✱ My Digital Sketchbook - Jot Pro + iPad and the Apps I Use

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The new Jot Pro stylus for iPad is here. I was one of the backers on Kickstarter for this new product by Adonit and I love the fact that I was able to help support them reach their measly goal of $2,500 to get the project rolling. Instead, they had 4,975 backers that pledged a total of $168,532 which obviously gave them a successful funding. More importantly, it shows just how many early adopters there are that are excited about this product. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, you should definitely check it out. I've helped fund two kickstarts so far and have been extremely happy with not only the companies that have come out with the amazing new products, but also with the whole idea behind Kickstarter itself.

Anyway, back to the Jot. Until now, I've hardly used my iPad as a sketchbook because the offerings haven't been what I have desired in a pen-like instrument. When drawing on paper, I prefer to use ink as opposed to graphite or chalk. I'm actually a bit more picky than that. I really prefer to draw with fluid ink pens as opposed to ball points. 

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When I'm sketching on paper I currently use a blue ink Pentel Rolling Writer. There's just something about the way the ink flows out of the pen onto the paper. I like how it bleeds a little, gets on your hand, smears, and makes a bit of a mess. My sketches are loose in the beginning and get refined over time by layering sheets of trace and refining the image.

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I have definitely changed my preferences over time though. I used to like Pilot Razor Point pens, and I still use them and Pilot Precise rolling ball pens from time to time when I need a thinner line weight. For thick like weight I use a Pentel Sign Pen in black. But mostly it's the Pentel Rolling Writer in blue.

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Until now. Now I have a Jot Pro. No, it won't replace real ink on trace for me, but it will get more use as I start a transition to doing more digital sketching on my iPad which I'm sorry to say never caught on with me because of the stylus I had before. Up to this point I was using a Ten One Design Pogo Sketch stylus. It's a small aluminum housing with a spongy tip. I hardly used it because I could never get used to the tip feeling like it was dragging across the screen. I hated it. 

The Jot Pro really got my attention first because of the design. They offered two different models, and I chose the Pro model (because I am one, of course... Not a pro; a male model). But seriously, it offers a couple of extra things beyond the standard Jot that I thought would be useful. First, it has a rubber grip and I love the tactile feel of it. Second, it has magnetic cling. I use the smart cover with my iPad and it just sticks to it effortlessly, so hopefully this will help me have a lower chance of losing the stylus. It also has a great weight to it. It has some mass that feels just right.

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It's just as important to marry the stylus to the right sketching app, and right now I'm using three. Penultimate is first, and it's the one I use most often. The way it handles the flow of "ink" onto the page is just right. There is a very slight lag behind the tip of the stylus but once you use it a bit you won't even notice it. Penultimate gets it right - they only let you choose from a small number of colors to sketch with, and three line weights for sketching with. You can choose from various paper styles - plain, grid, lined, and they even have a paper shop for more types like dots, musical notation, writing, engineering, and more. It also lets you break up your projects into different sketchbooks. For example, you could have one for sketches and another for handwritten notes. I keep independent digital sketchbooks for each of the projects I'm working on.

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The second app I use most is Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro which is just an amazing piece of software. It offers a multitude of features including layers, tons of brushes, colors, hardness & softness, and the ability to import underlay images which is key. I often will find a satellite image in the Google Maps application, take a screenshot of it and bring it into Sketchbook Pro as an underlay to start sketching concepts over the top of it. It even has a tip tool which is great for labeling things on your drawing. The only downside to it is that when you draw slowly, the line work is pretty wiggly. It's just not as fluid as Penultimate... so draw faster for better results. This is more of an artist's app who needs lots of color and options, so it gets a lot of use because it's a different tool than Penultimate.

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The third app that I've been looking at is Sketch Rolls which extends your drawing surface as if you were actually using a roll of trace paper. This is an awesome concept because more times than not you just don't have enough room to draw on the page you've been given. This app lets you extend your canvas 5 times to the right. This is also cool because it makes for a nice presentation tool - just keep scrolling to tell the story. It only has a few options for drawing but it's all you need. 

All of these apps have the ability to export your images and use them in other programs. Sketchbook even exports multi-layered PSD files for further editing on the computer. This just goes to show that the iPad is a great tool for creation - not just consumption.

The Jot Pro has changed my perspective on sketching on the iPad, and I thank Adonit, all of the other backers and Kickstarter for making this new product happen. I'm sure it will be available in the Apple stores before long, but until then you can preorder it on their website for under $30. 

If you are using a stylus and doing digital sketching wth it, drop me a comment. I'd love to hear what your favorite combination is. 

Update

on 2011-09-13 14:52 by Evan Troxel

As I posted this, Penultimate just came out with an update (v 3.1) that allows you to import underlays to draw over, move and scale them, and enhanced wrist protection including lefty writers. This will probably become my main app after this update.