So, you’re toolin’ around the neighborhood in your hatchback, boppin’ your head to the best of Van Halen when suddenly an idea pops in your head. You need to sketch. Now typically, you would grab anything within reach – a receipt, a napkin, a freshly shaven chihuahua. But let’s just say you have a laptop and on that laptop, you have Creo Sketch.

The Creo Sketch Inteface - Brush and Curve Tools with options to edit brushes, colors and more.
The Creo Sketch Inteface - Brush and Curve Tools with options to edit brushes, colors and more.

Creo Sketch

Creo sketch has been out about a week now. I’ve been using it both on a desktop computer and on a laptop (in a car) when inspiration strikes. (Discussed it on the Engineer vs Designer podcast as well.) It’s a free app (available for download here) and the first free program in the Creo product line. Now, if you’re familiar with other raster/vector art programs, the toolsrt will make a lot of sense. The UI is laid out very similar to MS Paint (Windows7) and is much the same with some added bits of functionality.

You have tools to paint and create curves, a tab for each. Each tab bring in some of the favorite features from programs like Photoshop – Brush, clone, stroke (autotrace), masking (friskets) and you also have a color picker, layers and control over colors and texture. Some features unique to Creo Sketch are curvature visualization, curve fillet and curve trim, which you’ll use a lot. All in all, not a bad set of features, but still leaves me wondering…

Why Creo Sketch?

Now, I’m really trying to figure out where this all fits in to PTC’s plans for world domination. Why a Sketch program? If I’m a product designer, I’m already using Photoshop, Illustrator or Sketchbook. If I’m an engineer, I really don’t use these types of programs so much, except for maybe marking up a print. Maybe it blends some functionality with the other Creo apps – that’s not apparent yet.

Some seem to think Creo Sketch has some re-made tech from a older PTC product. Way back in 1995, PTC bought two software products from Evans and Sutherland for… ahem, $33,507,000. They were 3D Paint and Conceptual Design and Rendering System (CDRS). In 2000, PTC released the Pro/ENGINEER Industrial Design Extension (IDX) which combined the two. From what I know of the two products, Creo Sketch doesn’t have near the capability the other two softwares had.

The plan is to also have Creo Sketch on the iPad, but there is just no way I can see that it can compete with Layers, Sketchbook, Freeform, Brushes or iDraw. Really, the best thing they could do is produce an app, that allows you to create 3-dimensional surface geometry, paint that geometry and share/export it out to Creo Direct for post editing.

Creo Sketch Friskets are a way to quickly mask curves and paint inside them or outside.
Friskets are a way to quickly mask curves and paint inside them or outside.

Best Features

Brush smoothness
Fristkets (Quick mask)
Export Pallet
Curvature visualization
Trim Curve
Fillet Curve

Things it needs

Better zoom
Better curve control
New UI
Much better undo
Import/Export .AI (Adobe Illustrator)
Import/Export .PSD (Photoshop)
Import/Export to Creo Direct/Parametric
Less click to edit curves
Better spline control
Movable pallets

The Smack

In the end, I got frustrated with Creo Sketch because I hit undo and everything I had done disappeared. It’s a neat little program for free, but with programs like GIMP, there’s just very little this offers. If however they make the improvements above, get it on tablets, bring actual 3D painting into the mix and revamp the UI, this could be a very useful tool for conceptualization. Your thoughts?

You can down Creo Sketch here.


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.