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So here I am. I haven’t posted anything at all on this site in over a year, and the first thing I’m going to do is babble on about iPad apps.

It has been a pretty long and interesting year to say the least and I have a pile of stuff to write about but I decided to start with this one because it was pretty easy to put together. So here we go.


 

Back in 2010, I bought one of the original iPads, mostly because I was sold on the Brushes demo during the keynote. By that time, I’d done some small paintings on my iPhone so the idea of having a 9.7″ screen to draw on appealed to me. Brushes was the first iPad app I bought.

Needless to say, while I loved the original iPad for its form factor, it quickly became something to only watch videos or play games on. We do have an iPad Mini belonging to Mrs. Tucker in the house that is mostly used for video, music listening, and kids games. I have had some success with Pixlemator on the Mini but I prefer larger screen sizes (yes I’m an iPhone Plus user).

Recently, I purchased one of new iPads and an Apple Pencil. I’ve been playing with a few drawing/painting apps over the past little while. I can say that the iPad as come a long, long way in terms of usability and the art apps that are available these days are a reflection of that.

Here are three that I’ve tried out:

MediBang Paint

While MediBang Paint is geared towards manga, digging into the app you find everything you need to create pretty much whatever you want. If there is a Photoshop on the iPad right now, this app is it.

The app offers a good selection of brushes, pencils and pens (all customizable), layers, shapes and transform and much more. Learning how to use the features is super easy for anyone who’s ever used a program like Photoshop. I think I’ve hit up the help section only a couple of times. Everything is easily discoverable.

The only qualm I have is that there is no paid version; it’s all ad based. I’d happily hand over some money to get rid of the ads, but there is no option at all to do this. That being said, the ads are not super intrusive and do no appear when you’re actually working.

UPDATE: There is now an in-app purchase option to remove the ads. So for $10.99 CDN I now have an ad free version of MediBang Paint.

Besides, I was introduced to Adobe Photoshop back in 1999. It was running on a computer that was the size of a doghouse and I was absolutely blown away with Photoshop. If you’d have told me then that, in the near future, I’d have an application that did pretty much everything Photoshop did, was free, and ran on a computer that was basically just a small screen I could hold like a book, I’d have told you that you were nuts.

 

Adobe Photoshop Sketch

Terrible. Godawful. Horrendous. I mean, it’s like Adobe did the impossible: They managed to create a drawing app that has 1/16 of the features of MediBang Paint and yet it is soooooooo fucking slow. Adobe Sketch behaves like it’s running on a first gen iPad and your Apple Pencil feels like one of those old, crappy styluses with the rubber nibs that you can buy in dollar stores.

Adobe has since announced Photoshop for the iPad. To be honest though, other companies have already beat Adobe to the punch with their offerings (MediBang Paint, Pixelmator, et all). I think I’ll take a pass. Too little too late and all that for me. Although I’m sure that some people will be excited.


ProCreate

When I searched for “top art apps for Apple Pencil”, ProCreate came out on, or near the top of every list. For $14 CAD it’s pretty awesome.

It has most all of the features you’d expect and it’s brush engine is simply the best I’ve ever used on any platform. And it’s fast. I’ve not run into slowness of any kind.

I do have a few complaints:

  • ProCreate has no text support of any kind. This seems to be in consideration mode, and has been for some time, with some users on the support forums saying “well, it IS a drawing app”. I don’t agree with this stance. Why offer everything but the kitchen sink?
  • No proper shape tools. You have to import custom brushes (which you either create yourself using a series of ridiculous steps, or dig up some prefabs from the support forum) and then rely on the transformation tools. While I’ve had some limited success with this, I found it frustrating that it took me nearly 45 minutes of draw a simple rectangle. Sure, I don’t have to go through all the steps again now that I have a custom brush imported, but come on.

The interface is not overly intuitive. It seems that a lot of the normal design language for touch was ignored to create a non invasive interface. This works sometimes; I do like that most of the tools can be found via a few small icons, but I spent far too long, for example, trying to figure out how to move layers. In the end, you just tap and hold until they float, but there was no visual cue and there is a slight delay from when you tap and hold until the layer starts to float. (That being said, I love the pinch to combine layers feature.)

Note: Background text imported from MediBang Paint.

As for the Apple Pencil, I love it 100% more than any other stylus I’ve tried mostly because they were just sticks with rubber nubbins on the end that mimicked a finger. I’m still playing around with the sensitivity and angle settings and, to be honest, I haven’t had the greatest success. When ti works, it’s awesome. When it only kinda, sorta works it makes me wonder what all the fuss is about. Maybe I’m doing it wrong? I don’t know. At this point I don’t think it’s worth a trip to the Apple Store to see what’s up there.

(Update: The Apple Pencil simply does not do pressure or tilt anymore. Seems like I have to go back to the Apple Store to see what’s up. The last time I was at one, I tried one of the demo iPads with the Pencil and pressure/tilt worked just fine… even in the stock Notes app. I hope they can do something because I loved it when it was working.)

As mentioned at the beginning, this new iPad is heads and tails above that first gen slab of glass and aluminum (obviously) and I enjoy it more than the Mini. Given my love of the large screens, I’m still not sold on the iPad Pros*. While I can see where having a 10.5″ or 12.9″ screen would be awesome for drawing/painting, they’re just bigger, faster iPads and, for now anyway, I’m still too stuck in my computing ways** to make the leap.

 

For me, a Mac still rules supreme because of MainStage and Reaper.

** Computing ways = Laptops/Desktops for “work” stuff. Phones for everything else.