5 Reasons why I don’t use an iPad Pro & Apple Pencil for graphic design

by Jeremy

I hear some graphic designers have started using an iPad for creative work. But why? I guess it might be okay for drawing since it’s thin and light, and you can buy a stylus for it. Still, there are so many other pen-computing options available, and there are so many different aspects of graphic design that software available for the iPad seriously fails at.

1. Photoshop on iPad isn’t real Photoshop

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of hype about Adobe bringing the real Adobe Photoshop to the iPad. When it was released, every article about it had the “Adobe brings real Photoshop to iPad” headline, and then in the first paragraph explained that it was not the real Photoshop and only had a limited subset of features compared to the Photoshop version that one would normally use on macOS and Windows. There are so many features missing! It doesn’t even have the same menus. Forget about anything advanced like channel operations or custom plug-ins.


2. No InDesign or decent Typography design, for that matter

We switched from QuarkExpress to InDesign around the turn of the century and InDesign has been essential in the Graphic Design business for just about anything print-related. It’s not easy to get your font collection into an iPad. I have fonts from the ’80s that still work on macOS and Windows, but getting them into an iPad is not easy. I create data merge templates that interact with database tables for creating automated print layouts all the time. I use global regular expression print programming styles to make formatting rules for typography across documents. None of that is remotely possible in any iPad graphics apps I’ve seen.

3. Lack of my preferred apps

Besides the big ones like Adobe CC, none of the other high-end design programs I normally use or would ever want to use are available on an iPad. Affinity Designer might be one exception, but still… What about 3D animation/design programs like Maya, Lightwave, Blender, Dimensions, etc.? Could I design 3D exhibit mockups, environmental design sculptures, product packaging, or signage on an iPad? Not likely, and certainly not easily.

Often in web design, electronic environmental design displays, kiosks,, or social media posts, I’ll want to create animations to help display the information. Adobe AfterEffects and all of those 3D programs are great for this too. So again… not possible on an iPad Pro.

4. Photo editing & culling

As a graphic designer, I do a lot of photography too. I may need to set up still-life photos of food products in a shooting tent or any package products, or I may photograph events, building interiors/exteriors for signage mockups, or people interacting with each other, or people headshots, or emergency response set-ups for the American Red Cross during the aftermath of 9/11. Websites and printed products rely on photography. I might often be on location and need to do some photo editing during the shoot.

Maybe my client wants to post articles during a conference right after a session ends, or perhaps we want to do some culling immediately. Adobe Lightroom on the iPad is pretty good, except it still has limitations. The most annoying one is that you must “import” the entire library before you can start doing anything. With the Wacom MobileStudio Pro that I usually bring on remote shoots, I can open Adobe Bridge, point it to the SD card slot, and start culling & editing right away. And it’s the same interface as on my desktop workstations!

I’ve been using Bridge since before Adobe announced it, so that’s one reason I like it over regular Lightroom. The other reason is that it’s faster since I don’t have to import files into a database. The second most annoying thing with Lightroom on iOS is that you can only work with one photo at a time, whereas, on macOS or Windows, I can apply changes to huge selections of RAW files simultaneously. On Linux, I’ve also been enjoying Darktable and RawTherapee, and those don’t have iPad equivalents.

When it comes to tethering for photography, iOS is weak as well. The Nikon Camera Control app I would use on iOS is awful. On my Windows tablets, however, I have a fairly awesome qDSLRDashboard program that works beautifully. qDslrDashboard is also open source, and there are versions for macOS, Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and Android… There was an iOS version, but Apple removed it.

5. Goofy foreign UI designs relative to what I’m used to

Illustrator Draw on iPad is nothing like Illustrator on Windows & macOS, and neither is the other Illustrator app called Illustrator for iPad. Why do we need two again? I’ve been using Illustrator for decades, and the iPad versions are nothing like what I’m used to. It’s completely different, and most of the features I rely on are completely absent.

Illustrator Draw also depends on non-discoverable gestures, which are known to require more cognitive energy to memorize, versus a more-obvious user interface design which requires less mental energy. That said, Illustrator’s interface on macOS and Windows has remained consistent since Illustrator 7.0 in 1997. I can switch between macOS and Windows all day, and the Illustrator user interface has been the same between the two platforms for 24 years. Illustrator Draw and Illustrator on iPad, however, are completely different. What’s more… Illustrator on Windows has a “Touch” workspace that enables a nice touch & pen-friendly user interface. Would UI be the same as the touch UI in Illustrator on iPad? Well, it isn’t. Not at all.

This is true for Photoshop for iPad, Premiere Rush, and every other Adobe app on iPad. I found the Photoshop for iPad use interface designed in the “easy to learn” sense. Even though I’ve been using real photoshoots for 26 years, the iPad version’s interface is unrecognizable. I couldn’t even tell how to paste an image. What the heck is that big white circle button supposed to be? Why should I learn these mystery-meat user interfaces that break consistency when the app capabilities don’t even come close to their desktop equivalents anyway?

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