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How to Use an iPad in Your Artistic Process.

apple pencil digital art ipad Sep 22, 2021

Author: Leigh Penner

Artists and their sketchbooks. They go together. Artists use sketchbooks to create images which are basically rough drafts for a finished piece. Artists also use them to brainstorm, to capture a thought the moment inspiration strikes, to troubleshoot or practice, or even to journal thoughts and plans. Obviously, a sketchbook can be a handy tool. 

What if you are a painter, though, and your work is influenced by color? Do you draw with colored pencils? Do you sketch first, then color it in with pencils? Or, do you get really invested and sketch first then paint within the pages of your sketchbook? If this is what it takes to use a sketchbook, then is a sketchbook still a handy practice tool? Is it even worth the time and mess to pop open your paints, prep your palette, clean everything up -- and not have a finished product to show for it? Maybe. Then again, maybe there is a better option. 

"I’m a painter and sketchbooks are time-consuming!"

Charla says:

It’s not easy to practice the skills I need for a sketchbook. I did try. I would take out my palette and quickly put together a face in my sketchbook. But I use ‘quickly’ loosely. I had to get my paints and palette and water container out. Using brushes meant cleanup. It all become too much of a hassle to practice effectively. I tried. And then I didn’t mention it to anyone, ever, for fear of not being considered a real artist cause my sketchbooks were mostly empty…and some given over to my kids.


Charla was at a party when she found a working alternative to the mess and complications of practicing with sketchbooks. A woman at the party was telling her about the iPad her husband had bought, and Charla saw the potential application immediately. 

Would it be possible to plan her art and practice it with an app on an iPad? If so, she would have a portable tool that would allow her to work even when away from the studio. She could take an iPad with her when traveling, while on vacation, while sitting in the family room watching TV with her people. She wouldn't have to excuse herself or completely miss moments of inspiration. She wouldn't have to unpack all her paints and brushes for anything less than a full-out painting session. Even though iPads were still a significant investment when Charla was toying with her idea, she decided to go ahead and make the purchase. She would see what an iPad could do for her art. 

She bought an iPad and an Apple Pencil, then started trying different apps. It didn't take long for her to be fully sold on practicing and planning with her iPad. Not only was she able to take the iPad with her places and spend more time with family as a result, she also found online brushes that resembled how paint mixes. Using an iPad, Charla learned, is a mess-free option for experimenting with design and color.  She could use it to work away on her ideas.

The Nuts and Bolts of an iPad:


iPads have many uses, of course, but there are now programs that allow artists to plan and practice art projects. As well as increasing portability and eliminating mess, this can alleviate anxiety for an artist, increase the chance of success, and allow for rest without losing work time -- while still remaining out of the studio. 

 Apple Pencil:

These days, iPads can be purchased relatively inexpensively and the Apple Pencil can be found for as little as $30. An Apple Pencil is used for drawing, note-taking, and marking up documents. It should feel almost like using a real pencil with barely any lag between drawing a line and seeing it on the screen. Pencils have been developed for precision and pressure sensitivity. You can even hold them tilted like you would a normal pencil. 


When Charla went looking for an app for her iPad, she ultimately found Procreate and decided it was her favorite. It is a reasonably priced app available through Apple. Procreate lets you create your own brush strokes, lets you input color selections, and lets you add finishes to your art. 

 Charla says:

After trying a bunch of apps, I purchased an app called Procreate. It has way more potential than I have discovered. But for 'sketching' a painting it has been so useful. 

Worth the price:

If your medium is painting, you can get all the benefits of a sketchbook without any of the mess when you use an iPad. All artists have experienced inspiration at inconvenient moments, times when you don't have access to a studio, or times when being in the studio means ignoring social connections with family and friends. The portable nature of iPads helps solve this problem. For this and many other skill-building reasons, an iPad can be a very beneficial tool for your art practice. They are definitely worth the investment!


Stock images:; Brett Jordan, Rober González, Howard Bouchevereau




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