Digital Sketching vs. Pen and Paper

So a bit of background; I’m a huge fan of a Sharpie and a stack of paper for quick concept generation. I find it the easiest way to get ideas down quickly, work through a concept, or sketch during meetings to communicate what I can’t always explain in words. Sometimes I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and not being able to erase the Sharpie once it’s on the paper means I think more about the idea, and a little less about the quality of the sketch.

I also use a Wacom Cintiq, usually with Sketchbook Pro or Photoshop to take an idea on to the next visual stage, something a little more polished. For me digital sketching is much less of a brainstorm tool and much more of a concept visualisation tool, mainly because I’m stronger with a Sharpie, and can CTRL+Z with digital sketching, which really slows me down!! Is this something anybody else finds?

Since moving to Washington I’ve had a bit of spare time whilst waiting for approval of my permit to work, I’ve been using that time to explore different software, tools, styles and skills. And since the Sharpie is my default, safe ideation place, I wanted to push myself and find out whether an Apple Pencil and Procreate could become as useful an ideation tool, or a replacement for the Wacom Cintiq, since I carry it most places with me (and I can’t fit A3 paper or a Cintiq in my bag…!). I’m also keen to find a digital brainstorming tool so that I can somehow archive or organise concepts, something a little more organised than a huge stack of paper!

So here’s what I found, all views are obviously personal, and relate to the way I’ve learned to work!

Rough Renders / Visuals:

Now this I enjoyed! After spending a bit of time getting used to the glossy screen, customising preferences and pens, I thought this was great. Procreate is a really nice app, and whilst it feels like it’s missing some of the features I’m used to with Sketchbook Pro (curves, smooth stroke etc.), it has a couple of other really nice functions. The double tap undo, and the quick gestures to switch between tools are great. There are also some really nice layer features, I especially like the overlay feature for shadows.

I’m so impressed with this feature that I think I could actually use this instead of a Wacom. (I may need a bit of practice with my digital sketching though!). However, I’m sure that for anybody more advanced than me with their digital sketching… the Apple Pencil & Procreate combination might not be so much of a contender for their Wacom!

I’ve also downloaded Astropad, which allows you to use your iPad with your Mac either wirelessly or via cable, and sketch directly in Photoshop, essentially using it as a Wacom. I’ve not spent much time with this yet, but have read that a lot of people miss the little dot that you get on the Wacom when you hover the stylus over the screen, so I’ll see how that one goes. But I do think Procreate alone has legs to replace the work I used to do on a Wacom, especially as you can export the sketch as a layered .psd file (which is where Astropad might shine!)



I’d like to spend a bit more time with this, but I’ve found that if I sit down with the iPad and Pencil, I just can’t get ideas down quickly, maybe it’s something to do with the gloss of the screen. But I think it’s more because I consider how the final sheet will look, I think less about the content of what I put on the paper, which I’ve tried to ignore, but I just can’t switch my mindset! Does anybody else find this? Maybe I’m using the wrong app? I’ve tried Procreate, Concepts and Adobe Sketch, but still can’t find anything to quite replace the Sharpie and paper, any tips?! I’d love to hear if you have found the perfect on-the-go digital brainstorming tool.

For now I think I’ll stick to paper ideation, and digital polishing, but will keep looking for something that allows me to get ideas down quickly on the go, that’s not a piece of A3 paper or a napkin, and that fit’s in my bag!