advice on iPad for digital art?
April 7, 2019 7:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm contemplating an iPad for digital art and wondering what would be best for my use case? Snowflakes within.

I've dabbled with digital art in the past, mostly using a Wacom Intuos tablet/Photoshop CS6 or Clip Studio EX, but I've talked with a professional comic artist/designer and he told me that being able to draw directly on the display makes a huge difference. I'm mostly familiar with traditional art (pen & ink, watercolor) but I'd love to have a tablet that I can take with me for digital sketching on the go, and maybe also work on larger finished pieces at home.

My budget goes up to $2,000 for iPad + accessories. I realize I will also have to buy a Pencil or Pencil 2 separately. I'd rather spend less if possible, but maybe for art a bigger device is better? Right now I'm waffling between:

- 2019 iPad Mini / Pencil
- 2019 iPad Air / Pencil
- 2018 11" iPad Pro / Pencil 2
- 2017 10.5" iPad Pro / Pencil

I feel like I would get more enjoyment out of an iPad than saving up for a Wacom Cintiq or MobileStudio, but maybe I'm wrong? What have people's experiences been?

I do plan on hitting the Apple Store and handling the newer devices to see what feels right, but I'm also looking for notes on how much hard drive space I should look for, any weirdness with dongles/etc. that I should watch out for, and so on.

I'm also likely to use this device for a while rather than upgrading every time there's an update, so if spending more now means the device will last longer, I'm willing to do that. (The last iPad we bought is from 2013...)

If you want to recommend accessories for this use case, I'm also interested in hearing about that!

Thank you!
posted by yhlee to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would say get something that works with the Pencil 2. I had the Pencil 1 and it was a pain in the ass — always rolling off the table and onto the floor, and never, ever, being charged up when I need it. It seems like a neat solution to just stick it in the side of the iPad to charge it quickly, but it’s so awkward to have it just hanging out there like that. The Pencil 2, which charges when it’s clipped to the side of the iPad magnetically, is more elegant and easier to use without hassle. I’ve got the 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro now (my wife inherited the old unit) but the 11-inch should be almost as good if you don’t want the extra screen space.
posted by Mothlight at 10:50 PM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’m a full time professional digital artist and a couple months back I got a 12.9” iPad Pro with Pencil 2. And I am obsessed with this slab of heaven.

It’s glorious to draw on. I also have a 22HD Cintiq at home and I love it too, but it feels inelegant and dull next to the iPad. I don’t do comics work, but I imagine if that’s what you’re wanting to use it for, it should tick your boxes!

The bigger screen size is a total dream. I got the 256GB version, more than enough space for my needs, and with the Pencil 2 and Apple Care it was at least $500 below your 2k budget (I bought the Otterbox case recommended by Wirecutter and also really dig it).
posted by caitcadieux at 12:31 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Saw that you aren’t a comics artist, d’oh! But for digital art, it should check your boxes too! 10 minutes of noodling around with one in the Apple store was enough to convince me.
posted by caitcadieux at 12:34 AM on April 8, 2019

Best answer: I put a small rubber band around the top of my Apple Pencil 1. It no longer rolls off the table.

I will just chime in to say that a 12” iPad Pro and Apple Pencil changed my life, and I had owned every prior version of the iPAd and tried numerous prior styli.
posted by spitbull at 4:13 AM on April 8, 2019

Best answer: Brad Colbow a commercial artist, has done a series of YouTube vids that might help answer your questions.
Here is the latest one on the newest iPad Mini
posted by Faintdreams at 4:39 AM on April 9, 2019

Best answer: Hi, I'm a professional comic artist/animator, and I am in the same position to you: considering an iPad. I have been using a Cintiq since 2011 and Intuos since the Stone Age.

Re: your mention of Cintiqs: I think a Cintiq only makes a big difference if you are doing a particular type of drawing. If you're making fine linework or detailed painting—basically, if you want your artist's hand to show through in your work—the Cintiq is good for that. For everything else digital art, I prefer using a stylus tablet (Intuos). I prefer not having my hand on the screen, and I prefer not spending 8 hours a day in the crooked posture that the Cintiq encourages by default. A lot of pros go on and on about their Cintiqs—and I find great value in mine—but it's no Holy Grail. Unless your line and brushwork make you money, it's probably overkill.

iPads: In 2017, I bought a big iPad Pro and Pencil. I returned them a week later. It felt like a frivolous toy. I hated sticking the Pencil up the iPad's butt to charge it. I hated trying to do "real" work on it, since I had a desk with a Cintiq for that, and I don't want to "be able to work on the couch." My habits are already bad enough in that respect. Plus, iOS is bad at grown-up file management.

That said, the new Pro designs (esp. the Pencil 2) got me considering picking one up again. For my needs, I ruled out the iPad Air because of the detail mentioned in the Brad Colbow video linked just above: the Air will be less flexible in Procreate. Plus, the Air felt less solid beneath the pencil than the Pro. Frustrating, because if the Air had felt a little better, it would be killer. It's got a headphone port, yay, and it's enough of a $$ savings that if you get in the shop and find the drawing experience to meet your needs, I'd say jump on it. If/when I get a Pro, I'll also be getting the Otterbox case mentioned above.

Rule out the Mobilestudio, if only because the Procreate drawing & painting app is so well-designed that if a Mobilestudio can't run it (I believe Procreate is iOS exclusive) it's not worth considering.

Final point: the iPad Pro has a better camera than other iPads, apparently. If you want to incorporate your real-media drawing or painting into your digital work, that may be something to consider.
posted by TangoCharlie at 10:19 PM on April 14, 2019

MONEY SAVING TIP: make sure you check out the Apple online store's REFURBISHED section. You'll find old 10.5" iPad Pros there for a meaningful discount. I have only ever had good experiences with refurbished Apple products. A++ Would Refurb Again.
posted by TangoCharlie at 10:25 PM on April 14, 2019

Response by poster: For anyone who's checking back--thank you all for the input and insights!

I ended up going with a 2018 iPad Pro 11" with Pencil 2 after playing with the Apple Store's offerings, and after a couple weeks of use I'm already in love. I'm currently getting used to Procreate and, uh, might have picked up a few games and Notability as well. Anyway, A++, would buy again.
posted by yhlee at 10:34 AM on April 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

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