I bought an iPad
A few people have asked me to write this post about my move from Wacom to Apple so here it is in not so few words! Less than a week ago, I was reading other people’s reviews and watching comparisons all about Wacom and Apple, I didn’t expect myself to be writing my own so soon but I feel its definitely worth sharing the experience I have had in such a small amount of time. I found my very first Wacom the other week when I was tidying, so I thought I’d add that one into the comparison too. So here is my whole ‘tablet experience’ over the last 3 years!
I have always enjoyed illustration all through school, college and university. To this day, I’m not entirely sure why during the interview for my BA (Hons) Graphic Design course, I wasn’t told to go and apply for illustration instead. I had a look during second year at my portfolio that I took to my interview, the whole thing was illustration. Even through uni, it was always something that I incorporated into every project throughout my course, so I knew it was something to invest in.
In my first year of university, I bought my first tablet. A tiny Wacom One CTL-471 for £50. I thought it was a reasonable price for a beginner tablet and I really wanted to start making digital art on the side of my course. I got on with it fine, it took a small amount of time to pick up the technique of essentially drawing on a desk while looking at a completely different art board. It didn’t have a screen so it was hard to draw the lines perfectly, my hands were glued to cmd+z as I was pressing them after every other line I drew, precision wasn’t really achievable without putting in the time. This was okay as I didn’t know any different, I just embraced the style of ‘imperfect lines’ and got on with it.
Late in 2016 I decided I needed to invest more money into what I wanted to do, I had been drawing on the CTL-470 every day and I knew it wasn’t a passing hobby by this point, it was what I wanted to do when I finished university. I bought the Wacom Cintiq 13HD, which was great. When I received it, it changed my work entirely. Everything became more refined, I was more enthusiastic about drawing and everything took a lot less time as I could see exactly what I was doing. This tablet carried me through all of last year, final major project, work with Nike, Dazed and other clients, but I always had a problem with portability. (You can actually see my hand tensing / struggling to hold it in the photo below)
It works fluidly with all computer programmes. I never had any issues with the screen rendering on Photoshop, Illustrator or other things, for example watching TV/Film when I’m working on my computer screen instead of the tablet. This was my biggest fear when moving to iPad, the uncertainty of it potentially slowing down my work flow. I’m so used to using my Wacom like a computer, using a mouse with it when working between screens, the ease of being able to just drag the programme I’m working on from one screen to the other to carry out a different action more efficiently.
The Wacom Cintiq is heavy and also has the largest cable ever (maybe an exaggeration, but to me it is). This photo might not do it justice but believe me, I really didn’t have a good time if I was trying to go and work somewhere other than my own desk. It might just be me being particular about this but it really bugged me and although my Cintiq is great for its purpose: a second screen for my iMac or Macbook, this was its downfall (I have taken it out with my Macbook probably less than 10 times due to this).
I chose to look into the iPad Pro last week and what I would be able to do with it: would I be able to use it as a second screen, will I still be able to use all of the programmes that I know such Adobe. It is much sleeker than the Wacom and they simply require a lightning cable to charge them and then can run on their own, super portable, which is what I really wanted. The main thing I was worried about was client work, not using Adobe Creative Suite and if I would be able to carry work out to the same standard using an iPad, which I have always seen as more of a leisure item with drawing capabilities.
After reading about AstroPad and Duet, which allow you to turn your iPad into either a mirrored screen (AstroPad and Duet) and a second screen (only Duet), I was confident to go and buy one. I was told I had a 14 day satisfaction guarantee to try it out, if it didn’t work the way I wanted it to, I could take it back and get a refund – no questions asked. I can understand why they have confidence that this guarantee wont be necessary, it’s all so wonderfully made, and always a great user experience. Even down to the design of the packaging and how the item and its accessories are presented to you in the box.
The day after having this thought (I am very impatient), I went to Apple and I bought the 256GB, 12.9inch iPad Pro in Gold (to match my sad phone that I partially shattered the same day). I also bought the Apple Pencil, again, a wonderful design, very ergonomic with a good shape and weight to it. I would, however, only purchase if you will be drawing a lot or have a spare £99 knocking about. I hadn’t realised how expensive they were. A positive about Wacom is that they were primarily for drawing, so the pen was included with both models I’d had, no hidden costs. It was an expensive trip but I was so excited to have finally bought one. I had planned to look for a stand to hold the iPad at about a 30/40 degree angle like my Wacom had come with (all of Apple’s extras you require are definitely their downfall). Luckily, when looking around IKEA I found the perfect stand for £1.50 which I was over the moon with as I would have probably spent way more online if I hadn’t come across it.
As soon as I got it home, I set it up, bought Procreate and Duet (I believe they were £9.99 each, one off payments) and also downloaded Adobe Draw which was free. I decided I didn’t want to try AstroPad as it is either £11.99 per month or £89 per year and only mirrors the screen instead of creating a second screen. This is no good for me as I like having different things on different screens to use as reference or work between Photoshop and After Effects when I’m animating. I tried Duet straight away, as this was the main feature I wanted to try, to be able to use my iPad like my Wacom was the goal. I had a few problems with the rendering of the screen on Photoshop, I had to turn off the graphics processor in preferences so that what I was drawing to even show up at all. The precision in Photoshop isn’t as good with the iPad, the pen nib is thicker than on the Wacom, making it a bit more difficult to see where you are putting the pen down. I have noticed that the nib on the Apple Pencil and the glass screen don’t make for as smooth of a line as the Wacom screen/pen combo, which is I guess, why Procreate and Adobe Draw for the iPad seem to have automatic smoothing on the brushes in their libraries.
Overall, I have had a good experience with the iPad over the last few days, and I am still able to achieve my same visual style with different tools. I know it’s not a lengthly amount of time, but I don’t see myself returning it. It’s too lovely and is appearing to fit my needs so far. I am overjoyed that you can use it as a second screen, and I think I’m starting to prefer the brushes and effects you can create using Procreate. Procreate also uses layers, you are able to save files as PSD, PDF, JPEG, PNG and TIFF which are all compatible with Photoshop, so you can keep your layers and can work on them on Photoshop on a desktop should you need. I can definitely see my style developing and I am already experimenting with more prints, typography and other linear styles. Being as portable as it is, I’m now going to be able to get out of the house, get inspiration and feel like I can work more on the move instead of feeling stuck at a desk. I didn’t contemplate getting a different tablet until last week when I realised how much more I wanted to move around. The better thing about Wacom, it is cheaper than the iPad Pro for everything you need, you don’t have to splash near £100 on the pen alone after paying over £900 on the machine and more on the software, Apple can get pricey. Another cost to think about is Apple Care. They recommend purchasing this, it has to be done within the first 80 days, you have to take the iPad back into store so they can see it in working condition and is £89 for 2 years cover. You pay £39 excess if it breaks and that covers 2 replacements during the two years. I was advised they cant actually fix iPads, once the unit is opened to try and repair, any other damage can occur. So if broken, without Apple Care, you have to pay for the whole unit again if you want it fixed.
I hope this very lengthly post was of help to any of you feeling like you might want to get an iPad, I definitely do recommend. I’m now looking forward to doing my first client work with it and getting to grips with it more. I will also be taking it to Canada with me this summer, it’ll be great for the plane and with the WordPress app, I can blog on it easily as the keyboard when using landscape is pretty much the same to type on as my Apple keyboard (I’m sure you’ve experienced the difficulty of trying to type when the keys aren’t the same distance you’re used to!). However, if you are still just staying at a desk and not wanting to move around, I’d definitely stick with a Wacom or get a Wacom (depending if you have one or not). The Cintiq 13HD is great value for money, amazing for drawing on and comes with all of the nuts and bolts with no hidden extra costs.