I posted the other day about how much I love using the iPad as a multipurpose device. As a cartoonist I use it for writing and editing my comics scripts in Celtx, keeping track of ideas in Evernote, reading webcomics and galleys and books, and so on; but the missing piece of the puzzle, until now, was the ability to actually create artwork. I bought a stylus along with the iPad a year ago, a $15 thing that was functional for replacing my fingertip and giving the feel of using a really thick pencil; but I never warmed to it as a device for actual drawing. Nor did I care for the art apps that I tried, most of which were either free or had been purchased for my iPhone a long time ago, scaling up poorly to the larger screen.
Meanwhile, my dear Nicole had bought me a nice Wacom Intuos 4 graphics tablet for Christmas not long before I got the iPad, and it was a revelation compared to the decade-old Graphire that I had been halfheartedly using to create the occasional short comic or illustration. The Wacom was the missing piece I needed to really create comics in digital form, from start to finish, on my Mac in Manga Studio EX. After scaling the learning curve I launched a webcomic with Nicole and have been happily cartooning and slowly improving since.
Of course, it’s not that simple. As the saying goes, mo’ comics, mo’ problems; spending more time drawing means more potential strain on my eyes, shoulder, back and so on. I had serious issues when I was younger with tendonitis in my shoulder and am not keen to repeat. That means it’s beneficial for me to be able to vary how I work, which includes kicking back with a sketchbook in my lap instead of a full-sized laptop. There have been several occasions where I have done roughs for the webcomic on paper, taken a picture of the rough with the iPad camera, shared the result with my MacBook via Dropbox, imported the roughs as a layer in Manga Studio, and kept working. Not the most elegant solution, but a start.
What I have started doing this week after buying the Adonit Jot Touch pressure-sensitive iPad stylus is drawing directly on the iPad screen, essentially skipping the step of drawing on paper and photographing it. Of course, I could have been drawing with a regular stylus all along, but the advantage of drawing with the Jot Touch (or its non-pressure-sensitive brother, the Jot Pro) is like drawing with a pencil in your bare hand instead of a crayon in a mitten. Your mileage may vary, but for me the Jot Touch is the deciding factor in whether or not I want to draw on the iPad at all.
There are other nice aspects to the Jot Touch; really well designed packaging, an ingenious magnetic USB charging base, a protective screw-on cap that covers the magnetic base when in use, and a spare pressure sensitive tip is included. Like the Jot Pro, the tip of the stylus is covered by a clear plastic disc which is required for the iPad to identify the stylus as a valid input device, but since it is clear your eye can focus on the actual tip of the stylus, resulting in greater precision when drawing.
Is it perfect? No. It’s never going to replace the Wacom for me, because the Intuos is much more sensitive and offers customization. The Jot Touch does have a couple of buttons like a Wacom stylus, but the software I have used with it so far (mainly Procreate and Sketchbook Pro) either does not use them or does not allow for customization. The charging/power indicator light is not as intuitive as it could be. There are limitations associated with using the iPad itself too, most notably whether or not an app offers “palm recognition”, which would allow the artist to rest his or her hand on the screen while drawing. Finally, a really annoying limitation of the Jot Touch is that because it uses Bluetooth, the iPad assumes it is some kind of audio device like a headset, and mutes Music and other audio apps when the stylus is turned on, which means you can’t listen to music or podcasts through the iPad while you draw.
Overall, though, most of the issues I have experienced are more to do with the drawing apps, which is out of Adonit’s hands. I don’t really feel like I can make a recommendation for drawing apps yet; so far I am preferring Procreate to Sketchbook Pro, but they both have their pros and cons.
The price of the Jot Touch is no small consideration as well. It lists for $100, which is pretty expensive for a stylus or any kind of niche tool (though by Wacom standards, it’s about what you would pay for some of their pens or accessories). I got it on sale for $75, and I feel it was worth that, because the difference it will make to my workflow and the potential for being able to do better and better work at the rough stage is worth it to me. I think it is probably quite possible for a cartoonist of sufficient skill to use the Jot Touch to make comics entirely on the iPad.
Again, your mileage may vary. If you are a brush and ink cartoonist who is just starting to think about digital tools, the Jot Touch is probably not for you; get a good Wacom tablet and put in the time with Manga Studio or Photoshop until you are over that learning curve. If you are already comfortable with digital tools and want to experience what is probably the closest you can get at this point to true drawing on the iPad, check out the Jot Touch.