The iPad Artist, Part 2: iPad Air (2019) vs Surface Go

Diving immediately into the process, I decided that I wanted a gadget beefy enough for it to not feel like a functional compromise.
Ideally, a portable art machine would cost around half as much as my laptop did. Armed with a budget of ₹42,000 ($600), I came to realise rather quickly that there were only two real options for me: Apple’s newly released iPad Air, or Microsoft’s Surface Go.

There were several good reasons I had for considering the Surface, key among them being:

  • My primary device already being a Windows 10 laptop, I wouldn’t have to spend time learning new keyboard shortcuts and getting used to new UI paradigms; the experience would largely be the same.
  • I wouldn’t have to buy new software, given all my existing purchases would work on my new device.
  • A “full“ desktop experience in tablet form factor.
  • A type-C port! As someone with half-hearted resolve to charge all my devices with a single cable, this would have been a nice step forward for me. Also, access to a wider variety of accessories and interfacing with external devices would have been a nice plus.

All of that being said, here’s what the iPad Air had going for it:

  • It already had an established user base of artists, which meant that every workaround or solution for most problems specific to my use case would have readily available documentation.
  • A top-to-bottom experience optimised specifically for tablets (which is occasionally to its detriment, such as still-fledgling mouse support, but is, for the most part, a pro)
  • Apps! So many top-tier tablet apps, and all of them invariably touch-optimised. On Windows 10, besides Microsoft’s half-decent first party apps and third-party offerings that you could probably count on one hand, it’s not really a top-to-bottom touch-centric experience, which was something I was specifically on the lookout for.
  • Significantly greater performance, courtesy of the rock-solid A12 chip and a generally fluid OS. I got to use a friend’s Surface Go, and the overall fluidity of the experience was… passable, at best.
  • An extension of the previous point, the Apple Pencil had consistently better latency. The Surface Pen was no slouch and largely matched the Apple Pencil’s quality of experience, but on heavier workloads, such as multilayered Affinity Photo documents, the latter was far less troublesome; nearly no glitches or stroke stutters when compared to the Surface Pen.

After around two months of flip-flopping, I came to the conclusion that as a standalone, strictly tablet + stylus setup, the iPad wins out. I already had a mouse-and-keyboard interface for interfacing with an arguably more “full-fledged” operating system and granular software (solely After Effects) in the form of my laptop; what I realized I wanted to do was to complement that setup, not duplicate it.

And so it was that I took the plunge into getting myself the Wi-Fi-only 2019 model of the iPad Air, with 64GB of internal storage.
This also meant that the cables I had to use to charge my various devices would continue to be an unhealthy mix of lightning, micro-USB and proprietary ones, but hey! I get to charge my phone and my soon-to-be primary work device with the same cable, so that’s a neat little plus.

My next post in this series will be a short one, centered around the accessories that I found myself buying in order to make the iPad work as a primary device over my laptop. Stay tuned!

The iPad Artist, Part 1: A laptop doesn’t always cut it

Until recently, my primary computer was a 14″ Lenovo 720S. It’s a powerful little guy; perhaps not as much as your thick, hefty gaming devices, but capable nonetheless. Portability was a key concern when I was deciding which laptop I should get myself, a little over a year ago, and this notebook ticked nearly all the boxes that I’d borne in mind at the time, with a relatively solid $1000 price tag. I’d still recommend it to anyone looking specifically for a well-built, svelte Windows 10 video machine.

As the year passed, however, the limitations of the laptop – despite its lightweight footprint – became all too apparent.

As context for all the non-artists reading this, a standard laptop-based artstation includes:

  • The laptop (what a twist, eh?)
  • A Wacom tablet of varying sizes
  • A mouse (many grow accustomed to laptop trackpads, though, as a result of wanting to deal with fewer components)
  • Therefore, a chair and a table that can accommodate all of these things.

If you’re with me so far, you probably realise that this rules out being able to (conveniently) work in, say, trains, airplanes, and even beds, among a plethora of other social scenarios.

So with all of that, I decided to follow in the footsteps of several of my friends and colleagues who’ve made the move towards complementing their respective art workflows with iPads and a miscellany of tablets.

The next post will focus on my selection process for what to buy. Stay tuned!

The iPad Artist, Part 0: Prologue

As an illustrator and animator, using an iPad as my primary computer always seemed a challenging proposition. It would entail abandoning two decades of being conditioned to a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse, in addition to nearly half a decade of figuring out the ins and outs of getting used to Wacom tablet workflows.

Now having finally obtained one and completed a couple of illustrations on it, I realise that while specific tutorials and shortcuts are abundant on the internet, resources – specifically directed at artists – detailing how such a transition can be easy or difficult are scant.

I consider myself reasonably tech savvy, but after a couple days of trying to wring out a proper workflow on a platform that I’ve traditionally been accustomed to using for media consumption, I realised that this was easier said than done.

So there lies my reason for assuming that people would be interested in what I have to say here: a series dedicated solely to the ins and outs of a transition from a clamshell laptop to a tablet.

More importantly, all of the content you see here – the words, the pictures, EVERYTHING – will be made on said tablet.

… which is also to say I’ll be making it up as I go.

The first post will be out tomorrow morning. See you soon!