The pandemic really changed my at-home interests and hobbies. I would normally prioritize coding/programming self-training over anything else at home, however, something changed my mind. Not only did I decide to take art more seriously like I used to when I was younger, 1 but I also invested in new technology that I never imagined I would invest on: the iPad. Because I wasn’t really ready for the iPad Pro, 2 I currently own an 10.2″ iPad 7th generation model and a 1st generation Apple Pencil.
I also used to be an Adobe loyalist since Adobe software (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) was what I learned from high school and college/university days. I didn’t want to go through another learning curve when I think about free and more affordable software similar to the Adobe suites then. But as I was browsing through the App Store to install some interesting apps on my new iPad, I came across Procreate and how it was the highest-rated illustration software made for the iPad. Not only did I invest in Procreate, but I also started enrolling in online art courses that involved the iPad and Procreate. 3
Right when I began my first art course in learning beginning digital art using iPad and Procreate, there is one thing that I noticed right away: drawing/creating art from scratch is a lot more difficult than I thought. I wasn’t talking about the art techniques or anything. It’s about the usage of the Apple Pencil and the feeling of holding and drawing on the very slippery screen that you couldn’t even get your lines “perfect.” 4 Not only did the Apple Pencil felt slippery over the screen, but sometimes the screen won’t even read your Apple Pencil tip because of the way you’re handling it like you would with a traditional pen/pencil and paper.
There are a lot of sites and blog posts from professional artists and iPad enthusiasts all over the internet and definitely have given tips on how to have a better experience with your iPad/Apple Pencil and to also give care to them when you use them frequently, but in this post, I’d also like to share a bit of my experiences too.
First-time obstacles in using iPad for digital art
Aside from the usual, such as iPad malfunctioning, Apple Pencil not working, iPad and Apple Pencil not fully charged or running out of battery power, etc., this is about a few problems that first-timers would first go through the first time they use an iPad. This applies to both beginner artists and experienced/professional artists.
The following points below are the obstacles that I came across. Some of these may apply to first-time iPad users too:
- Learning curves in using an iPad: I am primarily a Windows PC user and an Android user, and it was only recent that I started using a refurbished Macbook Pro, but I acquired an iPad first before the MacPro years ago. While still getting used to the MacPro basic settings, I have to get used the same way with the iPad. I also learned that MacOS and iOS are two different systems and have some differences, so I had to take some time to learn its basic features, such as the Airdrop feature where you can send files from the iPad to the MacPro and vice versa. But because back then, I didn’t discover Airdrop yet, I resorted to using my Dropbox subscription as my file management system, since Dropbox automatically syncs the file contents when I save them to the Dropbox cloud. Even with learning Airdrop now, I still use my Dropbox. In that way, I don’t have the hassle of using my external hard drives 5
- Procreate is iPad’s hottest illustration program/app: … but it’s not for free. Luckily, it’s only $10 and the app is yours forever. It’s not like with Adobe CC where you have to have a subscription to use the software. There are other free illustration apps that we can use as alternatives, such as MediaBang Paint, ibisPaint, FireAlpaca, Krita, and Inkscape, but the price tag also gave me a clue that there must be something in Procreate that the free apps or Adobe may not have in their features list, so I purchased my copy. I did not regret purchasing the program, because when I discovered Class 101 for the first time last year and wanted to enroll in their courses, the majority of the digital art courses they offered all use Procreate as the illustration program of the instructors’ choice. I was an Adobe CC loyalist, meaning this is another learning curve. However, it wasn’t that bad at all. I now turn more towards Procreate for illustration because the features are easy to use and it’s also very economical. I’m still interested in learning other various illustration software so that I can be a lot more well-rounded. My next goal to learn is to master Clip Studio Paint.
- My hands shake whenever I grasp the Apple Pencil and tremble even more whenever I try to draw on the screen…: This is the real obstacle I came across the first time I started using an iPad for art. My hand is not very stable whenever I try to draw something on the screen. It’s very hard to draw a line regardless if it’s a straight line, curved line, wavy line, etc. You couldn’t seem to draw them at the exact spot you want them to be. It wasn’t because the Apple Pencil wasn’t working or that the iPad won’t read the Apple Pencil “swipes.” It’s because the screen is so slippery whenever you “slide” the Apple Pencil top across just to write or draw your lines on the digital easel. I was sad at the time I was watching the instructor drawing her pieces perfectly with the right forms of her lines that I thought that I needed some kind of an exercise drill to get used to drawing using the Apple Pencil. It wasn’t until I enrolled in my third Class 101 course that the instructor there finally provided tips on how to set up your iPad if you are a first-timer. Because of this instruction, I finally got my iPad set up as I wanted to be and now I can finally feel like I’m drawing on paper rather than “sliding” the Apple Pencil against the slippery screen.
- The Apple Pencil tips wear out very fast: It hasn’t been over two months since I got my iPad and now I was seeing something “shiny” at the tip of my Apple Pencil. It turned out that the white plastic (rubber maybe?) tip that was used to glide onto the screen had worn out. Mind you, this is an official Apple product, not some cheap imitation. The replacement Apple Pencil tips sold by Apple were, as expected, expensive, so I dug through Amazon to find any cheaper alternatives. I found a 3-piece replacement nib kit and immediately replaced my tip. The “cheap alternative” tip lasted me about 5-6 months, which is quite impressive and a lot stronger than the official Apple Pencil replacement tip, but it also got worn out. I had to replace it again. As of this writing, I’m currently using this second replacement and I only have one replacement nib left.
Most likely, if you’re a first-timer and your iPad works perfectly, the third bullet point above would be the one you may be getting an obstacle through. Eventually as you start getting into drawing illustrations with your iPad, the fourth bullet point will eventually get to you as well.
This also means you would have to shell out extra money to properly set up your iPad that’s specifically designed for digital drawing and for artists in general.
My iPad Setup
Thanks to my iPad art courses, now I learned that I really do need to have proper setup for my iPad if my primary use for it is to create digital art. On the other hand, the iPad’s primary purpose isn’t really for digital art, however, its powers had been extended to be a portable tool for every hobbyist out there including art. I have a Kindle Fire 6 and it came with a stylus that I thought it’d be possible to learn freestyle hand-drawn graphics and art on the screen. Sadly, even with a number of illustration apps out there, I failed for this same reason.
I quickly looked up Amazon to se if a particular accessory is now available for the Kindle Fire. Sadly, nothing came up, and iPad also had become a popular tablet for portable drawing on the go. Luckily, I decided to invest in an iPad eventually.
Here is my current iPad setup:
Here are my following specs:
- iPad 7th Generation (10.2″)
- Apple Pencil 1st Generation
- Thankscase Case for iPad 7th Generation 10.2″ with built-in stand
- AhaStyle Apple Pencil Case
- Paperlike Screen Protector for iPad 10.2″
- PenTips Apple Pencil tip cover
Aside from the first two items, I’ll explain why I set my iPad/Apple Pencil this way:
Thankcase Case for iPad with built-in stand: I like to do my drawings both on a flat surface or tilted standing up. Sometimes I need my iPad to prop up, not only so I can have a bit more accurate drawings, but also to keep my wrist safe and my neck safe (from looking down while drawing). The propping is very helpful when I’m traveling, 7 especially during the sunny daytime. And I chose the Blue Rose color because I think it’s really cute.
AhaStyle Apple Pencil Case: It’s for my little fingers and that I can have a better, more comfortable grip. Sometimes when I use the Apple Pencil for a long time drawing, the grip of my fingers on its body can hurt sometimes. That soft touch feel on the pencil case’s rugged texture feels so nice. And also, the little pineapple leaf (?) top is cute too.
Paperlike Screen Protector: For all my devices, I always have a screen protector. Both my laptops (PC and MacPro) have matte screen protectors to protect my eyes from the glare and the blue light. My old Kindle Fire also has a screen protector for the same reason, as well as protecting its glass screen from breaking. But for my iPad, I need this specific type of screen protector to do all three: anti-glare and anti-blue light, protect the iPad screen from getting shattered when dropped, and most of all, add a little bit of friction onto the screen so that when I write/draw on the screen, it would feel like I’m using a pen/pencil and the screen is like paper. When you use your Apple Pencil (or any stylus for the matter) on your iPad screen for the first time, even with a standard screen protector, you’d have a hard time controlling the way you hold and you use it. This results in your drawings and handwritings looking rather messy. At least with a paperlike screen protector, you’d feel some friction as you write onto the screen, which will give you a lot more control with what you’re drawing/writing on the screen. It’s been a game-changer for me and I feel a lot more confident with digital art now.
PenTips Apple Pencil Tip Cover: This is my latest accessory to my iPad care setup. When I saw the ad for this on Instagram, I knew I had to have a set to protect my Apple Pencil tip from getting worn out quickly. Just purchasing an Apple Pencil in itself is already expensive, and then you’d feel also “cheated” when you realize that their tips get worn out so quickly when you use them more often. This is bad news for artists and writers. We don’t want to spend so much money for pen tip replacements. I already worn mine out twice and I’m already down to my last extra replacement tip. And so, I ordered a set with the white color, namely so it still matches with my green Apple Pencil case. I particularly chose PenTips in particular because not only that it protects your tips from getting worn out for over-usage, but it also gives that same friction feeling when you write/draw on the iPad screen. If you don’t have a paperlike screen protector, this pen tip cover can cover for that. But I also read that it’s helpful if you have both for much better control.
Where to purchase these accessories?
For the most part, I purchased most of them from Amazon. The only item that I didn’t purchase from Amazon are the PenTips. I ordered them directly from the official PenTips website.
I did stumble across another IG ad from my progress art diary IG and I bookmarked it for future reference. If you want to save money and “bundle” some accessories, InftyPaper sells its own signature product, the Inftypaper iPad Screen Protector, which is a paperlike screen protector. They also sell their own version of the pen tip cover as well for both generations of the Apple Pencil. Lastly, they also sell their own Apple Pencil cover and even their own ergonomic grip holder as well. The price isn’t exactly cheap, but I got my generic (?) paperlike screen protector for around $25 USD as well, so the price for the Inftypaper is around that price range.
Just a word of thought: You don’t need to have all of these accessories like the ones I have. Some people reported that having a pen tip cover without a screen protector was enough for them. Others would prefer the paperlike screen protector by itself. 8 And then, there are those, like myself, who have both the tip cover and the screen protector. It’s all up to you and your personal preferences.
Let’s not forget!
Aside from those accessories, we shouldn’t forget to take care of the iPad internally also. When there are software updates, let’s be sure we update them. When there are operation system updates, it’s very important to update them. Lastly, we should also do what we can to use the battery power wisely. Let’s keep our USB/lightning cables and adapters in safe places and in good condition too.
Finally, we also need to learn how to love our iPad too. These tablets are expensive, we’ve saved money to invest in one, let’s use them wisely. AppleCare Plus (warranty program) is not cheap as well, so let’s all do the best as we can to continuing on giving a lot of care for our iPads and Apple Pencils.
- middle school to high school…
- more like I can’t really afford it
- I still use Adobe creative software suites till today though, mostly for web design/development. The featured images I’m using for the blog entries were all created using Adobe Spark Post from my phone.
- “Perfect” as in the position and form, not necessarily about having perfect straight or curly lines…
- I used them for my Windows PC laptop, so there may be some incompatibilities with the MacPro if I use these same external hard drives just to save and transfer files. The Dropbox is a life saver though!
- I still use it for reading eBooks/Kindle books and for reference, although I can do the same thing with my phone and the iPad too…
- That is, when I’m not driving, more like riding public transportation or riding in someone else’s car at the back seat…
- The Apple Pencil tip will still wear out even with the screen protector…