If you’re at all a Mac person, and maybe even if you’re not, you’ll know that Apple recently released their latest version of the iPad along with a couple of nifty accessories. The new iPad Pro is a larger, brighter, juicier version of the regular iPad. There’s a special optional keyboard available and—ta, da!—the Apple Pencil.
When I first read online about the new iPad Pro and especially the Apple Pencil, I immediately wanted both of them, deeply, covetously. The keyboard, not so much, as I don’t use my iPad for documents or writing. No, I wanted a new art toy.
Now, a bit of background. In the last few months I’d begun to use my iPad as a helpful drawing and sketching tool. I’d loaded a few art apps to try out (I’ll write more about them in future) and found I really enjoyed working out ideas on the iPad before committing to actual paint. At one time in the hazy past, my career as an illustrator took a digital turn and I worked quite a bit on a Wacom tablet with stylus. So working digitally is not new to me. The difference between a Wacom tablet and an iPad is that with the Wacom, you’re working on the tablet but seeing the work appear on your computer screen. Your drawing is not actually appearing on the Wacom tablet. There’s a strange disconnect there that takes some getting used to. Working directly on an iPad gives a much more immediate, visceral connection akin to working on real paper.
But what I didn’t like about working on an iPad was the mushy feel of my Wacom Bamboo stylus and the lag factor. The stylus was still preferable to using my finger, but sure didn’t feel like pencil on paper. The lag factor refers to how any stroke I made would be delayed before appearing on the screen. Not by much, but enough that it didn’t feel completely spontaneous and natural. Also, my old iPad couldn’t handle the art app I was using and kept crashing. So while I liked using it as a tool to work out ideas, it wasn’t ideal.
That’s when my husband mentioned at breakfast one day that Apple had come out with a new stylus that was going to blow all the others into dust. It purportedly had no lag (or as good as), was pressure-sensitive for shading and line width, and actually looked and felt like a pencil! The catch was that I would also need to invest in a new iPad Pro, the only iPad the Pencil talks to.
However, you could probably hear my “I WANT IT!” resound all the way to Toronto! Then it turned out that the Apple Pencil was having some production issues and wouldn’t be available for up to two months! How could I possibly wait that long for my life to have true meaning?
Long story short, I bought the iPad Pro and used it with my old stylus. I loved the extra large surface area, the fantastic resolution and the fact that my art app didn’t make it crash! I got the iPad Pro with 128GB storage rather than the skimpy 32GB version, since I figured all the sketching and drawing I was planning to do would eventually take up quite a bit of storage space. Downside was my mushy, old stylus that still lagged (although not quite so much—the iPad Pro is a powerful beast) and the non-intuitive way it worked with the art app.
Eventually, if we wait long enough, all good things will come to pass. My Apple Pencil arrived and I tremblingly removed it from its box. There were a few glitches. I realized it would be good to charge it up before using it (yes, you need to charge it separately). (Aside—you should see our kitchen counter when all our electronic devices are sitting there charging away—two phones, two iPads and now the Pencil—an electronic wonderland!)
Also, I needed to turn on Bluetooth, something not helpfully mentioned in the skimpy literature.
And then, as I said previously, “ta-da!” the clouds parted, the sun shone through in rays of glorious light, and I put Apple Pencil to screen. Oh, wait, not working quite that well yet. I realized that I needed to set the pressure-sensitivity in the art app to respond to the way I created my strokes. OK, that’s done—vast improvement. Sunshine again!
Do you get the sense yet that I love this thing? I think Apple really nailed it. I’ve spent the last few evenings playing, er, working with the Pencil and the more I use it, the more intuitive it seems to be. I become engrossed and not actually aware of using a digital tool. In other words, I go to that daydreamy place that regular art tools such as real pencils, markers and crayons take me to, where the tools are just that—tools—and you’re only aware of the art you’re creating.
I admit that the Pencil tip against the iPad screen is not the same feel as pencil on paper. But I actually like it. It’s smooth and effortless. The pointy tip is great for detail work. When working with my previous stylus I was never quite sure where the line was under that bulbous tip, and combined with the lag factor, made for lots of undos and “tsks.” Not anymore.
My paper sketchbook is languishing in a drawer. I’ll probably go back to it occasionally when I feel like it, but for now I’m infatuated with my new beau.
And that’s it for this year! I’ll be taking off between Christmas and New Year’s, so no blog post next week. See you right here in 2016 and until then may all your days and nights be merry and bright!