By putting the most popular tools and functions at your fingertips, PenPad hopes to make using the iPad’s most popular drawing/drawing app much easier by simplifying navigation within the Procreate interface. Instead, much like how Numpad makes it easy to reach numbers, the PenPad gives you access to 22 different functions you’re likely to use when drawing on Procreate, from increasing and decreasing the brush size, access to the color wheel, switching between brush and eraser, or just show the color wheel or eyedropper tool. Being a compact hardware accessory means you can paint with one hand while intuitively pressing buttons with the other to speed up your workflow.
Designer: Stylus tips
Available in black and white variants, the PenPad connects via Bluetooth to your iPad and automatically starts working with the Procreate app right out of the box. The PenPad’s 22 concave buttons are designed in such a way that they are easy to use, and pressing the buttons allows you to efficiently perform tasks such as viewing your layers, switching the selection tool, cutting, copying and pasting tools , etc. . It works pretty well, just like a wireless keyboard, which speeds up workflow as your mind is focused on creating the UI rather than navigating it.
What the PenPad really does is reduce the time it takes for your eyes to wander and your hand to trace around Procreate’s user interface. Over 90% of the Procreate screen is the canvas, which means that the other elements (buttons, menus, etc.) are laid out in a way that gives the canvas primary importance. Drawing on the canvas is easy, but using other features involves moving your attention away from the canvas to locate the appropriate toolbar, drop-down menu, etc. It only takes a second, sometimes up to 10 seconds, but it all adds up pretty quickly when working with large files and multiple layers. To avoid this, the PenPad puts common functions right at your fingertips. This way your dominant hand can draw on the screen, while your non-dominant hand rests on the PenPad, away from the touch screen. Once your fingers get used to the PenPad layout, it’s much easier and faster!
The small wireless device comes in a format that looks more like a calculator. It’s relatively flat, save for a bump on the top that causes the PenPad to rest against angled surfaces, a feature that actually helps make it more comfortable. The accessory is still fairly flat and fits right into a backpack, tablet/laptop pocket when not in use.
The PenPad works seamlessly with iPads running iPadOS 14.4 and above, although it does have some shortcomings. For starters, it doesn’t work with any other drawing apps – so you’re really limited to Procreate. It also does not work with Android tablets, as Procreate is not available for this operating system. The buttons aren’t reprogrammable either, so you can’t completely configure them to work on other software for your iPad or even your laptop. It is completely tied to a single application of a single device class. Another user also pointed out that the PenPad lacks the three most common actions performed when digitally drawing – pan, rotate and zoom. To be able to do them, you need to take your hand off the PenPad and tap, tap and swipe on your iPad’s touchscreen.
That doesn’t take away from the fact that the PenPad always speeds up your workflow. It’s an absolute must for most digital artists who use the software for work (or even entertainment). The PenPad comes with a built-in 100mAh battery that gives it up to 5 days of battery life, but unfortunately it charges via MicroUSB (unlike the iPad Pro’s USB-C charging), so unfortunately you’ll have to carry an extra cable with you wherever you go.