Review: Colors! 3D (3DS)

A unique art experience.

Developer: Collecting Smiles
Publisher: Collecting Smiles
Release Date: April 5th, 2012
Score: 4.5 / 5

When you think of the Nintendo 3DS, painting generally isn’t the first thought that comes to mind.  With the variety of game genres available that have been made available in the first year of operation for the handheld, it’s nice to see the occasional application in the sea of game software.  Although not many of the apps are of high quality, Colors! 3D seems to excel above the rest in at least one area, artistic expression.

Starting up Colors! 3D can be somewhat overwhelming for first time users.  Luckily a tutorial is included that shows the basics.  To start painting, you go to the “new painting” option on the main screen.  There, you’re presented with three different canvas orientations.  There’s widescreen, which is recommended, as well as landscape and portrait.  Choose wisely as there didn’t appear to be anywhere to change this option once you’ve picked one.  Once you’re at the actual canvas, both screens are white.  Pressing the L shoulder button will bring up the menu and tools.

The basic canvas menu consists of five main tool sections along with a save area along the bottom on the far left.  First is the palette, which has a color wheel of sorts along with brush control.  You can choose to have your brush strokes be thin or large, with specific opacity as well.  There is also an eraser tool that uses the same controls as the brush to erase what you wish.  Next to the brush section in the menu are the undo, flip, and clear canvas options.  Here you’ll be able to undo any unwanted changes to your art as well as flip it vertically or horizontally.  You can also completely rid yourself of any new changes done to your project with a tap of the stylus.

Next up is arguably the most important feature of Colors! 3D, layers.  On each new canvas is five blank layers which combine into one view to create a 3D image.  In this section, you’re able to move the layers around each other simply by dragging the pink boxes where desired.  There are also options to always show all layers, hide obstructing layers, or only show current layers.  To keep track of which layer is selected, the box that’s highlighted will have a pink outline, marking the current layer.

Sometimes a reference is nice to have while creating artwork. With the second to last menu option, you can use both cameras or imported work to serve as a background.  The background doesn’t take up a layer space, so you’ll still have full use of all five.  A minor downside to this feature is that 3D background images will become 2D.  If you do decide to use an image in the background though, it should be noted that that image will be stripped when it is uploaded to the Colors Gallery.

Last but not least is the sharing option.  This allows another person with a copy of the application to draw along with you.  Unfortunately since I didn’t have another copy available for testing purposes, I wasn’t able to see how this mode played out.  Most of these commands and options are assigned to various controls on the Nintendo 3DS.  Unfortunately there is no way to change the button bindings, so you’re stuck with the default.  This isn’t a huge problem though, considering that the default button layout makes sense to use once you get used to it.

My work will certainly not be confused with a Monet

When it comes to actually drawing and painting, the application fares quite well.  Strokes are done with ease, provided you have the screen calibrated properly.  Unfortunately since the Nintendo 3DS doesn’t support pressure sensitivity, a lighter stroke will register the same as one done with more pressure, though this isn’t the fault of the developer.  Moving between layers is quick and easy when painting in 3D.  There is a slight flaw with the layers system though, in that if you’re not keenly aware of how the different layers look when combined, your 3D image may not appear as a single cohesive object. This is minor, however, and can be overcome by keeping the limitation in mind.

For those whose best art work is a stick figure, there are also several coloring book style pages.  With these, you’ll be coloring in the shapes while the application shades what you do to give it a better look.  You don’t have to worry about coloring inside the lines either since the brush color will be bound inside the area.  These pages are limited, however, and don’t feature layers as the normal blank canvas does.

When you’re all done with your art, you have many options to share it others.  There’s the export feature that allows you to save your piece to the SD card in either 800 x 480 or 1600 x 960 resolutions.  Exporting the larger resolution will take a bit longer to save than the smaller alternative. If you painted in 3D, you’ll also be able to control the set depth of 3D with the slider on the Nintendo 3DS.  Any image you export can be viewed with the built in Nintendo 3DS Camera application.  Coincidentally, these images are imported rather nicely into Swap Note once exported, with 3D intact on art that uses it.

Another option is to sign up for a Colors Gallery account.  This requires internet (via wireless communication) and your e-mail address and other information, which can be somewhat tedious to enter.  Once your details are entered in though, you never have to enter it in again, unless you reset all settings.  In the Colors Gallery, you’re able to view works that other artists have uploaded.  As with your own art, you can view a playback of how they were able to create their work. When just viewing single works, commenting and “liking” are available for each individually.  You also have the option to retract comments or likes once you’ve made them, as well.  The Colors Gallery is also available to view online and lets you download images in .png, .drw, and .mpo file formats.

While it’s not a completely flawless experience, Colors! 3D offers up a fun, new way to draw and/or paint on the Nintendo 3DS.  Exporting your works makes it easy to share with friends and view images on the system.  It also has the added bonus of giving Swap Note fans the ability to create 3D colored images.  Although the price of $6.99 may seem steep for some, it’s completely worth it for those who enjoy their artistic side.  Be aware though that a stroke of the brush does not guarantee art from the bristles.

A huge thanks to Collecting Smiles for the review code!