For the past few years, I have been wanting to digitize my drawing process in order to work more time-efficiently. I have tried moving from paper to screen multiple times, but it always felt like I lost the control of my pencil when I tried to do this with Wacom tablet. Having heard lots of positive stories about illustrators who have switched to drawing tablets with a screen, I figured I should perhaps invest in one as well.
After having done some research into drawing tablets, the best options for me seemed to be the almost legendary Wacom Cintiq or an app called Astropad, which converts your iPad Pro into a drawing tablet. Whilst researching the pros and cons of each option, I watched a lot of Youtube-reviews comparing them. The most useful video was this one.
I’ll spare you the suspense; I ended up buying an iPad Pro, Astropad and an Apple Pencil. Here are the main reasons for why I chose Astropad over Cintiq:
Disclaimer: The following list is purely based on my personal preferences and information that was available prior to purchase.
1. Price: That’s probably the first thing people think of! Getting a new iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Astropad was a couple of hundred euros cheaper than getting one of the better Wacom Cintiqs. If you buy a refurbished iPad Pro like I did, you can save even more.
2. Functionality: Although Wacom Cintiq is referred to as The Drawing Tablet for The Real Pros, it’s is just that: a drawing tablet. iPad Pro is multifunctional, and since I don’t have a whole lot of smart devices at home, an iPad was a more practical choice.
3. Mobility (sort of): I enjoy drawing the most whilst chilling on the couch. The fact that Cintiq works only when it’s wired up to a computer was therefore a fairly big minus. Astropad only needs WiFi to connect to your computer, allowing you to draw pretty much anywhere as long as you stay within the WiFi’s reach.
4. Simplicity: My aim was to make the switch from paper to screen as comfortable and easy as possible, as I tend to get impatient when needing to familiarize myself with something totally new. (Yep, I’m the I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now type.) Astropad basically turns your iPad’s screen into a double screen of your Mac, letting you draw directly into Photoshop or any other app on your computer. Since I already feel comfortable working with the software on my Mac, Astropad seemed much more convenient than Cintiq.
5. Features: My goal was to be able to sketch digitally in a way that would feel as natural as drawing on paper. I planned to use the drawing tablet mainly just for sketching, so although Cintiq is said to have more drawing functionalities, Astropad and my computer’s software seemed good enough for my purpose.
6. Styluses: Apple Pencil is very narrow and pretty much the same size as a regular pencil, whereas Wacom’s styluses are thicker. The nibs of Wacom styluses also recess slightly into the pen when you press them onto the tablet, and that can make them feel less natural than drawing with a normal pencil. As I wanted to be sure that using the drawing tablet would be as close to using normal paper and pencil, choosing an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil felt like a safer option.
To compare Astropad with hand-drawing, I drew another one of my couple comics, which I have so far always drawn by hand. Below you can see the Astropad drawing next to one of the earlier hand-drawn comics. I used a Kyle Brush from the Animator Pencil Package, and was really happy both with the process, feeling of drawing and the end result.
And as a grande finale, here’s my first Astropad-piece in its entity: