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Silk's Cool Art App Lets You Swipe the Light Fantastic

Silk's Cool Art App Lets You Swipe the Light Fantastic

Give your fingers the power to weave magical images of color and light with Silk, an iOS app that's enjoying high rankings in the iTunes App Store. Silk truly is the picture of elegant simplicity -- there are few buttons or icons getting between you and your imagination. Draw a line on the screen, and it's magically mirrored and texturized. Share your work with friends via email and Facebook, and show them the artistic power within Silk.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/13/13 5:00 AM PT

Silk -- Interactive Generative Art is available in the iTunes App Store for US$2.99.

Silk app

Wow.

I don't think I've ever started any review with a "wow," much less an italicized wow, but here it is: That one word sums up my first impression of Silk -- Interactive Generative Art, an app for the iPad and iPhone.

The app lets you create flowing, mirrored strands of silk-like lines of colored light. You do that simply by swiping, swishing, and dragging your finger. It's been around for a while, but after Apple highlighted it in the Entertainment section of the iTunes App Store, it snagged a boost and is now one of its top paid apps.

If you look at the screenshots, you'll have the foundation for an understanding of Silk. It's like painting up a dark night with a Fourth of July sparkler that leaves circling weaves of light hanging in the air, never to burn out.

So yeah, Silk is seriously simple -- yet somehow visceral.

Start With Nothing

The launch screen is nearly black -- just the name of the app, small and unobtrusive, centered on the top third of your screen. Lower, barely there, is the command: "Draw something."

And so you do.

A swipe of your finger and weaves of silky light spring into life, following the path of your finger, creating silk that not only appears . . . but also seems to grow and flow. And opposite your stroke in some mind-boggling way, the weave of silk simultaneously and instantly mirrors itself, creating a pattern of crossed and woven glowing thread.

Take three fingers and simply drag them across the screen of your iPad, and boom, you'll have created something that is something, that somehow makes your eyes want to see it from far away -- an image of a whole -- and yet your eyes will also want to follow the strands and marvel in how they twist and spread in a way that makes you believe there's some cosmic sense to the universe.

No, I'm not taking any prescription meds right now. Yes, the beer and pre-made frozen margaritas are still in the refrigerator.

The bottom line: Silk lets you, a person with perhaps marginal artistic talent, create a visual feast. Don't let it go to your head. A monkey could do it, too. It's still cool, though -- surprisingly fun and slightly addictive.

How It Works

The options are basic and easy to learn. You have a seven-color palette. Drag one color to another color to blend. Tap to revert.

There are three basic control types -- Rotate, Spiral, and Mirror. There are different levels or amounts of Silk ranging from one dot to six dots. Six dots creates more lines and weaves from a single gesture, while a single dot gives you almost a straight line. Two or more dots will rotate around the center of your screen, but if you tap a Spiral control, they'll spiral out and in instead. Tap the Mirror control, and the image will repeat itself on the opposite side of the screen.

With a single dot, you can almost draw, almost write a word or name. Because the weaves seem to take on a life of their own, a particular intent is difficult to pin down -- which might also be why Silk is so much fun.

Of course, you can email your images or save them to your camera roll, as well as post them up to Facebook.

And that's about it. Silk is simple.

More to Silk?

There's a bit of backstory worth mentioning, and that's the weavesilk.com website, which lets you weave silk in a browser window. It, too, is freakishly cool. I like the iPad app better, though, because I can touch the screen with my fingers. It seems more alive.

So what to do now? Shell out $2.99 and buy Silk. I like to reward developers for creating great apps, and I hope that you do, too. As for kids, instead of letting them play some dumb game with candy characters, turn them loose with Silk.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com.


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