We decided that the scaled drawings in iDraw would be the highest learning curve of any of elements that we were introducing in a single field season. Not many grad students are very proficient at vector drawing applications. They all know enough Photoshop to be dangerous and seem to think that vector drawing is very similar to bitmap photo editing. Perhaps that is why teaching them how to use Illustrator can be so challenging.

So I decided to write a series of homework exercises for the team to get familiar with various skills: vector drawing, drawing with a logical layer structure, drawing with fingers, and basic zooming and navigation on the iPads.

Homework #1 covers some of the basics. The object is simple: draw a scale bar. You would think that this would be an easy thing to do but while evaluating various drawing apps (I looked at TouchDraw, Freeform, Intaglio Sketchpad, Sketchbook, iPocket Draw, and iDesign) I found that this simple thing was much easier in iDraw than any of the others. And if drawing a scale bar was difficult, drawing anything complex was surely going to cause problems.

iDraw has a text tutorial and video tutorial on their website. You might want to look at those to see the basics of the software.

This tutorial was written for iDraw v. 1.0.9. 1

In iDraw, create a new document. I use the Grid canvas. Title the drawing Homework and open it.

Tap the gear on the upper right to customize the canvas. This tutorial will follow the 2010 PARP:PS drawing conventions, so we will stick with pixels as the unit. The default width and height of the canvas is 768×960 pixels, but you can increase that if necessary. It would be best if you could start this process with a canvas that is the proper size for the trench including possible expansions. Elect to show the grid and under Grid Settings, set the spacing to 10 px. For the scale bar you want Snap to Grid selected. This setting can be handy sometimes but can also get in the way, so learning how to turn it on and off quickly will help.

Canvas Settings

Tap the square at the bottom of the screen. You will see an option to set the corner radius. Set that to 0.0.

Start drawing your first rectangle. As you draw you will see the x and y dimensions of the rectangle on the upper right of your finger. I set mine to 50x10px.

Scale bar rectangle

Tap on the arrow tool and select the rectangle. The blue and orange handles mean that it is selected. Use the line and fill icons on the lower right to make the line and fill both black.

With the rectangle still selected, tap the Edit button at the top of the screen (or tap and hold the rectangle for a moment) and select Copy. Then tap next to the first rectangle and select Paste. Paste 4 more rectangles. Position them next to the first rectangle.

Change the fills in the second and fourth rectangle to white.

Tap the text tool. You will see some dummy text. Replace that with a zero. My text is Helvetica Neue 16 pt. You can change those settings in the i menu at the top. Resize the box to make it smaller.

Moving the text box can be tricky. If you can see the blue and orange handles and try to move the object you will more often than not either resize or rotate the object. But if you tap somewhere else to deselect the text box so that the handles are gone you can move without any trouble. Copy and paste the text box 0 four times and replace with other 0’s with 1-5. Position those underneath the divisions to complete the scale bar.

Tap on the selection tool and drag your finger around the entire scale bar. All of the objects will become selected. From the Arrange/Modify icon, select Group. Now the objects will always move as one and you can move them to another part of your page.

Grouping objects

Click on the Layers button at the upper right and Edit the name of your current layer to Scale Bar. Save the document by closing it, and you can export it if you want.

Naming a layer

Congratulations, you have drawn a scale bar. And since we will be duplicating this document for the next homework, you won’t have to draw another one.

Here is mine exported as a vector pdf:


This can be opened in Illustrator. The grouping of the scalebar is not preserved but the background grid lines are grouped in the exported pdf and can easily be moved to their own layer.

1. There was a change in the way iDraw uses their background grids between the summer of 2010 and the current version. They changed the way major grid lines are drawn. It used to be every five lines. Now it is every six. This will probably be user-configurable in the future, but you can download an old drawing of mine and copy it over to your iPad. These instructions are Mac only.

iDraw documents are packages. That is, it is really a folder, but your computer thinks it is a document. The problem is that when you copy native iDraw documents to the Mac, the Mac doesn’t see it as a package, but as a folder. And it will copy the document over to the iPad as a folder, and iDraw won’t recognize it as a document. The trick is to make the Mac think it is a package, then copy it over, and then rename it in iTunes. So the file that I made has a .pkg extension, making it look like an installer package. Download the file here, which will start as a .zip file. Once decompressed it will be called Grid.pkg (and the Installer might try to install it but return an error which can be dismissed). Using the file sharing feature of iTunes, copy the .pkg file to iDraw. While still in iTunes, rename the file Grid.idraw. Close and re-open iDraw and you will see the new file. Duplicate that document to have the five line grid system.