applepen_main applepen_main
Tech

Pixar Artists Test Drive The Apple Pencil — What Do They Think About It?

Yesterday at Pixar, some of the studio’s employees got to test-drive the new Apple Pencil, an optional stylus that will be available to purchase with the new 12.9″-screen iPad Pro tablet, shipping in November.

The demo was set up by Michael Johnson, who leads the development of Pixar’s custom technologies used in its story, art, and editorial pipelines:

The reception was enthusiastic from artists who tried it out, including art director Don Shank, who drew the image at the top of this post. Responding to commenters on Instagram, Shank said that the Apple Pencil wasn’t just a toy and could be used in “a pro way most definitely.” He continued:

Pressure sensitivity is great. Each individual app determines how pressure data is used. So its effect can vary from preset to preset. But I got some very light delicate lines all the way to thick bold lines very nicely. And shading with the side of the pencil was pretty awesome…You can rest your hand anywhere and it totally ignores it and it just reads the pencil. It’s pretty amazing.

Pixar story artist Michael Yates commented on Twitter that, “It is pretty great! Just like using a cintiq. Texture of the tip is slightly different but not in a bad way.” In response to a question about whether it would work for storyboarding, Yates said, “I used [the applications] paper and procreate. It seems like it would be. No layer comps though so youd have to figure out another method.”

The low-latency, multi-touch, pressure-sensitive Apple Pencil delivers features to the iPad that artists have been requesting from Apple for years. While the Pencil will be modestly priced at $99, it also requires the purchase of a new $799 iPad Pro, which will put it out of range for many artists. Industry artists, in particular, could be reluctant to drop $900 on an iOS device that doesn’t support the full versions of commonly used software packages like Photoshop and Toon Boom.

After abandoning designers and artists to target the general consumer market, Apple now faces an uphill battle to edge its way back into the competitive stylus/tablet market. Next week, Microsoft will unveil the Surface Pro 4, its eminently capable tablet that has become a favorite of the animation community. Other use the Cintiq Companion tablet, which is another fully-fledged PC option.

There are still many unknowns as to whether the creative community will adopt the Apple Pencil. Engadget published a good summary highlighting the technical issues that artists will consider when looking at the Apple Pencil. Let us know in the comments if you plan to incorporate the Apple Pencil into your creative workflow or what you use as your preferred digital drawing tool.

We welcome thoughtful comments on articles, but please read our community guidelines before participating. All comments are moderated and will not immediately appear on the site; your patience is appreciated.

  • elliot Lobell

    Sticking with cintiq all the way!

    • Chad Townsend

      My cintiq runs off of my Surface Pro which the companion is not capable of. Surface Pro does everything a Cintiq companion can do. The only difference is the buttons and half the cost. but hey, pay for the brand cuz it says Wacom on it.

      • schwarzgrau

        Half the price? At least in Europe you pay about 200$ less if you choose the surface, with similar specs. You just get one inch less, no buttons and N-trig instead of the wacom digitizer. Is there such a big difference in the US?

      • schwarzgrau

        Half the price? At least in Europe you pay about 200$ less if you choose the surface, with similar specs. You just get one inch less, no buttons and N-trig instead of the wacom digitizer. Is there such a big difference in the US?

      • The current Cintiq Companions (2nd gen) can be hooked into a Mac or PC and used as a secondary monitor I believe.

        • GoofyGotKilos

          You can connect a current ipad as a second monitor, I would assume the pro could work that way too.

          • Didn’t know the iPad could do that. With the Surface Pro, I think you need an app that would allow it to do so via WiFi or Bluetooth I believe.

      • elliot Lobell

        i guess my comment was specifically anti-apple, haven’t tried the surface but i’ve heard good things!

  • TingleMoops

    Certainly would be better if it worked on things other than an iPad. Surface Pro 4 all the way, as long as the price is competitive.

  • Chad Townsend

    Definitely looking forward to the Surface Pro 4. I’ve been on the Pro 2 for close to 2 years. It replaced my desktop and I haven’t looked back. Fastest machine I’ve owned and its been great being able to move locations for work at different studios. Bought my daughter the Surface Pro 3 last Christmas to replace her macbook for use at college and she’s a convert like myself. If anyone here has hesitated because its a Microsoft product or any other reason like it has a smooth screen etc. (why anyone uses those sandpaper nibs Wacom makes is beyond me) Just take the leap on the Surface Pro.

    • rcrssmn

      People use Wacom because it gives a similar resistance as paper, and is easier to use for art than the Pro line. There is also the option to hook the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and Hybrids into a heavy duty PC and run off dedicated NVidia or AMD GPU’s, both of which give better performance than the Surface Pro line could ever manage.

    • rcrssmn

      People use Wacom because it gives a similar resistance as paper, and is easier to use for art than the Pro line. There is also the option to hook the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and Hybrids into a heavy duty PC and run off dedicated NVidia or AMD GPU’s, both of which give better performance than the Surface Pro line could ever manage.

  • Barbara

    Looks elegant as always, Apple. But, for something to be labeled “Pro”, shouldn’t it be able to run professional software, like Maya, or Toon Boom Harmony? Funny that Microsoft has been serving artists’ tablet needs long before Apple.

    For the price, this Ipad is really just an expensive device for doodling.

    • BlueBoomPony

      Good lord the thing isn’t even released yet. Give the developers time to figure it out. I can easily see apps on the iPad Pro that interact with more powerful desktop software. I see it as complimentary to a workstation, not replacing it.

      • Greg Sharp

        How to transfer files to your workstation? Probably have to route your files through some bespoke WIFI iFile or iCloud wotnot and give them 30% of your revenue?
        Working professionally on an iPad will be like getting into the shiny car with no steering wheel or interior door handles…. and being driven directly to the Apple drive-in store.

        • Taco

          Greg, this comment is my favourtie on here so far. I hope Australians give Apple, Adobe & the other Big American Corporations their just deserts! Make them pay their Taxes IN Australia. Lord knows they CHARGE you guys enough $ for their stuff over there.

        • Kirielson

          Or you know, through Dropbox or other cloud services that people normally use.

        • Or USB cable which is already does. Or Air Drop which works great and dumps it to your OS. Or any other cloud service that exists thats free.

        • Or USB cable which is already does. Or Air Drop which works great and dumps it to your OS. Or any other cloud service that exists thats free.

        • BlueBoomPony

          And yet all these artists who *did* use it seemed pretty thrilled with it. That’s what’s so funny here.

    • otterhead

      The iPad is absolutely capable of running that software. It’s up to Maya, Toon Boom, and Adobe to provide it.

      • Let alone Android if that helps (a Galaxy Note fan here).

  • Taco

    Everyone knows that Steve Jobs apparently HATED the stylus. All I can say about Apple trying this NOW is LOL & overpriced. At least Pixar artists finally get an Apple equivalent tool now that Steve Jobs only haunts them via countless autobiographies & movie adaptations. Despite all the corrects to the stories about him & his early personality in later life, I continue to believe Steve Jobs was a very un-empathetic man.

    • BlueBoomPony

      Well, no his view was that if your tablet REQUIRED a stylus you failed. As he was a big calligraphy fan, I think he’d like this. Anyway, who cares what you think about Jobs?

      • Taco

        @GhostRadish @BlueBoomPony so, Apple Fan Boys, how much $ are the Personal Loans costing you for all the Apple merch you constantly feel the need to buy & praise? (even when it’s not the best).

        Ever get tired of worshiping the Cult of Mac & the immortalized golden phallus of Steve Jobs & that company of his? Microsoft, Apple, Sony, BlackBerry, at the end of the day it’s all just some computer/device that moves from overpriced novelty tool to expensive tech e-waste in some landfill in under 3 years of their product cycle.

        “Anyway, who cares what you think about Jobs?” It’s a comment section. I’m making a comment that’s not to your taste. ~:^D Enjoy!

        • Martin Cohen

          Wow. This is amazingly information free.

        • BlueBoomPony

          What are you raving about? You’re just making things up about me. I clarify what Jobs said about one thing and I’m some sort of cult member?

      • white vader

        It was weird – that’s a solid logic (not having to have a stylus), but you would think that he’d see the business sense in it.

        Apart from anything artistic, just for enterprise side of things the iPad could have taken that side of the market completely if they’d had just one model with a stylus from the outset. Couriers and logistics type businesses *still* use those clunky boxes because they have a stylus for you to scrawl your signature with.

    • GhostRadish

      Meh. You sound a little bitter. The reason why there is an Apple stylus now is because Apple is targeting creatives. It’s a result of creatives already using their devices, so it makes good sense to embrace it. Same thing with gaming. Apple didn’t want to make a gaming device, but now they have specific APIs for gaming. Users change the market.

      Btw, the selling point of the original iPhone was that it didn’t need a stylus, like so many phones with “touch screens” back in the day. Now that nearly every smart phone has a similar screen to an iPhone, it’s no longer a selling point.

  • Rick Dolishny

    Nice photo op but Amid you nailed it. Apple has abandoned professional artists and content creators for years. Watching Toon Boom on a Surface 4 is the benchmark.

  • otterhead

    “After abandoning designers and artists to target the general consumer market, Apple now faces an uphill battle to edge its way back into the competitive stylus/tablet market.”
    Er… Apple has never built or sold a stylus or tablet made for artists. Their machines are the industry standard for art and design and they’ve let Wacom and others build tablets. Not sure why that counts as “abandoning” artists.

    • Frederick Murre

      “Their machines _were_ the industry standard for art and design.”

      Fixed that for you.

      • otterhead

        Er.. in every design shop I’ve ever worked in, and currently work in, you’ll see rows and rows of Macs. Don’t fix something to make it a lie.

  • theBlipp

    If Apple handles the pro tablet market as well as they handle the pro computer market, I’d take a walk in the opposite direction. Fast.

  • I find it still odd that the Apple Pencil is the only stylus that needs to be charged in order to be used. That doesn’t really happen for the Wacom pens or for what I understand, the Surface Pro from Microsoft.

    I also find it sad that it is only exclusive for the iPad Pro, and not for any of the other iPad models (not even the new ones for the iPad Air 2 or the iPad Mini 4). It cuts the demand whether than help it. Maybe down the road the Apple Pencil will be used for future devices…but to be the exclusive toy to get the iPad Pro? I’ll pass on both.

    • otterhead

      If Apple follows the product path they’ve trodden for years and years, they’ll introduce the Pencil as an exclusive for the iPad Pro.. since it’s the only iPad model with the new sensors to use it properly.. but will release an iPad Pro Mini or something in just a year or so as a sort of sketchpad version.

  • Would like to know their opinion about Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2″…
    I think it is great, despite the lack of app options.

  • marti386

    “Pixar Artists Test Drive The Apple Pencil — What Do They Think About It”

    Yes, because I’m sure the artists who work for a company started by Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, that uses Apple computers exclusively, will give a TOTALLY unbiased review of an Apple product. :P

    • Kirielson

      But they can, it’s kind of weird making that assumption. I think for the most part they’ll be fine.

      • marti386

        I was just being funny. But I think it would have been a more interesting experiment if the Pixar artists gave the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2″ or Microsoft Surface Pro 3 a test drive. :-)

    • white vader

      Pixar was started by George Lucas. Jobs bought it from him. Who’s biased?!

      • marti386

        It was a joke, son. Relax.

        Also, your point doesn’t really make sense, since George never founded the company that supplies computers to Pixar, nor did he create the IPad being reviewed.

        • white vader

          Sorry, didn’t catch the sarcasm because the joke still sorta didn’t work.

          And I still think you’re off. Pixar started out with their own Pixar medical imaging computers. Lucas later sold Pixar to Jobs. And they didn’t start using Apple computers throughout for many many years.

  • locboichris

    I feel like drawing and sketching ith technology is getting so advanced im missing out on everything because i dont have the money to do those new andimproved 3d spaces. While im still on paper n pencil. Animation is going to excell so fast getting into the buisness is getting harder n harder

    • white vader

      Not at all. And after 25 years of painting and working digitally the one thing no app or hardware can mimic perfectly is simple pencil. Try shading a decent area. Anyway, I hope they lick it eventually, but paper and pencil is still great.

  • charliesheenhardcore

    iPad pro is going to be fantastic. Especially since developers are making specialized apps for it that are pro grade and have pretty much no limits. You’ll be able to do everything on it alone in time, and many of these updates are coming right at launch. The line will be totally blurred with the coming of iPad pro. It’s really exciting. I own the Surface Pro 3, and I love it, but I love it more as a workhorse machine that I rarely pick up and use as a tablet. The iPad pro has major benefits. For one, the battery life. iPads are historically known for industry leading battery life. Real 10 hour battery life, with insane standby times. So that really means it can last days. iPads don’t drain even when you are using them super heavy. It’s just a fact of the iPad. They have amazing battery life. Couple that with that incredibly accurate and high-resolution display, the pencil, it’s extremely thin and light build, it’s awesome audio quality both in and out, the quad speakers, pro grade software like procreate, ink pad, iDraw, Illustrator draw/sketch, and so many others, you’ve got a heck of a creative tool. Best part is you can take it anywhere without worrying about battery life. If you take Surface out, you have to take the charging brick, because it will die. If you take a cintiq companion out, EW! It’s going to die so fast it’s not even worth taking out, add it’s super heavy. The iPad has many key things that will make it what I truly think will be one of the best creative tools out there.

    I do have to say the Surface is fantastic, and I’m sure the pro 4 will be even better. It’s great that everyone has options. I use all tools because I like to. I would never want to limit myself to be loyal to a brand. I want to use as many tools as possible. That keeps things fresh and allows for different things to happen in your work. Just like with any other tool.

  • Gabriel

    I feel like an idiot for buying a Cintiq a couple months ago. I could’ve just grabbed a Surface Pro or an iPad instead for probably cheaper…

    • rcrssmn

      Cintiq will last considerably longer than the Surface Pro, especially when performance starts declining on both, the Cintiq still is one hell of a pen display, and the iPad Pro is limited to the same gimped hardware, so it’ll break down fast and you won’t be able to do much to start with.

  • amy

    I seriously want to hear from left handed testers – anyone?

  • Geronimo

    Still annoyed that Apple did abandon it’s user base for nearly two decades (whenever iLife was born). If they can create a better, simpler storyboarding app that makes it easier to share boards and view them in an animatic form, all will be forgiven. From what I’ve seen and heard so far; the shading functionality works very well; the Adobe sketching app looks decent; the pressure sensitivity is substantially less than a Cintiq; and there appears to be a noticeable lag. All in all, I think the price point (iPad Pro included) is too steep. They should offer the pencil with it at $800.