I’ve been drawing digitally for over eight years, most recently on a Wacom Cintiq 22HD Touch. I know there are some that still appreciate the feel of physical art materials, but the ability to work in layers, scale elements, and switch colors has become ingrained into my workflow.
So, after nearly a month of anticipation, my Apple pencil arrived, and with it the promise to draw digitally on the go. I’ve fantasized with the idea of being able to lounge around in a coffee shop and draw on my iPad, but that scenario never came to fruition.
One reason is the hardware–I couldn’t find stylus that felt comfortable. I tried using a Pogo stylus back when it [seemingly] was the only stylus on the market, but found it compromised my drawing–it was an unwelcome restraint that handicapped my process. Later, I invested in both the Wacom Creative Stylus and its successor, the Creative Stylus 2. The first version had the precision of a child’s marker, and while the Creative Stylus 2 slimmed the tip, the palm rejection did not agree with this southpaw (a task that is partially the responsibility of software). Furthermore, I also didn’t care for the slippery plastic tip contacting my Otterbox, which I could only be exaggerated by a disc-tipped stylus.
In both cases, pressure sensitivity wasn’t an issue, but the experience felt so foreign that I intuitively made paperweights of the devices.
Another reason the coffee shop fantasy never came true is software. The iPad doesn’t support Photoshop (which remains my drawing software of choice). Sure, Adobe has released iOS apps, but many of them come across as demos compared to their Creative Suite.
Lastly is setup, I often need to draw from reference, so my office is the perfect environment. While I’m drawing on my Cintiq I can pull up image references on one of my other monitors. I toyed with the idea of getting a Wacom Companion, but the reportedly mediocre battery life paired with the fact that most artists work in their studios made me decide against it.
I’ve been using the Apple pencil for a few weeks now, and…I actually use it. It’s easily the best stylus I’ve ever used for the iPad. It’s as responsive as my Cintiq, it doesn’t suffer any parallax (though, to be fair, the Cintiq is MUCH bigger), the tip offers a more natural resistance, and palm rejection just works. Sure, there are some things I don’t like–it doesn’t have an eraser ‘button’ on the other end (no iPad stylus does), it doesn’t have buttons along the side, and the cap, despite being magnetic, is just screaming to be lost. Determining the amount of charge the pencil had was also a bit of a challenge (look into widget notifications in settings).
As for native iOS apps, I migrated from Autodesk Sketchbook to Procreate and haven’t looked back. Procreate sports a simpler UI, supports a layered canvas up to 2732×2048, and exports to PSD. Just to make my iPad Pro productive, I invested in Screens for remoting to my laptop. It’s not intended for drawing, though, so I also bought Astropad, which allows for remote drawing in Photoshop and uses an ingenious delayed cursor effect to mask any lag.
The iPad Pro’s multitasking is a game-changer, as well, as I can simply pull up a reference image directly in Photos or Safari.
So, between the two, which is better? If money is no object for you, I’d still go with the Cintiq, as it eliminates the proxy to a final file and has a comfortable stylus with an eraser tip. Still, for nearly a third of the price, an iPad Pro with pencil is probably the next best option on the market.