The iPad Pro is an incredibly powerful tool for artists, illustrators, graphic designers and creatives alike, and with each new software update or accessory release it’s becoming increasingly harder to argue otherwise. With so many accessories out there, however, it can also be extremely daunting, downright confusing and potentially expensive selecting the right pieces if you’re just starting out.
Take the humble stylus, for example. There are dozens of brands on the market spread across a whole spectrum of prices, and it can be costly trying to find The One that you’re completely content to have your hand wrapped around for hours – I went through three different kinds before upgrading to Apple’s infamous Pencil. The beauty of this list is all of its items have been purchased as the need for them has arisen; no gimmicks, no must-have flavour of the week. After punching “artist accessories for iPad Pro” into Google and being met with what were essentially expensive gimmicks, I started to look at what was actually practical. I use all of these daily and they’ve become an important toolkit that could benefit any digital artist, beginner or experienced alike.
Let’s start with a stylus.
Before I go on, I do advise against purchasing any stylus with a round rubber end that looks like the eraser on the top of a pencil, as with enough use this can actually wear away the surface of your iPad screen over time. Always opt for a nib-style tip where possible!
This will be the most important tool in your arsenal – after your iPad Pro of course – and the saying “buy cheap, buy twice” couldn’t be more true for this one. A good stylus is absolutely worth investing in, and for me personally Apple’s own is a clear winner. The pressure sensitivity and palm rejection allowing you to rest your hand on your iPad screen while you work is not something you see in cheaper styluses, and makes all the difference in how easily you work.
I did notice, however, that after several hours’ continuous work and due to the Pencil’s narrow design and slippery surface it became quite uncomfortable to draw with; my hand would cramp and the finger it rested on developed a hard callous. A good grip is your best friend if you plan on drawing for hours at a time, and my personal favourite is this one made by Ego, £8.99
The great thing about this grip is it was designed by tattooists who use similar shaped grips on their machines for long sessions of tattooing that require comfort and support of the hand, and this is exactly what the Ego grip delivers. It’s also made of silicone rubber, so has a little give if, like me, you have a habit of holding your pencil a little too tightly.
There are, of course, less expensive styluses that may suit your needs that don’t require as many features as the Pencil provides, such as the Logitech Crayon (£57). Adonit also have a range of designs that are likely to be affordable for most budgets – their Jot Pro model was what I used before the Pencil.
What about stylus accessories?
You read that correctly – accessories for your accessory. If you already have an Apple Pencil you’ll know about the tiny pieces that can go missing or damage easily, so to counteract this I invested in a few more very affordable items. I wouldn’t say you couldn’t possibly do without these, but if you’re like me and hate the tiniest scratch getting onto your tech, it’s worth the peace of mind.
This 4 piece set includes a silicone replacement cap, a cap holder, a nib protector and a cable tether to keep everything together where it should be. The cap holder in particular is perfect when the iPencil is plugged into your iPad while charging or syncing.
Your Pencil will charge much faster however when plugged into the mains, so grabbing a couple of these charge cables that connect to any USB charger for a mere few pounds will spare you so much waiting time.
Lastly, I also have a case to store both the Pencil and the above accessories – this case, which is particularly good as it can comfortably fit the Pencil while it has the Ego grip attached.
Power banks are your friends.
More specifically, good power banks are your friends. Lower voltage devices that work great for your phone won’t suffice if you want to draw on the go and don’t have access to a power socket. If you’re using Procreate like me it can drain your battery quite quickly, so a couple of fully charged high capacity power banks really can save the day.
The slightly cheaper of the two power banks I have is the Anker PowerCore 13000 at £21.99. The advantage of this one is its dual USB ports – perfect for charging both your iPad and Pencil (with the cable I mentioned previously) at the same time.
Spare your neck – get a tablet stand.
It took me longer than I’d like to admit to get round to fixing this particular issue, and if you like drawing with your iPad on a table I’d listen up: your neck is not thanking you. I tried adjusting the height of my chair, the height of my work surface, the height of the iPad, and it turns out it wasn’t just the height that was a literal pain in the neck, it was the angle I was working at. You will be much more comfortable working on something that is in front of you rather than underneath you, and luckily there’s a very cheap and very good adjustable tablet stand available.
This multi-angle tablet stand by UGreen (£10.99) will fit various sizes of tablet, not just Apple, as well as a Nintendo Switch. It’s lightweight and compact but amazingly sturdy – it will withstand the weight of your hand on the iPad nicely as the back stand locks into place. The bottom lip is also lined with rubber to keep your device in place and, let’s admit it, design-wise it does almost look like an Apple product.
The best thing about creativity apps for the iPad is their popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, which means an ever expanding market of accessories and add-ons to look forward to.