Drawing with an iPad?
November 28, 2011 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I need some suggestions for an e-drawing set-up. My girlfriend has a Macbook and a 1st generation iPad. She wants to use some combination of these to start drawing with a tablet. What's the best rig?

She's a painter/drawer by trade, and a teacher, but new to the world of drawing on a computer. We've tried a few of the drawing apps in the Apple store, but the finger-on-iPad method was less-than-ideal. Is it possible to get a stylus and use the iPad as a tablet with good response, or should we just get a stand-alone drawing tablet (e.g. Wacom) and hook it up to the Macbook and get her a copy of Illustrator (or some other program)? Curious about different price points - this is a Christmas present, but I'm looking at something under $200 (we can get a free, legal copy of Illustrator through school).
posted by one_bean to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The iPad is terrific for sketching, but doesn't offer the resolution to make it a print-friendly solution. The best app I've found so far is Sketchbook from Autodesk. There's a free version, Sketchbook Express that you can try. Unfortunately, there's no way to use the iPad as a "real" tablet right now, AFAIK.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:02 AM on November 28, 2011

I just bought this stylus and I can highly recommend it. As for software, you'll want SketchBook Pro. Even supports pressure sensing for styli; and syncs with the Mac version (on sale for $20 in the App Store now, normally $60)
posted by ConstantineXVI at 10:03 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

PS: Not totally sure if the iPad version supports pressure sensing (I have the Android version myself), but IMHO it's a terrific bargin even without that feature.
posted by ConstantineXVI at 10:06 AM on November 28, 2011

Best answer: I've tried a couple of different styluses on the iPad and nothing I've used so far feels quite right. This is primarily because I can't rest my wrist on the iPad while I'm drawing, but also because the foam tip of the stylus moving across the glass creates significantly more resistance than the tip of a pen/pencil moving across paper, and I don't get the smooth lines I want. I sketch more than I paint, and I've found the finger drawing experience to be pretty suboptimal.

That said, beaucoupkevin is right in that Sketchbook from Autodesk is no doubt the best drawing app out there.

I have a Wacom Intuo 3 and I use it with Photoshop (which I find more intuitive than Illustrator), and this is the best set up that's worked for me so far. If you can't get a copy of Photoshop easiliy, there are tons of alternatives out there - Pixelmator, for example, seems to get tons of good reviews.
posted by Phire at 10:06 AM on November 28, 2011

I second (or whatever it's up to now) Sketchbook. While i've seen some amazing drawings with fingers, a decent wacom tablet is not a bad price and you get pressure sensitive and much better.
posted by usagizero at 10:12 AM on November 28, 2011

Best answer: FWIW, I've found that Griffin stylus I linked above to need far less pressure than most other styli of this kind. Capacitative styli won't ever match a Wacom though; that's your best option if you need a "pro" stylus.

PS: this obviously doesn't work for someone that already owns an iPad (unless you have unlimited funds), but both the HTC Flyer and ThinkPad Tablet pack a digitizer into an otherwise normal Android tablet if you're looking for a "best of both worlds" approach.
posted by ConstantineXVI at 10:37 AM on November 28, 2011

Would be worth keeping an eye out for this stylus (not yet for sale unfortunately).
posted by pwally at 10:39 AM on November 28, 2011

Best answer: It's hard for me to imagine using anything but a Wacom and Illustrator but then, I need the ability to fix stuff.
posted by bz at 11:08 AM on November 28, 2011

Best answer: Agreed that a wacom is what you need. Friends of mine who draw a lot also swear by ArtRage -- this program is designed to emulate traditional art media (to the point where you can work with dirty "brushes" if you want!), so it might be ideal for someone coming from the pen-and-paper world. They have a $5 iPad app, and the full program is also affordable (it happens to be on a half-price sale right now: $20 for the basic pack or $50 for Pro).
posted by vorfeed at 11:24 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I haven't used it myself, but the Adonit Jot range, for a fine-lined stylus, has some enthusiastic proponents...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:47 AM on November 28, 2011

We've tried a few of the drawing apps in the Apple store

I do agree that generally a stylus seems a better idea, but if you've not tried it, maybe have a look at brushes. It's claim to fame is that some New Yorker covers were done with it.
posted by juv3nal at 12:18 PM on November 28, 2011

Take a look at Air Display. I've seen videos of people using it with Photoshop to do painting and drawing...
posted by stratastar at 1:22 PM on November 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the very helpful answers. I'll go with an entry-level Wacom tablet and see how she likes it, go from there.
posted by one_bean at 4:34 PM on November 28, 2011

Make sure it is an entry-level Intuos and not the Bamboo. Understand that "entry-level" means a small tablet. If she is used to traditional media and moving her whole arm as she works rather than just her wrist, she may find the smallest Intuos to be somewhat limiting.

In my experience running studios, the designers with fine arts experience and instincts always chose at least a 12"x12" tablet.
posted by bz at 8:33 AM on November 29, 2011

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