iPad Lettering

iPad lettering has become increasingly popular for lettering artists due to the advancing technology of tablets combined with electronic writing tools. After noticing this trend I decided to take a quick look into why many lettering artists are ditching the old pen and paper and creating pieces directly on an iPad instead.

Teela Cunningham - iPad Lettering

iPad Lettering by Teela Cunningham

The most popular hardware that iPad Lettering artists use is an iPad Pro combined with an Apple Pencil. Of course if you cannot afford these fairly expensive pieces of kit there are other styluses available to buy which have many of the same features but are also compatible with older iPad versions and many of the same apps. The iPad Pro is the most alluring due to the large surface size which makes lettering feel more comfortable, there is also the fact that the Apple Pencil is only compatible with the iPad Pro. The Apple Pencil feels very natural and precise compared to other styluses which have large ended rubber ends and is also very quick with little lag between the actual pencil motion and the render of the line on the screen.

Then there is a question of software, there is an app called Procreate which is available for download for a few pounds that works incredibly well with many styluses including the Apple Pencil. Procreate has many desirable features and works a lot like photoshop, some of the features include; layers, custom brushes, blending modes and the ability to import images and graphics. Procreate is used by most of the iPad lettering artists right now. Procreate also allows users to create their own brushes that imitate different letterforms, inks and tools. These brushes can then be shared with other users others, some artists offer these for free others offer a paid download option.

Two good alternatives to Procreate are Adobe Draw and Adobe Sketch. To get the most out of these apps you will need an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, which will give you access to customised brushes and gives you more options for exporting artwork or even sending it straight to Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Many styluses are supported and if you love vectors then Adobe Draw works great for creating vector based lettering which you can edit further in Illustrator. Adobe Sketch is a bit more like Photoshop, the brushes are effective – the watercolour brush is particularly appealing as it acts and feels like watercolours would and with this you can create great looking watercolour textures. If you have a Creative Cloud subscription and are willing to pay a small price for Procreate you can combine various creations from these apps into one piece of artwork.

iPad lettering works mainly for creating brush style letterforms because the styluses used usually have some kind of pressure sentisitivity feature which allows you to create the thick vs thick strokes needed to create this lettering style. Lettering created this way creates very smooth and precise lines which can be difficult to achieve using pen and paper – unless you have a incredibly steady hand. Other lettering styles are harder to achieve, especially the more calligraphic styles like the blackletter hands. There are a few apps that can imitate the nibs used in calligraphy, for example, Calligraphy Art, although this is more suited to someone who would like to practice their technique over producing artwork.

Karin Newport - iPad Lettering

iPad Lettering by Karin Newport

For anyone who is interest in doing lettering, using an iPad and stylus is an easy way to practice and develop their lettering techniques. Experienced lettering artists can quickly create smooth and precise looking artwork complete with colour and textures without having to scan anything in and edit it on the computer. Artists can then share thier work quickly on social media sites like Instagram. Creating lettering this way is simply more convenient and still looks just as good – plus there is no need for paper, ink, calligraphy pens, nibs or brushes.

For beginners it could be argued that it would be easier to start with pen and paper before moving onto the iPad, as it is easier to understand and grasp the main techniques and methods and how to use them differently to achieve a wide range of styles. Also, if you are buying an iPad and Apple Pencil solely for lettering it would be far more cost effective to buy paper, nibs and ink. You can also physically see the different types of brush or nibs you can use and how this effects the types of line and angle they can make.

If you are interested in learning iPad lettering there are some great tutorials available on YouTube and also Instragram where artists frequently post small walkthroughs to show how they did particular effects or styles. If you are a skillshare subscriber there is a great course called Intro to iPad Lettering by Teela Cunningham, which takes you through a number of different techniques you can use to create great looking iPad Lettering.

Image Sources

Karin Newport
Teela Cunningham