How My iPad Changed My Life

Last year a good friend of the family gave me an iPad Mini (more specs) as a reward for getting a book published. I trotted around happily with this iPad, reading library e-books on it, surfing the web, all that good stuff. I’m almost embarrassed at how long it took me to realize I could download sketching programs (Autodesk Sketchbook and Procreate are the two I finally settled on), and I didn’t really focus in on using the iPad as a sketchbook until a coworker bought me a Sensu brush stylus.

Now, this is the point where I’ll admit that I’m a serial sketchbook abandoner. I start a sketchbook, fill a couple pages, decide everything I draw is terrible and that I’m “wasting paper”, and abandon the sketchbook.

¼ of the abandoned sketchbooks:

Sketchbook Stack

Seriously, look at this! It’s embarrassing!

The point is, I wasn’t drawing as much as I should have.

I do have a Cintiq, which I cracked and purchased after TEN YEARS of hoping and praying Wacom would create a portable Cintiq.  That’s what I REALLY wanted – a portable digital sketchbook.  After sitting in front of a computer at work all day, the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit in front of another workstation for an additional 3-4 hours.  I wanted something I could toss into my bag!  Something I could curl up with on the couch or set up shop in a cafe or use on the train!

You can imagine my delight when, THE SAME FRIGGING YEAR I purchased my Cintiq, Wacom released the Cintiq Companion. >:P

No, I'm not bitter.  Not bitter at all.

No, I’m not bitter. Not bitter at all.

So when I installed Sketchbook and Procreate on the iPad, it was a bit of a revelation, and a huge relief.   There was no way I could justify getting a Cintiq Companion with a barely one-year-old Cintiq standing on my desk.  The iPad was pretty close to being exactly what I’d been hoping for, especially after I inherited my relative’s iPad Air 2 (more specs), which had a lot of increased power compared to the Mini, and let me create much larger canvases.  The absolute best thing about using the iPad is that it shut up the stupid paper-waster voice in my head.  I’ve found myself sketching much for regularly and with a lot less angst because there’s no paper to waste, there’s always an undo button, and I have a limitless amount of cat-free storage space.

I will admit that at first it felt weird to dump the sketchbooks and switch entirely to digital.  Most of my friends were using Procreate for loose sketches, or they were using their iPad as a kind of portable portfolio.  I didn’t personally know anyone who was using an iPad as their primary sketchbook.  But then I stumbled across the SketcherMan Blog, which was a revelation.  There ARE other artists using iPads as their full time sketchbooks!  I also I have access to a Surface 3, and it’s a great work-surface, but I prefer the iPad for the following reasons: 1) It’s LIGHT.  I can throw it in my bag and I barely notice the extra weight.  2) It’s never run hot, which makes for a VERY comfortable drawing surface.  The Surface 3 can run hot sometimes.  At this point, the only real complaints I have about the iPad are the size of my stylus’s tip (which I get into below) and the maximum canvas size limits I’m currently running into in Procreate and Sketchbook (I would love to be able to create a full size, full resolution page of comic pencils on the iPad.  Right now I’m still a couple hundred pixels shy).  I save all my sketches directly to the iCloud or Dropbox which offers great peace of mind in case my iPad’s stolen or I lose it.

Initially the size of the stylus’ pen tip bothered me.  I was used to a Cintiq or Wacom stylus, and it felt very awkward at first to use a such a large nib.  So I did a ton of research.  Was it worth investing in a high-end iPad stylus, like Studio 53’s Pencil, the Adonit Jot, or the Intuos Creative Stylus 2? Could I find one with a small nib?  The Jot has the smallest tip of any of the styluses I looked at, weren’t crushingly expensive, and had decent reviews.  There were just enough complaints to give me pause, however.  After all, I didn’t want to drop nearly $30 to end up with something I wasn’t going to use.  Most of the styluses I looked at range from $40 to almost $100 and that didn’t encourage a lot of risk-taking on my part, especially considering I already had one.  To complicate things, for awhile I just couldn’t understand why all the styluses had such freaking huge tips!  Why couldn’t I use my old Intuos, or Cintiq, or Surface 3 pens on the iPad or my Android phone?

Sensu tip size compared to a Cintiq stylus

Sensu tip size compared to a Cintiq stylus

Look at this!  The Sensu tip is HUGE compared to the Cintiq’s!  WTF?!

Theeeeeen…I read this article explaining the difference between capacitive screens (such as on smart phones and iPads) and regular touch screens (Cintiq, Surface 3).

At the end of the day, I decided to stick with the Sensu, which is all fairness is an excellent stylus.  I don’t use the brush as often as I should, but it really does feel like painting with a real brush, and the company has excellent customer service and made it very easy for me to order replacement stylus tips.  They also offer the Buddy stylus tip, which you can shove onto any pen or pencil, is great in a pinch, and only costs $5.  In the meantime, I’m keeping a close eye on articles about the iPad Pro and keeping my fingers crossed.

How My iPad Changed My Life was originally published on Leigh’s Art & Writing Blog