configured Size" option, which cuts anything outside the bounds of the paper from the resulting image.

(Video) See this video about changing your paper size.

Grid Type & Display

Grids provide great reference while drawing accurate shapes. You can configure your favorite grid to always display on screen, only during precision mode, or not at all, over any paper type. All of the grids scale while you zoom to maintain your reference points.

Gesture Configuration

Certain gestures can be configured in the Settings panel.

  1. The long press delay timer (for selecting items on the canvas) is 0.4 seconds by default, but can be raised or lowered depending on your needs (especially helpful if you happen to write really small). Tune it to 0.0 to disable it completely.
  2. The two- and three-finger-tap can be set to any number of actions, including Undo, Redo, quickly adjusting the last stroke, showing the color wheel, enabling precision mode, and more.


Layering is an easy way to organize and separate pieces of a drawing (like an object), and makes erasing/masking easier across different stroke types. It's like using a stack of trace paper or transparencies.

Figure 13. Layers

  1. Layer Sorting. Manual or Automatic by Tool
  2. New Layer. Inserts a new layer above the layer that is currently in focus.
  3. Layer Options. Select, Lock, Duplicate, Delete, Merge Down, Rename, and a quick opacity slider.
  4. Layer Scrubber & Focus Mode. Slide your finger up/down the visibility icons to get a quick, in-context view of your drawing. Tap the focused layer again to exit Focus Mode.

The layer interface is a list, stacked from the bottom layer on bottom and top layer on top. You’ll see a visibility icon, small thumbnail, the layer name, and the layer opacity for each layer. On larger devices, when enabled, this list will sit under your tools for quick access.

What makes this list unique is Focus Mode. Try scrubbing (running your finger) over the visibility icons (eyes) and you’ll quickly isolate each layer in turn, hiding all other layers so you get an in-context view of the canvas. You’re not limited to viewing, either; you can draw, move the canvas, select, etc in this mode. Tap the active layer to return to the normal state.

The other major difference between the Concepts’ layer system and a traditional one is Auto-Layering. Note the button at the top that says “Sorted Automatically” or “Sorted Manually”.

When Automatic is selected, Concepts will automatically create layers and sort them based on the active tool. Pencil strokes go in one layer, pen goes in another, etc. Every time you change tools, the active layer will change automatically. We'll order them in the most common drawing order (listed top to bottom): Measurements, Text, Pens, Airbrush, Marker, Fill, Pencil, Watercolor, Images, Grid, Paper.

Manual mode gives you complete control over where things go, how you arrange them, what they’re called, etc.

Everything else is pretty standard:

  • Tap a layer to use it.
  • Tap-and-hold the thumbnail to rearrange layers.
  • Tap-and-hold the layer name to rename it.
  • Tap the active layer for a list of actions, including Select, Lock, Copy, Delete, Merge, or quickly change Opacity of an entire layer.

To extract a selection to a new or different layer, make the selection and drag it into the appropriate layer on the list. You can also drag it to the “+ New Layer” button to extract to a new layer.

The Free version of Concepts includes 5 layers, or more if you leave it in Automatic mode. The Pro Pack includes infinite layers, so you can create as many as you like.

(Video) Mastering Layers

Importing Images

Most designs start with some form of visual inspiration. We recommend putting those pieces of inspiration somewhere close by - perhaps on your canvas - when you're starting out. Use them for tracing, collections, visual reference, etc.

There are four ways to import an image into Concepts:

  • Use the Import option in the Gallery "+" menu.
  • Using the clipboard.
  • Use the Import menu on the toolbar. There you'll find options for importing from your iPad's photo library, taking a picture directly with your built-in camera, pasting from the clipboard, and importing from your Adobe Creative Cloud account.
  • Some apps like Dropbox and Google Drive support the "Open In" option that allows transferring files directly from one app to another. Find your image file in those apps, tap Open In, then find Concepts in the list. If you're in the gallery, we'll prompt you to start a new image, or if you're already in a drawing, you can bring in there, too.

Concepts supports images over 4k resolution, and with a paid upgrade you can import PDFs that maintain sharpness and scale.

We do not currently support vector imports of SVG or DXF, but they are in the works. Let us know if that’s important to you.

(Video) See this video about importing images.


Once imported, you can fully manipulate the image's position, size, and rotation using standard two finger pinch/spread gestures. When the image is just right, tap anywhere on screen to return to drawing. Remember: Snap can help position things just right - just enable Precision Mode on the toolbar.

To copy, delete, reposition, lock, flip, or adjust opacity of an image, just tap-and-hold the image to select it. Advanced Transforms like Skew and Warp (described above) work here too.

Images automatically go into a separate layer by default, but you can extract them into their own layers once selected, then freeform mask them with the eraser tool.


What good is work you can't use or share? Concepts supports high-res, standard-res, vector (SVG), CAD (DXF), and layered PSD / PDF image exporting options, with region and background options to just about anywhere. We’re also beta testing our own, more flexible format, CPT (Concepts).

The free version supports standard web-ready 72dpi JPG exports of your drawings. The Pro Pack steps it up with 300dpi+ High Resolution PNGs that support transparency and are publish-worthy. Pro also includes SVG, DXF, layered PSD, and our own format, CPT. PDF is also available via a separate in-app purchase. More on those formats below.

Tap the Export button on the toolbar to get started. Then select your favorite format, region, and background options.

Figure 14. Exports

Notes on PNG (High-Res): Depending on the size of your drawing and the configuration you've selected, your iPad may not have the memory to export one single image. In this case, we'll need to export your drawing in "tiles", which you can stitch together using your favorite photo-editing app. You may prefer the "Entire Drawing" option, which will export everything scaled to fit on a single image.

Notes on SVG: While SVG is a generally well-supported, not every application supports every feature. You may find that your drawing differs in appearance between apps like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, and Firefox, or your strokes may not be initially visible. Your data is intact, however - just "select all", and you'll see every single (beautiful) stroke path.

Notes on DXF: Talk about useful - you can now hand-sketch a CAD drawing, then send it to your laser or 2D mill. In the Settings menu under "Exporting", there's an option for "DXF Wireframe Only" in case your CAD program doesn't support line widths and more recent options.

Notes on CPT (.concept): The Concepts format allows sending fully-editable drawings to any iPhone or iPad with Concepts installed. Send it to yourself or a friend and edit away. When you export a CPT, you can save it to your own cloud drives or use our Web Link service to get a link you can share with yourself or anyone via email, text message, etc. When they open that link, if they’re on iOS9+ and have Concepts installed, the drawing will be automatically imported into their gallery. If they don’t have Concepts or are on a different device or older version, they’ll see a page with the drawing thumbnail and instructions on how to download it.

Notes on PDF: PDFs can be exported in a high-res, flattened (raster) format that maintains style and detail, as well as a simplified vector format with editable stroke paths. PDF is available as a separate purchase.


We are actively building our syncing service so you have fast and secure access to your drawings across all devices, anywhere. Stay tuned.

Sharing & Privacy

The "Pinterest" and “Sharing Drawing Link” options send your drawing to our public servers. Your drawing will be visible to anyone with your link. We will automatically delete posted images within seven (7) days, or you can delete them manually through the Exporting section in the Settings menu. Please do not post inappropriate or defamatory images; we reserve the right to monitor and remove images at our discretion. See the rest of our Privacy Policy for more information.


The iPad is incredibly useful for presentations, and our Infinite Canvas is perfectly suited for use as a digital whiteboard.

We've included a special "Presentation Mode" where Concepts will detect any connected screens. While connected, your touches will be visible by the same blue markers used throughout these instructions so your audience can follow along.

To enable AirPlay, swipe upwards from the bottom edge of the screen and bring up the quick configuration menu. Tap "AirPlay" (which only exists you're on WiFi and an Apple TV / other device is also connected to the same network), select the device, and turn on "Mirroring".

If you want to mirror to your laptop for recording / etc, we recommend using QuickTime on your computer, or an inexpensive app called Reflector.

The Pro Shop

You can do incredible things without paying a dime. In fact, most of the features others charge for are free - multiple pens, full color control, many paper and grid options, and an infinite canvas. Even the Arc tool is free, unlocking your device's potential for accurate, intricate designs.

The Pro Pack pushes the boundaries far beyond your standard sketching app.

  • Instantly export your drawings in high-definition (300dpi+) PNG, open source Vector standard SVG, AutoCAD's DXF format, Adobe Photoshop layered PSDs and our own special format CPT.
  • Four more brilliant multi-touch Shape Guides - the Straight Line, Angle, Ellipse, and Rectangle.
  • Select and Adjust every single stroke after it's drawn, anytime.
  • Infinite Layers, that can be reordered, manually select one to draw into, etc.

These are professional features at a student price. It won't be like this forever -- the features just keep getting better!

Object Packs, Make Your Own Objects, and PDF are separate purchases, available through the in-app store. These are updated regularly and filled with high-quality content that will save you loads of time.

Check out this Medium article for more info on why we set our pricing the way we did.

Other Support Options

We're visual people, and we learn best visually. We constantly upload new videos that highlight specific features and workflows. Catch them on YouTube (subscribe to get updates) or Youku (in China), and tell us what you'd like to see next.

We're also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. and Medium

You can find our FAQ here.

About TopHatch

We're a small, international team, and we're building the future of design. Come learn more about us at

TopHatch is dedicated to quality. If you experience any problems with this release or have suggestions for improvement, please contact us directly so we can quickly address them!

Thanks for using Concepts: Smarter Sketching! If you haven't already, check out the Pro Shop and unlock your potential!

Ben, David, and the Concepts Team @ TopHatch