Discovering digital

Recently I purchased a new iPad. Of course I rationalize it by saying that it’s because I need a bigger screen and a keyboard to write with, but the real reason is that I want to draw with Procreate and the new Apple Pencil.

If you’ve never tried Procreate the first thing you’ll notice is how many types of brushes there are. Last time I tried drawing on an iPad I was using the old Brushes app and a fat stylus to draw, so this a completely different experience. The new pencil also has a double-tap feature which makes it really easy to switch from brush to eraser and back again.

In my usual methodical way, I feel I have to get to know each tool individually, so I’ve been trying out the brushes one by one.

My first experiment was to see how close it could look to a drawing on paper, so I used the 6b pencil. This iPad is pressure sensitive so the harder you press the darker your line will be. And you can use the side of the pencil too, which is really cool.

My second experiment, still in monochrome, was using some of the ink brushes to draw Alice. From there I moved on to my version of toned paper by adding a grey background layer and drawing with both black and white pencil and then adding a bit of ink texture.

And finally colour. The painting tools are harder to get to know since my tendency is to want to blend, but I guess I’ll learn eventually. So far what I like best after all this is drawing with a good old fashioned soft pencil, albeit a digital one.

You might be wondering if this will replace traditional painting for me. It won’t. I love watercolour too much. But it’s nice to have the digital option for my daily sketches, for value planning for larger paintings, and of course for travel.

61 Comments on “Discovering digital”

  1. AM Audet says:

    Hi Shari
    I use my iPad Pro to draw most of the time. For those who are not familiar with the app Procreate, the free app «  Udemy « offers good online courses (when on sale, around 15$) on Procreate , Photoshop…

  2. Barbara Beynon says:

    Oh dear, Shari, you will be causing a run on all of our local Apple stores. These drawings are wonderful and look like they are really fun to do. I haven’t completed my Christmas list yet. . . .

  3. Underhill Tony says:

    A natural, and so quickly too. But no surprise there! Great to have another tool in the toolbox … and a lot less wasted paper and paint too.

    • Exactly Tony. It’s nice to just pick up the iPad and draw without hunting down books and filling up pens. And best of all, no scanning to do. As you say, just another tool in the toolbox. Hope all is well with you.

  4. Great stuff Shari. Thanks for the review and for sharing your process.

  5. -N- says:

    This is pretty funny. I did the same thing awhile ago – but you are far ahead of me on the software angle. I just get so impatient! On a plus, YouTube has a lot of good tutorials on Procreate. Still, I like a real pen or brush. Nice work!

  6. Weiss-Nix says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your first experiences with your new “digital toolbox”. Do you think it might be helpful to get a training to be able to use the full potential? Or is learning by doing ok? Did you consider other options than Apple / Procreate? If so, which ones?

    • Hi. Thanks so much for writing. I am definitely a believer in training. When I want to learn something new about the Adobe Software that I use, I always watch tutorials. I am sure I will do the same for Procreate, and also for Sketches, another app I have been using for drawing. I didn’t consider anything but Apple for the tablet. I am a fan of Apple products from way back when.

  7. Jeanne Brail says:

    I, too, just bought a new iPad and pencil and downloaded Procreate. After the holidays, I shall start watching the uTube videos. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  8. Dottie Hoeschen says:

    I, too, wanted something to carry on trips and, perhaps, walks where I didn’t want to carry a lot of equipment. I’m having a blast! If you don’t like the slick feel you get as the Apple pencil slides over the screen, try PaperLike screen saver. It feels like, and even sounds like, working on paper. I’m very happy with mine!

  9. Jane Hannah says:

    Hi Shari — good for you and beautiful as always! Did you buy the smaller iPad Pro or the bigger one? As Guy and I were in the Apple store last week, ready to buy one, and we couldn’t decide on the size… humph! Any suggestions or experience?

    • Hi Jane. I went all out and got the big one with the most memory. Next year they are coming out with a full version of Photoshop for the iPad so I thought it would be better to have more memory. I am kind of using this as laptop as well since the keyboard is so good. So I wanted to have the bigger screen. But if you aren’t planning on using this for work tasks, get the smaller one. I spent some time watching Rob Sketcherman’s video on Facebook about the new iPad. He went to the launch in Brooklyn and reviewed it right after that. It certainly helped me make up my mind. Well worth watching if you are unsure of what to get. And so happy I waited for the second generation of Apple Pencil with the double tap. Go for it. Get one!

      • Jane Hannah says:

        Oh that is great Shari — you did well to go all out! The reason is that our home laptop is going downhill, it is quite old as it is almost 10 years old, and looking at the prices, comparing a new laptop, iPad and Mac Mini we actually thought that our best best bet was an iPad because of the costs (can you believe it) compared to the laptop? And that I already have a big 27″ inch iMac which is not portable, and when we travel we would like to have something more substantial then my iPhone and less weighty than a laptop. So I will watch Rob Sketcherman’s video! Thank you Shari -)))

  10. Dianne Waite says:

    Thanks Shari, very timely as only yesterday I read about the success of the fellow Tasmanians who developed the app and I was wondering just how Procreate would apply to sketching.

  11. Sadje says:

    You are doing great with the iPad. I have yet to explore these features.

  12. sue fenyvesi says:

    There’s something relaxing about letting the paint dry before adding another layer. But I will start scanning my paintings, thats as techy as I might get.

  13. Celia says:

    I use Procreate to work up sketches into designs for my linocuts. Drawing with the erase option is particularly useful to work on parts of the design that are white lines out the colour. And I can use the layers to experiment which which colours would work best. Of course I can do all this in Photoshop or the trad way of tracing paper but often a quick photo with the iPad and working in Procreate is the simplest and quickest method.

    • Celia, your work is beautiful. I am so glad you told me about your linocuts because I had a chance to look at your site. Wonderful prints! And great to hear how you use Procreate too. Of course it would certainly make sense to use Procreate considering your process for printmaking. Thanks so much for sharing with me.

  14. Judy Sopher says:

    This is all science fiction to me. I had no idea such things existed. (I still balance my checkbook by hand with a pen) But I can see how useful it can be and even fun. I agree, Shari, that your drawings are super. Where do you go from here with it?

  15. monique says:

    You have it already!!

  16. Bernadette says:

    After reading your entry last evening I investigated procreate on YouTube. Well, it looks very complex for me! Maybe if I had a personal demo it might help but then again…maybe not! I am intrigued by the possibilities though. Maybe if I get it for my granddaughter, she and I can work through it together…she is 12 yrs old. Oh my!

    • AM Audet says:

      Bonjour Bernadette
      Procreate peut-être assez complexe si on veut tirer le maximum de cette puissante application. Sur YouTube il existe une tonne de « démo ». Difficile de s’y retrouver. L’app
      ‘’Udemy ‘’ offre plusieurs cours en ligne, dont Procreate (5 où 6 cours sur Procreate) autour de 15$ lorsqu’en vente (souvent). Certains sont meilleurs que d’autres, prenez le temps de regarder les ‘’preview ‘’, mais la plupart commencent par la base et proposent des exercices.
      J’aime aussi l’application Paper53 (gratuit pour la base) facile à utiliser et qui permet des croquis rapides. Idéal pour le dessin d’observation dans les lieux publics.
      Je vous souhaite bien du plaisir dans votre apprentissage.

    • Hi Bernadette. Procreate is a complex tool but it can also be used very intuitively for simple drawings. You don’t have to use layers or get very complex to enjoy it. And of course your granddaughter will catch us much quicker than all of us!

  17. anne farmer says:

    Brilliant, thank you. Family illness has taken up a lot of time recently (art time in particular) but I couldn’t resist this post. I’m hoping Santa will bring me a new ipad and apple pencil. Been struggling with old ipad that doesn’t support the apple pencil Tried a stylus with some success and tried out several apps – procreate , brushes, paper, proart. They all have their strengths and flaws in the versions I used.

    • Anne, it’s great to hear from you but sorry to hear about family illness. Hopefully Santa will bring you a new iPad so you can have fun playing. I have been experimenting with Tayasui Brushes, recommended here by Robin. There’s a great watercolour brush in there that I’ve been having lots of fun with. Hope everything gets better in your family.

  18. The Paper-Like protector that sells makes the iPad feel like you are drawing on paper. Fabulous

  19. Robin Riley says:

    I use Procreate for most of my digital art but nothing can beat the the Tayasui Sketches Pro app for watercolor. The Watercolor Wet Brush is amazing.

    • Robin, thank you, thank you for recommending the Tayasui Sketches app. I have been having so much fun with this. I love the watercolour brush!! And I haven’t even watched any tutorials yet. Much appreciated!

  20. is there anyway to get the finger smudged or rubbed effect with the digital pencil?

  21. AutumnGirl says:

    Hey, you’re drawings are really good! I would love to try Procreate, but it’s quite expensive since I neither have this tablet or the pencil. However I’m seeing forward to reading and seeing your experiences in the future! Keep it up

  22. joantav says:

    It is fun to see you doing some digital sketches. After meeting Rob Sketcherman when he was visiting NY I was tempted to try the new iPad and pencil too. My husband was watching a TV presentation about it earlier today and I know he thinks I should get a new one.

  23. Thyme says:

    I have the iPad 2 from when it first came out. Apps like Procreate and ArtRage was what prompted me to get into sketching and drawing on paper. I started taking some classes and an instructor looked at my iPad in disgust and said that’s not REAL art! She’s been proven wrong big time over the years. So many great artist use the iPad as an art tool in so many capacity.

    • Thanks for writing Thyme. Yes, your instructor has certainly been proven wrong. Take David Hockney as the number one example of that. I believe that any tool that gets you drawing is a valid one.

  24. electrofork says:

    I just got them recently too. Mostly so far I’ve used it to create sketches and studies for copperplate etching, which I’ve returned to after several years. It’s very powerful, but def cannot replace actual pencils, pens, watercolor, etc. Enjoy!

  25. Hi Shari – the iPad/Apple Pencil is magical, and changed my art life dramatically, though I have been making art on iPads since day one. The pencil makes the experience as close as it could be to “real” art. I have a big iPad Pro for the studio and the new iPad (2018) to use as a sketchbook on the go – both have their own pencils (and you can get folios on Amazon that hold the pencil as well). Just wanted to let you know that Procreate has amazing color blending tools for color so keep exploring.

    • Hi Jessica, Thanks for your encouragement. I will definitely keep on exploring. I have only just begun to find out how things work in Procreate but I discover new things every day. So much fun!!

  26. cdumaine1 says:

    I have been thinking about making this jump and it is so valuable to have an experienced (and accomplished) watercolor painter’s reactions and thoughts on the difference. I am still challenging myself with using watercolor on paper but hope to expand my abilities into the iPad/Apple Pencil work too. Thanks.

    • Glad to hear that you are trying out digital too. I find that after I have done a lot of watercolour, it is so nice to just pick up the clean pencil and the clean iPad to do some clean digital drawing.

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