The iPad Is Becoming an Essential Graphic Design Platform

I originally started this blog, which I later turned into a personal site, mostly using just the iPad. I also have expressed how I usually carry the iPad with me everywhere and use it for a wide range of tasks ranging from photography, covering events – thus, writing down notes and recording audio during interviews – writing blog posts and articles, and for the last couple of years using it heavily to create graphic design and sometimes even video editing and motion graphics.

For a long time I felt like I was the only one to truly embrace Apple’s tablet in this way in its early stages as I was an owner of the original iPad and apps such as Procreate and ArtStudio (before Artstudio Pro was even available) from the early versions. I even use my iPad to create pixel art with apps such as Pixel Studio.

Apple iPad design of an iPad I created using an iPad and later Adobe Illustrator
My own design

I also realize the industry standards and people who do make descent money in this industry tend to use desktop Adobe apps such as Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. They also generally use software called Pixelator to create pixel art and sprites for indy games. Some designers use offshoot apps, but they also tend to be desktop, such as the Affinity suite or Sketch.

Even though the original iPad only had very rudimentary and finger-based, instead of stylus-based, input and graphic design capabilities, I still used it for such tasks occassionally. It has truly evolved over the years, however, as processing power skyrocketed and hardware additions like the Apple Pencil and now even mouse support became available. Software and app advancements followed suit with now Illustrator available on the iPad in pretty much its full glory – give or take some features and I expect this version to be updated continuously – has just been released.

Illustrator is a vector drawing and graphic design app I often use to add touches to my designs I start out using apps like Artstudio Pro on my iPad. I draw a sketch or crewte an illustration, export it from the iPad to my Macbook Air and then use a feature called trace within the Illustrator app on my Mac in order to vectorize it. I then add various filters or change the design within Illustrator. The cycle sometimes reverts itself as I export the design as a JPEG file, open it on my iPad as a raster image, and continue to work on it again using iPad apps like Procreste or Artstudio Pro.

Below are some examples of the way I vectorized collage designs that I originally created on iPad from raster to vector, via the trace command, and added some Illustrator filters or effects to them:

My own designs
My own designs

As you see, the images become more artistic or less jaggy with a certain smoothness. The downside is the lines sometimes do not trace straight or exactly the same as the raster versions although I tend to prefer the color change of the vector versions more. Here is a comparison of my warriors in cave piece of the raster version I created entirely on the iPad and the traced Illustrator version in vector:

My own designs

I have been doing that with much of my recent work and will continue to do so as I really like the look of vector graphics and illustrations as well as the filter illustrator offers. However, using the pen tool has been a pain for me as it is time consuming and I prefer to work using the Apple Pencil on iPad.

Now that Illustrator is available on the iPad, however, means I will be able to continue my work on the iPad across apps easier and without constantly having to save my designs in iCloud and transferring them across hardware. This is great news for all designers particularly iPad addicts and heavy mobile computing users like myself.

Here is a video I found on my YouTube feed showing off some of Illustrator on iPad’s features with a headline explaining just how big of a game changer it truly is (even in its early state):

Here is a video I also ran into on my YouTube feed going more in depth into the way it works, its features and how to make most use out of it on the iPad:

Even if it is just the pen tool with the added benefit or the iPad having an Apple Pencil that is the true benefit or game changer, that alone would make this new app revolutionary. Imagine tracing images, or designs, this way, then exporting it into the desktop app for added features like the filters, drop shadows and better export options. It still would be much more flexible than relying on Illustrator’s trace command to work smoothly every time or using the mouse every time to go over the digital drawings using the pen tool. However, it may only be the beginning of a better workflow of all aspects of Illustrator and vector design.

Keep in mind that I also own both Illustrator and Photoshop on desktop, and there will aleays be a time to use deskrop vs iPad apps and vide versa? Everyone also has their working preferences and some people like to sit still in front of a desk for hours at a time while I myself cannot sit still for long and always have to be moving. I am always on the go and enjoy the iPad due to its battery life and versatility over my Macbook Air.

There is still the issue of perception when doing heavy productivity work on an iPad. For instance, in an office setting or when working full time with peers, some of the coworkers who had many years or careers behind them working entirely in front of their little office spaces with a desktop computer in front of them as well as former bosses give me strange looks and sometimes even ask me questions like what I was doing not believing the iPad to be any sort of a work tool.

They would assume automatically that I was leisuring rather than working, as I was laying slouched down on top of a beanbag with an iPad and Apple Pencil in hand. I created these Google Display Network ads this way for my last full-time position.

Thus, it will take some time for people within the graphic design industry or industries like even copywriting to take their employees seriously who work this way. But the culture is chsnging and the perception is changing from the iPad just being a content consumption device like Steve Jobs advertised the Apple-branded tablet as into a full-fledged productivity and content creation tool it is today.

Today, I own an external bluetooth keyboard I connect to my 2017 iPad Pro via Bluetooth alongside an Apple Pencil and use it for almost all my computing needs. Graphic design and photo manipulation are just my latest fads, and I see it is not just me, and passions. I always saw this potential ever since owning the original model way back in 2010 when I started this site and recently graduated at the time Chico State with a BA in journalism.

With that said, I have recently redesigned the photography section of this site entirely on my iPad using mostly Artstudio Pro. What I have been doing is making the older photos I uploaded a while ago and took on the iPad onto the site in full resolution, into smaller versions so the page loads faster. I then have been enhancing them using Artstudio Pro and even creating separate designs out of them on the iPad. Here is a wolf I recently created using this process that started out as a photograph I took of a mural:

Photograph I took of a mural in Praga District, Warsaw
My own design
My own design
My own design

Here are some versions in 1080p or 1920×1080 resolution I created after vectorizing one of the images above inside Illustrator and continuing to work on it further:

My own design
My own design
My own design
My own design

Some more work done on this piece, but this time all using raster tools on the iPad once again:

My own design
My own design

Vectorized again:

My own design

I have also created this design by tracing an image of myself, by first manipulating a barely visible due to bad lighting photograph also on my iPad using Artstudio Pro, from a photo manipulation to an Illustrator trace and vectorized graphic:

Original photograph
My own design

Below are also some retro gaming handheld user interface (UI) design ideas I created on my iPad using Pixel Studio and later Artstudio Pro:

Some more recent photograph enhancements and manipulations done on my iPad from older photos I took on my travels of various places such as a bar and the Anna Frank museum street in Berlin:

My own design
My own design

In all honestly, I am starting to think the iPad is a much better and more versatile graphic design and photo correction or manipulation tool than it is for blogging or even writing when I do not have access to my Bluetooth keyboard and have to rely on the mobile WordPress app or the desktop version I am writing this blog post right now on. Hopefully, other forms of content creation will start to follow suit and become just as smooth of a user experience (UX) as graphic design on the tablet is becoming today.

Check out some of my early graphic design work on the iPad using entirely my finger (before the Apple Pencil was available) here and here. Meanwhile, here is a vector design-focused page I forgot about from a couple of years ago with most of the work presented on it during a time I was learning Illustrator and more of a beginner at it than I am now.

Thus, the question remains: can the iPad be called a computer today?

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