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  • Writer's pictureAli Menard

Transitioning From a Wacom Tablet to an iPad Pro

It’s 2012 (I am a year into college) and I am pursuing a career in Graphic Design. After much deliberation, and Google driven research about what is out there in the great wide world of technology, I landed on purchasing a Wacom drawing tablet. For those of you unfamiliar with Wacom tablets, or drawing tablets in general, imagine an iPad with a flat surface where the screen should be. The buttons are on the side, and there is a stylus that has the body of a standard sharpie, but with the tip of a fine tip sharpie. While the top is like a pencil with an eraser. Connect it to your laptop and it functioned as an extension of your computer. To use it, you held the stylus in your hand like you would with pen and paper and wherever you hovered over the tablet with the stylus, your cursor on the screen would move just like a mouse would. Don’t forget this was 2012 and the concept of drawing tablets was still fairly new. At the time, this was the top of the line in terms of drawing tablets.

Fast forward to 2021. It had been a couple years since I had used my Wacom tablet, I had gone through two laptops, with advancing technology and lack of compatibility to the newer Mac computers, it became harder and harder to get my once precious Wacom tablet to connect let alone work. Evidently, I was past due for an upgrade. Since the technology in drawing tablets has substantially improved in the past ten years, my approach to researching different tablets had shifted. Before, you only had the option to use the tablet as an extension of your laptop with limited features. Now, you can get drawing tablets that not only allow you to draw directly on the screen but can act as a replacement for your laptop. Ultimately, I chose to go with a 11.5” iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. With this iPad, I could draw directly on the screen, it was compatible with my Mac, have easy access to all the Adobe programs, and the reviews online about the Apple Pencil were astounding.

Besides downloading all the Adobe programs, the first thing I did was scroll through Instagram and Pinterest to find the best drawing apps to use. I wanted to really get a feel for the Apple Pencil and what it was capable of and thought testing it out on a drawing app was the best way to do that. As I suspected using the Apple Pencil was vastly different than using the stylus on my old tablet. First, the iPad has a much smoother surface than my previous tablet. Think of ice skating on fresh ice right after the Zamboni gets done smoothing it out compared to skating on the ice before the Zamboni smooths it out. Second, the Apple Pencil is much more advanced than my previous stylus. It can distinguish how much pressure is being applied and the brush stroke becomes lighter or darker varying on the pressure, the thickness of a brush stroke changes based on what angle you are holding the pencil, and when you change how you are gripping the pencil, again, the brush stroke is affected.

No longer was I dragging around my laptop with the tablet to get work done. I was working on design work independently from my laptop. Having that portability was convenient, however, the one downside to using an iPad verses a Wacom tablet is the fact that the Adobe apps on the iPad do not have the same functionality as they do on a laptop. Because the Wacom tablet was an extension of a laptop, you had all the advantages of using a tablet and the functionality of the desktop versions of the Adobe programs. Learning the differences between laptop and iPad versions of the Adobe programs was a bit of a learning curve. After spending many years training my hands to work together between mouse/trackpad, tablet and keyboard, the transition to just tablet and pencil not as easy as I anticipated. My brain kept wanting to use key commands and different pinch and swipe gestures that I was used to while using my previous tablet. Quickly, I learned the capabilities of the iPad vastly outweighed having to reprogram by brain to relearn the Adobe programs on a new device.

When designing a logo, designers do hundreds of thumbnail sketches, scan the best ones into the computer, use Adobe Illustrator to turn them into vector graphics, explore different color and font variations before finalizing a design. Now, everything from the sketching to the final product can be done on the iPad. For the designers that are artists at heart, the iPad really provides you the best of both worlds. Drawing with the vast collection of brushes and shape tools offered on the number of drawing applications on the iPad such as ProCreate, illustrating everything from standard icons for an informational brochure to an intricate illustration for a comic book is a breeze. With the live painting features on Adobe Fresco, it looks and feels like you are holding a paint brush in your hands. For example, while using the watercolor brush on the Adobe Fresco app, water flows across the screen like it would on a piece of paper. Similarly, to that, while using the oil painting brush you can mix together different paint colors and see the texture of the paint change as you move the pencil across the screen.

After purchasing my iPad, I still feel like I am just scratching the surface on the capabilities of all the drawing apps and the Adobe programs. While I cannot speak for the other drawing tablets out there, if I had to go back and do it all again, I would choose this iPad 10 times over. The ability to draw directly on the screen, the compatibility with my Mac, and the precision of the Apple Pencil are unbeatable. Because of these facts, it is my belief that the iPad Pro is the perfect fit for someone who values creative freedom but who also enjoys working within the Adobe programs.


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