Ipad or Wacom for drawing paintings

iPad Pro for Creatives - Part 1: Drawing and Image Editing

Stefan von Gagern

Since the first model, Apple has been promoting the iPad Pro not only as the computer of the future, but above all as the ideal work tool for creative people. We're testing how well the 2018 model is doing.

When a creative person buys an iPad Pro, they are always spoiled for choice when it comes to screen size. Especially when drawing and illustrating, the space on the screen makes up for itself: Brush strokes are definitely more lively on the large iPad - like on a large graphics tablet, a large drawing pad or a canvas. The first version of the large iPad Pro offered this space, but for many it turned out to be too clunky and unwieldy - actually a shame, because the extra space is a big plus for creative work. The shrinking of the case is very beneficial to the new Pro: the 25 percent reduction in volume means that the larger iPad Pro still looks handy and light. In direct comparison, it looks like the right size to get creative with, which is why we decided on this model for the test.

EnlargeTwo sizes: 12.9 "is better than 11" for drawing.

Image quality is particularly important for creative people - after all, a good display makes your own works of art such as drawings, illustrations or photos shine. Here the new, high-resolution display in the 2018 model - called “Liquid Retina” because of the new, now rounded corners - is completely convincing. Quite simply, it's not just the best screen you've ever seen on an iPad - it's the best mobile screen ever. It makes high-resolution photos look brilliant and three-dimensional, colors emerge crisp and bright and the wide viewing angle also makes the iPad Pro an ideal presentation medium on which customers, colleagues or co-workers can share their creative ideas, sketches, photos or works shows. In the 12.9 ”size we tested, they look big enough and yet the device is small and light enough to always take with you. The new USB-C port makes it easy to connect an external monitor - if the work should be shown even larger.

The new Apple Pencil: Always charged, always at hand

For creative people, the Apple Pencil is much more than for normal users, who see it as just a tool for taking notes or for signing documents. It is a universal tool, whether a brush or pencil, for sketches, retouching and sweeping vector curves. How good the Apple Pencil feels on the new iPad Pro is the verdict from the creative point of view.

The Apple Pencil in its first version was already a good hit, on which opinions differ in part. Some prefer the “digital stylus” approach from Wacom, which wants to make hours of fatigue-free drawing possible with a thicker form factor and rubberized coating. Others like the Apple approach: A real pencil was the model here. The idea of ​​making hatching possible by placing the drawing tip at an angle is ingenious and unique. Many apps such as Adobe Sketch, Alias ​​Sketchbook or Procreate support this type of flat drawing. With the fine pressure levels, drawing becomes almost as intuitive as possible with pen and paper. The slightly rubberized tip makes drawing a little more natural because it feels a little less like a sheet of glass and more like on paper - even if it still is. A sensor in the pen provided a very natural feeling when drawing from the very first time.

Nevertheless: The first Apple Pencil had a few shortcomings that made it a bit unwieldy in practice. Like other screen pens, it needs power, but unlike the MicrosoftSurface Pen, it comes with a built-in, rechargeable battery. For charging, a cap had to be removed at the back (which many sooner or later lost or left in the box right from the start) and then it was plugged into the Lightning port for charging. Not only did that look strange, there was no solution as to how and where to take the Apple Pencil with you. Accordingly, it has often been misplaced or simply forgotten.

The new Apple Pencil is not only held magnetically on the side of the iPad Pro - it is charged wirelessly at the same time. When “docking”, it shows the percentage of its charge status on the iPad Pro's screen. Bluetooth coupling is just as easy: just snap it to the iPad, done. It all sounds like simple improvements, but it has an enormous effect: The Apple Pencil is always ready to hand and charged. When the iPad Pro is charged, the Apple Pencil is also charged. Over time, I even forget that it even has to be charged - because thanks to the ingenious wireless charging, it almost always has a 100 percent battery charge. So that it holds better, it is flattened on one side. So it is somehow better in the hand than its completely round predecessor. Second advantage: the pen, which is no longer completely round, does not roll away or falls off when it is placed on the table. Apple balanced the magnetic force really well. The pencil holds so well that you can carry the iPad with the attached pencil in your backpack without it falling off.

EnlargeThe pencil now holds much better.

Refined handling

In a direct comparison, it is also noticeable that the new Pencil looks a little more mature and solid in terms of weight and balance. These are subtleties that not many will notice. But when it comes to drawing, they make a huge difference.

I keep reaching for the new pen, while with the old one I often had to look for where it had just gone - then it always took a few minutes to recharge it. The new Apple Pencil is always there and always ready. In practice, this means that you often do things that work better with the pen with the pen: drawing, sketching, retouching, masking - thanks to the holding and charging function, the Apple Pencil is finally in use as often as he deserves it too. It is even possible to unlock the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. You only end up automatically in the notes app - which, however, has a lot more to offer when it comes to drawing than most people know. Perhaps at some point there will still be the option of using the Pencil to access your preferred drawing app. It is also important to know that the first generation Apple Pencil does not work with the new iPad Pro and the new Apple Pencil cannot be used with the first iPad Pro - so if you switch you need a new Pencil. The new Apple Pencil is particularly evident on the large 12.9 ”display as a very natural drawing experience - so real that you sometimes almost forget that you are on the go digitally. And not only when drawing: In Lightroom CC, the Apple Pencil is very good at masking for selective corrections. This means that very precise vector curves can be created in Adobe Line. A large part of this is certainly due to the increased processor power of the A12X Bionic Chip, which implements brushstrokes and all inputs very smoothly - even though the developers are only just beginning to use the new power in their apps.

Go to the last tool with a double tap

Many expected the new edition to have a side button à la Wacom for additional functions or a virtual eraser on the back. The solution that Apple came up with is much better: The additional key is there, but invisible. A double tap with the finger triggers an additional function. It doesn't matter where on the pen or how exactly you type. For example, the Apple Pencil reliably switches between pencil and eraser with the preset function. Alternatively, the double tap toggles between the current and the last tool.

What he changes by double-tapping can be determined system-wide in the settings - and Apple also urges the developers to respect them, but third-party manufacturers and apps also have the option of offering their own additional functions for double-tapping the pen. For example, you can choose your own setting in Procreate.

Switching between two tools alone can not only save an enormous amount of time, it is a giant step towards intuitive design. When masking, you can easily switch between paint application and eraser (without having to constantly turn the pen to the back as with a Wacom pen). Double tap and go on. In drawing apps like Procreate, I type from the brush to the swiping finger. Both tools retain the brush width and opacity settings. Acrylic paint can be applied and then seamlessly blurred with a dry brush without interrupting the flow. This results in a completely new, digital feel for drawing. And we are certainly only at the beginning of the possibilities: Developers will certainly discover the new function and implement it in various apps for many exciting applications, which can then be adapted to suit your taste.

Keyboard shortcuts on the iPad too

In addition to the new double tap on the Apple Pencil, the Smart Keyboard is worthwhile - a combination of iPad Pro case and keyboard as a time saver for creative people. If you press the command key in an app for a long time, you can see which shortcuts are available in an app. In Procreate, for example, the brush sizes can be displayed by pressing the space key, the quick menu or the pipette can be called up with the option key.

The Smart Keyboard for the first iPad Pro was even less suitable for drawing, as it only offered an angle to set up. With the new Smart Keyboard, two angles are possible at which the iPad Pro can be held securely on the surface. In addition to drawing on the flat tablet, it is also possible to set it up on the desktop or on the lap with the Smart Keyboard Folio - and work in combination with keyboard shortcuts.

Photoshop and Project Gemini: New Pro Apps for the iPad Pro

With the current creative apps, the possibilities with the iPad Pro are far from exhausted: Adobe recently announced a Photoshop version for the iPad Pro at the MAX creative conference, which is due to appear in 2019. Although the classic image editing comes with a new surface optimized for touch operation that is reminiscent of Lightroom CC, the original code base from the desktop works under the hood. Then it will be possible to open PSD files without importing or converting them, working with original brushes, filters and masks without compromising. The iPad really becomes a pro machine, because creatives can start their projects on the go, finalize them on the desktop and vice versa - or work entirely on the iPad Pro.

In addition, a completely newly developed drawing program will follow in 2019, currently under the name Project Gemini. Not only are natural oil paintings and watercolors possible alongside pencil sketches and all possible painting techniques, but the works can also be combined with vector drawings. We already had the opportunity to try out the new apps on the old iPad Pro at an Apple and Adobe event in Los Angeles. Photoshop and Project Gemini made a strong impression. The ability to use the mass of Photoshop brushes from Adobe and artists with the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro is already making people look forward to the new apps. The performance also makes a good impression: In the demo, Adobe showed a file with 208 levels that can be scrolled smoothly.

The porting of Photoshop and the natural drawing feeling in Project Gemini was made possible by the processor power of the iPad Pro - it remains exciting to see how the significant increase in the new model benefits the significantly increased performance of the new model creative apps.


Anyone who switches to the new iPad Pro as a creative person must definitely take into account the 129 euros for a new Apple Pencil. In addition, the larger screen of the 12.9 “model is worthwhile, which results in a hefty price, but it pays off: There is nothing better for drawing, retouching and sketching that is so mobile, intuitive and versatile at the same time. The iPad Pro is already a lot of fun, with Photoshop and adapted Pro apps that will further exhaust the available performance, creatives can look forward to an exciting year 2019.