Artist review iPad Pro & Apple Pencil: A decent Wacom alternative for digital production …



While graphics tablets are the standard tool of the trade for digital artists, Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro could be seen as an all-in-one package that combines the device and a computer into one easily portable device. Here’s an artist’s take on Apple’s stylus and tablet, and how it might impact their workflow.

I work as a full-time designer, illustrator and cartographer in the tabletop game industry. I am fortunate to have a large fan base and rogue client gallery who keep me busy working in my home office, and in the days leading up to the pandemic, I maintained a healthy travel schedule for them. conventions and appearances.

Back then, in the “days before,” it was fun to pack your bags and get on a plane for a long weekend – or longer for an event like GenCon. But for years, I struggled with the overwhelming anguish of leaving my job behind.

Of course, carrying a laptop or tablet for emails, calendars, and written work was pretty easy. Carrying out a mobile workstation for digital illustration was a bit more of a chore than making a video call in a hotel lobby.

Add to that the stress of potentially damaging expensive equipment while on the go, and the prospect of it never made me feel comfortable.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the arrival of hardware from various manufacturers attempting to produce all-in-one options for digital illustrators on the go. While some approached, their high price and fragility did not make them an industry standard, so research continued.

In a move that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, Apple has finally come up with an alternative that has addressed the problem while going beyond: the Apple Pencil.

I know the arrival of the Apple Pencil isn’t a last minute news, but the expanding microcosm of tools and versatility that has developed around mobile digital illustration is worthy of interest for. digital illustrators around the world. I recently took a tour of what the Apple Pencil, a iPad, and the software can do it.

Material and specifications

For the purposes of this practical piece, I used a 2018 11-inch iPad Pro and a second generation Apple pencil. Photoshop for iPad was used as the main test software, as I already have the license.

Photoshop is available as a tablet on iPad and iPad Pro.
Photoshop is available as a tablet on iPad and iPad Pro.

To install

Establishment of iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Photoshop took a few minutes.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it literally took a few minutes. I expected the process to be more of an ordeal, honestly, and was blown away by how quickly everything got set up and ready to go. If you’re going through this process with a brand new iPad, it’ll take a little extra time to set up your accounts, emails, and preferences, of course.

Once the iPad was set up, I opened the Apple Pencil and prepared to win my Olympic bronze medal pairing that some devices need, only to find all I had to do was place the magnetic pencil in the groove along the side of the iPad and the pairing process was automatic.

That was it. It took longer to open the box. Hello, silver medal podium.

From there I downloaded Photoshop from the App Store, logged in with my Adobe information, and was quickly greeted with a welcome screen. Again, it was just moments.

The only thing that might slow down this process is a forgotten or misplaced password for App Store or Adobe accounts, or the need to set up a new Adobe account.

I emphasize this point about speed at home because, when you decide to jump into the process, you’ll be up and running in a matter of moments. Even if you’re sitting in that meeting when the customer wants to see a “quick change” or waits for that delayed plane to board.

It matters, and the time you save adds up.

The apple pencil

The Apple Pencil feels and behaves like most stylus offerings associated with digital tablets.

The second generation Apple Pencil loses the metal band and cap of the first generation model.
The second generation Apple Pencil loses the metal band and cap of the first generation model.

The pencil is lightweight and durable, unless you’re the type of person who goes wild when drawing, with a flat edge for an easier grip and gesture response functions.

The battery life of the second generation pencil, running for the time I used it in my environment, lasted for hours. At every break, I would put the pencil back on the iPad to charge, just in case, but I had no issues with the battery life not meeting the expectations of the job.

Honestly, my only gripes with the pencil are matters of personal preference.

The standard tip of Apple Pencil is very, very smooth with no resistance on the surface of the iPad. With me Wacom stylus, I use the feathers which mimic the friction of the pencil on the paper. I like that little bit of resistance, and I missed it here.

During my research during the review, I learned that such tips exist for the Apple Pencil. There are also screen overlays to make the iPad look more like a sheet of paper. I will be testing them soon, and I will talk about them here.

My second issue relates to the gesture response features on the pencil. As with the Wacom Pen, I turn this feature off because I tend to rotate the pen in my hand while I work and tire of unwanted actions.

Again, this is a personal preference, and I’m glad the Apple Pencil offers gesture controls for those who like to use them.


With Photoshop open and a blank document, I started with the intention of sketching out a sketch for a new map that I’m working on soon. My only goal here was to learn the user interface and draw a clear sketch to build on later.

This app and hardware can do a lot more, but this environment is new to me, so I set my goal low with room for improvement.

An illustration in progress on the iPad Pro.
An illustration in progress on the iPad Pro.

I use Photoshop more than any other on a daily basis and hoped to have the most familiarity and comfort with the transition to a new workspace. I did, but there was still a learning curve, and while this is not a full review of Photoshop for iPad or Adobe’s other mobile products, I will offer some thoughts. on my Photoshop experience on iPad.

What to expect when switching from Photoshop on Mac to iPad

  • Expect to learn a new user interface. The user interface is clean and minimal to make the most of the iPad’s space, but there is a period of adjustment to learn how the menus behave.
  • Expect to adjust your muscle memory. If you’re bringing pressure-sensitive brushes, expect to adjust their settings for the iPad / Apple Pencil space.
  • If you’re working on large digital surfaces, be prepared to adjust your movements on the iPad space. For example, I’m usually a full shoulder motion illustrator, but with the iPad I had to adjust to micro wrist movements. I adapted, but it took a while.
  • Allow Photoshop on iPad to save your work as you go.
  • The maximum file size for a document in Photoshop for iPad is 2 GB. If you’re working large, expect to flatten layers or make adjustments.
  • Pair a keyboard with your iPad to use keyboard shortcuts and shortcuts. I initially worked only with the UI and pencil controls and after an hour I had to pair a keyboard and use the muscle memory I have available for speed and ease of use.

After an hour I had my own sketch and was happy with the results and the overall experience. I have created other pieces with this setup and every time I sit down with it everything is a little smoother and more refined, with less growing pains.

Photoshop is great for this (and other forms of design), but it’s not the only option. With a wide range of illustration software on the market for iPads and Apple Pencil, I recommend that you do your own research to find the perfect app to meet your needs. Here are some of the industry standards:

  • Procreate – An excellent (and beloved) well-rounded app for creating art
  • Inspire Pro – A fast and intuitive application for rendering realistic images and art
  • Clip Studio Painting – Wonderful for creating comics, manga and digital paintings
  • Illustrator for iPad – The industry leader for vector art and design
  • Photoshop for iPad – A clean, minimalist take on the industry leader

Possibilities …

I appreciate the freedom that iPad and Apple Pencil give me. I can sit on my patio on sunny days and draw without a problem or catch the show on the road when travel and conventions return.

That was the goal for me anyway: to have a great way to get into meetings or attend conventions without having to set up a whole suitcase of Pelican equipment. I have this now.

I will not replace my Intel Mac Mini and Wacom Cintiq just now. I can tell you that I know other professional artists who have taken the leap with bigger iPads, Apple pencils and their software of choice, and who have never looked back.

It is possible to create stunning, professional-quality works of art with this setup. It’s happening in the industry right now, and from what I’ve been through here, it’s only going to get better.

When the 2018 iPad Pro shipped, it lacked some of Apple’s more recent inventions. Since them, Apple has released Sidecar to use the iPad for more space on the Mac screen and draw with the Apple Pencil on the Mac, and Universal Control will arrive at some point in the fall.

Even thinking about this much newer iPad Pro M1, the software isn’t as flexible for me on the iPad as it is on the Mac. This leaves room for desktops and tablets to handle larger files and complex documents.

If the trend towards beefier iPads in the Pro line continues and we see iPadOS continue to change, we may see a bigger change in the years to come.

We’ll talk more about the specific tools I use to get the job done and how my workflow can adapt to iPad in the weeks and months to come.

Or buy

Apple’s current 11-inch iPad with M1 is currently on a budget, with double and even triple-digit savings in effect in the Appleinsider 11-inch iPad Pro Price Guide. The second-generation Apple Pencil also stands out, along with Amazon offer the lowest price at press time.

Read on AppleInsider


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