iPad Pro 12.9” with Apple Pencil - Review for Artists
The iPad Pro has become a popular drawing tool for artists - and for good reason - but it seems to be very much a win or lose situation for most artists, and really seems to come down to the individual artists needs. I’ve now owned my 12.9” iPad Pro for 7 or 8 months now, and wanted to share my own thoughts on it so that it may help another artist deciding whether or not they should buy one themselves!
Scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the review video!
Why I bought it:
I had recently bought a Macbook Pro because I was wanting to be able to do video editing on the go (and I also didn’t own anything portable - I only used a desktop PC). And so my wont for more portability extended to being able to draw digitally.
Now, I already owned a 22” Wacom Cintiq, so I had two problems:
I was used to drawing on a cintiq and no longer enjoyed drawing on my old intuos, so even though my old intuos is portable, I did not want to have to use it.
I was reluctant to spend another 2 grand on a cintiq, when I already owned a great one.
I had been hearing some great things about the Ipad Pro and Apple Pencil from other artists - they were saying that it felt natural, and almost better than a Cinitq! I was intrigued… so I finally got to try one out at JB Hi Fi, and loved it so much I bought it on the spot!
The Ipad Pro effectively is a portable graphics tablet with its own operating system (meaning it doesn’t require plugging into a computer to be able to use it) that let’s you draw on-screen with pressure sensitivity and pen tilt abilities with the Apple Pencil.
There are several programs which you can draw and paint with that utilise the pressure sensitivity and tilt capabilities. The most popular software being used is Procreate, which only requires a one-off payment of $11 (no ongoing monthly fees). It also has a great feature where it records your whole painting process, which you can export as a video - a very popular thing for artists to share and lots of people enjoy watching.
Artists looking for a small, portable, all-in-one/stand-alone digital tablet (that is, with its own operating system that does not need to be plugged into a computer to use).
Artists looking for a cheap Wacom Cintiq alternative.
Artists looking for a basic, easy-to-use, and intuitive on-screen tablet experience.
Very portable - the size of a small laptop (12.9” version), but can get a smaller size (10.5”). Both very thin and lightweight.
Great drawing tool to take with you anywhere - doesn’t require you to carry around large, heavy drawing pads, or several different pencils and erasers.
Uses apple’s operating system - meaning that you don’t need to plug it into a computer to use it. Apple OS is easy-to-use, reliable, and familiar.
Cheap software (Procreate) with no ongoing monthly membership fees - just a one-off cost.
Cheaper than a Cintiq.
Easily connectable with iPhones and Macs - Airdrop to either one to upload your images to whatever online place you wish.
Can use software like Astropad to be able to use it like a Cintiq, connected to your Mac as a mirrored screen. Although, it has its setbacks - is expensive for an ipad app ($47AUD) and if you want to get more features with the software (like a pop-up keyboard) you have to pay for Astropad Studio, which is an ongoing monthly membership for $11.99 monthly or $79.99 annually. You also can’t map the entire computer screen, as the iPad and Macbook screens are different aspect ratios). In my opinion, I don’t believe Astropad provides a 100% Cintiq/graphics tablet alternative - maybe only something to get by whilst you don’t have access to one.
Battery life great (much better than a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro). An hour of drawing might see the battery go down 5-10%, but when locked the ipad can last for days - this means there’s no annoying wait-time to load up the system.
Apple Pencil also lasts for days with a full charge (I probably charge mine once every 1-2 weeks, with occasional use throughout the week) - and whilst it takes 20 minutes to fully charge, you can charge it for just a couple of minutes to get 5-10% charge - so that if the pencils battery DOES run out while you’re using it, you only have to wait a few minutes to be able to use it again without the battery running out straight away.
Virtually no lag when drawing.
Apple Pencil is easy to lose (especially the charging cover, as it is just magnetic and doesn’t have anywhere to store it whilst charging). If this is a problem, you do have the option of buying third-party Pencil containers and Pencil stands to make you less likely to lose your pen.
I make sure not to touch the pencil when it’s charging in my iPad. I feel that the Pencil could be easily knocked and the charging port within the Pencil bent (you can choose to charge the pencil via usb, though).
I found it difficult to find many good ipad covers that included a space for the pencil (there are plenty of pencil containers, though, if you don’t mind the pencil being separate from the iPad when stored).
Doesn’t support full programs like Adobe Photoshop, so probably not suitable if you’re looking for a tablet to do professional/finished work.
I personally found it intuitive to sketch with, but not to paint with (but that’s just with using Procreate with its stock brushes).
*All prices are in Australian Dollars.
iPads vary in cost beginning from $979 up to $1700 for 10.5inch (depending on hard drive size, and wifi or cellular data options), and $1200 - $1900 for the 12.9inch.
PLUS added costs of $149 for the pencil, and optional Apple Care at $129.
Comparing that to a new Cintiq Pro (which needs to be plugged into a computer) which starts at $1400 for 13” to $2200 for 16” (with added costs for the Expresskey remote, if you want shortcut buttons), OR Wacom Mobile Studio Pro (which has a standalone Windows OS) starting from $2700-$3500 for 13” (depending on hard drive size), or $3500-$4300 for 16” (depending on hard drive size).
Note that I have heard various reviews of people using past OS mobile Cintiqs saying they don’t last very long/battery dies fast/they become slow quickly.
The iPad Pro is a GREAT solution for the artist who want’s a portable digital drawing device that:
Doesn’t require hulking around anything huge or heavy
Doesn’t have to be plugged into a computer to be able to use it (but CAN be connected wirelessly to a Mac)
Doesn’t have to be plugged in to charge whilst working (if working for hours at a time)
Doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (half to a third of the price of a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro)
Provides an intuitive and natural drawing experience
Doesn’t have a huge learning curve (although Procreate really needs to have an in-app list of all the gesture shortcuts so that you don’t have to google them).
In my opinion, as a takeaway - don’t buy the iPad expecting a complete Cintiq-replacement, because it never will be, but it is a great SUPPLEMENT to an artist’s toolset, and provides a great portable option to draw digitally.
The great thing about Apple is that you go into any Apple store and try out their products before you buy - so if you're looking into getting an iPad, there's no harm in heading in store and trying one out for yourself!