iPad Pro

edited September 2015 in The Toolbox
A few thoughts about Apple's new iPad Pro, which is the first iPad that I'd consider trying to use for drawing.

Drawing on the iPhone was never more than a stunt or gimmick: way too small and finger painting? No.  The iPad came along and it was better, but still a cramped 10" screen, and none of the kludgy attempts to pair it with a stylus could compare with what you could get from a TabletPC using a proper Wacom stylus.  But now Apple has finally overcome all of that with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil, which is the stylus that Steve Jobs never would've allowed them to sell.

It has a 13" 3:4 aspect screen. Still not the 15" I keep hoping for, but it's bigger than any portable tablet-screen I've used, so that's really nice.  The resolution is 2732x2048.  This puts it above everything else in the product category, including the Surface Pro 3, which has a 12" 2160x1440 screen.

But the key thing that puts it on the table (so to speak) is the $100 Apple Pencil. It requires a battery (Wacom's patents see to that), but you can recharge it from the iPad. It's genuinely pressure sensitive, and tilt-sensitive too. It remains to be seen how well the system ignores touches (from your palm or wrist) when using the stylus... I've had to disable touch sensitivity altogether on any tablet I've used that had that (ThinkPad and borrowed Surface), because it kept getting confused.

Unfortunately, what takes the iPad off the table (for me) is that Jobs' dislike for buttons still prevails.  The Apple Pencil has none, so there's no option to squeeze it and switch to erase mode, or to color-picker mode. (Also no eraser function on the blunt end.) So the only way to erase is to tap on the Eraser tool, do your erasing, then tap on the pencil tool again. Ugh. This is a deal-breaker for me. I mean, I'd get by without it if I had to, but ... I don't have to, because I have a tablet with a stylus that lets me switch back and forth just by squeezing and relaxing.

Another issue is application software. Adobe's announced a version of Photoshop for the iPad Pro, but it's focused on photo retouching, not drawing. AutoDesk will no doubt be putting out a version of SketchBook for this, and I'm sure it'll be quite nice as a general-purpose drawing/painting tool but ... it's no Manga Studio. A version of MS for the iPad is possible now, but probably not likely in the near future, because the developer (Celsys) is a fairly small outfit, and they'd need to do a lot of work to get it running on a whole different processor architecture (ARM instead of Intel).

Bottom line: I'll take one if you have a budget of $900 to spend on me for Christmas, and I will be very happy using it for things outside my comics-production workflow, and maybe using it as an auxiliary tool. (The price, by the way, is pretty good, and worth it if it meets your needs.) But I'd still rather you gave me a Surface Pro 3 instead, thanks.


  • No MangaStudio is definitely a big negative. That said, I bought a Surface Pro 3 for because I wanted 1) a working file system, 2) a proper stylus, and 3) to run MangaStudio. However, the user experience on the Surface is terrible and I barely use the thing.

    Both Affinity Photo and Designer already run on iOS, and the development team at Serif are very keen to launch the product for the iPad Pro which, alongside Sketchbook, would give a fairly broad range of functionality and the ability to output work in industry-standard file formats. Dropbox and/or iCloud provides a reasonable alternative to a directly accessible file system. I acknowledge that these, to an extent, are workarounds but I'd rather have workarounds on a product I can actually work with…!

    Palm rejection is definitely a feature, and reportedly works well. Ars Technica has a short 'hands on' report, while very early word on the Pencil is encouraging. Ray Frenden is promising a report as soon as he gets his hands on a unit which, of course, is what we're all really waiting for,
  • Sooo then I have to ask, how does everyone think it will stack up against the Cintiq Companion 2?
  • edited September 2015
    My experience with the Surface 3 – admittedly just for a few days, but I put some quality time into it – was very good, so that appears to be a matter of personal preference.  I loved the limited parallax, and the range of pressure and responsiveness felt good to me. Its palm-rejection didn't work well enough (I kept drawing dots by touching the screen), but I've turned off touch response on every drawing tablet I've used that had it, so I don't count that.

    Comparing the iPad Pro to the CC2, I see a bunch of trade-offs between them.  The screens are close in size, but the iPad's is (IMO) the better shape (more page-like rather than movie-format) and higher resolution.  The starting price of the iPad (with stylus) is $400 below the starting price of the CC2, which goes way up for the better CPU/RAM/storage specs. The Windows vs. iOS question is going to go to the CC2, though I have to say that the thought of Affinity Photo on iOS intrigues me. I'm sure I'd prefer Wacom's stylus to Apple's, and the CC2's thicker bezel with shortcut buttons on it would be to its advantage.  No clear winner.
  • Sadly, that is exactly the way I saw it. No clear winner (with the exception of price)
  • Just following up on the palm/touch rejection thing — this video shows both hand and stylus directly in contact with the screen at the same time. The stylus is drawing, the fingers are moving an on-screen ruler.
  • Last comment on this, simply because I forgot to mention it before… while you're in the vicinity of your main computer, you can use Astropad to simply work directly into all your art/design applications from the iPad (any iPad but it's going to seriously dent the argument for buying a Cintiq with the iPad Pro).
  • Very interesting!  I see that they have a fingers-crossed icon on the Apple Pencil on their site, so that hasn't been tested yet.  Of course I'd have to try it before I'd be convinced that it would really work as well as it sounds.
  • I am REALLY hoping this turns out to be at least *good enough*.  I have no problem with working on early technology as long as it is going in the right direction. Sadly, I have less faith in Apple to hold up its end for the creative community like Wacom does.  Only time will tell at this point.
  • PJ Holden, occasionally of this parish, has a couple of worthwhile YouTubes on the iPad Pro.

    He's been tweeting fairly extensively, but the takeaway summary seems to be:

    • As a physical drawing experience — at least as good as a 12" Cintiq, miles better than the Surface Pro 3.
    • Next-to-no lag on the Pencil and palm rejection is excellent.
    • Astropad works as advertised, with no lag but with the proviso that the original screen you're mirroring needs to be a decent resolution or the Astropad mirror looks blurry (although the developer tweeted him back to say that this is a bug when mirroring non-Retina displays and they're working on a fix).
    • What he's done in Procreate looks amazing.

    • Non-creative, but apparently digital comics look absolutely fantastic on it.

    Mine should arrive today, but the Pencil won't ship until next week, so I'll report further when I actually have all the kit!
  • Please do! I want to find out as much as I can about it before I make any purchases. :)
  • edited November 2015
    Well, my Pencil arrived on Friday (and, for all my moaning, the order said 19-26 Nov, and it turned up on the 20th) and, typically, I've only had time for the briefest of plays with it..

    Since 1998, I've owned a CalComp Drawing Slate II, Wacom Intuos 3, Cintiq 12WX, 21UX and 24HD, and the iPad Pro/Pencil combo is hands-down the best drawing experience of anything I've used. Hope to find time to get Astropad running next week and see how it plays with MangaStudio.

    So far, ProCreate seems to be the real winner amongst art apps — I created a document equivalent to A4 at 600dpi and the lag is imperceptible with several layers and using a variety of natural media brushes. Adobe Sketch has some nice features, but I haven't yet figured out how to change the default document size in order to really tax the hardware. Autodesk Sketchbook is the equally clear loser — pen tracking and pressure response seems quite flaky.

    More reports when I get time to actually use the damn thing!
  • As a follow-up, I'd strongly recommend actually getting your hands on the iPad Pro and Pencil and try it out. Some people find the smoothness of both the screen and the Pencil to be an issue, and it's certainly true that the matte screen of most Wacom units (plus choice of nib) give more traction when drawing. It hasn't bothered me thus far, but I can see how it might trouble some people.

    Ironically, I didn't have an issue with the lack of an eraser on the Pencil, because I literally never reverse my Wacom stylus to use the eraser end. However, the Pencil physically looks and feels so much like an actual pencil that I find myself instinctively wanting to use the other end to erase things…
  • Please let us know your experience with Astropad, because that would be my deal breaker or maker.
  • I never flip over my stylus to erase, but I squeeze the button on the side to quickly switch to erase mode a lot.  The lack of that feature on my big Yiynova tablet is why I do all my penciling on my laptop/tablet instead.
  • Sean Phillips and Cameron Stewart on Twitter have been recommending MediBang Paint as a really close (and FREE!) Manga Studio clone for iPad.

  • It is a very close imitation of MangaStudio for iOS. Limited export options, though — basically JPEG… although you can save in the proprietary format from iOS and the desktop version of the software (also free) will save as .PSD and TIFF.

    Workflow on the iPad Pro isn't quite as restricted as I'd imagined — either Dropbox or iCloud gives a reasonable approximation of a file system. Someone tweeted a picture of some pencils they'd done and I was able to save it straight to Dropbox from the Twitter app, and import into Procreate and start inking over the top with certainly no more hassle than I'd have had getting the same image into MangaStudio on my desktop system.
  • Please let us know your experience with Astropad, because that would be my deal breaker or maker.
    Very sluggish over wifi. Going to try it via USB when I get a chance next week — I'm told that works much better, which would certainly make the Pro an interesting competitor to a 12" Cintiq.
  • I just realised that if I wait for a few months, I'll be able to get it through my cell phone carrier as a package with my cell phone that I need to upgrade soon! (there's a special bundle deal if you get a tablet and phone connected)
  • I have the money NOW for the iPad Pro.
    However, it's also Christmas season and I don't want to look like a dick buying that for myself, haha!

    Also, I'm still concerned about the device going obsolete, or Apple dropping support for it.  The tablet market (in general) is stagnant.  The cellphone market is up.

    But... on the flip side, I am NOT interested in paying rent for the Creative Cloud when the next OS X update kills my CS6.  I understand it still works with El Capitan with a Java download... but that's just not a stable environment for me.

    But in the world of technology *stable* is a misnomer.
  • I wouldn't be too worried about Apple dropping support for it any time soon, but I'd be reluctant to hitch my wagon to it until I saw for sure that application developers were going to support it in the long term. 

    In any case, there's no rush to decide: OS X.12 won't be out until late next year, and there'll be no compelling need to upgrade right away.  Plenty of time to sort out options like Manga Studio and Affinity and whatever shows up to take advantage of the Pencil/iPad combo.
  • I am NOT interested in paying rent for the Creative Cloud when the next OS X update kills my CS6.  I understand it still works with El Capitan with a Java download... but that's just not a stable environment for me.
    I haven't had chance to put a huge amount of time in with the latest Affinity betas, but the newest Designer version (what will be 1.4 when it hits the App Store) for OSX mops up 99% of my issues and all the real deal-breakers. There's stuff that will slow me down — we're talking about abandoning 20 years of Illustrator muscle memory — but there's no doubt in my mind the I could hit the print spec of most of my clients from Designer now. If Publisher comes out of the gate as strongly, I hope it'll light a much-needed fire under Adobe's arses.

  • But... on the flip side, I am NOT interested in paying rent for the Creative Cloud when the next OS X update kills my CS6.  I understand it still works with El Capitan with a Java download... but that's just not a stable environment for me.
    Don't go give me a heart attack with this news!

  • @Jimmie_Robinson@marioboon I run CS6 on my laptop with the java download and haven't had any issues so far *knock on wood*. But that said, it's time to start shopping around.
  • edited December 2015
    Autodesk Sketchbook is the equally clear loser — pen tracking and pressure response seems quite flaky.

    A quick revision of the above: the pressure controls for Sketchbook brushes are not immediately obvious and are turned off by default. Now that I've found and tweaked them, the experience is much more impressive. Further reports when I get some time to play around properly.
  • Just a quick re-visit on this… the shameless-but-quite-impressive MangaStudio rip-off MediPaint Bang works really very well on iOS with the Pencil and has just gained PSD export in the latest version, meaning that as long as you have an accessible shared drive (Dropbox seems to work just fine) you can create a reasonably direct workflow between the iPad Pro and MangaStudio or Photoshop on your main machine.
  • Now that is worth noting. I'm sold. I'm supposed to get a royalty check in January. I will get an iPad pro. My iPad 4 can go to my wife.

    However.... If I buy the iPad pro before Dec. 31st I can write part of it off in taxes next year.

  • Or, the Apple Finance card (the most evil, insidious credit card on the planet!)
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