Oh, NOW a stylus is cool…

It figures that a week after I posted about how drawing on an iPad sucks, Apple would go and release a new iPad and stylus combo optimized for illustration.

Obviously I haven’t tried the iPad Pro with the new Apple Pencil myself, but Apple’s sizzle video sure does make the experience look luscious. Daaaammmn.

My primary complaint about using the iPad for illustration is the iPad touch screen is optimized for fat, smooshy fingertips. That’s why most of the pens you’ll find for earlier iPads have tips that look like erasers. You just can’t get that fine-line finesse on an iPad (unless you zoomed way, way in). More precision simply wasn’t necessary for the vast majority of tasks done on a tablet.

The iPad Pro retains the squishy-fingertip support, but allows for more precision when it senses the Apple Pencil. That’s pretty cool. Add in the freakishly high Retina pixel density and — wow.

If you’re interested, take a look at this post by Linda Dong comparing the iPad Pro to the Wacom Cintiq. Dong is a designer who worked at Apple on the Apple Pencil and drawing support. I’ve not used a Cintiq (and ruled it out mostly on price), but many of her criticisms of drawing tablets ring true, and many apply to the original Surface Pro, which uses Wacom technology. (Not sure if this is still the case for the Surface Pro 2 and 3.) The complaint about the parallax sensation one gets from using a pen on a glass surface is bang on. It feels like the pen target is always a few millimeters beneath the pen nib and precise tracking is always an issue.

It’ll be interesting to see Wacom’s response to the iPad Pro.

Still missing from the picture is software. iPad versions of popular drawing software are typically stripped down to a bare minimum of features, and others are toys, more or less. It’ll be interesting to see if the release of the Pro/Pencil results in an iPad-friendly version of Manga Studio.

The Surface Pro has been pretty great as my first drawing tablet, but pen support always felt like an afterthought, something cool to please marketing but always last to get bugfixes because who needs a pen to make pivot tables in Excel?

September 11, 2015