Saturday, 15 October 2016

My New iPad Pro

My new iPad Pro arrived on Wednesday and since then I have been busy familiarising myself with this amazing tablet, and downloading various apps for it. It is designed very much with the artist and graphic designer in mind, and it certainly steps up to the challenge!

The iPad Pro is available in two sizes. The larger one is 12 inches, rivalling a laptop, and while the screen is lovely and big for graphics work, the whole thing is far too big and unwieldy and not portable enough. I opted instead for the 9.7 version with 256GB in rose gold, and as always with Apple stuff, the build quality is fantastic, and it’s really strokeable. I found it on Ebay – said to be a reconditioned one, but when it arrived it was absolutely pristine in the original retail packaging and it looked as if it had never been opened. When I switched it on, it was virgin territory with nothing left over from any previous user. I got it for a very good price.

iPad Pro

Over the past few weeks I’ve been looking into the iPad Pro, knowing that this was the tablet I wanted, and originally I was intending to wait for the launch of the iPad Pro 2, but the launch date seems to have been put back yet again, to March or April of next year, and once I’d decided I “needed” a tablet, I wasn’t prepared to wait that long, and also, on the advice of several people, I decided to go for a tried and tested model rather than the latest, which might still be full of bugs.

In the course of my researches I came across two alternative cases with integrated keyboards for it which are specifically designed to work with its smart contacts – no Bluetooth required – the first was Apple’s own keyboard:

Smart Keyboard

but I didn’t like the look of this one nearly as much as the Logitech Create, which is sturdier, has a back-lit keyboard, and decent keys for typing, as well as the usual Mac function keys. It’s a little heavier and bulkier than the Apple one but I don’t mind that. Unlike the Apple one (sad omission there!) there is also a place to stow the Apple Pencil when not in use – you don’t want to risk losing it.

Logitech Create with iPad and Apple Pencil

When the keyboard is folded away underneath, it provides a nice sloping platform, holding the tablet at a suitable angle for drawing.

Logitech Create Folded

It’s made of strong canvas-like material which is non-slip and feels comfortingly protective and businesslike. Mine is black.

I have also been busy obtaining various other accessories to go with it, all also from Ebay – I got an Apple Pencil (the amazing stylus designed to work with the iPad Pro) for less than half price – also said to be used but perfect in every way – it came unboxed and without the adaptor, but you can charge it by plugging it into the iPad directly:

Apple Pencil being Charged from iPad

However, this makes the pencil rather vulnerable to knocks, and the risk of being broken. I decided to order a generic adaptor for it at a tiny fraction of the ridiculous sum Apple seems justified in charging!

Apple Pencil Charging Adaptor

The Apple Pencil has to be the best stylus around – I have a Wacom Bamboo tablet and stylus for my Windoze computers but this beats that one hands down. It has one or two small drawbacks, though – one being that the little cap on the end, which has to be removed to expose the Lightning connector for charging, could easily get lost. I have remedied this by ordering a cheap plastic device – a little collar that attaches to the pencil and the cap, so that when you remove the cap, it is still attached to the pencil.

Cap Holder for Apple Pencil

The other slight drawback is that while the pencil is as slim as a normal pencil, it is rather slippery and hard, and when you put it down, it can easily roll off the desk. The cap-retaining collar will prevent this problem, of course, and the addition of another cheap plastic device, a gripping sleeve, will make the pencil more comfortable for prolonged use.

Pencil Grips

Both these items are on order from Ebay.

I have also got hold of a matte screen protector which doesn’t interfere with the performance of the pencil, but which gives the surface of the tablet a bit more “tooth” which will make it feel more natural when drawing. It is also anti-glare, and protects the glass surface from fingerprints. I have yet to attach it – first I need to clean off all my fingerprints!

As far as apps go, there is an amazing choice of excellent ones, many of which are free, and those which are paid-for versions are really not expensive. For a very few pounds I have bought Procreate, a painting/drawing programme which is extremely powerful and has most of the equivalent tools you’d find on Photoshop. I am also going to download Adobe Sketch and the more sophisticated Adobe Draw (a vector drawing programme) and I’ve already downloaded Inkpad, the tablet version of Inkscape. This is good because you can save the files in svg format, which my cutting machine recognises, so if I want, I will be able to design on the tablet away from the computer and share to iCloud for later download.

I have also downloaded the iOS version of GarageBand, the music/recording app available for Mac computers (it’s free for them, but I had to pay a small amount for the iPad version) – a very useful voice recorder apart from anything else. I recently downloaded an online course on how to use this, but haven’t really got to grips with it yet.

What would we do without Youtube? I have been exploring a load of quite excellent tutorials on the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and every aspect of Procreate, and in the process, seen some quite astonishing art being produced, for example:

I had always thought that digital art was a bit of a cheat – using tools at the touch of a button instead of wielding a real pen or brush, but with the Apple Pencil and Procreate, it’s a real hands-on process, and the only difference is that the ink in that particular pen never runs out! You select colours from a palette, and different brushes, as you would in “real life” and it is your own creativity which produces the results, while using a different sort of tool. The Apple Pencil is pressure-sensitive and you can get amazing subtle effects from it with a feather-light touch. An added advantage of digital art is that you can work in layers – for instance, once you have laid down your background layer, you can work on the details in different layers, so that if you need to make corrections, this does not affect the work you have already done.

I have been following along on one or two tutorials and proving to myself that I am up to the task. It takes a bit longer at the moment because I need to familiarise myself with the interface which is different from what I am used to, but I am quickly learning the ropes.

This is not to say that I am planning on abandoning my “real” art materials – far from it – there is something about handling paper and card, pens, ink and paint which is unmatched by the digital alternative. This is simply an addition to my arsenal, allowing more flexibility especially when I am needing to rest, and when I am out and about.

As for completed digital art pieces, I have done one so far! I decided that this would be an ideal medium for Zentangle. You can rotate the work without turning the tablet, which has auto-rotation between landscape and portrait, although you can lock this if you want – rotating the tablet when it is in its nice case that holds it at the correct angle for drawing would be a problem anyway. You can alter the thickness of the “pen” and do very subtle shading with the airbrush tool, and you can zoom in for close detail (saves finding a magnifying glass!) and the whole procedure is as relaxing and intuitive as “real” Zentangle drawing. Also, when out and about, you don’t need to take anything with you, and if you can’t remember how to draw any of the patterns, they are all online, or you can look at your own library either on board, or from iCloud. So, here’s my first effort! Notice that I have done some more of my favourite Zengems!

Zengems Zentangle 1

There is nothing in this drawing that could not have been done in the normal way. Another advantage of the digital version is that it saves having to scan the finished drawing! I am very thrilled to have this tool at my fingertips.

In addition to the art potential, another reason I wanted to get a tablet is that a few weeks ago we had Sky Q installed – this is the latest offering from Sky TV and it enables one to watch anything available on the Sky box on the tablet, anywhere within the range of the home network. I now have a little stand on the kitchen windowsill and can watch my favourite Star Trek whilst washing up! What’s more, if you stop in the middle, when you return to the main TV, you can pick it up where you left off. You can also download recordings onto the tablet to watch away from home but I believe they will self-destruct after a relatively short time.

I have also set up my normal things on the iPad – online banking, my audiobooks account, Ebay, Paypal, Youtube, etc. etc. Have iPad, Will Travel.

Julia, who hosts our “What’s On Your Workdesk Wednesday” (WOYWW) weekly blog hop, warned me that this little device would take over my life. I fear she may be right – and sooner than anticipated, too!!


  1. That looks like and incredible bit of kit! You'll have lots of fun playing with it. My excitement is my Heat Press which is arriving tomorrow .... at the moment I'm suffering complete brain blank over what to make with it :p

  2. Wow, I can't believe you did that digitally! Looks awesome, and honestly I couldn't tell the difference between paper and pen and digital! Your rose gold iPad looks wonderful and now I really want one! I have an inexpensive bamboo tablet that I bought to use with Photoshop, but I didn't really get on with it and it certainly couldn't draw anything nearly as sophisticated as your zentangle! I'm very impressed both with your artwork and the capabilities of the iPad Pro.


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