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:
Lovely of our friends from Apple to stop by to let us take iPad Pro & Pencil for a test drive: pic.twitter.com/t3LGw7xcMD
— Michael B. Johnson (@drwave) September 28, 2015
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.