The Definitive Guide to Creating Art on iPad

The Definitive Guide to Creating Art on iPad

The definite guide to creating art on iPad, ipad art, ipad artist, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
The Art of the iPad - The definite guide to creating art on iPad

Every week I write a brand new article for readers of our three wonderful groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, The Artists Lounge, and The Artist Hangout. This week we discover everything about creating digital artworks on iPad and take a deep dive into the upcoming iPadOS upgrade and tell you exactly what you need to know about the new features and functionality and how they will help you to create your art. We also consider the costs of owning a premium device like the iPad and give you a few tips on saving money and which gadgets and apps to use to get the best digital art creation experience from it!

As usual, you will also be able to see some of my latest creations which have all been produced using the Third-Generation iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (2nd Generation). You can find prints of the work available for purchase right here!

For clarity, none of the products I have written about in this article has been sponsored or gifted to me just for the sake of giving it a good review. Everything discussed is something that I use on a regular basis and not some way of earning a cent or two as some kind of affiliate! When I review tech, I buy it first so I can be open and honest!

Technology Choices…

Many of my readers and fans of my artwork will already know that the iPad Pro is the tool of choice for creating my art. I’m not the first artist to have ever used one professionally, many artists and graphic designers use them every day and even the likes of David Hockney have seen huge commercial success from work produced in Hockney’s case using an app called, Brushes Redux.

The app was solid enough when it first appeared but it hasn’t been updated for three years and when apps stop being updated by the developer it’s usually an indication that it is time to move on. The choice around where you move to is difficult because there are so many apps available that let you create art, but when you are talking about creating professional art that is print-ready the choices on any platform or device start to become a little more limited. Today we will be looking specifically at creating digital art on the iPad and we will be looking at the many reasons why professional creatives tend to favour Apples devices for creating digital works on mobile over the many other devices available.

Creating digital art can quickly become expensive and even more so if you get the tech choices wrong at the beginning. Not every choice is going to be wrong and for most artists, the choices they make will be made for all sorts of reasons. Personal choice, availability of apps, and cost, of course, is always a major consideration. But there are often times when we forget to think about what the future of tech might look like and how quickly we might have to go through the buying process again.

Choosing technology as a digital artist can be difficult. Over the years I have been lucky enough to work with technology on a daily basis and I have also been lucky enough to try out new technology often way ahead of its official release. A few years ago I tested more than 40-tablet devices for a project in the hope of finding just one or two that would make the cut to be deployed in a large project. I also beta test a range of software, pre-release, so I tend to get a heads up relatively early on as to how tech will eventually perform when it goes public.

At one time I was the typical geek, early adopter, queue up at midnight on release day kind of guy. Now I am a confirmed let’s wait until the second generation or a few updates later kind of guy because if my tech experience has taught me anything, it is that just because it is shiny and new doesn’t always mean that it’s better.

If you ask me about technology there is only one kind of answer you will get and that is an honest one. I have lost count of the number of times I have advised clients not to over-spend on technology in some areas because there are better and often cheaper ways of doing what they need to do, and because this is a fully independent website and I am a fully independent artist, I have the luxury of not being beholden to any organisation, I can call out the good, the bad, or the indifferent.

I have seen some massive advances between generations of technology and I have seen massive steps backwards too. The problem really comes down to the fact that marketing has advanced to the point where we can be sold anything with the right conditioning, and marketing experts are experts for a reason. They know exactly what triggers are needed to get you to say yes and if only the same were true of us all selling our art eh!

Some technologies are useful at least for a while but as other technologies evolve others will fade away. It was just over a decade ago when we relied on carrying a separate camera with us because phone cameras were still a relatively new concept and they were poor in comparison to a real camera. A Nokia flip phone was the height of technology just ten years ago where we would need to press the number one button three times if we wanted to send a text with the letter C using T9 (text on nine keys) technology. Texting was painful, but it was all we had.

It wasn’t until 1992 that we even had text messages and at that point, the message had to first be typed into a computer. The first on-screen keyboard appeared on the IBM Simon in 1992 too, although that device was never mainstream. The virtual keyboard that we know and love today came from Apple in 2007. The very idea of being able to type directly on a screen before this time was purely science fiction with the exception of IBMs Simon which was at least 15-years ahead of its time.

Today the smartphone has replaced cameras for a lot of people, it has also replaced the need for a bulky scanner or a library of physical books and photo albums, video cameras and GPS navigation, games consoles, remote controls, access to TV and film which is now even on-demand, an entire music library of millions of tracks, and even credit and debit cards, all technologies that only a little more than a decade ago were impossible or needed to be separate devices now reside on a single gadget that fits into your pocket as is a telephone which has almost become secondary to everything else. WOW!

Tech has come a long way in a very short space of time. There was no way that even with my access to the latest tech that I could have begun to predict some of this stuff happening in my lifetime. If you had of told me back then that in 2019 we would be wearing a watch that could take an ECG of your heartbeat I would have said you had been smoking some kind of dodgy substance. It doesn’t make sense that we have come this far, this soon. But hey, in 1903 we witnessed the Wright Flyer and by 1969 we had sent men to the moon.

The advent of the transistor certainly helped, some even say that the pace of change really picked up after an alleged flying saucer crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. Whether it is some alien technology or not, there is no denying that humans have become more and more reliant on digital technology and the pace of change is quickening all of the time. Who can even begin to ponder the world of technology in ten or twenty years, although I think we still won’t have flying cars by then.

ipad, ipad pro, getting the most out of the ipad pro, ipad art, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Creating Art on the iPad

The Advent of the iPad…

I hadn’t realised just how long I had owned an iPad of one flavour or another. I started out with the first generation and it was astoundingly fast, brilliantly beautiful and extraordinarily overpriced. It was a fabulous machine but boy was it expensive.

Of course throughout the years since iPads haven’t gotten any cheaper. They are still a premium product and a considered purchase for many and despite the so called ‘Apple Tax’, the premium applied to own such a luxury brand, they are at the same time as being expensive, remarkably great value for money when you begin to take everything they offer into account.

Personally, I don’t think that the Apple Tax is a fair way of looking at the cost of owning these devices. They are without a doubt a premium brand but Apple is renowned for providing unparalleled after-sales support. Whilst the progress with iPhone since the iPhone 5 has only been incremental in look and feel, under the hood they have evolved massively, if only they could sort out the battery. Even older devices which are currently many years older than some of their Android counterparts will still be able to download the all-new iOS 13 in September, something that anyone who owns an Android device older than a couple of years wishes were the case for them.

Apple generally, support devices for five or six years post-release, manufacturers producing Android phones run a more inconsistent product-cycle because there is less standardisation across multiple models of the device across multiple manufacturers. There have been instances where an Android phone can no longer receive updates to the operating system only a year after buying it new, and with many mobile phone contracts running at two years it means that you could be running an out of date phone while you are still trapped inside an expensive contract. On the flip-side, the same could be said of iPhone if you were to purchase the last supported generation but the problem is more avoidable.

What’s with the updates…

While many users might be happy enough with the features they have on their phone and can probably live without the new bells and whistles that come along every time an updated operating system is released, what they might not be so happy about is the fact that an outdated and unsupported device and operating system can carry a greater degree of risk and vulnerability from cyber-attacks. That’s something that is concerning as we move into a world where privacy and security are at the top of everyone’s agenda.

The situation around updates for Android becomes less clear when you consider the many flavours of Android on the market. Gauging how long a phone will be supported is dependent on the manufacturer and the exact point in time when the phone was released and when the phone was purchased and which version of the operating system it originally shipped with. Add to that different displays, chips, and performance and you can start to get a feel for the kind of headaches that software developers go through to get their apps to work consistently across any device.

Generally an Android phone will stop receiving updates after it is three-years-old. Where the manufacturer has implemented its own features into Android then it could stop receiving updates sooner than this because those additions might not be compatible with new updates or security patches and it becomes a little murkier when you also consider that the point of receiving an update or security fix on an Android is different for every manufacturer.

Googles own Pixel phones will stand the best chance of being updated in a timely manner because Android was developed by Google. If you have a phone from a less well-known manufacturer though the update might take a while longer to arrive because the phone manufacturers will need to test their product range, the cell carriers will need to check compatibility with the carrier’s network, and then assuming that the phone meets the required specification, the update will eventually, roll out. Some manufacturers though will be much quicker at delivering the updates than others. This soon becomes a major issue and often means that there are many flavours of Android and many different levels of security patches in use at any given time as older phones might not be able to get the upgrades and newer phones will.

This might sound like I am not an Android fan but I am, Android offers a heap of flexibility and options and the battery life of some Android phones is but just a dream to iPhone owners. And it might sound as if this has nothing to do with the iPad which we are talking about today, but it is important.

As for what this has to do with the iPad, well, Android runs on tablets too and they are often significantly cheaper than iPads. They are great options if all you need a tablet to do is the day to day grind, or maybe even for writing lengthy documents or running an entire business. There is an Android tablet that will be suitably powerful enough to perform most tasks you need to do.

The issue comes into play because of the same story of phone upgrades and end of life support is as true for the tablets as it is for the phones. The reality is that an Android tablet is going to be less updatable over a quicker time period than if you were to spend a little more and make the purchase of the iPad. So rather than thinking of the price premium as an ‘Apple Tax’, what you are really paying for is a device that is updatable for a longer period of time and it might just make more economic sense to go all out at the beginning.

There will, of course, be Android fans who would go nowhere else. I get that, Android is a great choice and a solid platform and Apple lovers will forever fall behind with some of the flexibility that Android offers. There is no denying that some of the cameras on Android phones really are cutting edge and already go beyond some of Apple's cameras. I still use Android for some tasks and always did for everything until the iPhone 3GS came out. But if we are talking about a device that adds a little more longevity and is supported by more of the big-name players in digital imaging software, the choices for tablets become more limited. That’s not to say that pro-level digital art isn’t possible on Android at all, it is simply that some of the mainstream digital imaging and art vendors don’t support the platform enough to make it a choice if you need to work with the likes of Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

The choices for professional digital art creation on mobile devices start to become much more limited on Android tablets than they do on say a Windows-based tablet or the iPad. Add in the compatibility between Apple products which have historically been used in the art and graphic design industry and again, it starts to make a little more sense to consider using the iPad.

The Microsoft Surface Book is another option but if you think the price of the iPad Pro is expensive, a top-end Surface book will make you truly weep. I recently received one of these for working with PowerBI and with analytics and algorithms, and whilst they are capable of producing digital artworks and running pretty much anything, I still prefer the iPad Pro for creating art because I use apps specifically designed for the iPad and run Adobe products on the Mac.

The case for using Windows-based tablets is somewhere in the middle ground at comparable price points but the higher-end Windows devices can handle many of the pro-level demands that artists and graphic designers and animators might have. Again, there are multiple processor choices, RAM, storage, and screen types, leaving some devices more able to cope with the demands placed on them, but if the price isn’t a determining factor it becomes more and more about identifying a device that works with what you need it to work with and how ready the device is for the future. 

What Windows-based tablets usually excel at is their ability to connect easily to devices you most likely already own, and up until recently, the ability to run instances of the full-blown Adobe creative Cloud version of Photoshop and other specialist programs you would use in business such as PowerBI.

On iPad, Photoshop CC was never really an option beyond Photoshop Express and Photoshop Fix, and Mix, but that is about to change as Adobe are about to release a full-blown version of Photoshop CC on at least the iPad Pro. There is no real news about whether or not it will be available on other iPad models but given that Adobe premiered Photoshop CC on the iPad Pro at the Apple event last September, we do know that the intention is for it to work on at least the third-generation iPad Pro device.

I suspect that first and second-generation iPad Pros will get a slice of the action but I am less convinced that some of the non-pro models will. It is a huge application that can struggle at times even on a beefy desktop computer, so running the same application on a mobile device is going to be a challenge. At the best of times, Photoshop CC can require a significant processor overhead and especially when you start building up layer counts.

But we don’t know what we don’t know and there is still a possibility that it might appear on some of the newer iPads such as the latest generation of the iPad Air. My guess is that we will see the app come out around the same time as iOS13 which is due to drop for public download in September, and it is iOS 13 which will finally propel the iPad even more into the realm of digital artists who are looking for ways to make their workflow more portable.

Landscape art by Mark Taylor, Beechhouse media, advice for artists,
Art created on iPad Pro by Mark Taylor

Three great platforms…

Some of the choice between Apple, Android, and Windows comes down to personal choice. As I said earlier, it is possible to produce pro-level work on Android, but there is little doubt that it is more limited. On Windows, the support from the big vendors is as you would expect and there are some clear benefits over and above Apple and Android. iOS 13 or iPadOS as it will become known on the iPad, in not too many weeks’ time, will begin to turn the iPad into the desktop/laptop replacement that it always should have been. Begin, not necessarily fully become. 

How you make the choice around which platform to go with is difficult but ultimately it comes down to what you eventually want to do with the device, how much connectivity you need, and whether you want to replace a desktop or use it in parallel with one. It also comes down to how well the device is supported and finally, how well the device will hold up against whatever it is you throw at it and ultimately how much money you really want to spend.

iPad and iPad Pro…

This week, we will be looking at the iPad and the iPad Pro. These are the devices I have become more and more reliant on over the past few years and have now got to the point that around 90% of my own professional workflow is completed on the iPad Pro rather than my Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, or Windows PC. I also run servers and have rack space in data centres for some of the other tasks that I do within my small media company but these are out of the scope of this article and are mainly used for client-based work and video outside of my artworks and because yes, I am a bit of a geek. 

Up until the arrival of the third-generation iPad Pro in 2018, much of my workflow on the iPad needed the support of the Mac Pro or a PC. Editing on the iPad was difficult for big works but the new display on the third-gen device changed everything. Wide colour gamut, higher resolutions, and more importantly, more RAM within the device and a much faster processor came along to boot.

When Adobe announced the full version of Photoshop for the iPad I could literally hear artists around the world rejoice as finally, they would be able to use what some see as the ultimate in graphics editing on a mobile device without the compromises that came with the previous incarnations of Photoshop with the familiar tools spread across multiple apps.

That doesn’t mean that the iPad as a digital art creation tool is any less powerful or useful without Photoshop, there are alternatives already live in the App Store, that go at least some way towards providing access to professional tools for digital artists. Affinity Photo I have mentioned previously on this site is very similar to Photoshop CC, and it has no ongoing need for a subscription. Affinity Designer is essentially Adobe Illustrator, and for most users, the lack of a few of Illustrators features is no great loss. Again, Affinity Design follows the pay once use forever model that I totally respect the developers for.

Things are about to change though when we see the release of iPadOS. What this means is that the iPad will become closer to the desktop replacement that we wished it always had been.

The New Feature Set…

iOS13 is the update that will be rolling out to iPhones from the iPhone 6S onwards. That essentially means that any device from the iPhone 6 and before will no longer get an update although Apple has been known to release major critical vulnerability patches at times for some older devices but it’s not the norm. The iPad, on the other hand, is moving to iPadOS and will be available on devices from around about the time of the iPad Air 2 so if you have a device that was released prior to the Air 2 such as the iPad Mini 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation, or the iPad 4th generation or before, sadly they will have come to the end of their respective roads for updates to iOS.

Just as an aside, on Mac, the new OS which is called Catalina will mean that Macs from as far back as 2012 will get the update which is remarkable considering that 2012 was some seven years ago.

iPadOS will bring with it a set of features that regular users of the iPad will find changes the way they use the device but for artists using the iPad they will find that there is finally an alternative that will remove the chains from a desk.

Multitasking has been significantly upgraded and you will be able to run multiple apps in Slide-Over view and you will be able to swipe between apps in Slide-Over view or slide over to view full screen by dragging it to the top. If you swipe up then you will be able to see all of the apps in Slide Over. Flicking up from App Switcher will close any of the Slide Over windows. Sounds complicated but all it really means is that you can see more and you will need to get used to a few new gestures.

Here’s where it becomes really interesting for artists, at last, the functionality will arrive to run multiple windows from the same app. You will be able to open multiple windows from the same app in split view so, in theory, you could have two-word processing documents open side by side. If you are moving files around then you could even manage files in two instances of the files app using drag and drop.

For those who have been used to this functionality on PCs and Macs, this is a really big deal for iPad users who will now be able to actually do something useful that many of our Windows and macOS brethren have been accustomed to doing since forever and yes, iPad user will finally be able to use the same app in multiple spaces so that you can work across different projects on the iPad.

You will also be able to create windows by dragging the content into its own space so you could drag a link from Safari, a location to open maps or if you dragged an email address into a space it would open the mail app ready to send an email to that address.
If you are unsure how many instances of an app are open on the screen then all it will take is a double tap on its icon in the dock and the updated App Switcher will show all of the spaces and windows for all apps along with the title windows.

Yes, these are the kinds of features that PC and Mac users have had for many years but to be able to do this on an iPad means that you finally have a tonne of the flexibility that was only possible on desktops and laptops previously. See, we are getting very close here to the iPad replacing the traditional way we use computers!

New Home Screen…

Whenever there is an update to the home screen on iPads it always feels like you are working on a brand new device. This time around it will feel like you are working on a different new device. The home screen layout has been completely redesigned with the icons arranged in a tighter grid. The refined layout gives you more room for apps and information and you can even pin widgets to the home screen to get at-a-glance information by pinning your today widgets onto your home screen.

Apple Pencil…

If you are serious about creating digital art on the iPad then you do absolutely need to be using a model that can work with the Apple Pencil. More on the Pencil later, but in the iPadOS update, thanks to the advanced prediction algorithms being upgraded will mean that the Pencil will have a latency as low as 9-milliseconds. Let’s translate that from geek to English and it means that drawing or writing with the Apple Pencil will feel closer to drawing or writing on paper.

The pencil will also get a redesigned tool palette and several other improvements. You will be able to drag it to either side of the screen or minimise it in the corner to give you more room to work. A pixel eraser will allow you to remove individual pixels and at last, there will be a ruler for drawing straight lines.

Screenshots particularly on the third-generation iPad Pro, has been a combination of button presses and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have mistimed the press only to find that I inadvertently put the device to sleep, but now the process will be simplified by using the Apple Pencil and dragging from either of the bottom corners. Now when you take a screenshot, you can also capture the entire document, email or webpage, and you can mark it up.

A Quick Note on the Apple Pencil...

I mentioned the Apple Pencil a few times today and wanted to just finish off with a couple of really important points, no pun intended! If you create art on any tablet, creating it with a stylus is going to be massively easier than attempting to create with fingers. Some artists will do that and will produce fantastic results but the problem is that fingers can't replace the pressure sensitivity that a real stylus can. If you are tempted to go with a dumb stylus because of the cost, the functionality is going to be similar to a finger. 

There are plenty of third-party manufacturers who provide half-decent Bluetooth styluses but in practice and from out of all of them I have used over the years, the Apple Pencil is, without doubt, the best stylus I have ever used on any platform. If you have an older iPad the choices are that you have to go with a third-party manufacturer and on the iPad Air 2 you only really have one viable option that will work with the device because it was at the time that the iPad Air 2 was released that Apple changed the screen technology. The only pressure-sensitive Bluetooth stylus that will work almost properly with the Air 2 is really the Adonit Pixel Fineline.  I got through a dozen or so of these, they're not a bad device but I literally had to keep sending them back within the warranty period to get replaced because the pressure sensitivity kept on failing.

My advice is if the Apple Pencil is compatible with your device, get one. Remember the 2018 iPad Pro and I would think that any future iPad Pro, is only compatible with the Apple Pencil Second Generation, the first generation devices will not work with it at all. The first-gen devices will work on many of the other more recent iPads including the latest iPad Mini.

The only other thing to remember is that the pencil tips do need to be replaced and if you use them every day that will mean a replacement will be needed around every 5-6 months. In reality, given the number of artworks I produce, I got almost 7 months out of the original tip and for taking notes I am sure it would have been fine for a little longer. A pack of replacement tips over here in the UK is £19, and you get four in a pack. 

Back when I used the Adonit, the tips for that device cost almost double than for the Pencil, so there is no doubt that both the Pencil and the official tips will save you money in the long run.  But, whatever you do, make sure that they are the official Apple Pencil tips and not the cheap fakes that are available on some online sites because they are not guaranteed to perform in the same way. With a screen as expensive as the one on the iPad, a couple of dollars or pounds more will get you the official tips and peace of mind.


Sidecar is going to be beyond useful for any artists who need to work across multiple screens but the feature also goes much further and this is where things really switch up a gear for digital artists.

Firstly, you will be able to use your iPad as a second display for additional screen space. Handy when you are working with reference photos or you need to drag a toolbox out of the way. This would be ideal for dragging layers across to another instance of the app on the other screen.

No matter if you have one of the 12.9-inch iPads or a 9.7 inch iPad, screen real estate as a digital artist is always at a premium. With the new update, you will also have the ability to mirror the iPad screen on your Mac and have both screens displaying the same content. Something that previously has meant that you needed an Apple TV or you had to be very creative with connecting another screen with adapters and cables. More on those a little later.

The whole idea behind working on a tablet is to break away from the need to run cables everywhere and now you will be able to connect the iPad to your Mac using either a cable which will keep it charged, or you will be able to connect wirelessly if you need some extra mobility.

While these features begin to add greater control and flexibility to the workflow of the digital artist, they are only really the start of where things get very interesting. You will now be able to use the precision of the Apple Pencil with your art applications on Mac. Essentially this negates the need to use a third-party graphics tablet which has always been an essential must-have in the digital artist’s toolbox when working on the desktop.

To go a little further though you can start drawing in your favourite app on the iPad while out and about and then insert the image into any document on your Mac when you return and this extends to document mark-up too. You will be able to mark-up a document on iPad at the same time as it appears on the screen of your Mac using a feature called continuity mark-up.

Text Editing…

If there is one thing that has often frustrated me on the iPad and the iPhone to an extent, it has been the ability of the device when it comes to editing text. I have the world’s clumsiest fingers so I often find myself trying to highlight text in paragraphs when writing these articles and then playing a game of catch the cursor and chasing it around the page.

Cursor navigation now has more control. It is way more precise and much faster than it was and just by picking the cursor it will snap between words and to lines. Scroll bar scrubbing also makes its first appearance so that you can instantly navigate long documents by dragging the scroll bar and text selection is now done by a tap and a swipe rather than the holding down on a character and playing catch the cursor. You can also double-tap to select the entire address, phone numbers, email addresses and more, making everything just feel a lot faster.

Now we have cut, copy, and paste gestures so these need to be added to the ever-growing list of gestures we have to remember but after a few days, these do become second-nature and feel as if they have always been there. Pinch up with three fingers to copy, pinch up with three fingers twice to cut, and pinch down with three fingers to paste. Undo is a simple three-finger swipe to the left and redo becomes a three-finger swipe to the right. As for the ability to select multiple text elements, email addresses, messages, files and folders not takes just a two-finger drag.

Android users have had a swipe keyboard for years but on the iPad and iPhone it has always been a case of installing a third-party keyboard which has always been a point of concern for some people as the keyboards need to be able to read exactly what you type. So a QuickType keyboard has now been added which includes QuickPath giving you the ability to swipe your finger from one letter to the next and enter a word without removing your finger from the keyboard.

If you pinch the QuickType keyboard you are able to move it wherever you want, something that is way more useful than it sounds especially when it becomes tedious to scroll long documents while typing, but if you feel like typing in the traditional way you can still opt to use a traditional typing method, my technique is one finger and slow.

You can expect me to start writing new words on this blog which will be the best news for some readers I am sure as alternative word options appear in the predictive text bar so that you can choose an alternative word. For those who use dictation and especially useful for me, dictation will not automatically detect what language the user is speaking from the languages enabled in the keyboard options on the device and support for more languages is also now included.

Design Bonuses…

Custom fonts on the iPad have always required a third-party font installer and the installation of a profile previously which for some can be off-putting. When you work on projects that require the use of custom fonts it has always been harder than it really needed to be to get them onto the device but there is now an option which allows you to use custom fonts in your favourite apps. Great news for those who will be using the new version of Photoshop CC and for those who have been using Procreate now that it too has the ability to include text in the image.

For those who subscribe to Adobe CC then you will already have access to a huge range of free fonts which can be used commercially but there will now be options to purchase fonts from the App Store. Potentially this could be another opening for font designers to join the Apple eco-system and maybe get their own fonts some additional exposure and some additional revenue especially from more casual users.

File Management…

As much as I have loved the iPad, I have at times found the way that it does or rather doesn’t handle files a constant source of frustration. I have been relying on apps such as Good Reader and File Browser for a number of years to help me organise files and move them from various folders and onto external hard drives, but the added functionality in iPadOS will see an end to some of those frustrations.

You will be able to use a column view to get to the deep-nested folders and get a high-resolution preview of the file when it is selected and column view also displays a rich set of metadata so you can see details of the file you are browsing rather than having to open up a file you named “AAA101_final_Final” or “AAA10_final_Final_use_this_One”. Quick Actions make it easy to rotate, mark-up or create a PDF in the Files app and there is now a download folder that becomes the central repository to access web downloads and mail attachments.

There is no longer a need for a separate ZIP app as files can now be zipped for sharing directly from the operating system and you are now also able to create folders in the local drive and add your favourite files.

This is something that for years has been the one vital component that has been needed especially as artists tend to work with files of huge file sizes. The limited amount of on-board storage particularly at the lower end has always meant that you either ran out of device storage or had to be super-efficient at moving files that were no longer needed. Those days are finally over now that the files system is truly a real files system and the fact that you are now able to add on an external drive such as a USB stick, SD card, or wait for it, an external hard drive! I am absolutely buzzed about this.

There will be some new keyboard shortcuts to make navigating files easier and you can now connect the iPad to a file server at work or home using SMB from files. Search suggestions are becoming more useful making it simpler to find what you are looking for and there is also a document scanner to create digital copies of physical documents and in our case, artworks, and you can file them wherever you want.

File downloads over mobile data connections will also see their restrictive cap removed and you will be able to at least download large files over a mobile data connection, something that those of us with unlimited data plans will cell-providers have been waiting for years for.

A real web browser…

There is nothing too wrong with the in-built Safari web browser per-se, but the problem has always been around the fact that it constantly serves up a mobile version of a website regardless of whether you are on an iPhone or a 12.9 inch iPad Pro. Now Safari will serve the full desktop version of a website on iPad. This will make touch input when filling in online forms and writing in web based text boxes finally doable where the website would have been created with mouse and trackpad users in mind. Everything becomes more fluid and it also means that I will, at last, be able to remove two further steps in publishing this website each week, steps that take me almost an hour to complete most weeks.

Other notable features are that you will be able to choose to enable the camera, microphone, and give location access per-site rather than either allowing or denying all, save open tabs from bookmarks, jump to an open tab from search, and you also get an extended set of email sharing options, page zoom, weak password warnings, end-to-end encryption for iCloud, new keyboard shortcuts and a full toolbar in split view. In short, everything you [PC] could do the iPad can do better or at least the same.

Night and Day art, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse media, landscape artist,
Night and Day artwork by Mark Taylor Available on Pixels!

Into the night…

As artists, it’s not uncommon for us to still be working in the early hours and run the risk of disturbing everyone with the brightness of the screen. The much anticipated dark mode which will no doubt be used all day by some people will make its first appearance. This will certainly make things easier if you are working outside on those warm summer evenings and just before you head off to bed, and besides, it just looks really cool.

There will also be new wallpapers that have been optimised for Dark Mode that will automatically switch between light and dark. I have had a dark mode feature on my sat-nav for years and it really does reduce the glare from bright screens and the distraction that any in-vehicle screen can bring so I have always wondered why this functionality took so long. Give someone a ride in the night and whenever they use their phone it can be glaring so there are practical safety reasons for having it too.

App developers will be using an API to implement dark mode into their apps so the only question is how long will it take our favourite app developers to implement, hopefully, most will be updated in the week prior to the release of iOS13 and iPadOS, expect plenty of new updates around the week before the 13th September. Oh, did I give something away there? 13th to the 20th is my anticipated window for the new update to drop so you don’t have to wait long.

Photos App…

Another stock staple of a digital artist on iPad is the Photos app, the problem is that it hasn’t been very good for the digital artist’s needs. I am constantly having to move files into online cloud services to retain their quality and because of the file sizes and whilst the iOS 12 update took the Photos app a step in the right direction, it was still sadly lacking.

You will now be able to view photos with a greater degree of curation, videos and live photos will auto-play as you scroll over them and there are now smart photo previews in days, months and years where photos are larger. Built-in AI will work out the best part of a photo to show as a preview and tapping the photo will mean that you get to see an uncropped version.

Contextual transitions mean that you will keep your place if you move to other views to avoid having to re-scroll through thousands of photos to find the one you want, and duplicate photos and out-of-date screenshots, documents and receipts will be hidden from the main photos album making it easier to keep things tidy.

There will be a screen recordings smart album where you will be able to store screen recordings which are now also a thing and this will make it massively easier to produce tutorial videos without relying on apps to share footage of the process where they have the feature available. So expect some Procreate tutorials from me with step-by-step instructions to come out not too long after the new OS drops.

Photo enhance controls are significantly improved and an enhanced set of tools is now available to refine better, things like brightness, black points, and saturation and vibrancy will intelligently change depending on the other adjustments that you make. Good news on the video front, you will now be able to make non-destructive video edits meaning that you can finally remove the filter that you mistakenly committed and almost everything that applies in terms of features to photos now extends across to video editing too.

Sharpen, noise reduction, pinch to zoom, and vignette have received updates and there are now updates to the API for portrait segmentation which will support skin tones, hair and teeth so that developers can create new effects for portrait mode photos. There is an image capture API that will allow developers to leverage the camera connection kit to import photos directly into their apps. 

There are plenty of other updates too, Birthday Mode, music for memories, extended live photos playback, review of each effect when editing to compare between the updated and original versions and there is now an option for white balance.

So the photos app becomes an app rather than just an add-on feature which it has always felt like in the past. Great for artists and those who rely on capturing works in progress or finished works using their iPhone or iPad, and overall this is a definite step in the right direction. However, if you are working as a professional artist or photographer and need flexibility and more power, some of the API updates included in handling photos will most likely spill over and get used by the app developers to make their products even more useful. Lightroom might be close enough to the desktop version very soon.

Privacy and Security…

It is easy to forget privacy and security because for most of us it is often secondary. Having worked at some of the highest levels in the world of cyber-security in my day job I can categorically say that for most people, it still remains a not so important factor if the rest of what we get from a device is serving us well or it is until the very moment it affects us. Sure there are a lot of people who advocate privacy-first beyond any devices function but the reality for many end-users is that security is forgotten until there is an issue.

Good security is unobtrusive. No matter how much you spend on cyber-security no system can ever be guaranteed to provide 100% security for 100% of the time. Money can only buy a sense of security, the rest is down to humans and how they behave. That is the cold reality, much of what goes on in the cyber-landscape that we hear on the news is often avoidable if the humans had applied the correct security in the first place and anyone who ever says that their systems cannot be compromised is most likely telling a lie. My stock answer to this is, prove it.

But humans are what humans are so device manufacturers have a responsibility to counter the issues where they can to make security less of a people burden and more of a by-default function. Apple has really begun to shine at doing this and are among the few device manufacturers that I get the feeling are getting that this is a business model that should in this day and age be the default for any device manufacturer.

Updates include app location permissions which can be set to control the location data that you pass to apps. Regardless of what you think of Facebook and others, many apps only collect this data with your permission although there are unscrupulous developers and manufacturers that collect this by default and you probably don’t even know. In some cases there are no options to even turn app location services off within the app, instead, you need to go into various settings menus and disable manually.

There will also be Wi-Fi and Bluetooth location privacy enhancements with API changes to help prevent apps from accessing your location without your consent when using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Location controls for shared photos and app location transparency will both be updated and there is an enhanced anti-fingerprinting technology within Safari that protects against nefarious browser font issues.

Sign in with Apple ID…

You might be familiar with the sign in with Google and Facebook options but there will now also be a sign in with Apple option too where you can sign into apps and services using your Apple ID. That negates the need to fill out forms and instead you will be able to use Face ID or Touch ID to sign in instead.

One of the biggest advances is that you can now opt to hide your email address from apps. No matter how many extra email addresses you create to use with apps there is a chance that a lot of them will eventually be misused by third-parties who will go on to sell them or spam you. Hide my email gives you an option to mask your email address with one given to you by Apple and Apple will forward on any emails from the sender. The even better news here is that you will also be able to use this on any device whether it is Android or Windows, as long as you also have an account with Apple this option will be available.

Other upgrades…

You are getting only a flavour here today of all of the new features that will appear on the iPadOS and iOS 13 updates, other upgrades are coming to Home Kit and Siri Shortcuts and Home Kit enabled security camera will differentiate between the activity of humans and animals. There is no doubt too that the emoji and animoji libraries will be updated but there are some fundamental changes coming to accessibility.

Voice control will allow you to control everything you do on your iPad and dictation is going to become much better. If there are any concerns around the security of such things then it is important to remember that all of the critical security processing for iOS is done on the device and not in the cloud.

Rich text editing commands mean that you don’t have to rehearse before you speak and making corrections is much quicker. Asking the device to show numbers or a grid will mean that you are able to pinpoint with your voice where you want things on-screen, and you will even be able to perform gestures such as swipe, pinch and zoom with your voice. With Attention Awareness, Voice Control goes to sleep when you turn your head away from the True Depth camera on iPad. It doesn’t activate until you look back at the screen, giving you the ability to talk to a friend nearby without affecting your device.

Did I also mention that you will also be able to hook up a PlayStation 4 or XBOX controller to play games or that you can now also hook up a Bluetooth Mouse? Game changer.

The list goes on and on…

The list of new additions and feature upgrades goes on way beyond what I can physically begin to tell you about today. Beyond the usual tools, Mail is finally getting an upgrade with desktop-class formatting and more share and attachment options, so for those of us who rely on email to run our art businesses, we finally might have the email client that gives us a real email client level of tools.

Maps is getting an update and it looks slick, messages will also get a much-needed overhaul, as will notes and shared folders. There will be a new Augmented Reality composer for iOS developers and the reminders app will get a boost from more functionality. Share sheets will have new actions, as will shortcuts, Siri upgrades are inevitable, a redesigned control centre, and Dolby Atmos playback and an automatic personal hotspot to connect your iPad to your phone if no internet connection is available and it will be persistent. You can also add attachments to calendar appointments too, great for client meetings.

System Performance…

With all of this power under the hood you are probably wondering how your device will perform if it is an older device. There is no need to worry too much though because everything has been built with older devices in mind as well as the latest gadgets.
Apps will launch approximately twice as fast on iPadOS, faster Face ID unlock on the third-generation iPad Pro, smaller app updates which means that any updates will be around 60 per cent smaller and smaller app downloads will mean that any apps you do download will be around 50 per cent smaller. If you have a device with the least amount of storage, this will be very welcome news, but don’t forget that you can now also add those external hard drives. On lightning ports you might need an adaptor, but on the 3rd generation Pro, you will be able to go straight into the USB C port.

What you need to start creating art on the iPad…

If all that has convinced you that finally, the iPad is to become an even more serious tool in the creation of professional art and graphic design, you are probably eager to get everything ready for the big day when iPadOS is released.

Hold up for a moment though because you need to think this through. First, there is the question to answer, do you want to wait a week longer and get the inevitable day 3, 4 or 5 patch updates and go for a more stable OS or do you go with a day one download.

On release day the servers at Apple are going to be working overtime. There will be a queue, and everyone will be doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. Bandwidth into those servers will probably be being used up and the download process will definitely be on the slow side at least for the first few days.

Make sure before you download anything that your iPad is backed up, and then hold on tight when the upgrade starts to happen. Hopefully, the apps you use will have all been updated over the few weeks prior to the upgrade dropping, but there will likely be a few updates immediately available after the download and install has taken place so they will need updating too.

So you now have what looks and feels like a brand new device. Play with it and learn everything you can about how it all works because there are ways of working with iPadOS which will be different from how you used iOS12. Everything is still familiar, but there is more of it and new gestures to learn. There will be features that can significantly improve your productivity when creating digital art and some of those will be immediately obvious while many other updates will only be apparent when you look under the hood. Either way, you need to know what they are and how to use them.

If you are thinking of using a Mac or MacBook with the iPad you might want to update that device too as soon as the update is available, the connectivity between iPad and Mac will be straightforward. On the iPad, though you will want to make sure that you have everything you need to be able to connect the right devices to take advantage of all those new shiny features and my mission today is to make sure you don’t pay over and above what you need to in order to do it!

Making the magic happen...

First off, if you are thinking about buying an iPad for digital art you will want to buy the right model of iPad that will allow you to create and give you some flexibility for the future. As always when it comes to the iPad, you should ideally go for the best model you can afford, after all, you will be pushing it to and beyond its limits if you are creating artworks professionally.

There are multiple models currently sold by Apple. For this feature, we will only be focussing on the models that will have some future flexibility and you will want one that can handle iPadOS. Here are the choices.

iPad Mini 4
iPad Mini 5
iPad 5th Generation
iPad 6th Generation
iPad Air 2
iPad Air 3 (2019)
iPad Pro 9.7 inch
iPad Pro 10.5 inch
iPad Pro 11 inch (2018)
iPad Pro 12.9 inch (2018)
iPad Pro 12.9 inch (First and the second generation)

There are many differences between the models and as you will see from the list above, some of the older models will not be able to upgrade to the new version of iOS and if it’s not on the above list then it won’t be upgraded this time around. If you are looking to make a new purchase it is time to consider what you want from the device both now and in the future.

Think about timelines not just for you but for some of the apps that will be coming to, or are already available on iPad. The likes of Photoshop CC is difficult to gauge because Adobe is still very quiet on the subject but it is probable that it will be an iPad Pro application. Future updates to your favourite art applications are a consideration too because many of the developers who continue to upgrade their apps regularly are less likely to continue developing updates for older models and outdated operating systems.

First and second generation iPad Pros are still relatively young in the great scheme of things so will be a solid choice, the iPad Pro 10.5 is sort of an inter-generation leap, which might give you not just a little extra screen real estate than on the 9.7 Pro, but you also get slightly upgraded technology under the hood.

For the most part, the Pro models will always be the best choice for artists and designers as the other models will have smaller screens and even smaller if you choose the iPad Mini, and whilst creating art is possible on these devices, you might be better off having a little more screen real-estate to play with from the off.

That brings us to the 2018 iPad Pro models and it is here that we begin to see some of the biggest shifts in technology. First off, every iPad on the above list uses the stock-standard Lightning connector for charging and accessories, however, the 2018 third-generation iPad Pro with either the 11 or 12.9-inch screen uses USB C and it is worth noting that these are also the iPads that do not come with a standard 3.5mm headphone socket. That’s a consideration if you like to use headphones to listen to music while painting because you will either need to purchase a 3.5mm to USB adaptor or you will need USB C cabled or Bluetooth headphones which ultimately will add a little or a lot more to the price.

Let’s assume that you decide on the latest 2018 Pro model with Face ID for the rest of this article but bear in mind that any of the accessories I mention will most likely also have a lightning compatible version available.  The key differences that you will immediately notice are that there is no home button and there is a much smaller bezel meaning a bigger screen in a slightly smaller device. What you do need to be mindful of when using the third-gen-Pro model is that in order to use the Apple Pencil, you need to ensure that it is the second-generation Apple Pencil as the first generation device will not work with it. The 2018 Pro has a completely different screen technology. The upside is that the second generation pencil now magnetically connects to the top of the iPad to store and charge it and it features a tap-sensitive button with configurable tools.

Here’s where we can begin to save some money. Sure Apples cases are beautiful and they are designed with aesthetics in mind. They offer a reasonable level of protection but oh my, they are so expensive. There are some much cheaper options available from third-parties that will look just as good and offer more protection.

If you are anything like me then a physical keyboard is a must-have, but again the option from Apple comes with a premium price tag and while it is beautiful and perfectly balanced, you can purchase a relatively cheap Bluetooth keyboard for around a tenth of the price. I tried the Apple Portfolio keyboard and fell in love with it but sadly my budget couldn’t quite stretch that far this time around. Instead, I went for a slightly bigger keyboard but one that wasn’t so big as to not be portable. For this reason, I picked the Logitech K380 Multi-Device keyboard and for the past few months, this is what I have been using to write every article on this blog. For next to no money this is a brilliant piece of kit that also works with my phone and Apple TV.


Ever since the iPad first arrived in 2010, end-users have had to limp along with only one socket to plug anything into. That didn’t change with the 2018 model but the nature of the socket did. Instead of a lightning connector, the device now has a USB C connector which is a massive leap in terms of what you are now able to at least hypothetically connect.

There is still only a single port though so if you find that you need to wear a wired set of headphones and charge the device at the same time, you need to either choose which need is most urgent or purchase an adaptor. The good news for USB C though is that you can buy a multiport adaptor that allows you to connect a range of devices. This is perhaps the next mission-critical purchase on your list right after the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil second-gen.

anker multiport usb c hub, anker, Mark taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Anker Multiport Hub Less than half the cost of the official devices

The devices can be picked up relatively cheaply. I paid around $30 for mine and it will allow me to connect a couple of regular USB sticks, insert the SD card out of my camera, add-in another USB C device or continue charging the device while the adaptor is plugged in, and it will also allow me to hook the iPad up to an external display using HDMI.

I use this tiny gadget all of the time to take photos from an SD card from my camera as it is more portable than carrying around the USB C lead that came with the camera and it is a lot less complicated and much quicker than connecting the camera to Wi-Fi. I also use the USB ports to upload any artworks I have created on the Mac to import them into other apps, useful if your Creative Cloud plan only gives you a limited amount of storage or when you need to do something quickly.

These ports are going to become even more useful with iPadOS as this is where you will be able to plug in regular external hard drives, providing any additional power through the charging port pass-through connector. On some models they also allow you to use a wired Ethernet cable so that you can plug your iPad directly into your broadband router and some will also have a 3.5mm headphone socket.

My advice though is to pick out the genuine online reviews for these products and get one that doesn’t seem to suggest that there are major issues with things like sound and display output. Some of these devices just can’t handle the power of all of the ports they provide and this is a problem when you are connecting it to a device that costs as much as the iPad Pro does.

If you just want the ability to connect an SD card to the iPad then there are lots of SD card to USB C dongles available for relatively little money. I keep one in my camera bag for the times when I forget to take the multiport device out with me and it cost me less than ten bucks from Amazon. Again, check for fake reviews as some of these work better than others. If you are wondering how to spot fake reviews I will be sharing a few tips with you at some point, although some reviews look convincingly genuine it can become an expensive problem when you find out they are fake and the device doesn’t work.

Leads and cables…

I’m not sure if leads and cables is a geeky way of saying thoughts and prayers. Some cables seem like a bargain and others such as the original Apple cables seem too expensive and having the wrong type of cable or one that is inferior in quality will quite literally leave you in need of thoughts and prayers. With USB C we are finally seeing standardisation come to Apple devices. There is every chance that the iPhone 11 Pro (indications are that this is happening) will ship with a USB C port and if not, I would expect next year’s models to include USB C instead of the lightning connector. USB C is definitely the future.

As with all cables, they’re not created equally. USB C ports are the same, it’s a standard but what you plug into them might be labelled as USB C, it will definitely be USB C, but some will only provide power, others data, and some do both with varying degrees of success. It’s the same thing with Lightning cables with some being certified for use with iPad, and others that are not certified which could result in damage or fires.

USB C to USB C will give you the best connectivity at the fastest speeds, particularly as Apple only provides a standard 18-watt USB C charger with the 2018 iPad Pro. Get yourself a multiport charger (something like an Anker 60 watt) with a USB C port, and then grab a USB C 3.1 Second Generation cable and your iPad Pro will charge much quicker. 

If you need any other USB C cable, always go for at least USB C 3.1 from the second generation. Plug anything else in and you won’t be able to take advantage of the speed or power capability of the new cables. I picked up a 3.1 2nd generation cable through Amazon Basics and I have to say that Amazon is selling this way too cheaply for what it is and how it performs. Don’t tell them I said that though because it is the single best cable I have ever owned.

If you need a lightning cable, always go for something that has been MFi certified for use with Apple products. You don’t have to spend big bucks on original Apple cables and frankly, their design for cables has always been poor, just make sure that the cable is certified and ideally from a good brand. I have used Anker for a couple of years now because they are much more affordable than the likes of Belkin and others and Anker have great customer service if you ever need it and every cable I have purchased has outlasted more expensive cables, lasting about 3-4 times longer than the stock Apple cables.

You are almost all set to go and produce great art on the iPad, all you really need to do now is to do something about the lack of storage space. With the new OS bringing the reduced app sizes and downloads, a 256 GB iPad is going to be similar to previously having a 512 GB capacity device.  The only real benefit of owning a 1 TB iPad Pro is that you will have more on-board storage and the devices for some reason have more built-in RAM but they also cost a lot more.

With the introduction of external USB hard disc connectivity, the issue of choosing higher storage enabled devices is less than it once was. Here’s one area you can save a little money on but you will need to purchase a compatible external USB C hard drive, or you will need to use USB C memory sticks. It might be possible to utilise a multiport hub but I would imagine that these will need to be powered rather than passive hubs to cope with the additional power needed by external drives.

You can also use a USB C to HDMI to connect up to an external display and whilst not every USB C port has a video out capability, the iPad Pro does. This is useful when working on digital art projects and the display on my large screen Apple monitors are crisp and vivid. 

You can also connect up to HDMI though one of the multiport adaptors and the display is still crisp and clean, I even managed to connect it up to a 4K projector with relative ease.
Another tip here is that if you are using the iPad Pro and your phone battery dies, if you have the right cables you can charge up the phone from the monster battery that comes with the iPad Pro, but not the other way around. The iPad Pros battery will diminish much more quickly when you do this but in the event of not having access to a wall charger, it remains an option.

I mentioned earlier that there is no longer a headphone socket on the iPad Pro so the choice to listen privately becomes a little more limited. You can purchase a headphone adaptor or use one of the multiport hubs but you also need to be cautious that not every pair of USB C headphones will work. Most will but some headphones handle the digital to analogue processing themselves, others rely on the host device. Always check compatibility with anything you plugin.

Personally, I use the second-generation Bose QC35 with noise-cancelling because I also use various synths and GarageBand to create music for my work in progress videos. These are seriously up there in terms of quality versus price, couple that with the added benefit of being able to access Alexa and Google’s voice assistants and you will find very few with the exception of Bang and Olufsen and maybe a few of the higher end Sony models for a similar price that offer such sound quality and noise cancelling. The added benefit with Bose is that you can also plug in a cable and use them with traditional 3.5mm headphone ports if needed.

reflections of cornwall, cornish landscape, art, Mark Taylor artist, Beechhouse Media,
Reflections of Cornwall by Mark Taylor

Apps for creating art…

I have written many times about the number of art apps available on iPad and in May we looked at a few different apps and software packages that you could use on a budget. You can read that article right here, and there is another article right here that will give you an insight into some of the app's features.

Since 2010 I have tried and in some cases, beta-tested pretty much every half-decent art app available on iPad. The problem for many people though is that there are a number of them that need you to pay upfront from the off and they offer no trial versions. Worry no more because I can tell you categorically which the best ones to use are.

I have omitted the apps that you really can live without. The ones below are the ones that are more capable of producing professional results and even if these are the only apps you ever download, between them, you will be able to do almost everything you need to do to produce professional-quality art and graphics.

Photoshop CC – Okay not as yet available but I did manage to get a play on a pre-release version and really couldn’t have asked for more. The final version will be released soon and if you have a subscription for Creative Cloud right now, I am hoping that will extend to cover access to this too. There’s a little difference certainly in the version I got to play with between the full-blown version on Mac and the iPad version, but not that much. There’s every chance that the software has evolved and has been given even more features than I got to see back then and even back when I saw it in action, it looked promising.

Procreate – Procreate is a strange one when its focus is on recreating the feel and process of producing traditional art. It’s about a million miles away from what Photoshop does with photos and that’s what makes it special. Most of my artwork produced today is created using the Apple Pencil and Procreate and now that the ability to include text has been included, it has gone from strength to strength. If you are using anything less than the iPad Pro the differences will be in the final image sizes you are able to produce and the number of layers available, but the rest works just as well.

Affinity Photo – I have covered this one many times before. Think Photoshop, take away the need for subscriptions and you have one of the most powerful photo-editing tools you could ever wish for on iPad.

Affinity Designer - I have covered this one many times before. Think Illustrator, take away the need for subscriptions and you have one of the most powerful vector drawing tools you could ever wish for on iPad.

RAW Power - Unlock the hidden power of Apple's RAW engine with easy-to-use controls. RAW Power brings to iOS the outstanding RAW processing formerly only available in Apple’s Aperture professional photo application. Unique adjustments like Boost let you improve your images in ways that can't be done in any other app. There are a couple of advanced packs as in-app purchases but if you have the ability to capture RAW photos on your camera this is really about the best RAW editor that there is.

Adobe Lightroom for iPad - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC is a free, powerful, yet intuitive photo editor. Lightroom also provides a robust premium offering filled with advanced features to take your photography further. If you have a Creative Cloud subscription you will also get the advanced feature set including healing brush, selective adjustments, geometry, Adobe Sensei, and cloud storage. This will be a must when Photoshop CC is finally released. In the interim, it might be worth taking more notice of RAW Power as there are no subscriptions other than two inexpensive in-app purchases.

Concepts – I have used Concepts for a number of years now because I love the idea of infinite canvas sizes. Concepts though might be better suited to producing concept art and home designs than for some other works but it is still very capable of doing most things. The interface has a slight learning curve but there are some useful community-based tutorials available from within the app and on YouTube. You can find out more about Concepts right here

Art Studio Pro – I pondered including this one but then I remembered that it is still one of the best art apps available on iPad beyond Procreate for producing works more traditionally than you could with a photo editor. Some say that this even beats Procreate in some areas but I find that whilst Procreate gets a ten out of ten, this gets a 9.5 out of ten. It’s very close and the frequency of the updates mean that it could one day creep up on Procreate. Again, it comes down to personal choice.

The successor to the famous Art Studio app has been redesigned bringing many new features and improvements taking full advantage of the latest technologies Metal, iCloud Drive, Apple Pencil, and optimized for 64-bit multi-core processors to achieve the smoothest possible workflow. It has a flexible layer system, an advanced brush engine that allows brush sizes of up to 4000 x 4000 pixels, real-looking strokes with Apple Pencil, more than 100-included brushes and 80-customizable settings.

There are many import and export options, more so than on Procreate, and like Procreate, you can import third-party brushes. The difference with Art Studio Pro is that it is also a solid photo editor too.

Other notable apps and tools…
Let’s face it if you are spending a not-insignificant amount of money on the iPad and Apple eco-system, then you want to make sure that what you buy can also cover off some of the other things that you need to do as an artist.

So without the fuss and because I am conscious that my word count for this week is bordering on becoming a book, here are the best apps that will make some of those tasks beyond creating art a little bit easier and better.

For producing videos, ditch iMovie and go with LumaFusion. This is desktop-class pro-video editing on a mobile device and for filmmakers worth the price of buying an iPad Pro alone. There is a steeper learning curve so that inevitably means watching hours of tutorials on YouTube, but hey, this is pro-level software that will give you the results your artworks deserve.

GarageBand – using the built-in loops included with GarageBand are a great way to get some slightly different music to accompany your videos with instead of using stock sound tracks or getting stuck with copyright issues. Good news that this is included with all new i-devices so you won’t need to spend any more to create music so long as you can put a couple of musical notes together.

AudioKit FM Player V2, ipad, audiokit, open source, Mark Taylor,
AudioKit FM Player V2 on iPad

AudioKit Pro FM Player V2 is cheap and I mean really cheap. So cheap that you would be forgiven for thinking that it can’t be any good. But if you are after an iPad musical instrument with a range of beautiful presets, this open-source affair is a legend amongst legends. You can find out more here.  Also, check out Synth One which you can find at the same link and the even better news is that both are compatible with GarageBand and midi keyboards. 

AudioKit is really big news, in fact, it is massively big news and you should download it even if you never use it because this is how developers should treat their client base and the sounds are just oh my wow! It also includes Classic presets, faithfully recorded from the original retro 80s Synthesizers such as the DX7, DX7II, TX81z sounds, and more than 200+ other presets. Simply epic. Read about the ethos behind the app and that is exactly what is needed in this world when it comes to passionate app developers who love what they do, others are just playing at it. Hashtag Be like AudioKit.

Summing Up…

Today we have only touched on some of the benefits and pitfalls of creating art on iPad. There are lots more subjects I could cover such as using the individual apps to create your works and the myriad of other functions that iPadOS will bring about. Whilst there are plenty of mobile options to create art it really comes down to using what you personally prefer and how much you can afford and ultimately what you want to be able to do with it and for how long.

I use a combination of tools and equipment for my work, there is simply no way that I could create anything other than simple animations for example on a portable device, but because that kind of work is rare I have the luxury of not being tied to a desktop-class device with the power that they have built-in.  

Whichever route you go with digital art there will always be some initial expense and while you can produce beautiful art on budget devices it can become more limiting over-time.

Pick a PC or Mac and you need a graphics tablet if you don’t want to tackle projects using a mouse. Pick a Windows tablet and there are variations that could mean you spend out, even more, trying to backfill the features you are missing. Buy an iPad and you have to buy into an Apple eco-system and rely on a bunch of gadgets for connectivity. Go all out desktop and suddenly it can become eye-wateringly expensive, especially when we consider the costs of something like the new Mac Pro which is due to be released soon. Android is just too limited when it comes to much beyond photo-editing and there is the issue of upgrades and futureproofing, although I know a few digital artists who find them fine to work with.

The likes of Art Flow, Adobe Illustrator Draw, Ibis Paint, and Medi-Bang are all good and even great on Android but apps such as Procreate and a number of others are only available on iPad and iPhone. There’s just a little more choice with Apple but Android is going to be just fine for some people.

There is a myth that digital art is a cheaper way to create but the reality is often very different. Admittedly I do more digital work than traditional art these days but even when I didn’t, and even after considering the costs of art supplies, I could produce art more cheaply using traditional tools.

If you are thinking about having a first go with digital art then this could be a really costly venture to find out that you don’t like the technique at all, and there is nowhere that you can really go and test out the creative waters other than some of the specialist technology shows which might not even feature art applications at all. If you already have some equipment my advice is to use that to find out if you like the process and read my earlier article on creating art on a budget to find out what software you can get for little to no cost. But also bear in mind that the experience on an older device and the app functionality of some free software, might not give you a realistic enough idea of whether you will find the techniques and processes, suitable.

There are plenty of other apps for iPad that you could use and which cost slightly less than those I identified today, but your choice might be swayed more around your own artistic style.

If you go ahead with the iPad or the iPad Pro, there are ways you can save money on the add-ons that you will eventually want or in many cases need, and I am sure that this is the case with Windows and Android too. Ultimately it really is a case of you pay your money and you make the choice. My advice though is to try and make the right one for you. Just one more thing to bear in mind though is that if you follow a digital artist who uses one particular platform or a particular app to accessories, there really is no way to know for certain that you will get the same results. Most of what an artist does with digital is linked to how well they use the technology and how skilled they are. It is entirely possible that having the shiniest, and best equipment will do anything for you at all that a cheaper option wouldn’t give you.

Like I said at the start of this article, choosing technology as a digital artist can be difficult and choosing is full of pitfalls, but using it can be so much easier if you get it right from the off and by making the correct choices now, you will be better prepared to continue creating art for a long time to come.

Do you have a favourite app for creating art? If so, leave a comment below and let us know what it is!

Best Wishes and Happy Creating!

Mark xx

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contribute to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at

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  1. Overwhelming amount of information here Mark. As you know, I have the Ipad Pro & all that you suggested to accompany it. I'm still trying to find the time to learn what it has to offer, especially Procreate. I have a feeling it's going to be quite a learning curve for me.

    1. Always here if you get stuck with anything Colleen! iPadOS is fantastic, been running the beta for a few weeks and have to say it is so close to perfect! There’s a great community on the Procreate website, plenty of tutorials and lots of free brushes and resources. I’m working on a couple of step by step video tutorials outlining things like alpha and masking, as soon as they’re done I’ll ping you the link! X


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