I remember the first time I saw someone drawing with an ipad on instagram. They were able to quickly create lettering and illustrations that took me at least 80% more time to make. I was so jealous! I knew I had to have one, but was so bummed because I knew the price it would cost me.
As an illustrator and graphic designer I have made SO many investments to do business at a high level. I’ve bought multiple iMacs and Macbook pros in my career. I have invested in a $1000 wacom tablet for illustration. I even bought a $3000 fine art scanner because it could scan watercolor at a very high quality. Plus every single designer out there is paying Adobe's Creative Cloud monthly membership for $50-$70 a month.
That’s not to mention college tuition, skillshare classes and the countless workshops, conferences and seminars I’ve attended to hone my craft and advance my skills.
To put it simply, being a designer isn’t cheap. You’ve got a lot of programs to master, a lot of classes to take to stay relevant. So I get people’s hesitation to buy yet another expensive design tool and their resistance to learn a whole new design program.
But I’m here to tell you my personal experience with the wonderful tool that is the ipad and all about the revolutionary design programs that will absolutely change your life for the better!
But first, I am going to take a minute and answer the single most asked question on my instagram:
What ipad do you have?
I bought my iPad pro and Apple Pencil new from the Apple store in March of 2018. My iPad is a 6th generation iPad pro. The actual live screen size is just shy of 8”. The base model was $300, but mine was $420 because I opted to upgrade my gig storage for reasons I’ll explain to you later when we get into the programs I use. The Apple Pencil was new from the apple store as well, retailed at $110.
I know you probably thought that iPads were more expensive than that, right? Well, they are! But it just so happened that Apple was launching their “college series” right around the time I decided to buy mine. These iPads were marketed towards college students to take notes with the apple pencil so they wanted to have them at a lower price point.
The second most asked question I get is:
Is it worth it?
That’s something I always laugh at because of so many factors. For starters, I don’t know you. I don’t know what you do for a living, how serious of an illustrator you are, what kind of art you do, what your workflow is like. I can’t make that decision for you, but I can tell you about my personal decisions and hope to provide you with enough inside information for you to make your own decisions.
Let’s circle back to that storage comment. While doing my research I found that the more gigs of storage your iPad has, the more layers you’re able to have when you use Procreate. If you’re an illustrator who likes to use a lot of layers, then opt for the highest storage money can buy.
Procreate is an illustration app that is a one time purchase from the app store. When I bought it, it was $9.99 which is hilarious because I pay $60 monthly for Adobe programs. I truly hope Procreate extends their range of programs to design related ones like Photoshop and Illustrator. I kind of feel like Adobe has had a monopoly on the industry standard design programs for the last… well, forever and that’s not cool. Plus, the idea of an entirely tablet centered workflow gets me so excited it’s hard to even tell you with words!
As I stated before my actual live functioning screen size is just shy of 8”. I wanted to get the smaller iPad for a few reasons. The first being it was the cheapest, and the second being portability. I wanted to be able to take it everywhere and whip it out on a plane, in a coffee shop and not have it be this big ostentatious thing (like taking out a Macbook is.)
Do I regret buying the small screen? Yes and no. I love that my iPad is tiny, light and fits into every single bag easily. When I went to Kauai I took it on every hike and it fit in even the smallest of backpacks. I never feel limited when drawing due to screen size.
The only time I wish I had a larger screen is when I utilize the split screen feature in procreate. I would LOVE to have ample space to display my references via Pinterest or Google images at the same time I’m drawing.
I have the first generation Apple Pencil and let me start this out by saying “Apple, were you drunk and high when you designed it?” I know Steve Jobs isn’t around anymore, but damn you dropped the ball on this one.
The pencil itself is straight revolutionary! The things you can do with it; the pressure sensitivity, the ability to use the sides of it like you would use the side of a pencil to shade an illustration. It’s just amazing! Our technology has advanced so quickly and I’m so thankful to be a designer in this day and age… but damn to charge it. It has the dumbest design I’ve ever seen come from Apple.
First off, take my advice and buy the little silicone grippy thing for your pencil. It will not only help you grip and feel comfortable for hours of drawing but it will protect your pencil from breaking if you happen to drop it. A $110 pencil is an expensive drawing tool, best protect it!
The problem lies in the way you have to charge it. The cap at the top comes off, and if you don’t have a dedicated space to place it (my silicone thing came with a cap holder) you’ll most likely lose it. The charger is the male end of an iPhone charger so it can plug INTO apple things like your iPhone and iPad. I know you’re probably thinking, “cool! I can charge my pencil from my devices and don’t need to plug it into my computer or a wall via a cord” and I’m here to tell you, NO. I mean yes you can do that, but it’s literally the dumbest and most dangerous design. When the pencil is plugged into your phone it would be so easy to snap right off. It also renders your phone useless, same with your iPad.
Apple has since corrected this monumental oversight with their 2nd generation Apple Pencil that magnetically connects to the new iPad and charges that way. I don't know about having a new Apple Pencil with an old iPad, but if I know Apple they’re gonna make you upgrade both to have it work together.
Alright, let's talk about my most favorite thing to have ever happened to me as an illustrator, letter and designer:
I’m not going to dive deep into this subject, because let’s be honest this blog already feels really long and Procreate deserves its own blog post. Hell, it deserves its own class, and a conference, and a party every Friday! But this couldn’t be a complete iPad blog post without mentioning the magic that is Procreate!
If you’re an illustrator, or letterer this app will get your rocks off, and your top and socks off! As an illustrator and person who values hand-rendered design, this app does it all! Well, I have words about watercolor… but isn’t that always the million dollar issue with trying to replicate digital watercolor.
Procreate has so many freaking features that have saved me SO much time in my workflow! I used to draw with pencil and paper, then scan or refine using trace paper and a lightboard. Very very limiting, also so damn time consuming. The end product was not even what I truly saw the piece being.
If you’re a letterer, Procreate has a feature called streamline for your brushes. It will change your freaking life! The procreate upgrade also has cool features like drawing assist. Using grids or symmetry features which come in handy when drawing precise mathematical illustrations. Also, my new fav jam is Procreate’s Smart Shape feature! Getting those perfect arches and circles is really a game changer!
Some designers have also designed lettering guide stamp brushes that are available for purchase. I don’t have them personally because I’m a fan of creating my own unique baselines and what not, but I’ve heard and seen great things with them.
Upgrading and doing it all over
I do plan on upgrading my iPad, but not because of the screen size thing I mentioned previously. As I stated earlier, yes I wish I had a larger screen but it’s never hindered my ability to create badass stuff.
There are rumors on the interwebs of Photoshop being fully functional on the iPad. Which iPad? I have no idea. Will it run on old iPads or will designers everywhere have to dip into their pockets again to be part of this fun? So far, I have yet to find a concrete answer to that, but I haven't researched it much. So if you do, please share your findings in the comments!
I think it’s worth mentioning Adobe’s attempt at competing with Procreate. They’ve premiered Project Gemini recently and I’m pretty stoked about that due to it’s watercolor and acrylic features. Also, Adobe does have two drawing apps available on the market right now. Of course they are part of the CC subscription so you’ll have to pay monthly for them but if you’re already shelling out the $60 a month, you have them available to you right now.
There is Adobe Draw which is a vector based program like Illustrator and there is Adobe Sketch which is pixel based like Photoshop. I have them, I don’t use them. Every now and then I’ll go give Sketch a try because it allows me to create with Kyle T Webster’s watercolor and pencil brushes, but every time I am drawing in there I get so pissed and frustrated at the limitations of the app and how UNintuitive the gestures are.
So that’s it! My personal set-up with my iPad and a brief overview of it’s features. I know I didn’t address the amazingness that is airdrop and Procreate’s ability to export many file formats including full on PSDs but I could honestly write and talk about this stuff forever! Until next time, friends!
If you’ve got questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll be sure to use them to brainstorm new blog post ideas!