Hello friends, I am a digital artist and I work in games. I love tech so I really enjoy finding great new tools to incorporate into my creative workflow. The above image was an experiment in adding the ipad pro into my process. I initially started the drawing in Procreate. Finished in Photoshop. We’ll get into this later.
Anyways I got my iPad Pro in November of 2015 2 weeks after it launched.The apple pencil was sold out so I special ordered it. The pen arrived 5 Weeks Later so I ended up returning the iPad Pro and waiting until I could really give it a proper run through. That’s why I really love the Apple Store, their no hassle 2 week return policy is excellent.
So what’s the verdict after three months?
Well I like it but it’s complicated. Also given that you’re spending about $1,000 on this device with the pencil, 128gb memory, and the AppleCare warranty you would hope that it would be more capable.
I wasn’t totally naive in thinking that this iPad Pro would replace my laptop or become my main workstation. But at least I was hopeful that it will let me untether from my desk from time to time and be able to create professional work on the go in a pinch as well as become my daily sketch book.
Let’s start with the hardware.
Screen– I love the 12.9 inch screen. It’s big enough to draw on comfortably even more so than the Cintiq companion. If you’re on a table you could spin the iPad pro to get that perfect drawing angle in the same way that you can with paper which is a great drawing experience.
Weight– I found the weight to be good. It was fairly light under 2 pounds. I think it’s 1.53 pounds to be exact. It’s less weight than that of a sketchbook in your arm. The weight isn’t on your mind like it is when you use a Cintiq companion which I think is double the Weight. Also when compared to the cintiq companion you don’t feel the heat of the fans going off.
Apple Pencil– The belle of the ball. The pencil does not disappoint. I’ve tried the surface pro 4 pen, the cintiq pen, and samsung’s wacom enabled android devices. I think this Apple pencil might be the best digital art pen out there from a pure feel perspective. That being said I do wish there was a way to customize this the pressure sensitivity curve in settings rather than it being custom per app. I also wish that there was some form of programmable buttons on the pen. I know it’s Apple so it can’t actually have gaudy physical buttons that would disrupt The minimalist aesthetic but if they used the tech from the magic mouse and had built in invisible buttons! Wow! That would be brilliant. As for charging,You can plug it into the lightning port for 15 seconds for about half an hour of charge which you can as a cue to give your eyes and hands a break. It comes with an adapter you can use to plug into the wall as well.
Outdoor use– Plans of using the iPad pro for plein air Digital paintings was hampered by the glare on the screen. The second problem is the aluminum body. It just soaks up the heat. I didn’t personally push it because of the glare of the screen but if you’re out there long enough in the heat (did I mention I live in sunny drought ridden Southern California) I’m pretty sure it’s going to turn off automatically the way the iPhone does since there is no internal cooling.
Battery life– Awesome! Apple claims 10 hours. I think I was getting a little bit less than a day’s worth of battery if I am using it intensively to draw. I haven’t found any other digitizer Mobile device that can manage that trick. So color me impressed.
As for the software…
This is where it gets complicated. There’s nothing really wrong with the iPad Pro hardware. Even with all the little nitpicky gripes I mentioned the hardware is still good. The software is where you start to run into trouble. First major issue especially considering to use a professionally is the lack of a unified file management system. I don’t like having my files scattered about hiding behind different app icons. I constantly found myself exporting a PNG’s to the photo app using it as a directory. I would export PNG out of one app and then import that PNG into another app to compensate for the others deficiencies. Unfortunately I never really got the right combination that gelled with me.
It might be different if I started learning how to use digital painting apps first on the iPad pro and then later learned Photoshop. But I constantly felt myself getting frustrated trying to figure out the app equivalent of the Photoshop tools that I use most. I want to enjoy the new hotness, But the temptation was always there staring at me from the corner, Why don’t I just use my Mac that already has Photoshop?!
Or I can use both with Astropad. For those who don’t know what Astropad is, it’s an app that let’s you mirror your Mac monitor onto your iPad. It even has pen pressure sensitivity support. It has USB and Wi-Fi connectivity so you could be curled up on the couch while still using your Mac to be productive.Here’s a brief impression of each of the apps I tried and liked.
Procreate– One of the best painting software apps on the App Store. The pencil brush felt the most natural. I found trying to paint in this app required more physical effort in the brushstrokes than using Photoshop. The UI is slick. I constantly found myself fiddling with the ui to get things done I supposed to working more fluidly on a PC
Concepts– For concept ideation, I think this is one of the best out there. It offers an infinite vector canvas even though the tools feel textured. It also auto sorts layers depending on what tool you are using. For example the pencil lawyer will always be at the very bottom while the marker layer or pen layer will always be at the top. Very cool. The interface is top notch though I do wish some of the ui buttons were a little bit larger or at least had a larger tappable area.
The 3-D software I tried was either buggy, not responsive, or not very intuitive. My hopes of Zbrush like app on the iPad pro were crushed.
I drew this in Procreate. If you’re like me you might take a step back, take a look at your drawing and realize the portions are off and the drawing isn’t as energetic as you’d like. Normally I would go into Photoshop, use the selectionand transform tools and play around till I find something I like, add a new layer and create a clean repass drawing. Done. Easy peasy. However I can find a single app on the App Store that let me do all these things easily hence the frustration.
Hey Alberto! Where are all the awesome photos of you drawing on the iPad pro? After a few tries I decided it was best to part ways. In the end, I need a machine that can run Photoshop and allows me to work efficiently.
While I do like the iPad pro and feel like it has a lot of potential, it’s Achilles’ heel is definitely the art creation apps available.
It’s a great sketching tool. It’s a great comic reader. It’s also $1000 once you get out of the store and there are alternatives like the Surface Pro 4 or Wacom Cintiq Companion to consider. So in quoting Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade “Choose wisely.”