Has anyone switched from sketching on paper (or sketchbook) to an iPad?

4 months ago from , Visual + Motion Designer at Syple

I've had an iPad with an Apple Pencil for about a year now and I've tried numerous times to try and incorporate it into my workflow when I'm sketching but it always feels like a bottleneck. My ideas flow a lot faster when I'm drawing in a sketchbook and the fidelity is much better too.

One thing I realised was that I'm a lot messier in my sketchbooks and I just let it be, while on the iPad I'll go ahead and undo things or rub them out.

I'd really like to make more use of the iPad since there's loads of benefits (undo, adding layers, colours, room for higher fidelity) but I haven't been able to find a way that doesn't feel forced. Has anyone else ran into this issue? And if you have, how'd you make the transition easier/smoother? Like certain apps etc. Perhaps treating it like a sketchbook and not rubbing every bad idea out. I'd love to hear some tips.


  • Quintin Carlson, 4 months ago

    I've found that with an infinite canvas tool like Concepts will let you move really quickly and kinda encourages being a bit messy!

    2 points
  • Martin Ollivere, 3 months ago

    It's been mentioned here already but getting Procreate changed everything for me. I too had the same worry about lag, pressure, texture, paper-feel etc but after using procreate for just a few days I was hooked. I started to really enjoy it once I'd found some brush sets that I really liked using (it's really overwhelming at first). I use these ones most: https://gumroad.com/dizzytara and also these less frequently but they're still very good: https://www.maxpacks.art/. There's loads out there. The dizzy tara brush called sketch oval is my favourite for sketching with because it's better than the built in pencil brushes and has a great shading property when used on the side.

    1 point
    • , 3 months ago

      Woah, just saw his stuff. Those brushes look quite promising (his art is great as well). I've been drawing a lot more on my iPad since my post. I think it's just been a matter of drawing what I enjoy rather than trying to force myself to do it.

      0 points
  • Luke BLuke B, 4 months ago

    I'm looking at this from two perspectives: UX designer and illustrator. The first one doesn't use an iPad at all for any design work (pen and paper mostly). It just doesn't fit my way of working. I believe you could ask yourself why you would like to use an iPad? Why you would like to make that change? If you believe it's going to improve your work somehow just try it for a month or so. If it won't work, then come back to your previous way of working. Don't force yourself to use it just because it supposed to help you work better / faster or whatever.

    As for the illustration side, I just recently switched to an iPad with Apple Pencil. Before I was drawing and making finished illustrations only on paper now I work only on the iPad. Why? Because it fits my style of working as an illustrator :) I was VERY sceptic at the beginning but I started first with this idea in mind: how can I replicate my current way of working on iPad so I don't feel I have to use just because I have it. I tried it and it worked:) Now I can move forward and explore more things that are different or was hard to achieve with my previous style.

    As for the tips:

    1. try to think why you like so much your current way of working and try to replicate that on the iPad to see if it's possible - if you like to be messy just do the same on iPad. If you like carrying around your sketchbook just do the same with an iPad.

    2. don't erase sketches, just leave it as it is. you won't run our of pice of paper on iPad so sketch as much as you can - later this will reinforce you by showing you how much progress you made

    3. sometimes to replicate your current way of working you might have to buy some apps or plugins, do whatever takes ;) try to reach the point where you can say to yourself - ok I think this is close enough. After that, you probably going to make the final decision if you want to use it or not :)

    Not sure I this all make any sense hehe If you have questions feel free to ask :) Cheers!

    1 point
    • , 4 months ago

      Hahaha, I'm the opposite. I've been able to use the iPad for quick wireframing but when it comes to branding (logo ideation etc) I just have to use a pencil and paper.

      Yeah I like your first tip. I should try and treat my iPad more like my sketchbook and give that a shot for a month.

      1 point
      • Luke BLuke B, 4 months ago

        Hehe :D cool beans! Good luck and let me know how it went after a month! High five! :)

        1 point
  • Gaël PGaël P, 3 months ago

    For people looking for a dedicated UX sketching app Ideate is in beta and Mike (founder) is actively listening to feedback https://www.ideateapp.com

    I've been in the beta for a few months and it has been progressing steadily.

    1 point
  • Tom Wall, 3 months ago

    I was so pumped when the first iPad Pro and Pencil arrived after years of poor iPad stylus experiences - that quickly wore off with no screen texture and apps not quite suited to quick fluid mark making - 4 years later, with a textured screen protector and using Notability / Procreate and its part of my workflow day to day. Sketch, share or present. Now I just need a new iPad Pro and Pencil...

    1 point
    • Chinmay Kulkarni, 3 months ago

      How's the textured screen? I'm super skeptical about it. Worst part is that I can't go to a store and see how it feels in person before buying it and putting it on my iPad.

      0 points
  • Marina JukićMarina Jukić, 4 months ago

    I've bought an iPad with Pencil in 2017 and tried numerous times to sketch in tools like Procreate or Paper, but it's not the same as my notebook I carry around. I had a really hard time learning how to handle the logic of Procreate, it's just not the way I draw stuff.

    1 point
    • , 4 months ago

      Yeah, I do like Paper, but like you said it just doesn't feel natural. Perhaps it's the lack of physical feedback from pencil and paper vs the smoothness of the apple pencil on iPad.

      1 point
  • Stefan TrkuljaStefan Trkulja, 4 months ago

    Great question. I'm in the same boat, I'd like to move to iPad but always go to pen and paper

    1 point
  • Guy Noren, 3 months ago

    Hi there, a few months ago, I switched fully to iPad Pro (11") from a dot grid sketchbook. I mostly sketch rough UI concepts, physical objects, mechanical behaviors and context-of-use snapshots. The Paper app has been my favorite so far, as it strikes a good balance between limitations and deep control that enables me to maintain a flow without getting bogged down in the tools.

    Having a separate sketchbook for each project or direction makes it much easier to immediately find something and there is no cost to using-up pages liberally. If you don't like a sketch, just go to a new page and worry about collecting the good ones later if necessary; you can always reorganize or create a new sketchbook of just the winners and work from that in the next round.

    Regarding messiness– I do sometimes undo and repeat until it is a bit cleaner than on physical paper; but it has enabled new workflows that end up saving a lot of time and make it easier to visualize what I want to draw. For instance, I'll often spend 2-3 times longer on the base-layer of a sketch, like the device, menubar or background environment of a scene, but will then duplicate that repeatedly and rapidly / messily sketch over it or modify only the variable elements. I've found that with this approach, my sketches are more shareable and intelligible than in the past too.

    The feel of drawing on glass is different, but it didn't end up mattering that much to me– after a bit of acclimation, it doesn't even register anymore. Drawing on physical paper still feels more pleasant, but personally, that hasn't remotely outweighed the workflow and organizational benefits.

    I found that the transition to this approach required a distinct shift in mindset to become comfortable and automatic, but after a couple weeks, it totally cemented for me at least; probably won't be going back to pen and paper for the most part. Now I just want a better replacement for the piles of sticky notes everywhere.

    Good luck with it, hope the experience I've had might be helpful!

    0 points