Illustrating on the iPad

Up until recently, I’ve been reluctant to do much sketching digitally. This month, I found the perfect excuse to explore a purely digital process. I’m currently taking part in an event called 30 Characters in 30 Days. There’s not much more to the challenge than the title suggests. Participants are simply tasked with creating 30 unique characters in the month of November.

I decided to make things a bit more interesting by using many different illustration styles and even new tools that I’m not familiar with during this challenge. It’s been a great excuse to spend more quality time with my iPad. I thought I’d take a moment to share my thoughts on a few of the new tools I’ve added to my arsenal.

Painting & Sketching

I’ve spent a bit of time sketching in SketchBook and it’s great. It’s arguably the most popular painting app out there. I like this app a lot, but have read good things about a competitor. I decided to give procreate a go. I think I like it more. The interface for procreate is more opinionated that Sketchbook, which I mostly (eventually) agree with. Having quick access between brush, smudge, and erase is excellent for getting ideas down quickly. I do wish the space used for undo and redo could be reassigned to color toggling since undo and redo have gestures. For quick value studies, I found the placement of the brush size and opacity sliders perfect. So far, I’ve completed 4 illustrations with procreate and sketched out 2 others to be completed in other apps.


I would suspect if someone wasn’t already familiar with Illustrator, they’d not miss it if they had Inkpad. As an Illustrator user, I found a few uncanny valley issues frustrating, but I mostly enjoyed the process. Some actions (like grouping) felt laborious since they required navigating a menu (can this be mitigated with gestures?). I was definitely less productive on the iPad that I would have been with Illustrator on a computer with a mouse and keyboard. Most importantly, I did like the results. I’ve only completed 1 illustration with Inkpad, but there’s still 11 days to go.

Pixel Art

For crafting pixel art, I have found the app Sprite Something delightful to work with. It makes pixel art far more fun. It is a bit frustrating to not have layers for positioning elements, but that just leads to a bit more thoughtfulness in the initial mark creation. I’ve already made 6 pixel character illustrations and have cut myself off from making more for the competition. I do however plan to spend much more quality time with this app in the future.

I do still tend to prefer sketching on paper rather than Paper, but there is a lot to be said for introducing digital tools to your workflow. I’m really warming up to the iPad as a content creation device. Now, I need to get my hands on a pressure sensitive stylus.