This past November I finally broke down and purchased an I-Pad 2 after having debated with myself for some time. I have found that this has been one of the most productive tools that I have had the pleasure of using, and I have really enjoyed experimenting with using this as a tool for my art and illustration.
My primary goal in buying this was not to have an overgrown I-Phone, or just to waste my time with video games or something like that, but it was to have a goal of using it as a means to be more productive. I set out with the intention of learning to use this as another painting medium, as well as have the convenience of taking something more compact on the road with myself as I travel.
I have downloaded almost every art app that is one the market currently, and have bought a range of styluses that one can use with the I-Pad. In the process of working on my i-pad, I have received all kinds of questions about which apps are good to use, what stylus works best, and how one can take one of these things outside with them if they want to do some plein air painting. I hope to use this post to answer some of these questions by reviewing what I have bought and used thus far, but by no means is my review conclusive or definitive. I am sure that there are better reviews out there online, but I wanted to give the perspective from someone who has got back into painting, and offer my two bits.
Like I mentioned I have downloaded almost every art app out there, and enjoy most of them for various reasons, but my favorite app I have found so far is Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro. I like this app most because it is most like Photoshop, and from what I have used so far, it has the most export options that can be a challenge for an I-Pad. Sketchbook Pro has the ability to export layered Photoshop files to Dropbox, and not only that but it can export layered files that have transparent backgrounds on the layered image file. I enjoy using Procreate and Inspire Pro in conjunction with Sketchbook Pro, but my experience has been that these other apps don't offer the same export options (but maybe someone out there can correct me on this, and I welcome that...). I have started illustration jobs on my I-Pad in Sketchbook Pro, export the file to Dropbox, and then download these images to my laptop to place the finishing touches in Photoshop without any kind of difficulty. It has really made my life more convenient when I don't feel like taking my entire digital studio with me when I am out and about. One thing that I really enjoy about using Sketchbook Pro with Inspire or Procreate is that I can work an illustration up to a certain point in Sketchbook Pro, and then place the finishing touches in Procreate and/or Inspire Pro. I have found that these two latter apps have a more painterly feel to them, and I usually take an image in them to soften edges, or add a more painterly feel to them. I also prefer the user interface with Sketchbook Pro more so than I do with the other apps. It has a color wheel window and brush options box that is easy to use and relatively quick to work and change with.
The I-Pad 2-
I haven't really used other tablet devices as much yet, but I have downloaded the Sketchbook Pro app for both my I-Pad and my daughter's Kindle. There is a big difference between these two in terms of surface reactivity and some differences with interface, and I hope to compare the I-Pad with more robust tablets in the near future. I have found as with most of my Apple products that I use, they almost always get it right when it comes to the user's experience. I hope that in the near future that the I-Pad will follow what Wacom already does well with the Cintique screen. This will make having a brush stylus more effective and responsive, and less reliant on an app's interface for changing brush size, opacity, etc.
In addition to buying almost every art app around, I have also purchased a range of styluses for my I-Pad. I have bought styluses on the lower end of the price scale as well as those that are on the higher end of the pricing scale, and I have found that they all have their strengths, and a couple of them have had issues even though they are on the higher end of the pricing scale.
To be honest, I have found that painting with my fingers has been the most effective, and I feel like I have a better connection with the medium this way.
The "two dollar" stylus from Walgreens. When I was in Salt Lake earlier this summer, I came upon this stylus as I was at the cashier's, and bought a few of them thinking that my children could use them and there wouldn't be any worries if they trashed them. I didn't expect much from these cheaply priced styluses, but they have actually worked very well considering they aren't anything special. They aren't made of the higher quality materials as the others, lack a little bit with sensitivity, but they mostly work just fine while painting.
A "Griffin" stylus
. I bought this the other day while at Target shopping for my children's school supplies. This stylus costs $14.95, and is a decent stylus for the price. I use it primarily for blocking (massing) in shapes and toning my surfaces in Sketchbook Pro, and have better responsiveness than the cheaper stylus I bought at Walgreen's. All in all, it works well, but the tip on this stylus is distracting because of its larger size.
The Wacom "Bamboo" tablet stylus-
Before I found a couple of styluses that actually use a brush, I dropped 40 bucks on this stylus for my I-pad, and out of all the styluses I have bought, this stylus the most disappointing for me. It only took two weeks of normal wear and tear the non-replaceable rubber tip on it, and now it is basically useless. I don’t feel that the price tag is worth it because with this stylus Wacom really doesn’t offer anything that resembles what one can do with their other product line. Partly due to the technology of the I-Pad not being as sensitive as a Cintique screen, and partly due to how Wacom failed to envision what a tablet stylus could be, I have no love for this particular stylus.
The "Sensu" brush- a student of mine turned me to this brush tipped stylus on Facebook a few months back. I watched the videos on the Sensu website
, and I had to have one. The tip of the brush has the look for a typical Round brush, and the bristles work well. I ordered one of these a couple of months ago, and it worked so well for about three weeks then stopped working altogether. I was left wondering what could have happened to this for it not to work, and could think of anything because I treated this like a baby. I was so disappointed because this happened around the time that I was taking my I-Pad out to paint with on location. I have bought a replacement, and I hope that if there were problems with the early styluses, that Sensu has worked out the problems. This is the stylus that I recommend most, and I would have given it five stars had my first one not crapped out on me.
The "Nomad" brush
- I just got this in the mail within the past few days, and after opening the box, I saw a brush that looks more a brush used for a can of rubber cement. It took a little bit of time to get myself used to how large the bristles appear while painting, but it is a decent brush. I might use it for larger washes, and for blocking in large areas, and use the Sensu stylus for finer detail, but I feel that it might be a bit excessive.
My fingers- in all honesty, I feel that simply using your fingers to paint on an I-pad is the best way to go. I have had no problems using them, and they won’t wear out for a while I hope.
I really see no difference between using my pointer finger for painting on my I-pad than I do when I hold a brush in my hand while I am painting with traditional media. I always keep in mind that the brush that I hold is an extension of my hand, and it makes a difference how I rotate that brush when I make a brushstroke.
Sure it is strange at first to go back to finger painting, and I sometimes have difficulty because I worry that maybe this is pat of that trend where people might be getting away from learning the muscle memory to draw with a pencil or paint with real paint and a brush. I feel that way for a bit, then I get caught up in how fun it is to use this thing, and it has really had an improving effect on my work with traditional media.
I searched online for ways to mount my I-Pad on a tripod so that I could take it plein air painting and into figure drawing sessions. After spending a few minutes searching online, I found a backing with a screw mount for a tripod, and this has worked out extremely well, and makes it so simple to take everywhere. The Grifiti i-Pad tripod mount
costs $20.00, and has not only been useful for my plein air painting and model drawing/painting sessions, but has proved itself useful for watching movies, and as an impromptu display with a Bluetooth keyboard for typing up emails and other documents. There are Velcro strips on the back of the Grifiti tripod mount, and the hood I made out of black matte board attaches to these without a problem, and this hood works great for when I am outdoors and want to fight off the glare of the I-Pad’s glossy screen. The hood i made looks similar to what an American football referee might look into for reviewing a disputed play on the field...
All of the illustrations in this post were created primarily using Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro
app, and i export them to dropbox. I really like how Sketchbook pro allows you to save out your image as layered Photoshop files. The image resolution is pretty good, but i usually take my images into Photoshop anyways and do a bit of work on them to "crispen" them up.
Most of what i am showing here isn't necessarily reflective of what i am doing right now with my work, but it has been a fun experience, and i really feel that there are real possibilities with this medium. I am using Sketchbook pro right now to do studies of pieces that i am currently working on for my first solo show in November. I will post these soon after the show opening on November 3rd.
So all in all I have found that making that purchase was well worth the money this past November, and though the technology for touch screens will improve in the not so distant future, it is a great medium to explore right now, and I am excited for the possibilities.