So, I have a confession to make. My beast of a computer decided not to wake up from it’s distant slumber two weeks ago.
It was a Mac and yes before you anti-Apple people say, “PC’s for 3D!” it was a decently kitted out MacBook Pro, and I use it for other programs like Photoshop and Illustrator too. Also Blender has been steadily getting a bit more support for Metal machines now Apple has jumped in on the Blender bandwagon.
I took it to the Apple Store to see if the disciples of the Almighty Fruit God could stir my relatively new laptop from it’s hibernation… Unfortunately not. It had crapped itself in the night 🙄
So, admittedly I had backed up some stuff. Not all. My little fluffy Gabby might be a few steps back from what she was, but not completely gone. So please be patient, when my computer is resurrected with a new brain there will be more of her I promise!
In the meantime I am sitting in view of a huge lake in the middle of no-where getting to know my new toy, an iPad Pro!
I wasn’t convinced immediately by the hype around the iPad as a drawing tablet initially, but upon a few tentative visits to various Apple Stores, and playing on Procreate and Photoshop, I was blown away by how fluid and accurate the Apple Pencil was.
How cool is Procreate?! It also has an Animate feature which I will be utilising for future storyboards of Gabby and friends!
I know for a fact that Procreate is hugely popular with Illustrators and Concept Artists and alike, because the iPad is SO portable. With a digital sketchbook, the possibilities are endless now for artists creating inspiring digital art! Without having to bother with bringing huge cases full of acrylic paints or oils, jars of water and easels around with them.
The real question was then for us that delve into the world of 3D – can you use an iPad to sculpt??
Everyone knows that it is easier and more accurate to sculpt with a tablet and pen vs a mouse. Most sculpting tutorials out there encourage it. Wacom Tablets can cost up to an arm and a leg and that’s on top of having a decent computer alongside to use it with and run 3D software.
I chose the cheapest iPad Pro, M1 Chip, 128GB Storage with 8GB RAM. They actually spec them like computers now, rather than in my prime Apple days they would work more like a smartphone. I could have shot myself in the foot as I get better at sculpting, but at around AUD$1,300 that’s the best I could afford. I was curious to see if it could run as my computer and tablet in one whilst my mac was in hospital for a few weeks.
So i did some research there are two Apps that sprung at me with good reviews – Maxon’s newly acquired Forger App and the Blender-style Nomad App. I decided to start with Forger.
Forger has a fair few similarities to pro programs. On first glance the file system looks easy to see which projects are which, like the Photoshop app.
You can start with primitives or a template of a simple body or head, or you can import OBJ, ABC or C4D files. The sculpting language is quite similar to ZBrush with the remeshing sliders, the alt to reverse brush and shift to smooth shortcuts, masking and the sculpting tools they have. Bare in mind it is a optimised program for the iPad, so it wont have all the bells and whistles that ZBrush has.
It took me a while to get around the app at first, but coming from ZBrush, Blender and watching a couple of the beginner tutorials they have within the app, it became quite therapeutic to block out this cute Corgi illustration by Lynn Chen.
I liked being able to sculpt with the Apple Pencil with one hand and press the hot keys on the left side with the other to change the brush size, strength, undo/redo, masking, smooth, +/- brush, and move the camera.
The options at the top reminded me of ZBrush’s sub tools, remeshing and mirroring functions. Layers suggests to me that you can paint colours on to this model too…
You can add big references in the app behind your sculpt, and have a few stored in your scene for when you want to change view/reference. Easy as just dragging and dropping into the scene to switch.
The other menus let you set up the way your model looks, like seeing it in wireframe or smooth shaded vs a faceted view. There is also a handy help menu in case you need assistance with the app.
I am not an expert in ZBrush but I felt as if this app would get me to at least do some nice block outs of characters to export them later to finesse, retopo, rig and texture them in other programs. You can export your models straight to Cinema4D, or fellow Blender users – to OBJ! Also to STL, USD and C4D.
It looks like from here you can render your sculpt straight in Forger for that quick pic to throw on your instagram. Huzzah!
Here’s the catch…
Unfortunately, unlike Blender, a free open-source program, all the features of Forger are not free.
Maxon decided to put it under their umbrella of subscription services and well, hopefully that means that we will see many more improvements to the app in years to come.
If you want to try this app out, you can use it for free for up to 3 scenes at a time. Which is pretty cool.
If you’re like me and like free stuff, then maybe you can make sculpts and export them to Blender, Cinema4D or even ZBrush to finish the modelling/UVs/texturing, and then delete them off of Forger once you’ve exported them or saved them off the app for 3 new empty slots.
To be honest though…
$22.99/year is not bad for an on-the-go 3D sculpting app that has the potential to be a 3D artist’s portable bit of digital clay they can take LITERALLY ANYWHERE and reuse forever.
Like Procreate’s purpose as a eternally refreshable sketchbook.
So there you have it. A beginner’s run down of 3D sculpting in Forger on the iPad.
I hope this helps any of you out there that need to find your own piece of digital clay whilst you are travelling.
I think the main pro that I can take away from having an iPad as a 3D artist is the fact that even though it’s not as perfect and powerful as the industry-standard programs, the portability gives me access to practicing my digital art more often. Which overall is a key asset to being a successful artist.
After all, spending my hard earned savings on tech and not groceries is not something I can take lightly! But as of now at least I have a little sculpting machine until my poor mac gets it’s new logic board.
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