My First 2 hours with the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Procreate. From Sketch to Something Final-ish?

my first 2 hours with the ipad pro, apple pencil and procreate by blake stevenson

Right off the bat, I want to say that I was the guy talking crap about the iPad Pro. I tried it for a few minutes and flat out declared that no person who actually creates art regularly is going to use this thing. Then I was given the opportunity to actually spend some REAL time with the iPad Pro, Apple pencil and Procreate.

The right software:
I am not saying Procreate is the only software to use with the iPad Pro but for digital painting I’m in love with it. I found that if you don’t do some research up front you can get discouraged pretty quickly by the piles of garbage programs with odd interactions, unrealistic feel and cluttered canvases. This burned me really early on and formed a very negative opinion about the hardware.

Setting up my canvas in Procreate:
So, here is my first skeptical moment with the software. In programs like Adobe Photoshop, I like to build my canvas at 18″ x 24″ @ 600dpi. I know this is much lager than most people work but it has messed me up in the past, needing to enlarge an image and not having a larger enough graphic to do so. After I switched to this rather large canvas size I have yet to run into that problem I had in the past.

This is an assumption but I think in order to ensure the iPad processor doesn’t get bogged down, Procreate limits your projects layers (larger the canvas size, less layers you will be given). The maximum canvas size I was able to work with was 18″ x 24″ @300dpi but that limits me to only 9 layers. Which is fine, I just have to be aware of my layer management as I build my illustration. Hopefully the project layer number will go up with the next generation iPad Pro and its faster chipset.

Examining procreates UI:
My first impression of the interface was “meh.” I looked around and said “how could this do what I want it to do?” The toolset seems limited and unfamiliar. I started poking around and quickly found out that Procreate wasn’t problem it was my frame of mind. Procreates approach is to give you more real estate to draw with and only surface tools when you need them. Once I wrapped my head around the idea that this wasn’t Photoshop but more of a re-imagining/mobile touch version of it skewing heavily towards digital painting.

YouTube is your best friend:
With an unfamiliar interface in front of me and nobody to ask I decided to head to YouTube. A simple search query such as “Fill an object in procreate” or “Layer management in procreate” got me up to speed really quick and made me a power user quick. I strongly recommend this for anyone with and Procreate or curious about it.

Sketching with Procreate:
Initially I thought sketching was really good and responsive. The more I played with it the less I agree with my original statement. The software feels a bit unnatural and sticky but that is not my biggest gripe. The actual hardware is what frustrates me. The smooth tip of the pen and glass surface of the screen is not my favourite. I have heard you can buy a protective screen cover that gives the pen a bit of resistance. For now I will continue to do my initial sketch on paper, take a photo of it with the iPad and then work from there. I may be the only one in this camp but to me I can move faster and more confidently with a paper and pencil.

I have a old version of a Wacom Cintiq (12″) and can sketch with that thing for days. The responsiveness of the pen is leaps above the iPad Pro with Apple pencil. That all being said the Cintiq isn’t touch sensitive (newer 13″ Wacoms Cintiqs are), Lower resolution, and most important NOT portable. These are all factors that make the iPad Pro, Pencil and Procreate very appealing.

Sketch on iPad Pro with Procreate - Jetpacks and Rollerskates

Colouring in Procreate:
This is where Procreate shines. The baked in set of pens, brushes, etc. is pretty unbelievable. Each of the tools compliments the other nicely. The blending, overlays, translucencies of each of the mediums is really well thought out. And, if for some reason the a tool you want doesn’t exist. It’s easy to make them yourself and there’s a pretty active group of creatives making and sharing them.


Colouring the mouse with iPad Pro and Procreate - Jetpacks and Rollerskates

My Verdict: 

This is not the tool for everyone. It is expensive especially when you start doing the math:
12.9″ iPad Pro w/ 128gb = $899 USD +
Apple Pencil = $100 USD +
Procreate = $6 USD
Total = $1006 USD (to get you off the ground)

With that in mind, if you look at competitors like Wacom it’s very comparable in price, even a bit cheaper. It’s definitely not a Wacom Cintiq as far as quality but it’s close and probably close enough for most people.

Is it enough to go from sketch to final? Sketching is a bit weak (IMO) and it depends on what your working on. Limited layers makes it hard to to do larger scale pieces. Hopefully, the new processor on the second generation iPad Pro should cover some of those issues. The biggest thing that should not be overlooked and may make it sore above the competition is portability. The iPad Pro, Apple pencil and Procreate can completely change your workflow as a digital artist. It ‘s been very freeing to take a drawing from start to end(ish) while sitting on my couch. If you don’t have a drawing tablet yet this would be a great choice.

I hope that helps and if you have any question please feel free to leave them in the comment section. If you want to see more of my adventures with the iPad Pro and Procreate be sure to follow me on Instagram ( where I post regularly.

Final (on instagram):