A few months back I posted a few notes on using Astropad Studio to link an iPad to a Mac running Clip Studio Paint. I used this set up to create finished artwork for the MELC books.
The great benefit of Clip Studio Paint is that with the right tweaking¹ you can produce digital illustrations that ‘feel’ like natural media in a way that I don’t think Procreate can. At the time the added bonus of Astropad Studio meant tremendous advantages for the final artwork.
Around November last year, Clip Studio Paint was released natively on the iPad and I have been using it ever since.
When it originally surfaced there were a couple of excited discussions bouncing around the social interwebs:
- It is too expensive.
- Can it handle ‘big’ files?
Both of these discussions are now redundant in my view.
It isn’t too expensive.
If you are making professional quality art these tools are worth it.
Just a few years ago we were in the era of hundreds (and in some cases tens of hundreds) of pounds for software. Now the pendulum has swung wildly the other way with incredibly powerful apps costing under £10. Anything costing above that is easily written off, but let me just remind you that if you are living in a weird goldfish-memory mindset if you consider CSP as too expensive. It is worth every penny.
And it can handle ‘big’ files.
The iPad version of CSP is bizarrely as good/better than the desktop Mac version. It easily handles multi-page creation². The Apple Pencil translates immediately into a better-than-Wacom experience and the ability to import/modify custom brushes means that this app just stole the lunch money of a lot of crying competitors. So far I have seen nothing to undermine this, and if you add in the point made by Frenden that an iPad Pro is a form of away-from-your-desk freedom, the cost savings become clear.
My current set up.
I took ages adjusting the CSP user interface to reflect how I actually work. It was worth taking the time³. The brushes are all carefully imported ones that are limited to what I find useful⁴ .
The artwork then gets exported via airdrop or directly through iTunes to my 5k iMac which gets used as a final layout platform. Affinity photo and my desktop copy of CSP exist for the sole purpose of being a big glossy compositional screen. Although this makes me a little sad about great tech becoming redundant, the big screen is great for seeing the work put together.
What could be better?
- The myriad opaque UI choices are frankly bizarre (but don’t change anything yet because I have only just got things how I like them!).
- The file management system is horrible - so many steps for exporting artwork. SO hard to navigate afterwards. In this regard Procreate is the Boss. Looking through completed artwork is way better - with CSP it is like pulling teeth and I tend to avoid it.
- If you want to make it cheaper I won’t complain.
² Something I missed sorely while using Procreate for the 100+ images for the Dear Theo project - reordering and finding files in their folder system was quite tricky when I had to swap iPads mid-process. It also means that Astropad Studio is now going bye bye. The £60.99 annual subscription is now heading to the pockets of CSP. Sorry and thankyou guys - I made some of my best art using your terrific stuff.
³ This is something that Procreate doesn’t try to do for good reason. CSP has an unintuitive opaque UI that would leave you airless in a mineshaft if you weren’t too careful. There are a few places on YouTube where a simple search will give you tips. Don’t be too put off by all this fiddling about - once you get this baby set up right it is amazing.
⁴ I was pretty deliberate about limiting this - too many choices will overwhelm and drown those visual ideas. And we don’t want that to happen do we? We want that little dude to live and become a hairy beast all on his own.