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, but there are so many other pen-computing options available, and there are so many other 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

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 an easy thing to do.  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. 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 create formatting rules for typography across documents. None of that is remotely possible in any iPad graphics apps that I’ve seen so far.

3. Lack of my preferred apps

Besides the big ones like Adobe CC, none of the other high-end design programs that 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 or electronic environmental design displays or kiosks or social media posts, I’ll want to create some animations to help display the information. Adobe AfterEffects and all of those 3D programs are great for this too. So again… not really 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 kind of package products, or I may photograph events, or 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. Often I might be on location and need to do some photo editing right there during the shoot.

Maybe my client wants to post articles during a conference right after a session ends, or maybe we want to do some culling right away.  Adobe Lightroom on the iPad is actually pretty good, except it still has limitations. The most annoying one is that you have to “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 it was announced by Adobe, so that’s one reason I like it over regular Lightroom. The other reason is that it’s faster for me 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 at the same time.  On Linux, I’ve been enjoying Darktable and RawTherapee as well, and again those don’t have iPad equivalents.

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

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.

Why should I invest in learning iPad apps when their capabilities don’t come close to desktop apps?

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 cognitive energy. That being said, Illustrator’s interface on macOS and Windows has remained very 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. Do you think that UI would 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 as well as Premiere Rush and every other Adobe app on iPad. I found the Photoshop for iPad use interface to be terribly 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 invest in learning 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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