virtual software draft sketch
Illustrators are always looking for ways to improve their workflows. Whether it’s the latest update to their favorite application, a more comfortable chair, or hiding a secret stash of art tools that the kids won’t find (done that), anything that streamlines the creative process will make for a more efficient and profitable business. One of the aspects of producing technical illustration that I always felt needed improvement was the sketching phase. Say a client needs to see your ideas for a complicated flow diagram. Nothing is faster than a pencil sketch, right? But when you’re developing a complicated idea, it can become tedious to produce iterations of a drawing. Usually (for me) it involves tracing aspects of a sketch that I like and refining that draft, tracing, editing, tweaking some more, and finally scanning the final draft for presentation. The client inevitably wants certain elements moved around and changed and the whole process repeats itself. As fast and simple as the venerable pencil can be, sometimes the sketching phase of a project can feel inefficient to me. I’d owned a pressure-sensitive tablet for some years but never really felt comfortable drawing with it.

Recently I purchased a JaJa pressure-sensitive stylus from HEX3. This is a pen that lets you create natural looking brush strokes that vary in thickness and opacity on an iPad. There are quite a few sketching and painting apps available; I went with Procreate for it’s positive reviews and simple, elegant interface.

Now the idea is to adopt a purely digital workflow, from draft to finished artwork. So far the pen has worked well, and the software has afforded me all of the advantages of digital drawing (layers, copy & paste, etc.) that makes it so powerful. Multi-touch gestures let me zoom and rotate the art instantly, and I can export finished pieces to Dropbox or send them directly to the client for review. I can even sit on the couch to work if that new comfortable chair isn’t feeling quite so comfortable. And the art tools? Give ’em to the kids.

Update: The awesome Apple pencil has become the standard method of artistic input for an iPad since this article was originally posted.

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