For digital art I own a small Wacom USB drawing tablet (and for the sake of transparency, I am an amateur artist and not a professional so this is a review for the average Joe or Jane). I received it as a gift two birthdays ago and it came bundled with full versions of Corel Painter Lite and Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 as well as trials of other drawing software, Nik® Color Efex Pro™ 3 WE6, which I didn’t use, and AutoDesk Sketchbook Express, which I did use. I also downloaded a couple of trials for marker-art software, Manga Studio, and one I can’t recall.
I also recently had the opportunity to compare the Wacom with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for drawing. This review covers the pros and cons of both.
The benefit of the Wacom tablet is its compatibility with multiple desktop software suites and the option to try out software before purchasing. I particularly like using Corel Painter Lite as I can do watercolor techniques, oil techniques and sketching with a wide variety of effects to apply. The painting has the feel of real paint, with control of brush strokes, brush width, brush tips, opacity and color. Corel Painter Lite has the most brushes, pencils, pens, techniques and effects available compared to any of the software I used for PC or iOS. AutoDesk Sketchbook Express had a great marker and pen tool selection if you are into comic or marker art. The Wacom stylus is programmable for shortcuts and you can use the top as an eraser. You can also use the drawing pad and its buttons, along with the stylus, as a mouse. The main difficulty with using the Wacom is hand-eye coordination; it’s disconcerting to look at the screen several inches away from where you are drawing when you are used to painting and drawing directly on paper and canvas. It’s something that you can adjust to, but it’s hard to get accurate lines.
Hand-eye coordination is not a problem on the iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil. This clever little device makes drawing on the glass screen seem natural and fluid and I was very impressed with how it makes pencil strokes. You can turn it on its side and do shading or lines very much like a real pencil. It’s so authentic you can almost believe you are hearing the graphite scratching the paper. However, you do not have the same programming options as with the Wacom stylus. The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are fantastic drawing devices but the shortcoming here is the availability of decent software. I had access to Adobe Draw, Paper and PenUltimate. PenUltimate is really just a notebook app and is handy for handwriting notes on the iPad Pro but that’s about it. I didn’t feel like Paper was an easy to use app but I can see how it would be good for basic sketches, notes and flow-charts. That left me with Adobe Draw. Adobe Draw did not have anything close to the functionality of Corel Painter Lite. It is fine for basic sketching or touching up and adding flourishes to photos but it is too basic for me. I played with it for awhile and eventually did some tutorials, thinking I was missing something, but it turned out I wasn’t.
Essentially I found the iPad Pro to be a great device for on-the-go sketching but nowhere near as useful as my Wacom and laptop. I periodically checked the App Store for drawing and painting apps compatible with iPad Pro and read reviews about apps but found nothing that was as full-functioning as I wanted. While the iPad Pro is great in a lot of ways it falls victim to the same issues as all tablets when a user needs full-functionality: it just can’t compare to a desktop.