$1000 For a Piece of Glass and a Plastic Pencil
When the iPad Pro first came out I was very skeptical about how useful it would be. They pitched it as the ultimate creative tool, but we know things are never as good as they are promised to be. After all, my iPad Mini has been collecting dust somewhere around here (I use it so infrequently I am not even sure where it is).
At the beginning of the year I had a project where I needed to create a set of graphics that had a hand-drawn style. I typically do all of my work in Illustrator with the pen tool, which creates beautiful curves and lines, but lacks the organic feel of drawing by hand. So knowing that and the task at hand I bought the iPad Pro and Pencil hoping that it would be as good as everyone promised it would be.
To my surprise the iPad Pro was almost as good as they promised it would be, and is extremely helpful; so much so that it has changed my illustration and design process rather dramatically. In the last 6 months of using it I have been able to produce work faster and better than ever before. And as an added bonus I have also been drawing and sketching a lot more, which I rarely did before.
The Way I Use iPad Pro as an Illustrator and Designer
You have probably seen all the amazing things the iPad Pro can do; it can make websites and movies and will replace your laptop. While all those things are great, they are pretty much garbage to a designer with real design tools. It won't be replacing your laptop, but rather working in conjunction with your macbook pro or whatnot. Here are the two apps you need, all the others are junk right now, especially the Adobe ones.
Possibly one of the worst names for an app, but I will forgive them because their app is pretty great. I use Procreate for sketching. The brush customization is amazing, and when I draw it feels and looks like I am drawing in my sketchbook. The rigidity of the iPad Pro makes it possible to sketch on the couch, which is what I usually do while the TV plays in the background. Procreate also lets you export your drawings into Photoshop and will retain the layers you created in the app. Some people are really good at creating illustrations in Procreate, but I find the layers system really tedious and hard to use. My advice is just to use it as a sketching and tracing tool.
Remember when I just said that you should only use Procreate for sketching and tracing? Well that's because you have Astropad, which basically turns your iPad Pro into a Cintiq and you can use your real professional tools to get your work done. Astropad requires a monthly subscription, but it is well worth it. When you download the app onto your iPad and your computer, you will be able to mirror the screen on your computer to the iPad. That means you can have Photoshop or whatever program you use on your iPad and use the pencil as your stylus. Photoshop and Illustrator will recognize your Apple Pencil and will react to pressure and pencil angle as you like. I primarily use Astropad in conjunction with Illustrator with custom brushes, but it is also great for drawing and creating masks in Photoshop.
The iPad Pro Will Change Your Life (Probably)
There are many things that I recommend; the iRobot Roomba, the Traeger Grill, eating a California Burrito in San Diego, but the iPad Pro has to be the one I am most passionate about. I really do think it should be a required tool for every design student, design professional, illustrator, retoucher and art director. I think I've convinced at least three creative people to buy one thus far. With the iPad Pro I have been able to work faster, work different and develop a whole new style of illustration.
All creatives are different and have different styles. Maybe you don't like to draw in Illustrator or you never really do any retouching. At the very least it will get you drawing more, experimenting more and will challenge your creative brain to work in new ways. And if you still don't like it, I'm sorry. On the bright side you now have an incredibly large camera, flashlight and internet machine.