What the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil Announcement Means to Artists & Designers

Oh yeah, Apple just released the biggest iPad ever, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. And they also released a stylus called the Apple Pencil specifically for the iPad Pro.

Here are some of my thoughts on the announcement from the perspective of an artist.

iPad Pro runs on iOS, not Mac OS

Some part of me actually wished that it would run Mac OS.

The iPad runs on iOS which means you still won't be able to use the full version of desktop software, e.g. Photoshop (at least not directly -- read further below).

iPad Pro weighs 1.57lb / 712g

You'll not be holding this in the hand to draw without some form of good support.

Retina 2732x2048 resolution

Drawings are going to be sharp. What's more enticing is you'll be drawing on a larger screen which will feels less constraining. Even when drawing on iPad Air's 9.7-inch screen, I still feel a bit constrained by the size. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has 78% more surface area than the 9.7-inch model.

Is Apple Pencil going to be a good stylus?

The Apple Pencil has features such as pressure and tilt sensitivity, and supposedly palm rejection as mentioned by Mashable correspondent Lance Ulanoff.

How good the stylus is will depend on the software applications that support it. And by the word 'support' (and for the rest of this article), I mean full support of all the features. The stylus will still work on apps even if none of those features are supported. Many feature-rich styluses are just normal styluses when used on apps that do not support the stylus. E.g. Wacom Bamboo Paper app is one of my favourite drawing apps but it only supports their own Wacom line of less-than-satisfactory pressure sensitive styluses.

Before you buy, make sure to check out the list of Apps that are supported by Apple Pencil. Otherwise, you'll just be buying an expensive stylus that does nothing special. Currently, Apple list Mail, Notes and Paper by FiftyThree as the only Apps that support drawing features of the Apple Pencil. Update: Procreate & Adobe Sketch are supported also, as mentioned by Phil Schiller in the presentation video.

Diagonal wavy line problem

A lot of digital styluses cannot draw a diagonal line without making the line wavy. Will Apple Pencil be one of those styluses?

There doesn't seem to be shortcut buttons on the sides of Apple Pencil

It's not a big deal but those shortcut buttons are quite useful.

Apple Pencil is only usable on iPad Pro

Don't buy it for other iPad models because it won't work.

It could be a good alternative to the Cintiq or Cintiq Companion

Wacom Cintiq is the monitor you can draw on. The Cintiq Companion is the wireless version of Cintiq, aka the tablet computer you can draw on.

The main thing about Cintiq is you can use it with full desktop applications, for example the entire Adobe Creative Suite.

If you're using it purely for drawing, sketching, then the iPad Pro competes directly with the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and Surface Pro 3. Main difference is the Cintiq Companion and Surface Pro 3 are capable of installing desktop software.

For the 32GB iPad Pro's price tag of USD $799, you can get a 64GB Surface Pro 3 (with 36GB working storage). Cintiq Companion 2 is USD $1299.

Astropad could turn the iPad Pro into a Cintiq

There's this iPad App called Astropad that can provide the Cintiq-like functionality.

Astropad is actually a 2-part software. You need to install it on both your iPad and computer (it supports Mac only).

Astropad will mirror your computer's desktop onto the iPad and allow you to draw on it even with a pressure sensitive stylus.

Astropad has told me that Apple Pencil will be supported when it comes out in November 2015.

Battery life

Apple claims that battery life is around 10 hours. Apple Pencil can last 12 hours. Apple Pencil charges through the port on the iPad Pro. Does that mean that you cannot charge both devices at the same time? No information on that yet.

Apple Pencil is not a capacitive stylus and it's battery powered. It's likely that it will not work even as a normal stylus when there's no battery power. I could be wrong here but I've used other similar types of stylus like the Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint which behaves like that.


Wait for more drawing apps to support the Apple Pencil.

I can almost be sure that Wacom will not be supporting the Apple Pencil. If Wacom Bamboo Paper app supports Apple Pencil's pressure sensitivity or palm rejection, people won't buy their styluses anymore, judging by the number of unfavorable reviews on Amazon.

From Apple's website and the presentation, the drawing apps currently supported are Paper by FiftyThree, Procreate, Adobe (Photoshop) Sketch, and very likely Adobe (Illustrator) Draw by association. Other popular drawing apps that need support would be Sketchbook Pro and ArtRage.

Oh, it's not going to replace the sketchbooks

You can't replicate the tactile feeling and satisfaction of drawing on paper. :-)


Add new comment