A few weeks back Bob helped me buy something I’ve wanted for a while – A New iPad! – I had been saving but wasn’t getting close enough to having the money, but with my great benefactor I was able to finally purchase the tablet.
Why did I want a new iPad? Well apart from the fact that my old one was slowly dying and it was too small given all the updates Apple keep pumping out and thus taking up more and more memory. So a new shiny 6th Generation 9.7″ iPad was acquired. The reason I wanted the new iPad was because I have a goal, a desire, an annoying niggle in my head. I want to be able to draw digitally, to be able to make concept art to the standards of Ilya Kuvshinov and Jason Scheier and all those great digital artist.
I have been working on it for a long time, painting and drawing with traditional means have been greatly improved over the last few years with the help of Draw with Jazza and online courses, but the digital art well it’s never been on par, I had bought a Huion Pen Tablet, one of those that you draw on and the image appears on the computer, but the disconnection between drawing on the surface and an image appearing elsewhere made the process pretty messy and like a a blind five year old with no fingers drew it!
The drawing programs that were available on the old iPad such as Medibang and Paper are not very good, I just didn’t like them, or they didn’t allow me to do what I wanted.
Also Bob had bought me an Adonit Pixel Stylus to use with the old iPad and I really liked the feel of the Pixel, the problem was of course there was no app to use, so for the most part it remained unused, sat in its box waiting to shine. (I reviewed it in my post ‘Draw with Ash‘ at the beginning of 2018, if you want to read that too).
So I knew I wanted a graphics Tablet, that’s one where you draw on the screen and the image appears, I had thought of buying a Huion, or XP Pen, as a Wacom was out of the price range at nearly £3,000, but the problem with them is they are designated drawing devices and not much use for anything else, whereas the iPad is useful for other stuff, checking email, editing photos and video and well being a computer, also the pen tablets would kill my computer’s insignificant memory and processor, I suffer the ‘Spiny wheel of doom’ all the time just writing and editing as it is, with the drain of the tablet and running Krita too, it was too much to ask.
So, New iPad, ooo!
The moment I got it and it was set up, I installed Procreate, the program I had been dying to get my hands on for years, the problem was it wasn’t supported on my 1st Generation iPad. So with the program installed I pulled out my Adonit Pixel and got to work.
And the images were still terrible, I couldn’t get it to feel right, the pressure settings were off and the Pixel had what is called Parallax, that is that weird gap between the tip of the stylus and the image that appears on the screen, so you draw here and the image appears over there, again it’s like the disassociation of drawing on the Pen Tablet, just not so great, but still more than a little awkward to deal with.
Plus the pressure sensitivity was non-existent, I would draw lightly, sketching a first draft and the line came out thick and bold, I’d then press harder, trying to draw heavier over the sketch and it would be the same density, I tried adjusting the pressure curves, bending the graph all over the place.
But nothing worked. Bob, annoyed at my moaning about the present she had bought and I had never used in earnest, took hold and tried out the Pixel and at first found the Parallax to be not such an issue, but then she had been drawing with one of those stylus’ with a rubber disc on the end and they have no accuracy at all.
But as soon as I suggested doing fine detail or adding pressure and trying to draw lines of varying thickness she realised my dilemma. Quickly she started to get annoyed at the Pixel, not as much as me, but still enough.
So what was I to do? Well someone suggested the Apple Pencil, saying there was really no comparison and I was reluctant to agree, I really wanted my lovely Adonit Stylus to work. I had a play with one in an Apple store and I had to agree. but another £90 just for a pencil?
Well suffice to say my bank account took another beating last weekend and now I have a shiny white pencil.
So how does it compare? You ask.
Erm yeah, fine I admit it, it’s like comparing McDonalds to A Michelin Starred Restaurant, in principle they do the same thing, but in execution there is no comparison.
There is no parallax for a start, where the small white tip touches the screen the ‘ink’ appears, not 2-3 pixels to one side or the other. There is 8,000+ level of pressure sensitivity, which I never took a great deal of notice in and still don’t think you need that many levels, but it means you can draw a faint whisper of a line and add a bit of pressure and get a thicker and thicker and thicker line, shading an area is simple and effective.
It does seem to need more charging than the Pixel and at first plugging the Pencil directly in the iPad at the charge port seemed stupid and very easy to damage.
But I did discover that you can turn the charging adapter around and use it with a lead plugged into the wall, this is better and more practical, there is no way of knowing if the Pencil is charged though, no indicator lights that turn from red to green, no notification saying ‘Pencil Charged’ or how much it’s charged on the iPad like it does when the Pencil is running low, no you just have to guess and hope it’s charged and you’re not going to run out of charge halfway through a project. The Pixel held a charge for ages, I only ever charged it a few times and the little magnetic USB connector made the connection safer and you were aware of it more, it is like an old Dongle plug or radio Ariel sticking out of the laptop.
As to the feel of the Pencil, it is thinner than the Pixel and I liked the thicker, more Wacom type of feel of the Adonit, but the Pencil is more like a Staedtler HB or similar, so it feels more natural I guess and you don’t really notice you are using a stylus at all, just holding a normal pencil.
The iPad still takes aaaaaaaages to charge too, for example, I put it on charge yesterday at 8pm and at 1am it was on 68% charge and then I’ve used it today for a couple of hours at maximum and it is now saying I have 12% charge, this is ridiculous.
But the ability to draw a sketch how you would with a graphite pencil and a piece of paper, but on a screen and adding a new layer and refining the image, making a nice sharp outline, then making a 3rd layer and adding some colour, then shading, then blending it and then creating a 4th, 5th, 6th… layers for hair, lips, eyes, clothing, or doing the same for a landscape, starting with a background, trees, distant hills, fields, a ruined structure and people…
It means total control and the ability to change one part without having to start again, this is what it’s all about and what I’ve been waiting for, now I just have to practice and practice A LOT!
So yes though I am still a long way away from starting my own ArtStation profile and jacking in the blogging in favour of taking commissions for gaming character development, or background artist! I feel the new iPad/Pencil/Procreate combination is a big step forward and I would love to be able to share my achievements with you some time in the future, but for now, well I’ll just say this, if you are a digital artist and are thinking of buying a new iPad, do yourself a favour and buy the Pencil too, you’ll probably get a better deal and save yourself the time and effort (as well as a few pounds).
Well there you go, we hope that was helpful and useful. Do come back for more reviews of everything from tech to coffee here each week and remember to check out our social media too.