The Shape of Everything
A website mostly about Mac stuff, written by August "Gus" Mueller
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November 20, 2015

I've been using Wacom tablets for about 20 years now. And in all that time, their desktop tablets have been the standard and the most recommended tablets by just about everyone. I love Wacom products. I've had a Cintiq, multiple Intuos tablets, various incarnations of their Bamboo products, a Graphire, and whatever the heck it was they were selling 20 years ago. They have all been great.

I love tablets. I love drawing with a good stylus that works together with the tablet and when built together correctly they become something that feels empowering and wonderful. Endless pages in a sketchbook. All the colors I could ask for. Pencils, brushes, and watercolor all working together in harmony.

Every single stylus that has been made for the iPad or iPhone has been a pile of dog shit when compared to what you can do with a Wacom tablet. Even compared to what you could do 20 years ago with a Wacom tablet. The KoalaPad on an Apple //e was probably better.

It's been hard, and upsetting. And so much money wasted on crappy iOS styluses. I stopped paying attention whenever a new stylus was announced, since I was inevitably let down.

And then this week I got the Apple Pencil (which is Apple speak for a stylus) and an iPad Pro. This new tablet from Apple has the hardware support needed to make a useful stylus. Hardware support that has been missing for five long, very long, agonizing years.

And It's God Damn Amazing.

It feels absolutely right. Super low latency, palm rejection, and … it just works.

Is it the same as drawing in my sketchbook? No. Of course not. I'm rubbing a plastic tip across a glass screen.

It's still God Damn Amazing though.

Is it better? With the right software, possibly, for my use. I've tried a handful of drawing apps and right now my favorite is Procreate, with Adobe Sketch coming in second. If you don't want to pay a few bucks on those apps (shame on you!), the built in Notes app has some pretty decent sketching tools as well.

I find that when using the HB Pencil in Procreate, I get something that is very, very close to what I feel when I'm drawing in my sketchbooks. But of course now I've got layers and many colors and a perfect eraser to work with. And endless pages. I love it. I'm drawn to it. It's wonderful. You should absolutely try one if you haven't already.

Text on a page doesn't do it justice. Videos don't do it justice. Try it out, that's the only way to truly judge it.

I do have minor complaints, such as the price ($99 USD). I wish it was half that, just so it's easier for everyone to purchase. But after using one for a few days, you could double the price and I'd still buy it. It's that good.

People keep on asking me when I'm going to port Acorn to iOS. I have no plans to at this time, for various reasons. I've certainly thought of making a new type of drawing app for iOS, but honestly- I like being able to just use the hardware.

Every single time I fire up Acorn and start using my Intuos with it, I find something I want to change about the brush engine. I find oddball little behaviors I think I can improve, or go off investigating why a particular brush stamp might be off by a pixel or two. So I never actually get to draw anything.

I don't currently have that problem with the iPad. If I'm sketching in Procreate and I come across something that I'd do differently… well, it doesn't matter. I don't have the source code so I can't change anything. I can just sketch and create, and not fret about little things. It's liberating.