Designing With the 2018 iPad Pro

Levi Patton
Jan 2, 2019 · 4 min read

I’ll be to the first to admit that I’m kind of impulsive. And while picking up a new 11-inch iPad Pro definitely qualifies as an impulse purchase, it’s impressive utility as a design tool has more than compensated for some of the post-impulse-purchase guilt.

Until now, I’ve never owned an iPad or ever really had the need or desire to own one. So when I picked up the 2nd generation Apple Pencil and started doodling on one of the new iPads to kill time in the Apple Store, my expectations were pretty flat. It was another super pretty piece of Apple glass with a $120 stylus. Oh, it costs another $200 to add on the ‘smart’ keyboard? Classic Apple play. Fun to mess around with on an Apple Store errand, but not something I’d actually consider shelling out for.

I sketched a couple quick figures, some portraits, and other random doodles. Whoa, this thing was pretty sleek. The interaction between the pen and the screen was impressively smooth. The sensitivity of the stylus captured my sketchy/messy drawing style surprisingly well. I’ve always loved drawing with pen and paper, but have never really transferred over to digital mediums because you tend to lose that organic feel and style. Not the case with this magic little slate. Then I tried sketching out a couple basic wireframe shapes. I drew a crooked box that I didn’t like, so I double tapped the pen to bring up the eraser in a seamless and intuitive motion, corrected the mistake, and continued on with the sketches. Uh oh. I was officially delighted.

Needless to say, I went home with the iPad with the insurance of an extended holiday return policy. I had a month and a half (instead of the usual two weeks) to explore and decide if it was worth the hefty price tag. Pack your bags Frodo, this was going to be a journey.

For the next couple of weeks, I explored a huge range of design-oriented apps to put the iPad to the test. Right off the bat, it became clear that some of the most impressive apps (unsurprisingly) belong to the Adobe family.

  • Adobe Capture
  • Adobe Comp
  • Adobe Draw
  • Adobe Sketch
  • Spark Post

Each of these has its own impressive utility for illustrating and designing. They’re free and integrate with each other really nicely. For instance, you can use Adobe Capture to snap a picture and quickly generate a palette based on the colors in the image and export it to your color library in Adobe Sketch.

Adobe Comp works as a quick and efficient wireframing tool for easily creating low to mid-fidelity wireframes:

Adobe Draw and Adobe Sketch are both killer apps for drawing and painting. You have a ton of control over your brush tools and pallet; and, there are intuitive finger gestures for undoing and redoing strokes and controlling the canvas.

Again, the thing that has impressed me the most with the iPad and this new generation of drawing/painting apps, is the how well these tools are able to capture an organic style and to do so in a way that doesn’t feel overly digital or processed.

Something else I’ve encountered in working on illustrations and designs with the iPad is how it has fundamentally changed my approach in the creative process. For instance, when I paint with oils, oftentimes I’ll have an idea for adding some shading or accents on a certain part of the painting. If I execute the idea and I end up not liking the result, I can sometimes undo the effect with more paint—at the expense of lost time—but it often ends up completely changing the feel of the painting. This creates a kind of risk/reward dynamic that directly influences decisions when drawing or painting. I’ll often end up being more conservative at the expense of experimenting on a potentially cool effect.

The super impressive ‘Procreate’ is another illustration app that shines on the new iPad pro. Being able to manipulate layers makes experimentation easy. If you don’t like the result, just delete the layer or undo the strokes.

Painting, sketching, or designing on the iPad is a distinct experience in the sense that nothing feels permanent. The shortcuts and gestures for ‘undoing’ are seamlessly integrated into your workflow, and it encourages experimentation without fear of repercussion or lost time. This is true for painting and illustration, but also when sketching out wireframes or designing infographics.

The ability to easily make annotations can breathe a more ‘flowy’ organic feel into wireframes and deliverables.

The ability to move, merge, change, and rearrange so fluidly makes designing on the 2018 iPad Pro an absolute delight. With the cutoff for return quickly approaching, I think this impulse purchase has earned its permanent place in my quiver of design tools; and, it will be an awesome asset for creativity and design moving into 2019.

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