We’ve never hidden our envy of admiration for people who can draw quickly — and actually get their message across. We’ve even devoted an entire SmallBusiness.com guide to helping people get over their belief that they can’t draw (on a whiteboard). Perhaps that’s why we are impressed to see that some folks at Google have come up with a drawing program called AutoDraw, a web-based tool lets you doodle your version of a drawing, but then provides you the option of substitute a real drawing created by talented artists for your doodle.

It works like this:

  1. Go to AutoDraw.com
  2. Doodle the item you’d like to draw
  3. Keep your eye on the bar of sketches above the drawing panel
  4. Whey you see a suggestion that matches what you were doodling, click on it

We doubt that made much sense. So, let’s do a “picture is worth a thousand words”: Watch in the GIF below how a user’s doodle generates a bar of suggested objects. Click on one and bang, you have a drawing.

How do they do that?

It’s a project of Google’s Artificial Intelligence team. Google is using machine learning to determine what objects users mean in their doodles. When enough of us who aren’t great drawers let Google’s computers know what we really mean is “lightening” when we draw our squiggly lines, Google’s computers can start suggesting lightening as a possibility to others who doodle like me.
Currently, the number and types of pictures in the tool are limited. But as more illustrators (the real kind) start allowing samplings of their illustrations to be contributed to the pool of “real” art, there could be millions to choose from. (You may wonder, “why an artist would contribute drawings?” The answer: As a portfolio sampling of the custom work they can be commissioned to create.)

AutoDraw Promotional Video from Google


Google’s AutoDraw is coming at a time when traditional stock art services are using more tech-driven approaches to help users find the photos and illustrations they want. For example, istock.com has recently introduced a “search by image” feature that works like  Google’s image search feature. Upload an image and the service will suggest images in its database that are similar to the image uploaded.

iStock’s new image search feature.