Drawpile: work on drawings with 20+ other users in real time

Drawpile

Do you sometimes need to collaborate on drawings or sketches? Drawpile is a cross-platform application which allows 20+ users to use the same canvas, all at the same time.

The drawing engine initially looks quite simple. There’s a pen and brush, a line, rectangle and ellipse, they all support a range of color options, and you’re able to add text annotations as required.

Every tool has its own size, opacity, hardness or spacing settings. Support for blending modes and layers mean the program has more power than you might think at first, and it works with pressure-sensitive Wacom tablets, too.

You can use these features on your own, but it only takes a moment to invite others. Open the "Host a session" dialog, give your session a title, a password, click "Host", and the groundwork is done. Pass another Drawpile user your external IP address and password, they’ll connect in seconds, and you’re both able to work on the same drawing and see what the other is doing.

Keeping everyone coordinated may be difficult, especially if you’ve lots of users, but built-in text chat should help. Whatever you type in the text pane will be visible to everyone else. And there’s a virtual laser pointer which you can use to point at any areas of interest.

If this isn’t enough, the session operator has several other ways to restore order. Trusted users can be given exclusive access to a layer. If someone’s messed up, then you’re able to undo their actions, lock them, or maybe kick them out of the session entirely.

When you’re finished, the completed image can be saved in a few formats (BMP, PNG, JPG). Better still, the session operator can record the sketching process over time, then replay it later, or export it as an image series or video (if you’ve downloaded and installed a copy of FFmpeg, anyway).

Drawpile’s sketching features are a step up from the usual virtual whiteboard, then, but for us it’s the powerful collaboration and user management tools which are the highlight here. If you’d like to work on drawings with far-away users then this is a great way to start.

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