When Apple released the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, designers all over the world yelped in excitement and quickly flooded YouTube with video reviews. Which wasn’t surprising in the least bit. The iPad Pro has the processing power of a laptop.
It has the elegant design of a chic accessory. It is as light as a moleskin notebook. And once you glide the Apple Pencil across its screen to draw just one squiggle, you realize Apple is now in serious competition with heavyweight standalone
design tablets such as the Cintiq. Of course the strength and capacity of hardware can only be shown and proved through software. Which is why in this post we will be going over a handful of apps that truly bring about the capabilities of the
iPad Pro Apple Pencil duo.
Procreate, is the first app that any designer/illustrator should install upon purchasing an iPad Pro. Developed by Savage, a very dedicated team based out of Tasmania, Procreate has become something akin to an industry
standard in the nascent field of iPad illustration. The app presents the user with a very clean, simple interface; one that says ‘I’ll get out of your way, just create’. But hidden beneath that minimalism is a surprising assortment of features
that include customizable brushes, multiple layer support with many different blending modes, perspective guides, and the wacky fun liquify, warp, and symmetry drawing guide. And the developers at Savage are always in touch with the community
and adding new features with each release. What really makes Procreate stand out though is its responsiveness. There is virtually zero lag - an experience as close as it gets to drawing on paper. Priced at just $9.99, we whole-heartedly recommend
Procreate to every creative who owns an iPad.
Affinity Designer for the iPad (they also have a Mac version) is the closest you can get to having Adobe Illustrator on mobile. While Adobe has been toying around with apps that are unacceptably
stripped of most of the features available on desktop, Serif, the company behind Affinity Designer, took the iPad creative community by storm. Boasting three personas, Affinity Designer allows users to easily switch between vector, pixel (switching
out all the tools with one tap), and export mode. The vector mode offers almost everything one would expect from a vector design tool - pen, node selection, gradients, typography, etc. And it takes into account the pencil’s pressure sensitiviy
and tilt as well. The pixel mode is similar to Procreate in its offering of brushes and other painting tools. The export mode provides a comprehensive list of filetype options, making it very easy to start on the iPad and finish off on any other
desktop device. Multiple shortcuts are baked into the system, such as holding two fingers down for Alt or Shift, making for a streamlined workflow. All in all, Affinity Designer is the go to tool for any designer looking to work with vectors on
Paper was one of the first apps to introduce to users the feeling of drawing on an iPad. When it was first released, 53, the company behind it, sold a very elegant, yet retro stylus to complement the app.
Even without it, doodling with your finger was a joy in this app. Sketchbooks are displayed as they would be if they were real. Spreading your fingers across opens up a sketchbook presenting you with a blank canvas. The tools themselves work smoothly
and their icons are beautifully designed. The best feature, in our opinion, however is the color mixing tool. Just like on a painter’s pallette, users of Paper can mix colors easily on the side. A feature that has us mesmerized every time. Paper
has been around for quite some time, and though it was overshadowed by other apps in terms of features, it’s still a go to app for quick sketching and doodling.
Pixelmator, which started off as a Mac app, is a very powerful photo-editor/illustrative tool. Designed, and then redesigned with iOS upgrades always in mind, it makes use of everything the iPad has to
offer. Built on the OpenGL ES engine, you can paint on it without any hiccups. Brushes and loads of effects aside, Pixelmator gives you a wide array of photo editing options from color adjustment to retouching, layers to distortion and selection
tools. Fully compatible with Photoshop, and at an affordable price of $4.99, Pixelmator definitely gives you your money’s worth. And more.
Unlike the previous apps we recommended, Astropad isn’t a standalone design app. Rather, it is an extension of your Mac. Astropad’s goal is to replace your Wacom or Cintiq tablet. Connecting it to your mac either
via USB, or over your wi-fi network, Astropad gives you the option to mirror either your entire screen or a portion of it. Full screen mode may cause a bit of a lag, but when a portion is selected Astropad performs beyond expectations. The newly
released Astropad Studio, which comes with a subscription fee similar to Creative Cloud, comes with keyboard support, magic gestures (customizable shortcuts to switch between tools and more), and unlimited upgrades. Astropad works with multiple
applications and is the ideal tool to carry your home machine’s power to wherever you feel comfortable.
“If typography were a religion, this would be the Bible” goes the opening line on FontBook’s webpage. FontBook, developed by FontShop, one of the largest typeface resellers on the Internet is the go-to catalogue for
both professional designers and amateur typography lovers. With over 130 international type foundries, there are nearly 37,000 typefaces to browse in this app. Categorized in a clean, grid-based design FontBook displays the font in large and small
sizes, giving you an idea of how it would look in your design. Additionally, fonts can be compared and saved. Whether it’s for fun or to pick out typefaces for your next project, FontBook is a handy tool to have within reach.
There are many more apps that make working on the iPad Pro a joy but these are, in our opinion, the leaders in their respective fields. Despite its high price tag, the iPad Pro is quickly becoming an indispensible tool for designers, illustrators,
and creatives of all kinds. If you bought yourself one, or were lucky enough to be gifted one, we highly recommend you check out the apps mentioned and give your Apple Pencil the playground it deserves.