Chronicles of a reborn designer (and an iPad Pro)

Chronicles of a reborn designer (and an iPad Pro)

I was born with a pencil in my hand. My parents remember it well, since the leitmotif, from elementary school onwards, it was always the same: "... he could do more. But he keeps drawing in class."


Over the years I have translated my passion for illustrations into what is my job today, converting paper into "digital" (with simple scans or similar) and then introducing the use of graphic tablets in my creations.


Something was still missing to be able to draw directly in digital

Reading Chronicles of a reborn designer (and an iPad Pro) 12 minutes Next Draw digital Flash Tattoo with the iPad Pro, Procreate and doodroo

Massimo Nava

di Massimo Nava

Teacher | Digital Artist | Generative Thinker | MeltingPot Maker 🏳️‍🌈 | Influencer Adobe Stock | ROMEURACADEMY ! Scuola Internazionale di Comics

I was born with a pencil in my hand. My parents remember it well, since the leitmotif, from elementary school onwards, it was always the same: "... he could do more. But he keeps drawing in class."

Over the years I have translated my passion for illustrations into what is my job today, converting paper into "digital" (with simple scans or similar) and then introducing the use of graphic tablets in my creations.

Something was still missing to be able to draw directly in digital, bridging my Moleskine, the Favini blocks that saturate my workstation.

So, I switched to the CintiQ Companion Hybrid 13 ''. Beautiful. Yet I could not draw directly on it. Sometime later it was the turn of a CintiQ Mobile, less thick and connected to my MacBook Pro, also out and about through Italy. Once again, however, gestures and fluency were the unnatural conversion of the sensation on paper. Other attempts involved first the useless Inkling and then the appreciable Bamboo speciale with a block-notes and a conversion app.

But that special "something" was still simply not there yet. An emptiness feeling comparable perhaps, to what many other colleagues complained about, struggling with the same problem without ever being able to deal with it.

Until today.

My Desk, my rules.

Two months ago, I decided to again try to overcome the frustration of the "mechanical impediment". I bought an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil 2nd Gen, following the videos and suggestion of the creatives (and noticing also those students who are taking advantage of the easy handling and portability of it in class) - thanks Fabrizio and Andrea :)

The first impact was disarming. I had failed. Once again that feeling of “wrong” had landed on me, on my fingers and wrist. Once again, that extra cm was missing between myself and the success; Being able to draw directly on the screen, as I’m used to do on paper. In addition to that: the weight and the physical perception of the Apple Pencil 2 were also different from expectations.

I know what you are thinking. Seems like I am being too pretentious. And yet: being used to paper, pencils and ink and then going digital is no small exploit. Those who have passed it… know it.

But luckily there was doodroo waiting for me.

I am used to share new gadgets and work tools here on social networks. After publishing the first photos of the iPad, I was contacted on LinkedIn by Claudio from @doodroo, a company I didn’t know. Indeed, I didn’t even know the existence of the product itself, that is: a special protective film with a sensorial surface designed specifically for writing and drawing. Claudio offered me the opportunity to try both the film and the skin for the Apple Pencil. Obviously, I accepted immediately, given that I’m curious like a cat.

What follows is the narration of what happened after receiving a winning product that literally revolutionized my experience with digital drawing

doodroo unpackaging

The film application process is extremely easy (the package contains 2, just in case), in a way very similar to the ones for smartphones. After having properly cleaned the surface of the screen, given the screen protector special surface, it is wise to use the squeezer supplied (it’s in the package) to avoid the formation of some air bubbles.

Few seconds of attention and the film (which fits perfectly) is ready for use.

Coated my Apple Pencil 2 and I was ready to go.

Let's talk about the product. The perception of the form factor is immediate. The "grain" of the screen protector has been designed to offer sensitivity and naturalness.

That was written on the site.

And it was.

Love at first sight. Or "love at first touch", even without the use of the Apple Pencil the film does its job when touched by the tip of your finger. The surface protects well, but, it’s important to underline it, it doesn’t bother in any way. The "traditional" use of the tablet and the touch response is immediate: the reactivity, it’s like a naked-just-unwrapped iPad.

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Drawing is a serious matter.

It is a totally immersive, emotional and - with the right conditions - almost transcendental experience. We are born designers, or we have become it. In both cases, dedication to strokes, brushes and colors is like a river, a flow of conversion; It’s imagination that becomes a totalizing creative process. There is only one condition: everything need to flow naturally, without obstacles.

My problem with tablets, was in fact, the next phase: handling the interaction between a (digital) pen and a glass surface. In all my tests the pen flowed too fast and those "milliseconds" of difference between the rotation of the wrist and the actual stroke on the screen were already too many. The fluidity of inspiration vanished soon, inexorably.

With doodroo everything has changed. The sensitive traction on the screen (which Claudio had declared "having been specially studied", seemed the quintessential sale’s bait) was a revelation. The flowing tip. The generated line. Even the sound of the interaction between the two parts that follows each hand’s movement. A ritual that has been renewed, for what is more than just a passion for me.

All thanks to the ideal combo: the doodroo film and the Apple Pencil skin that limits the tool's elusiveness, without ever bothering, and, indeed, making its use more pleasant. The meaning of my words is collected in the infographic below:

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As of this week, I therefore started to share the direct experience with the product in the classroom, given the many creatives and designers in my courses Visual Communication and Social Media for Artist. The role of the designer doesn’t end in the "classical" skills of an illustrator or cartoonist. It goes much further and is intertwined in many different ways with visual genres and languages ​​that are part of the cultural background of graphic designers, designers and digital artists.

The tools we are talking about appear in marketplaces such as Freepick, Adobe Stock and Shutterstock, becoming valuable resources in the daily workflow. By choosing the right tool you can also develop them through the use of the mouse and a desktop/laptop PC, but, it will be soon evident that the fluidity of the lines, the curves and the pressure that a graphics tablet or - even better - a tablet bring to is undeniably the best choice.

Once again: the correct "grip" of the physical instrument (the Apple Pencil 2, in my case) makes the difference, guaranteeing gesture safety and perception of smoothness.

Examples are those categories in which the singularity of the author is present in the work itself through the possible details:

  • Creation of lines, symbols and decorative/compositional elements that become shapes or brushes;
  • Silhouettes and doodles of all kinds, with precision details;
  • Rich textures dominated by the "peculiarity" of the pattern;
  • Raster and vector line arts
  • Photo bashing (stroking, drawing and coloring on photographic element);
  • Handmade Lettering, to generate characteristic characters and symbols;
  • Generative Arts, with software from the series offered by Escape Motion (Flame Painter, Rebelle and Inspirit).

Obviously, this series can only be joined by the logic of fast sketches, typical of the designer hit by an inspiring muse (maybe while he is on the move - and here it’s convenient to own an iPad Pro). Underlining it seems almost trivial in the face of the possibilities of use described above, it goes without saying.

My list is not just a suggestion on "what can be achieved" but, more concretely, what many professionals and artists today develop (and sell) in the most popular marketplaces.

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Here are some of my favorite authors, directly from Artstation:

  • Ian McQue (unmatched steampunker):
  • Alex Ruiz (my teacher):
  • Maxim Verehin (horror style):
  • Anthony Jones (a myth):
  • Nivanh Chanthara (the energy of style and composition):

What binds these authors and their style together? Simple: the stroke and the brushes that vary their pressure, blurring lines and contours. It is necessary to be able to "brake" (it is appropriate to say it) the tip of the brush or make it move slowly on the surface. This is the purpose of the grip mentioned above: to let it slide on the tablet through sight, touch and ... hearing.

The proof of the pudding.

The use of doodroo, its skin and my iPad Pro (with the addition of the right software, following below some examples) is today my answer to the question "how do you do it?" every time the development of the composition foresees any genres described above.ta alla domanda "come si fa?" ogni volta che lo sviluppo dell'elaborato preveda i generi sopra descritti.

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Finally, which software best combines the individual's abilities, his orientation and the actual realization gesture? In the last 15 days I have purchased / activated 3 Apps on my iPad Pro, among the best known:

ProCreate: low cost perfection for every digital artist. It is immediately clear why it is so widespread: it is easy to use and diverse, damn various and possible. Additional resources can be subscribed online. The best possible signal to understand its diffusion.

Adobe Fresco: the effective synthesis of drawing between raster, vector and watercolor effects (similar to the "Rebelle" tool, mentioned above); more expensive than the first, it contains many intriguing features. The real advantage lies in the mix of styles at the same time as each project and in the typical work environment of made-in-Adobe.

Autodesk Sketchbook: totally free for all your devices, ready for authors and concept artists. The desktop version has an extra gear for various reasons, but the dedicated marketplace makes up for any shortcomings.

With my Wacom I worked on the third, the only one with a rendering closer to my way of drawing. Now, however, I have moved on to the first two, alternating between them, but definitely preferring ProCreate. At the end of the article I show you the function and brush tests associated with all the titles just mentioned. ProCreate, in fact, is the real "bomb" of the moment for creatives. It can only improve ;)

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It is still too early to show the first online results of the new conversion process. In the classroom it may be fine, but I want to show the best of the outcome of my words also online. In order to let you see for yourself the change that I am experiencing in these days you can follow my progress here:

  • Pinterest: moodboards, sketches, WIP flow and applications arriving on the board:

  • Instagram Stories (tests and WIP):

  • Deviant Art (portfolio):

  • Artstation Marketplace (portfolio & shop):

In the meantime, I created a playlist on YouTube with the best tutorials, tips & tricks dedicated to the described Software’s and to some highlighted functions of the iPad Pro, useful for artists but not limited to. They are the same ones that originally pushed me to buy it. A joy for the eyes :) Here is the playlist, click here.

In short, I only review the products that I like. I share my workflow and collaborate only with those companies (or products) that convince me.

After BenQ here is doodroo. From today I will talk about it in my demonstrations, in class and in my Stories :)

Bundle screen protector + Apple Pencil skin (the one I have too)

The doodroo Screen Protector

The doodroo skin for the Apple Pencil

Test funzioni e pennelli con Autodesk Sketchbook
Test funzioni e pennelli con ProCreate
Test funzioni e pennelli con Adobe Fresco

It's not just a film ... it's a doodroo. An Italian project, therefore even more beautiful to be able to appreciate and support national creatives :) From now on my feed will dress (also) with my designs and in the channels described above I will tell about the evolutions of this renewed relationship with my younger part : the "drawn" one.

Whoever follows, will see;)

"If you were a cook, inspired in the best way in developing your recipe, you would hate any interruption that could put cooking times and flavors at risk. You would choose pans and spoons that are easy to handle, firm and strong enough to accompany every decisive gesture. You would know that few seconds of uncertainty are enough to break the concentration of each work ".

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