A Larger Perspective Part II (iPad Pro 12.9)

Welcome to my blog! Here is a special post by my fellow artist and friend, Keith Cowan. He’ll be talking about how he uses the iPad Pro 12.9 inch model. 

Keith and I in California before mDAC 2015

First, I will start with thanking my good friend Raheem Nelson for asking me to share my experience using the iPad Pro & Apple Pencil combo in his blog on said subject. In the timeline of mobile digital art, I am a bit of a late bloomer as my first real experience didn’t start until the release of the iPad 3rd gen, but still before we had any pressure sensitive or finer tipped styli. But once I started, there was no looking back! 

Long story short, I continuously read up a ton on device tech/specs and love pushing limits to see just how good new offerings fit into my artistic endeavors, so I have used just about every stylus with every app to see if it fits my needs as well as providing feedback to the various art communities and developers.

 Like most that bought the Pro on release day, I had to wait about a month for the Pencil to show up. I played on the Pro without it trying other Bluetooth Pressure sensitive styli to no avail so the Pro was placed on a shelf while waiting for the Pencil to show up. I had most recently been using an Air2 and Adonit Jot Touch w/Pixel Point.

 Once the app developers nailed a few issues down, this combo was AMAZING in Autodesk Sketchbook and Procreate. So the Apple Pencil was going to be subject to even more of my often over the top scrutiny of a new tool. 

The Pencil Arrives: 

I won’t sugar coat it, I am picky, and critical, of new tools/apps and that usually comes in handy for beta testing devices/apps. At home, I use a beefed up desktop computer and Cintiq 27 QHD Touch which affords me incredible workflow, top notch pressure sensitivity and huge screen real estate. 

But even prior to tweaking brushes in my primary apps, I was BLOWN AWAY with the Pencil’s performance on the Pro. The 12.9” Pro bolsters the fastest specs and most RAM (to date) for an iPad, so I knew it would be smoking fast. But I was super impressed with this iPad/Pencil showing almost no latency (lag behind the stroke). Even with large canvases and complex brushes, the latency is actual on par if not better than my desktop/Cintiq 27 combo. 

And due to the fused screen tech of the iPad Pro, the parallax is almost non-existent and I even have a thick-ish Glass screen protector and on the Pro. My Cintiq 27 QHD is great but still suffers from parallax (gap between the glass and the screen) and is more noticeable as you work further out due to the viewing angle. 

While I am sort of comparing the iPad Pro to the $2,800 US Cintiq which still needs a separate PC, let’s talk about pressure sensitivity. The Pencil does it well provided you tweak (in the apps) your brushes to suit your needs. But it’s not as good as the Cintiq 27. 

Not fair to compare the two maybe, but it’s a frame of reference that I look to for excellence. I will say that as far as pressure sensitivity in an iPad stylus, the Apple Pencil does seem to carry a more uniform response across apps than say the Adonit or previous Wacom iPad styli did on prior iPads. 

And it is exemplary in Procreate which has pressure curve settings to let you fine tune the sensitivity to your liking which can widely affect its response. Really similar to how you can tweak pressure curve sensitivity in Wacom’s devices which I have found to really help make it a very personal experience. 

My only real gripe with the Pencil is that I do wish it had a couple of hotkey buttons like the Wacom and Adonit styli. Styli buttons have been a part of my workflow for years. 

Even as apps adopt more UI icons and/or gestural commands, I still wish for hotkey buttons on the Pencil. Maybe a 2nd gen will include them. Other than that, I think material used to make the barrel is too slick but easily overcame that by installing a rubber grip from a pen (and added a clip from another pen).

Apple Pencil with modified grip.

After having used the iPad 3, Air 2 (with nearly every styli) and the Pro/Pencil combo, the Pro/Pencil is light years ahead of prior device/styli combos. 

Naturally, tech gets better as time goes on but this was a big jump for artists using Apple tech. And I will give Apple another pat I the back for maintaining the 4:3 aspect ratio for the screen. Other tablets went the 16:9 route and to me, 4:3 just feels more natural when drawing as its more like a paper sketchbook. 

One of the recent Microsoft Surface tablets adopted 3:2 which is pretty good as that more closely fits digital photography aspect ratios, but I really love working on a 4:3 device (especially since even 12.9” is still kind of small). 

Back to the Pencil, the pressure sensitivity is really good and the fine tip certainly helps in the detailing of my art. Considering how good the iPad Pro/Pencil is, and then combine that with the wide gamut of drawing/painting, sculpting, animation and image editing apps for iOS; there is no chance that you won’t find it invaluable in your mobile art journey. 

Last notes: 

1. Make sure you periodically check the tip of the Apple Pencil to make sure it hasn’t loosened up.

 2. I haven’t found it to be a problem, but any good craftsman checks his tools before/after working. When you get an app, make sure you read whatever documentation that you can access. It is fun to jump in and play, but the real power (especially with digital) is really getting to know the ins/outs. 

3. Digital art workflow is fairly universal, it’s just finding out where stuff is in the interface app by app. If you find yourself really digging an app, check and see if they have online communities (in app, Facebook, etc.) as those are invaluable places to acquire knowledge and provide feedback to the developers. Also, love an app, give them a review in the apps store.

To find out more about Keith and his art check this out. All artwork in this post created by Keith Cowan.

Procreate Tangled

Lab Mouse


Copyright © 2018, Raheem Nelson. All rights reserved.
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