I have been trialling and reviewing tablets, styluses and Sketch apps since 2012. Many of the apps have been improved over the years but I always see to gravitate back to using the sketch app ‘Procreate’ an acquiring the latest stylus. I am currently using Procreate on the iPad Pro using a ‘Pencil’. The technology and functionality are improving all the time.
My first experience drawing on an iPad was with my finger using the cut down version of the Paper 53. One pen, one eraser and 7 colours. I was used to drawing with a Wacom Tablet and pen in Illustrator or Photoshop, so the absence of layers was quite restrictive. I was unable to create an editable drawing on a prepared ground which was frustrating. In the early days it was not possible to reduce the size of the eraser. Very annoying. The line thickness was not dependant on pressure but on speed. The faster my finger moved across the screen, the thinner the line. I found this counter intuitive. It was particularly annoying when using the watercolour pen which got lighter the harder you pressed down.
Back in 2012 the early Sketch apps had trouble keeping up with a fast drawer like myself. There was a delay, so I was forced to slow down. I filmed myself drawing in the early days, as there was no recording function in any Sketch apps. This function came later. Viewing these videos, it is evident that I found drawing on the iPad difficult. The small canvas was restrictive but I soon learned to block out a composition lightly and then zoom in to draw details. The pop out menu in Paper 53 was also disconcerting. I drew with my finger first to experience how Hockney produced his early images on his mobile phone. I quickly moved to using a stylus which had more control. I mastered the rewind function using two fingers in a circular motion but this made me slow down and ‘fiddle’ too much, so I stopped using it.
During 2012 – 2013 I trialled the early versions of the following Sketch apps and styluses.
- Pages 53 – finger and Pogo stylus
- Brushes – finger, Pogo stylus and recording function
- SketchBook Pro – Pogo stylus
- Procreate – Bamboo stylus
The early trials using Brushes were successful due to the recording function. This provided some interesting insights into my drawing process and heralded the potential of sketch apps for analysing the drawing trail.
SketchBook Pro has the advantage of a vector drawing function which can be brought into Adobe illustrator in layers for additional editing. It started with a few novelty functions, such as the mirror effect, but lacked the more traditional drawing tools of Procreate.
Procreate had limited functionality in the early days but has developed to become my Sketch app of choice. It has been designed for mixed media artists emulating many of the traditional tools. The effects match those used in photoshop and the multiple layers can be easily imported directly into Photoshop. The recording function is also very good.
The current iPad technology and ‘Pencil’ stylus have transformed the tablet drawing experience making this more accessible to novice drawers. The possibilities of using improved Sketch apps with future technologies will facilitate the use of drawing and sketching alongside cut and paste and other forms of concept visualisations as part of the design process.