ipad as sketchbook

27 May 11

A couple of days ago I bought the Wacom Bamboo Stylus for my ipad. I'd been looking into styluses for a while, because while I find the idea of drawing on the ipad really appealing, in reality I can't draw with my finger. It feels weird, my hand gets in the way, it just doesn't work. I've seen people make finger painted masterpieces, but that sure does seem like a lot of work. If I was going to work that hard at something I would just do it on my desktop with a proper graphics tablet! I wanted something that I could make quick sketches on when I'm out, so that I could occasionally lose the sketchbook and lighten my handbag load (I can't seem to leave the house without camera/ipad/kindle/sketchbook combo which gets HEAVY). I looked in to the Pogo stylus, but when Wacom announced their offering I thought I'd wait it out. Wacom know what they're doing in the digital drawing arena, right?

I've been playing with it obsessively for a few days and I'm really pleased! Let me say first of all that this is no graphics tablet substitute. There is no pressure sensitivity and the larger rubber tip takes a little getting used to. I did find it a lot more accurate than using my hand and drawing with it much more natural. It's weighty and solid, so it feels nice to hold in your hand. When you're using it, you kind of forget that it's just an overpriced stick to poke at the screen with because it feels like a proper pen! Talking of price, it's $29.99 in the US, but of course in the UK I had to pay £35.90 (which included £6 for shipping from Wacom's EU location. £6 for A PEN, are you serious right now). For that price I would have a liked a little case for it or something!

Comparison of the tip with a Wacom pen. The rubber tip is soft, so gives when you hold it against the surface and you don't have to push down very hard (trying hard not to throw in a "that's what she said" right here).

Some quick sketches I've done with it (including some from a very jolty train!):

The drawing apps I've tried so far:

left: Procreate
This has the nicest user interface, you can adjust the size and opacity of the brush and undo with one hand as you draw with the other. Super easy to work out what's what because there aren't too many options. It gets out of your way so you can get on with drawing. Their name really grosses me out for some reason, horrible word.

right: Sketchbook Pro
This is my favourite for sketching and simple line drawings. Really responsive and quick and it's got the best export options (I love that you can export a layered .PSD to Dropbox! In 2011 everything should have an export to Dropbox). I find the default layout a bit fiddly, but you can change some things around in the prefs to make it a bit better. Fun mirror drawing tool! It's verging on having too many tools/brushes/options though and lots of them are fairly useless.

left: ArtRage
I really want to like ArtRage because it has the best brushes and you can do suspiciously realistic pencil drawings and watercolours, but it's just sooooo slow and laggy. It seems to be a complete memory hog because it's constantly throwing up memory errors and wanting me to restart the ipad. I have the desktop version of this too and it seems to suffer from similar issues, which is a real shame because it's so close to being amazing.

right: Brushes
Probably the original and best known drawing app, Brushes is my favourite for a more painterly style. In the gallery you can play back your drawings from the beginning which is really fun! It's got the least tacky and most useful, um, brushes and it's one of the most responsive in terms of speed.

I do wish these apps had palm recognition (allowing you to put you palm down when you're using a stylus instead of having to suspend it awkwardly in midair), like a lot of handwriting apps do. That's the only complaint I have, you really have to alter your hand position which is a bit of a pain. I guess the resolution of most of the apps is pretty small too (1024 x 768), which is limiting. A higher resolution would only slow things down to a crawl though, so for sketches it's just fine for me.

Anyone else use any ipad drawing apps? I'd love to hear recommendations! It's so hard to find anything in the app store unless it's super popular already.




Thanks for sharing! I have a Wacom tablet and absolutely love it, and never really thought about getting a portable drawing tablet/app for sketching until now. Bringing sketchbooks and a case of pens is always so bulky, I tend to just forget about it…! Your sketches look great:)

Nicole replied over 12 years ago.

Thanks for this. A really helpful post. I have been thinking about this for a while. You thoughts are most welcomed.

roland replied over 12 years ago.

Wow those all turned out beautifully! Really love the color schemes.

Trude replied over 12 years ago.

and i really like how cute the girls look

Valry replied over 12 years ago.

it’s good… I want to get it…

beastgood replied over 12 years ago.

Wow! These are incredible ♥

Misty replied over 12 years ago.

I just have to agree with the rest: these are incredible!

Melwa replied over 12 years ago.

I use the same Stylus with my iPad and I really like it. I’m used to having a Wacom Bamboo Medium tablet with my MacBook Pro, so it took a bit of getting used to, but honestly, I love it. I do my illustrating (which I’m getting back into more and more) with a mixture of the two. I tend to do the rough sketching on the ipad and detail with my tablet on the Mac.

This illustration:- http://www.sarahkaneblog.net/2011/05/illustration-french-for-cupcake.html
Was totally done on my iPad :)

I use Sketchbook Pro, mostly, but I also have Brushes and Procreate.

Your sketches are fab, as usual Kris! :)

Sarah KANE replied over 12 years ago.

Wow, I wish I had an iPad <3

Amanda replied over 12 years ago.

That’s incredibly impressive.
Just a Silhouette

Alice replied over 12 years ago.

Kris, as much as I love your sketches of clothes and your outfits, I desperately miss the photos you used to post back in the day! I understand that this an artist’s blog, but please, please, please, give me some outfit photos! Also, please don’t think I’m a weird freak or anything but I’ve been wanting more photos for YEARS and have held back from saying anything.

Meaghan replied over 12 years ago.

Haha, I don’t think you’re a freak, you made me laugh!
Honestly, I don’t know if that’s something I’ll be doing again. I don’t wear anything particularly exciting, I barely leave the house since I work from home now (and my favourite working clothes are a selection of playsuits and slippers)! So many other people do it so much better that it just seems like a futile and pointless endeavour. But I’ll think about it!
And thank you, that’s really sweet!

kris atomic replied over 12 years ago.

Your sketches are amazing, I can’t believe they’re done in an iPad! I love your drawing style anyway, but it’s great to see how they look when transferred to different media. Please keep it up – they are ever so inspiring :) xx

victoria replied over 12 years ago.

Lovely pics :) and words too :)

I’ve pretty much all but transitioned over to the iPad for drawing, love it and agree with all you’ve put.

Brushes upscales so, although it natively outputs 1024×768 (and it’s better if you email it to yourself rather than take it to the photo library as that compresses it and loses clarity a smidge) you can upscale it on a mac computer using the free Brushes view app up to… 8000 pixels by something or other (technical questions my speciality).

Also also: if you get the chance try the Dagi stylus – surprisingly fun, Nomad paintbrush – I really like it or my uber fave: the Stylus sock. That’s the best stylus for iPad imo. Very comfortable to use. That said I’ve not tried the Wacom, but it looks a lot like the Alupen which I do like but less than the others.

Anyhow: top stuff :)

Kercal replied over 12 years ago.

Thank you so much for your comment, I had no idea about Brushes viewer and it’s just what I wanted! Totally makes the Brushes app the best contender.
I’ll look in to those other styluses you recommend!
You’ve drawn some cool stuff on your ipad, props! Kris x

kris atomic replied over 12 years ago.

Wow. Their great!

Freddi, Luv and other drugs replied over 12 years ago.

Oohh, I’ve become convinced that I NEED an ipad and I had no idea you could even get drawing apps, really makes it even more appealing now, and these are supercute so i think the pen was a good buy:)

loulou replied over 12 years ago.

So amazing. Now I want an iPad.

Meg replied over 12 years ago.

hi i love your drawings :) I know a program called GIMP 2. I use it in drawing stuff in my blog : drawingcolorful.tumblr.com but I don’t think it is on i Pad.

Valry replied over 12 years ago.

if only my mom’s Samsung tab was as big as an iPad :(

Valry replied over 12 years ago.

we have sketchbook on the samsung tab but it’s not pro it’s express

Valry replied over 12 years ago.

Great sketches, I’m jealous!
I use the inspire pro app mostly for the palette knife tool, you can adjust the amount of paint to get more or less of a “break” when your drawing. Plus you can download a exporter from the developer’s website to export your drawings at high resolutions. It’s pretty cool.

Rachel replied over 12 years ago.

Thank you! I got Inspire Pro recently and I really like it so far, so cheers for the recommendation :)

kris atomic replied over 12 years ago.

I still can’t believe you create these sketches digitally Kris!

Elle replied over 12 years ago.

[…] love Kris Atomic‘s drawings, and her recent posts about sketching on the iPad makes me want to be better at drawing – I bought a cheap stylus last weekend, but I think […]

Rain Rain Go Away | ceriselle.org replied over 12 years ago.

[…] Kris Atomic, or the more phonetic alter ego of UK illustrator Kristina Mordokhovitch, recently made a foray into iPad sketching. She picked up the Wacom Bamboo Stylus and took it for a spin on a variety of drawing apps including Procreate (weird), Sketchbook Pro, ArtRage and Brushes. See some of her pretty results below. […]

Hi! I’ve read a review about the stylus that stated that the metal rim could cause scratches on the ipad’s surface when holding the stylus quite flat (for hatching e.g.). What do you think, could this really be a problem? And thank you for this helpful post!

Ina replied over 12 years ago.

I’ve just experimented with different ways of holding it and unless you’re holding it in a REALLY horizontal way, the metal shouldn’t come into contact with the glass. Even so, I don’t see it scratching unless you were also holding it down really hard. I haven’t got any scratches on my ipad yet and I’m pretty rough with it in general!
Hope that helps. Kris x

kris atomic replied over 12 years ago.

Yes, it did! Thanks Kris!

Ina replied over 12 years ago.

Since my iPad is still brand new, I’m still discovering new things to do with it! Love the idea of using it as a sketch pad.

Paulette @ At Home in Arkansas magazine replied over 12 years ago.

[…] I’m still discovering new things to do with it! Love the idea of using it as a sketch pad.” (Kris Atomic via This is Glamorous […]

Anon replied over 12 years ago.

Hi there kristina,
I love your sketches and paintings. You are the first person i found talking about lag on the programs. It was bugging me too!

I would suggest trying bamboo paper. For me this has almost zero lag. It is alot of fn to doodle with. It does seem to have very lmited colour choices though. But i think it is a good ‘0 lag’ standard for us to go by.

I just tried sketchbook express, and i love the way my lines look, and how my sketches come out.
Compare it to drawign wth bamboo notes and let me know if you have a noticable difference between the two.

Also, while i was looking for l.lw lag art programs i discovered animation desk lite. It is a freebee. So just try drawing and painting with it. It has ver little lag, and some really nice brush, crayon , pens.
Let me know


Russlaw replied almost 11 years ago.

Ooh ! Kristina, i was just drawing with animation desk lite, and it has a square piece of ‘material’ and it had no idea what it was for, untill i read your post, and now i see i can rest my hamd on it while i draw.

Russlaw replied almost 11 years ago.

Love your drawing style! Have you upgrade to Retina iPad yet? How was the lag time on the original iPad? I was contemplating using iPad as a substitute for pen and paper, as i go through a lot of paper! Thanks for the post!
N8 McCo

N8 McCo replied about 10 years ago.

Hi Nate,

I’ve currently got the retina ipad, planning to upgrade to the Air or Mini in the next month (can’t decide which one yet). The speed/lag hasn’t really been an issue, unless you have lots of layers in some apps.
I also have a Samsung Note 10 which has a pressure sensitive stylus and works really great for drawing, so I’d look into that too :)

Kris x

kris atomic replied about 10 years ago.

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Hi, I'm Kris. This is an archive of my blog as it was from 2007 to 2014. It's no longer updated but feel free to browse through the past.


You can find my recent work at krisatomic.com, or drop me an email and say hello. 

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