Image optimisation: What you need to know to get the best out of your pictures

At a glance

The difference between Raster and Vector file types

When it comes to graphic design in any way, shape or form, the most important basic to learn is the difference between these two file types and knowing when to use them. Use Vector images to create clean work with perfect lines and precision, and raster images for photos, digital sketching or paintwork.


Lossy and Lossless Compression

Super important to know when it comes to maintaining the quality of an original image – make sure you understand which image file types use which type of compression and the impact that’ll have for storage, image quality and online experience.


The Basics of Resolution

Ever been unsure of what is actually meant by resolution and the role of pixels? Me too.

All you really need to know is that you measure your workspace in pixels and the size of your workspace is super important in terms of working with and exporting raster images.

Let me preface this article by saying, this is incredibly useful information to have as a foundation if you’re looking to work with visual content professionally.

HOWEVER, this is not a casual read and you WILL need caffeine to power through.

I attended a 4-hour course to learn all of the below and I found it so useful. Before hand, I never paid much attention to what file type I saved my photos or digital artwork under but now I realise exactly what an impact they can make.

You can honestly irreversibly ruin your artwork if you’re not careful.

For me the value of this information is in being able to demonstrate experties when working with clients, because if you produce content for them then they WILL expect you to know this stuff.

Being able to demonstrate specialist knowledge builds client confidence in you as a professional – something which is well worth a 15-minute read.

Let’s start off by explaining the three core digital image types: ‘Raster’, ‘Vector’ and ‘Metafile’ file formatsRasterRaster files store visual data as a series of pixel quantities and approximate locations.

No doubt that if you’ve spent time using any dedicated graphics software for anything from light photo-editing to digital painting, you’ll have worked with Raster image files.

In a raster file, the computer looks at the image and says ‘ok, that colour goes there and this colour goes here…’ many times over until each of those colour dots together form an image.

Because the information is stored like this, a raster image will look the most clear at the resolution that the image was originally created at.

What I mean by original resolution is the size of the original work space that the image was created on, which is measured in pixels.

So if the original workspace for the image was 1800 (pixels in length) x 1200 (pixels in height) when it was created; when you export/save that image as a Raster file, your computer knows exactly where every single pixel/colour lives in that exact space.

But then say after that you want to make that same image appear full sized on a workspace which is 3840 × 2160.

In this workspace you have a greater density of pixels to work with and using the raster file, your computer doesn’t have any other information to fill in those extra pixel spaces.

This means that the image looks a lot more washed out just because there are gaps or blank spaces in between each of the coloured pixels that are displaying colours.

This is something we’ve all seen before, but the same effect is demonstrated in the below image to make sure we’re still all on the same page.

raster-image-high-low-resolutions

Examples of images file types which store data as Raster information are things like;

    JPEG,
    PNG, and
    GIF.

The kinds of programs you’ll be familiar with which work with Raster data are things like Paint, Photoshop and Lightroom among many, many others.Vector headerVector images are visual data files which are saved as a series of ‘intelligent’ instructions.

By instructions I mean like the lines and shapes in your image are stored by your computer as mathematically graphed equations.

For example, a circle drawn in a vector file is not thought of as a circle by your computer, but rather it’s 2πr2 saved on a set of definite co-ordinates on a x-axis and y-axis in the workspace.

You can actually see this if you open a vector file in a text program like Notepad rather than an image program. Doing so would open the file, but instead of showing a picture, you’d see a list of instructions.

This is all probably going to sound incredibly confusing if you’ve never actually worked with a vector drawing tool before (or even if you have – I had to re-read my notes like 4 times to make sure I was clear enough to be able to write this section) but don’t worry, you don’t need to understand exactly what’s going on in the background for this to be useful for you.

All this means is that because Vector images are stored as a set of instructions and not pixel information, you can make a vector image extremely large or small with no loss of quality or sharpness.

This is because no matter what the resolution or pixel density,  your computer knows exactly where it needs to fill in pixel spaces because it has a set of instructions to follow. Pretty swish.

Examples of software which use Vector imaging include Adobe Illustrator, Coral DRAW and Inkscape. Common Vector image file types are AI, CDR and EPS.

Still with me?

Metafile header

Metafiles are files of data which save multiple types of data in one file i.e. both vector and raster information in a single file.

We didn’t cover this too much in the course but some quick research suggests that this file format isn’t particularly stable and can be prone to errors.

Converting Image File Types


So those are the three main types of image files.

Another important thing to know is that data stored under one of these file formats can be transformed into another file type.

So if you get a vector file but want to save it as a raster because you want to edit that image using a certain type of software, or upload it to a website, you can do.

The only thing you have to remember is that the data you’ve changed will start functioning under the rules of the new file type.

So for example, if you convert a vector file to a raster image then you’ll no longer be able to make that image bigger without loss of image quality.

Converting images from Vector to Raster files is much easier to do with minimal loss of information, whereas converting Raster to Vector files can be slightly more difficult.

Doing so incorporates a process known as ‘Image Tracing’, I would be lying if I said I could explain this properly and in all honesty would just be paraphrasing the Wiki article on it.

Instead of doing that, I’ll just link the article here if you want to learn more about how it’s done.

Now that’s a good foundation of information to build on, but the bit that’s probably useful for you to know is the different sub-file types and how using these can impact your work.

File Compression Types


When you are working from your core image and you save to another format, there are two types of compression to bear in mind when deciding what format to save your image as;lossy and lossless.jpeg

Lossy | This format compresses a file size through dumping information which it considers unnecessary.

An example of this type of file is a JPEG – each time you save something as a JPEG, you lose more and more information. You can pretty much make an image unrecognisable by doing this repeatedly.

Lossless | This format compresses a file size without losing information (i.e. quality isn’t compromised).

An example of this type of file is ZIP.

If you ever aren’t sure, or just want to keep up with a best practice approach, you should always keep a high quality original source file at your disposal.

If you ever compromise the quality of your image by mistake, doing this means you have a backup.

Another rule of thumb is to work from the programs source file type until you have completed your work on your image, only after you’ve finished should you start saving your image through compressed mediums.

Different types of image files


JPEG headerA JPEG (or Joint Photographic Experts Group, if you were curious) is likely the most widely known image file type.

As previously mentioned, JPEG uses a lossy compression algorithm which means that it will remove data from a file in order to compress it to a more manageable size.

JPEG files achieve a smaller file size by compressing the image in a way that retains detail which matters most, while discarding details deemed to be less visually impactful.

Because of this, JPEGs are the most common file types for displaying visuals on the internet – since pictures can be compressed to a fraction of their original ‘full’ size with little obvious change made to the quality of the picture. Smaller image sizes displayed on a webpage mean that they load faster on a browser when a visitor heads to your website.

JPEG files are able to store and manage up to 7.2 million different colours making them extremely proficient at displaying visual information with great quality.

However, they are generally much better suited to displaying photographs rather than painted images.

The reason for this is because photographs more typically have smoother transitions between colours.

In painted, sketched or line images, there are more likely to be sharp contrasts in colour between adjacent pixels, and these stark variations would become subject to a more pronounced loss in quality after JPEG compression takes place.PNG HeaderThis is an updated image file type of the GIF and was created as a solution to the limited 256-only colour palette of the GIF file.

In the mid-90’s, monitors that were able to display many, many more different colours simultaneously become much more common and so a new file-type solution was required.

The most notable difference between PNG and GIF files is the inclusion of Truecolour colour palettes which make PNG files much more suitable for displaying more complex visual information.

Another significant difference is that rather than being a lossy file type, PNG is a lossless file which means that no data is lost when you save an image as a PNG file.

Comparing PNG with JEPG


JPEG format can produce a smaller file than PNG for photographic (and photo-like) images, since JPEG uses a lossy encoding method specifically designed for photographic image data (which is typically characterised by soft, low-contrast transitions).

Using PNG instead of a high-quality JPEG for such images would result in a large increase in filesize with negligible gains in quality.

In comparison, when storing images that contain text, line art, or graphics – images with sharp transitions and large areas of solid color – the PNG format can compress image data more than a JPEG can.

Additionally, PNG is lossless, while JPEG produces noticeable losses in clarity around high-contrast areas.

So where an image contains both sharp transitions and photographic parts, it can be a little tricky to decide which file type to go for.

If you’re struggling to choose, best practice would be to try saving your image to both and take a look at;

  • Image quality around areas where colour changes sharply,
  • The size of the resulting file.

Another factor to consider in this scenario should be JPEG’s lossy compression which also suffers from generation loss.

This is where repeatedly decoding and re-encoding an image to save it again means that information is lost each time, which means that the image loses quality.

Generational loss doesn’t happen with repeated viewing, copying of an image or anything like that, it’s only where the file is edited and saved over again (and again).

PNG has the benefit of being lossless, making it more suitable for saving images which might need further editing later on without compromising the quality of the image.

There is also the option that an image can be stored losslessly and converted to JPEG format later if only for distribution, so that there is no generation loss.GIF HeaderNot typically as popular today in the same way as in the past for displaying still images because of the limited colour palette of the file type – 256 colours in a single image only compared with 7.2 million colours in a JPEG file.

The reason for this is that when GIFs were first created in the 80’s, it didn’t seem relevant to include more colours since monitors which could display more than that many colours at the same time were not affordable for most people.

Image types which are better suited for GIF formatting are those with big blocks of same-type colours i.e. things like diagrams, icons on websites like share buttons or simple logos but not photographs or any other colour-heavy images.

Images which contain fuller colour palettes (i.e. more than 256 unique colours), when saved as GIF files, result in blotchier images. The reason for this is because GIF files have to compensate additional colours by adjusting them to a closest approximate colour within an image to be compatible.

The way compression works functionally with GIF files is that the lower the number of different colours used, the smaller the size of the file after compression.

The benefit of this is that simple images like a Facebook share button with like 3 colours on it can be tiny and downloaded RAPIDLY by a browser.

GIF files also utilise interlacing techniques when uploaded on to a website. What this means is that images load progressively on a webpage rather than all at once.

So basically, on a slow loading website, an image will start out as blurry and then grows sharper as more data loads rather than not appearing at all until the image is fully loaded.

The reason for this is that this was a more popular file type to upload on earlier iterations of the internet and this feature was more useful on slower browsers – but as browsers have grown more proficient and advanced, they are able to cope with larger and more complicated image sizes.TIFF HeaderListen, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I fully understand this one and honestly if anyone reads this article and fancies commenting to let me know what the deal is with TIFF files in plainer English than I’ve found online then please PLEASE do.

From what I understand, this file type has a size restriction of 4GB. It supports true colour images (i.e. it can handle information on 56M different types of images) making it brilliant for colour-rich images and is typically much, much bigger than standard JPEG images due to the amount of information which can be stored inside it.

This also means that it can contain extremely high quality images which, combined with it being lossless makes it the ideal home for ongoing design projects where you’ll need to keep editing and saving your work.

Things to bear in mind though;

  • These files can get to be 100MB+ in size fairly easily so you might need to consider storage if you have multiple images you’re working on at a time.
  • Because these are so big, you’ll need to consider how you’ll share these images if that’s your intention. Because of the size, you can’t just chuck a TIFF file on an email because it might be too big, likewise, images that get to that size can’t readily be uploaded onto a website since that would cause the page to load incredibly, in-cred-ib-ly sl-ow-ly.

As with the PNG file though, you can always have your original image saved as a TIFF file before saving a copy as a JPEG or PNG to distribute out further – options!SVG Header.jpegCredit to www.lifewire.com for their brilliant article on all of this.

A file with the SVG file extension is a Scalable Vector Graphics file and being such, an SVG file can be scaled to different sizes without losing quality. A lot of website graphics are built in the SVG format, so they can be resized to fit different designs later on, making them more sustainable.

SVG extensions also use lossless compression meaning that information isn’t lost when you save an image as an SVG. If an SVG file is compressed with GZIP compression, the new file will end with an .SVGZ file extension and can be anywhere between 50% and 80% smaller in size.

How to Open an SVG File


The easiest and quickest way to open an SVG file to view it (not to edit it) with a modern web browser like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Internet Explorer – nearly all of them should provide some sort of rendering support for the SVG format.

This means you can open online SVG files without having to download them first.

If you do already have an SVG file on your computer, the web browser can also be used as an offline SVG viewer. Open those SVG files through the web browser’s Open option (the Ctrl+O keyboard shortcut).

SVG files can be created through Adobe Illustrator, so you can of course use that program to open the file. Other premium design software which can support SVG files are Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, InDesign, Adobe Animate, Microsoft Visio, CorelDRAW, Corel PaintShop Pro, and CADSoftTools ABViewer.

If you are looking for free software which can be used with SVG file extentions, check out Inkscape and GIMP, but you must download them in order to open the SVG file. Picozu is also free and supports the SVG format too, but you can open the file online without downloading anything.

How to Convert an SVG File


If you want to convert an SVG file into a Raster image, deciding how to go about should depend on the size of the original file.

If your SVG file is pretty small, you can convert it to a Raster file type quite easily online using websites like Zamzar (looks a bit spammy but works brilliantly). They can convert .SVG files to PNG, PDF, TIFF, GIF, JPEG and more so it’s brilliant – even better it works without you having to download any apps to your PC, it can either email converted images to your inbox or let you download them straight from the webpage.

On the other hand, if you have a larger SVG file or if you’d rather not use third party websites, most dedicated design software will let you save and convert the file straight on the interface.


So there you have it! Some fun reading for budding young graphic designers – I’ve only covered the basics and there are many, many more file types to look at if you’re hungry for more.

Although honestly, I would just be impressed if someone made it to the end of this article and is actually reading this section….h-hello..? …anyone still there..?


If you enjoyed this article, then why not sign up to get my latest posts delivered straight to your inbox? Just type your email into the box at the bottom of the page .

I post content new issues once every sometimes, so adding your email means that you’re being both super supportive (yay!) and avoiding the need to check the website for new content.

Fin.

Visual trends: Virtuality

The social media marketing classes I’ve attended tend to demonstrate that there are two key skills required to successfully build an audience;


File 05-02-2018, 20 46 01
Knowing how to build visual content and construct images
.


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Knowing how to create compelling content which speaks directly 
to your audience.


Essentially, what I figure they’re saying is that the key to any good marketing strategy is to find your niche. You do this by asking yourself ‘Who are my ideal customers?’, ‘What do they want?’ and ‘How can I speak to them/How can I create content which will stand out to them?’.

The thing that’s so deliciously complicated about these questions is that, there’s no single answer – especially to the latter two. The great news though, is that you are in the best position to figure out what your desired audience will/do find most engaging since you know exactly the type of person you made the business, blog or whatever you’ve started for.

stadium-2921657_1280

So the idea is that finding your own audience is way, way more valuable than attempting to market to everyone. Just aim for the seats in blue.

Inkbike for example, was made for people like me that are motivated to create their own opportunities or ventures but might lack the knowledge or inspiration to get it started. So everything on this website is structured as if I’m speaking to myself. Someone who might have an average skill set but is irritatingly curious about EVERYTHING.

Even when you know who you’re creating content for however, the best way to figure  how best to engage with them is by experimenting. Keep posting!

Post different types of media with different styles, tones, use of language and visual style. Then you review how your audience responds to each…and like…never stop doing that. Find what sticks, both for you as the creator so that you stay motivated and for the audience who give you feedback.

When starting out, many say it helps to focus on your audience by breaking down what you do.

No arguing that this sounds intimidating, but then it can be an absolute joy to get to be inventive and creative in social media marketing (or any marketing really) – even better is that any successes you have in this field are instantly validated in the way your audience reacts, making your efforts feel incredibly worthwhile.

When starting out, many say it helps to focus on your audience by breaking down what you do. So like, if you’re a café (just as an example) then ask yourself what kind of café you are. How do you want people to use your space?

Do you provide a lounge environment and want customers to stay and enjoy their drink rather than take it to go? Are you selling gourmet coffees meant to attract the attention of coffee roast connoisseurs? Are you looking to attract the working crowd who want to grab a cup in the morning on the way to work?

While it takes time to figure out who your audience is, but when you have, your next focus should be figuring out how to speak to them – and speaking to your audience (not your competitors, not to get the attention of as many people as you can or anyone else) should be your priority when creating any content that you post.

Now, due to the absolute plethora of content which is posted every day on social media, your second biggest focus should be asking ‘how can I make my content stand out?’

This is where trends come in to play.

IMG_0524

Keeping an eye on social, technological or visual trends is pretty labour intensive which makes it hard for entrepreneurs who are busy…you know, actually CREATING their business in the first place. Praise be to Getty Images then for putting in the leg work for us.

If you don’t know them, Getty Images are a company which sell licences for people to use their stock images. They’re one of the biggest companies in the market and you’ll see them credited pretty often on images in massively popular news websites like BBC, CNN and The Guardian.

They get more than a billion annual visits to their website, with some looking to buy and some looking just to browse their image library for inspiration.

The great thing about having all these visits is that Getty Images is able to view what people are searching for and where they are searching from – and, just like some kind of marketing Christmas event, they put some of these stats into handy reports once per year and publish them online for free (liiiiiiink).

a huge high-five to the good people at Getty

That’s right! For this unbelievably, potentially game-changing information you pay exactly zero monies.

So not only do we get to see what each country’s most popular searches were in the last 12 months, but at the end of these reports Getty goes ahead and predicts what the most popular searches will be in the forthcoming year (and they have a great track record of doing this accurately).

That’s pretty gosh-darned useful information to get a hold of, so a huge high-five to the good people at Getty who put that together.

Now I really, really recommend that if you have an interest in digital marketing that you take a look at their 2017 report and the others featured on their site, but here’s one trend in particular which caught my eye.IMG_0522Getty describes ‘Virtuality’ as imagery which puts the viewer in the front seat.

Rather than looking at an image, we are in the image. We’re not seeing, but experiencing it

– Getty Images

The popularity of this trend is evidenced by the the surge in popularity of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat in 2017, and specifically their ‘stories’ feature.

These forms of user-generated media almost entirely remove the barriers between creators and viewers as users are able to share near-live images or videos instantaneously.

In fact, with Live Videos users have the ability to live-stream events straight from your phone to your entire follower-list. Platforms with this feature also tend to massively encourage you to do this since they reward you with notifications sent out to all your followers telling them about your post.

In turn, your content gets higher engagement with your audience because users are prompted to check it out regardless of whether or not they are active on the social media platform when you start posting.

winter-2383930

LOOK HOW IN THE FRONT SEAT YOU ARE!

Because these stories are also removed after a finite time period, they don’t need to be as meticulously sculpted into photoshopped perfection as many would have posts on their page be. As a result, we have an entirely new, rawer visual style which is being catapulted into popularity.

We’ve also seen platforms like Facebook and YouTube make 360 content more accessible to everyone by supporting 360 content.

If you’re like me then at this point you’re thinking;

‘Isn’t 360 and VR content just a fad that’ll pass – kinda like it did when the Google Glass headset was released to deafening ambivalence by everyone?’

I mean, you’re not wrong…going back even further, things like Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii tried to take a form of virtuality and were unsuccessful in making it mainstream without long-term, sustainable success. (Not to say these products didn’t sell millions, but I just mean like…when was the last time you or any of your friends played Wii sports or anything on the Kinect?)

And so yeah, we definitely don’t know how this technology is going to pan out in the next few months or years and I’d be the first to admit that I started out more than a little sceptical about how likely it would be that 360 would take off in a big way with the public. But let’s look at a few key points;File 06-02-2018, 19 28 52Mobile tech giants like Samsung and HTC have released VR headsets that are built exactly for consuming this type of front-seat, virtual media.

These products were marketed HARD in adverts throughout early 2017 and the price of items like Samsung’s 360 camera are consistently dropping.

I mean you can buy a 360 camera from Samsung now for a little under £100 on Amazon.

Prices like these from trusted brands puts this technology square in the hands of the majority market if people choose to pursue it.

FB header

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg actually owns the pioneering VR company Oculus. This means that Facebook (you know, the biggest social media company that also owns Instagram) has a SERIOUS vested interest in promoting this new form of media amongst its users.

You can bet that they will be encouraging content creators to use this 360 and VR in the future by changing it’s algorithms to increase the exposure that such posts receive amongst users.

Doing that means that this kind of media is going to become crazy popular with marketers who are desperate to use every SEO trick they have to get ahead meaning you’ll start to see a whole bunch more of it on your newsfeeds.

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Ramblings headerGetty Images shows us in their report that over the course of 2016, the number of searches in their library for images relating to VR increased by 321%. Likewise the searches for 360 images by 94%.

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Look at all this supporting data! Nah just kidding, this stock image is the screen of someone who probably makes alarming amounts of money…

What this tells us is that media outlets are starting to look and pay for these images. Profits in digital media is ruled by advertising through page views and so an increase in appetite for this imagery among such websites shows us that it’s getting the attention of the world audience.  Apple headerWell, not directly. But let’s take a look at the recently released iPhone 8 and iPhone X (*shudder*) being described by Apple CEO Tim Cook as being the biggest leap in mobile phones since the first iPhone.

That’s a pretty mind boggling claim especially considering the first iPhone LITERALLY shaped mobile technology as we know it today (there were no mobile browsers, no integrated MP3 players and no full-touch screen displays like we know them now before the first iPhone).

What is one of their biggest focusing points on this revolutionary new device?

*drum roll*


A.R. and V.R.


This is a fairly concrete indication of the direction that one of the biggest players in mobile technology is thinking public interest in media consumption is headed towards.

Also having A.R. and V.R. availability on the iPhone puts the technology straight in the hands of millions. We kind of just have to wait and see how  significant an impact this has on social media visual trends.


So at the end of all this what lessons should we be taking away?

That your marketing campaigns for your growing business will be lost causes without 360 content?

That you’ll never find your audience without a 360 camera and laying waste to your followers newsfeed with your glorious 360 content?

Absolutely not….well, glorious photos on your feed sounds awesome but I’m not saying that you should make this form of media the cornerstone of your brand content.

What I think is best to recognise is that;

1. It’s completely inexpensive to get on board with this kind of technology,

2. There’s evidence which demonstrates an increased appetite for 360 content.

3. Because we’re in the early stages of seeing what people can do with this (I personally would love to watch a Wimbledon finale in 360 video if this technology is picked up by TV channels) there are huge opportunities to stand out from the crowd and do something really exciting with this medium to make a name for yourself.


Thoughts? Feelings? Impressions? I’d love to chat with you.

Email: kaeyo@inkbike.com
Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike

Fin.

 

How to create professional looking graphics with just your phone

At a glance

No photoshop expertise or subscription required

Regardless of your budget, skill level or platform, there are options available to suit you.


Using iOS? Get on Typorama

A brilliant app which I have used to create every font graphic or overlain image you see on this website or on my social media channels.


Using Android? Wordswag is a great option (as long as you can ignore the name).

I use Typorama on my iPad but I have a Samsung phone, so when I want to create images on the go, it’s Wordswag for the win.


Want to use your laptop or desktop instead? Canva!

Canva is fantastic as a free (though there are purchases you can make for additional graphics), web-based alternative to mobile solutions. It has the additional benefit of allowing graphics to be stored in a shared folder for access by multiple users.

 

Just before we get started, I wanted to point out that all of the images used on this website have been created using a combination of the below four tools. The only cost ever involved was buying the apps on the app store initially – after that, not a penny more, so that’s pretty cool.

It’s also worth pointing out that currently all the media I produce is created with IOS on my iPad, but worry not fearless reader, that’s not because there’s any shortage of software which can be used on Android or desktop packages, it’s simply me working with what I have to hand. I’ll cover off software on those different platforms shortly.

Now that’s been covered…*ahem*….The point of this article is to demonstrate that you absolutely DO NOT need to be an expert in graphic design or have intimate knowledge of expensive professional software like Adobe Photoshop in order to create professional looking media for yourself.

You can achieve really high quality results with easy-to-use apps just on your phone or tablet. We’ll start off with my personal favourite…


Screenshot 2018-02-26 21.31.40Screenshot 2018-02-26 21.04.35

Cost: £0 (option to unlock all fonts with a £5.99 one-off payment which is what I did)
Available platforms: IOS only


I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly useful I found this app when starting out – and yet I can’t even remember how I found it. I think it was just after browsing the app store and looking at reviews, but regardless I’m really glad I did.

There are a fair few apps out there on the app/play stores which have a similar function of even layout which I haven’t tried but I can definitely vouch for this one. If you have absolutely zero design skills or if you do but you want to save a whole bunch of time creating images then this is the app for you.

Here’s how it works; the app automatically links to Pixabay (an image library resource – don’t worry, we’ll get back to this) where you choose from any of the thousands of available HD images as your backdrop. Once selected, you can then overlay the image with 40+ different typography styles of text. Neato. This makes it extremely easy to create beautiful, compelling imagery for your brand.

Annoyingly different social media platforms require different sized images to make them sit flush on a screen. The penalty for not adhering to these digital picture frames is that your image will have negative space on either side of it if it’s too small or the image will be cut off and only show partially if it’s too big.

So for example, if you wanted to post something on Instagram, you need to use a different sized image than if you were to post on Twitter.

Typography went ahead and removed any possibility of that being an issue for your content since it has a tool which shows you what size your image needs to be for every different social media platform and allows you to adjust your image size right there in the app. It also makes it easy to create website banners, cover photos or anything else – it’s not just a tool for social media.

From there you can either export your content right into your chosen social media platform or you can save the image to your phone/tablet to post later.

I would go into detail on how to use the app but honestly it’s one of those things that’s best played around with rather than explained.


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Cost: £3.49 initially (optional £1.99 to ‘unlock’ all features)
Available platforms: IOS & Android


If you can forgive the name (I completely understand if not, the word ‘swag’ makes me die a little inside) – Wordswag is another great option for creating and editing media files with a huge bonus – it works on Android and IOS. Again, there are plenty of options out there to choose from to achieve similar results, this is just the one I personally use on my Samsung phone and really enjoyed working with.

The app itself works much in the same way as Typorama and honestly, if you’re using an Apple product and you’re stuck between the two, it’s entirely a matter of preference. Wordswag also uses Pixabay as a stock image resource and again provides roughly 40 different typographic text designs to choose from. It contains a different library of typographic font styles to choose from than Typography but the collection is still awesome. There’s plenty to choose from, it’s entirely up to you to decide which designs will work best to suit your brand/digital identity.

Some awesome additional features which Wordswag offers over Typorama is the ability to modify your text design with textures and patterns. This is a great way to tailor your images even further and creates additional opportunities to customise your media to better suit your brand.


Screenshot 2018-02-26 21.49.30canva-logo


Cost: Totally free
Available platforms: It’s web-based so you can use your phone, tablet or desktop

Next up we have Canva, this is an excellent web-based resource which was shown to me recently in a social media marketing seminar – it’s key benefits are that it’s completely free to use and doesn’t require any smartphones. All you need to start creating high-quality, professional looking content is a desktop or laptop and an internet connection before you’re good to go.

If you visit canva.com, you’ll be given the option to create an account for free either by a Google account, Facebook account or via email (and don’t worry – you don’t have to faff around with any verification codes being sent to your inbox to activate your account, you just enter an email once and you’re in).

After this point, you are taken through to a handy 2 minute tutorial to get you used to the basics and then you’re good to go! Like the previously mentioned apps, it works in the same steps in that you select a background, select other images and your chosen text art to create your ‘post’- er.

The main difference with this tool is that the background image and forefront images exist as two separate layers. This means that you can have a lovely background as a base for your graphic and then you can layer other images on top of it – this makes for some awesome pieces of work that can be made.

Another great feature of this software is that everything is done by dragging and dropping images on to a canvas, no complex tools or confusing interface, just a simple computer motion that everyone knows how to do.

When you’ve finished creating your masterpiece you can simply save the image to your computer and post it whenever you want! An additional benefit is that you can save any graphics you have created to a shared folder on the website – this is fantastic if there is more than one person involved in maintaining the social media accounts of a brand since it allows you to view all graphics created by all designers and be able to choose the most appropriate to post on any given occasion.

This is an absolutely awesome option and to be honest, even if you had already purchased the other apps, I would still recommend using this website as well as it allows you to manipulate images in a much more fluid manner to create some really unique graphics.

The only thing to be aware of is that some images are free to use and some aren’t (though these generally cost about $1 – unfortunately prices aren’t displayed in her majesty’s finest), but don’t worry if you’re not looking to spend – there’s plenty of free images available to use and paying definitely doesn’t always result in a better quality final graphic. Start playing with it! I think you’ll be really impressed by what you can do with it.


Screenshot 2018-02-26 22.00.40Screenshot 2018-02-26 21.56.58


Price: Totally free
Available platforms: Desktop, Android and IOS

I’ve mentioned Pixabay a fair few times already and that’s because it is an absolutely vital tool for building compelling graphics – the top apps rely on it and for good reason. Pixabay is an open-source library of licence-free images that can be accessed by anyone.

This means users can sign up (for free) and create an account (either online or by downloading the app to your android or IOS device) to download any image (again, I can’t stress this enough -for free) from its library.

The fact that the images are licence free means that the images can be used by anyone for personal, print or commercial purposes without the user having to seek the consent of the original image owner or credit the original image owner in your created graphic (which is something you’d have to worry about if you just copy and paste images from Google onto your website or SMP).

There are some rules which apply which, for example, don’t allow people to download images of people to depict them in a purposely negative light but as long as you’re respectful of the images – you’re free to use them as you want.

Some fantastic bonuses to images found on Pixabay (in addition to the fact that they are completely free) is that their library is absolutely HUGE – I mean thousands and thousands of images which range from anything like plants, to baked goods to panoramic vistas of gorgeous landscapes. There’s genuinely nothing you can’t find.

A second benefit is that many of the images are extremely high quality – this is very important when posting to platforms such as Instagram where image quality plays a huge role in determining how much reach your post will get and how users will likely react to your post.

So having thousands of high quality images available to use for free at any time is a huge win – plus Pixabay can be accessed either through mobile app or directly on their website at pixabay.com. This makes them totally accessible. Check it out, you won’t regret it.


So there you go, there are four fantastic resources for you to use to get you started on your journey to creating beautiful, compelling and engaging content for your brand.

While it’s always possible to go deeper in terms of designing graphics and with software like photoshop if you develop a taste for creating graphics (something incredibly easy to do once you get into the swing of things), the sky really is the limit for what you can make with these tools at your disposal and with a little practice, you’ll be whizzing graphics out in no time.

Started using any of the above already, or better yet know of other similar tools? Please let me know! I’d love to learn more.



Email: kaeyo@inkbike.com
Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike

Fin.

[How to] Build a website!

At a glance

Key Learning Points;

 

You don’t need any expertise to make a great looking website

When I’ve told friends about Inkbike, a lot of them tell me they would have no idea how to even start making a website and it puts them off. With platforms like WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace you absolutely don’t need to be – you can make a fully functional website without ever seeing a line of code. Templates baby. Templates for days.


It doesn’t cost much 

You could buy a domain and have a running website with WordPress by paying a one-off fee of £36 (£3 a month).


Don’t sweat the name too much

It feels like a big decision to pick a domain (i.e. your website link, like Inkbike’s is http://www.inkbike.com), but you can change your domain at any time without losing the work you put into the website.


There are plenty of options

Like I said in the first point, you’ve got plenty of web-building platforms to choose from to suit your needs. Want to make a website where you can sell stuff? No problem, there’s Shopify or Squarespace. Just looking to build a blog or website for your business? Easy, WordPress, Squarespace or any others.

Fun fact: my web-design process went something like this;

Step 1. Purchase a basic WordPress account with a domain

Step 2. Realise you have no idea what the hell you even want your website to be yet and despair.

The depressing thing is that getting between steps 1 and 2 wasn’t even a quick process – I spent an alarmingly amount of time trying to figure out what the domain name was going to be before I even finished the first step which is totally unnecessary.

Anyway, that’s me getting ahead of myself…

(*puts on deep, reassuring grown-up voice*)

In this article I intend to give you a full breakdown of exactly how I went about creating the website Inkbike lives on. My goal is to provide (a) a step-by-step that you could follow if you wanted to create your own website, (b) a track of my thought process for decisions I made while making my website so you have something to inform any similar creative decisions you might need to make, and (c) details on any mistakes I made along the way to help you avoid doing the same.

Also just a heads up and make sure I’m not being misleading, in the article I’m talking about building a website using WordPress rather than manually building it line-by-line so please feel free to ignore this post if that’s not what you’re after.

Step header

Ok so this is pretty much the first thing you’re going to have to consider when you build a website and it definitely feels like one of the most important decisions you’ll make early on since the name of something can often be its most powerful piece of branding.

This is ultimately down to preference though, so instead of trying to come up with a smart process to write, I’ll just provide a few tips.

  • Use a domain searching tool to show you whether or not your desired website name is available or already in use. I personally used Lean Domain Search.

  • Read around the topic of domain name trends – just to be clear I’m absolutely not saying pick a name because it’s trendy, it should always be something you love too. It’s more that if you’re trying to create a name which portrays something, like modernity, looking at trends can potentially help give you ideas for a name which matches your concept.

  • Have fun! You’re bloody naming something, like a thing that you’re How amazing is that?!

Step 1 Complete.
Name Chosen: Inkbike.


Oh and in case you’re interested, the name Inkbike originally came about as a title for me to post digital art under; Ink by Kaeyo became ‘Inkbike’. After I decided to work mostly on the website instead, the name had just kind of stuck with me so I kept it!

An important thing to remember though (he says reassuring himself), is that you can always change your domain name later. You aren’t stuck with the first name you create!

Step 2 header

So the next thing you need to do is choose a platform to host your website. There’s a growing market of webhosting platforms you can choose from but the two I found to be best known are WordPress and Shopify.

WordPress is best known as a platform for bloggers and creating more passive websites (i.e. websites where you come to view information or media without interacting with it). Shopify on the other hand is built for e-commerce, where users will create online stores to sell their wares.

Another option I’ve been hearing more about recently is Squarespace which is marketed as a web-development site with an emphasis on modern templates but with simple drag & drop customisation interfaces. It’s geared towards versatility, offering options for e-commerce as well as more passive designs.

They offer a couple of other options too, like a basic logo developer and access to webinars which is a nice touch. It’s also worth noting that they often have discount code promotions running along with influencers that can get you a discounted subscription price for the first few months so definitely have a search for those before you commit.

Looking at the options though, I felt like WordPress was most suited to my needs, especially with its staggered pricing model – free to build a basic website or £3 a month for a ‘Personal’ account if I wanted to include a custom domain (i.e. www.inkbike.com). This meant that I didn’t have to pay much to get the domain and start playing around with how posts could look etc.

In fact, WordPress seemed generally cheaper than the competition, it’s certainly the only platform out of the three mentioned that provided 2 options for less than £10 a month.

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It also helped that while the basic accounts (Free and Personal) don’t come with a lot of template options, upgrading to a ‘Premium’ account (£7 a month) comes at a discounted price when upgrading from a ‘Personal’ account. This meant that I could wait until I was more competent editing with WordPress tools before investing more money and moving Inkbike onto a template with more customisation options.

Finally, since I didn’t have any intention of selling anything on inkbike.com, I knew that Shopify wasn’t the platform for me and between WordPress and Squarespace, WordPress had been operating longer which was a benefit to me because it meant that each of the templates on it would hopefully be more stable.

Anyway that was my thought-process for choosing WordPress.

Step 2 Complete.
Chosen platform: WordPress.


IMG_0535

Again this is preference, but I did find that WordPress has a good selection of varied templates. This is also the time when you might start to consider other subscriptions with WordPress – at this point, I had purchased the ‘Personal’ membership which gives you access to their basic template library.

If you want to use one of their premium templates then you either need a Premium account, which is billed annually at £7 a month and gives you access to all premium templates, or you’ll need to buy access to specific templates.

The thing is a lot of the premium templates are more expensive to buy then an annual pass for a premium account – so I just paid for the account instead.

Whether or not you want to do this is entirely up to you, the only reason why I did is because I knew I wanted a website which used mostly images to display content with very few written words outside of articles. My thinking was that this would make it much easier to create a modern, attractive website without having to spend lots of time editing texts and layouts to try and achieve the same effect.

WordPress didn’t have any templates which fit that description in the basic section, so I decided to upgrade my subscription so I could use the one that did.

So to that end, the template I chose is Hermes.

Step 3 Complete.
Chosen template: Hermes.


IMG_0536

If you’re like me, when you get to step 4, your brain is saying this: ‘Ok so you have your domain and you’re on your platform, you’ve smashed it, your website is going to be the next motherf*cking Google’.

Then you look at your blank, barren website and you start to realise that you have no idea what to do next. You have no menus, no posts, no images (unless your template has some stock photos) and no idea how you could or should start creating any of them. I mean, what should your website even look like?!

Or maybe you’re way more together than me and you know what to do next, I dunno. Regardless, in this section I’m going to walk you through some basic steps for website design on WordPress.

Two of my most frequently used areas are found under the ‘Manage’ header; Site Pages and Blog Posts.

Site Pages contains every screen which is possible for a website visitor to access, apart from Blog/Article posts. This is also the area where you build the pages which can be displayed on your website navigation menu (so on Inkbike the Site Pages displayed here are ‘Support’, ‘Interviews’, ‘About’, ‘Blog’ and ‘Contact’ as well as the Home screen).

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Blog Posts, as you might expect is the tab which contains all of your website articles. The page provides some general metrics for each post including date/time published and number of views. Clicking the ellipsis next to the Featured image for each article then gives you a couple of extra options like editing the article (which you can also achieve by clicking on the title), a more detailed stats overview of views to that post, a comment overview and the options to either duplicate or delete the article.

Both areas give you the option to keep your page/post as a draft for you to work on without them actually needing to be live on the website – to switch between published and live you just need to navigate between the tabs at the top of the page.

Next up, under the header ‘Personalize’, next to themes is a button called ‘Customize’. Clicking on that opens up a view of your live website on the right, with a Control screen on the left. The options displayed on the Control menu can vary depending on the theme you’re using but generally you’ll see the following;


Site Identity

This is where you add your site title, tagline (optional), logo and website icon (i.e. the little image which appears in the browser when the user lands on the web-page.

Colours & Backgrounds

Change the colours of certain areas on the website, I think the amount of control you have in the section depends on what template you’re using though. As far as I can tell, the only change I can make on Inkbike is in the colour lines which underlines article tags so…..not messed with that too much.

Fonts

This allows you to mess with the font that article text is displayed in by default. There are quite a few options too! I ended up going for the one that looks the most like it could be in the guardian so I could trick myself into a sense of false-inflation by thinking I write ‘articles’ and not ‘blog posts’.

Menus

This one takes getting used to, but this is how you build your website navigation menu. You start by adding the top ‘Parent’ pages you want your menu to display by clicking ‘Add Items’; these are the pages you will have created in your Site Pages tab.

Next up, if you want you can add sub-menu options to your ‘Parent’ pages – your sub-options can include loads; Categories (that’s what I use), Tabs, Specific Posts, Custom Links and more. To make them sub-menu options, just add everything all at once and then click ‘Reorder’ at the bottom of the page which will allow you to indent options to appear under whichever Parent Page you want.

CSS

Honestly not too sure about this, I’m pretty sure that this is for advanced customisation but unless you’re comfortable with CSS or are following specific instructions, I’d leave it alone.

Widgets

Widgets are the sections of your website which contain menus, so for example the search bar, social media and navigation tool at the bottom of this page is a widget. Some templates allow for multiple widgets on a single page – the contents of the widget are managed through this tool bar.

Homepage Settings

This section lets you control whether or not the home page for your website displays a static screen where the same information is displayed regardless of any other changes made to the website, or a page which displays your most recent posts. I chose the latter!

Theme Options

This one varies depending on the theme you use, but for me it just allows me to decide whether the web-navigation menu appears on the left or right. I left it as it was because who cares.

IMG_0537

That pretty much takes you to the end, the only thing left to do is start filling your website with content!

I hope this has been helpful for you, or at the very least has reassured you that making a website isn’t hard, requires extensive skills or even much money. Certainly, if you’re looking to scale up your business or include website bespoke features then you might need the help of a web-developer but otherwise I would absolutely recommend building your own. At the very least, you’ll have gained some awesome skills which can serve you extremely well going forward. On the otherhand, you could get the experience but also walk-away with a gorgeous website that you can be proud of. Plus, building something helps you get intimately familiar with it which means that if anything goes wrong, you’re in an excellent position to fix it on your own.

If you decide to give it a shot then let me know – I’d love to see your sites! If you ever want to ask for any help or chat about it then drop me an email at kaeyo@inkbike.com. If emailing feels too official;

Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Kaeyo Mayne

Fin.

iPad Pro (2015) 12.3″ Review – An essential tool for an entrepreneur?

The iPad Pro was advertised at release as a productivity powerhouse; the tablet which would replace your need for an actual laptop. Even now if you go to the Apple website, one of their big selling points is that ‘It’s more powerful than most PC laptops’. In this review I want to answer one simple question; for someone who’s looking for some hardware to help them start a new thing, is the iPad Pro the best tool that’s going to help them do it?


If you’ve had a look around the competition for tablets around this area, you’ll know that Apple aren’t the only company going after the busy but mobile person’s wallet. The Microsoft Surface tablets are generally considered the closest competitor and honestly I can’t think of a better way to describe the differences between the two than Techradar already has;

“To many, this is a direct rival to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, but in reality, the two devices are coming at the laptop replacement issue from different angles. The iPad Pro is designed for the casual user, one who doesn’t need a computer all day long. It’s not a MacBook Pro 2016 with a detachable screen – iOS 10 doesn’t have macOS Sierra capabilities, and even the iOS 11 update isn’t going to make much of a difference in that respect.

Microsoft’s device is more for those who need to massively multitask all the time, using dedicated desktop applications to get everything done.”   

The point of this review is to use some kind of narrative structure to decide whether or not my decision to purchase an iPad Pro to help me create Inkbike was a good idea, and ultimately try to help other people in similar positions decide if the iPad Pro might be the right tool for them too.

(To reiterate the point; since my iPad is no longer the newest model, this isn’t a review for people who are looking to decide whether or not to get they can fit the latest piece of tech into their lives somehow. Instead this is a review for people who are looking for the right tool to help them on projects, that are debating about whether or not they might have a need for a really, really big ass iPad.)

This review is also written from the perspective of someone who’s never owned a tablet before and didn’t own any other computer – all work I’ve carried out in the last 12 months has been completely carried out on the iPad Pro.

specs font
Review model specs;

Type: iPad Pro (2015) 12.9-inch Wi-Fi model
Date of purchase: January 2017
Memory: 128GB
Price at time of purchase: £700(ish)
Current price: £599 (although this model has been discontinued so it’s tricky to find)


I’ll preface this by saying that this is the first Apple thing I’ve ever owned. I’ve always had Android phones, I’d never owned a tablet before and my only laptop was a Dell which I had through Uni and that broke like 3 months after I graduated. So I’m not exactly an Apple fanboy.

But I will say this, Apple does make a seriously tasty piece of hardware.

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I mean…mate, look at it.

Screen

Obviously, the size of the display is one of the big selling points on the 12.9” iPad Pro, and boy is it HUGE. A screen this size brings with it some obvious advantages; Netflix is awesome to behold and you’ve got plenty of screen space to use for your typing, drawing (detailed more later) or browsing pleasure.

In terms of resolution, the screen boasts the classic Retina display with a pixel density of 264ppi and it really pairs beautifully with a screen this size. As expected, colour pops and vivid detail is displayed beautifully, which makes viewing movies or videos on this thing an absolute joy.

it’s in these moments you remember just what an awesome kind of tech you have in your hands.

The colour is something I’ll touch on in more detail under accessories, but the resolution definitely makes working on the iPad a much more pleasurable experience.

Seriously, I tap away at this thing for hours when I’m working and I’ve never really experienced any eye strain or discomfort – something which unfortunately happens more regularly when using the monitors at work.

This is something I’ve loved, and is just one of those little touches which is a massive boon to me when I’m working as I’m able stay focused and get just that little bit more work done.

Screenshot 2018-03-10 21.07.49

A caveat I’ve experience with the size is that it’s incredibly indiscreet. I got this thing around the same time that I got a new job and so I thought it’d be a good idea to make my meeting and training notes on it so that I had digital copies rather than scraps of paper which I would inevitably lose.

Let me tell you, there is no way of pulling this tablet out of your bag without drawing attention from others around the table. Likewise, on a screen this big, I’ve found there’s no way of sketching on this thing in a public space which doesn’t draw the watchful eye of people around you, which can sometimes be slightly distracting.

On balance though, it’s started a few fun conversations in cafés with people who have never seen and are genuinely fascinated by apps like ProCreate. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s been a joy to introduce people to these kinds of creative software and it’s in these moments you remember just what an awesome piece of tech you have in your hands.

Another benefit to the resolution of the iPad is what it allows you to do with the screen real-estate – you are able to split screen two different apps (though it doesn’t work with every app) at the same time with absolutely no loss of quality in either one.

split screen iPad view

Split screen multi-tasking in action

This can make for some pretty effective multi-tasking; however I have to confess that I’ve not found any circumstance where it’s been a function I’ve needed.

I’d say this is probably something which would be more useful to people who need to stay active on social media (either for work or pleasure) while still getting other things done. It is still pretty cool though.

Another downside I’ve experienced with the larger model – which is no fault of Apple’s – is that having so much space to fill means that pictures and video viewed at full screen, can appear stretched out. This isn’t a problem at all for any images or videos displayed at over 1080p since there’s enough of the image to compensate for the size, but anything under that can look pretty rough. A lot of the time this is most noticeable for things like older YouTube videos and sometimes just means that despite the gorgeous, big screen – some stuff does just look a bit better when viewed on your phone.

A lot of the time though, the iPad is smart enough to resolve the issue by putting 80’s movie-style black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to adjust the image to the behemoth proportions of the screen. I just mention it because it took my a little while to figure out why some videos looked so rough.

…in terms of what they can do for movies or playing music, it’s AWESOME

Speakers

Back to the gushing though, the speakers on the iPad Pro are another marvel. It features four mono speakers which are located on each corner of the tablet. The sound they are able to produce is nothing shy of incredible considering the size of the device – even capable of achieving some reasonable bass when near full volume.

Don’t get me wrong, the sound they generate isn’t going to stand up against dedicated speakers or for satisfy the keen ear of an audiophile. But in terms of what they can do for watching movies or playing music while you’re working, it’s AWESOME. I love that I can get such a great sound straight from the tablet without ever really feeling the need to get out any additional speakers.

In movies explosions have some substance, Spotify has some bass to it and it handles Netflix like a champ – I genuinely couldn’t be happier them.

Struggling to think of what else to include..

What else, what else…?

Ummm….the camera on the iPad isn’t something I can say I’ve ever really used, partly because my phone takes better pictures, but also because can you honestly imagine being the person who, when they want to take a picture of something, they pull out a 12.9-inch tablet? I can’t.

Portability! Weighing in at 0.7kg (or 1.57lbs if you understand pounds better than me), I’ve read some complaints that this thing is cumbersome – I’ve honestly never felt that way. It slips in easily to a laptop bag or backpack and honestly my lunch normally feels heavier in my bag then the tablet does a lot of the time
(Fun fact: I eat rocks).

I took it to work plenty of times in my backpack and it never felt cumbersome at all. In fact, the only time the iPad Pro ever has felt any kind of awkward is when you try to hold it in one hand. That isn’t really anything to do with the weight though, it’s more down to the size and shape of the thing in your hand.

Yeah no, that’s about it for build quality.

File 02-02-2018, 11 09 02
Now build quality is one thing, but the focus of this review is on how it works as a productivity tool – and whether iPad Pros are the laptop-killer for a would-be busy body that they were advertised to be.

Word Processor article

I’ll start at what I would consider to be the first thing you would look for in a working computer – the word processor. I didn’t know this before I bought it, but there’s a difference in the way Microsoft views the larger and the smaller iPad Pro modelsi.e. office applications are free to use for devices with screens smaller than 10.1-inches.

This means buying the smaller 2015 9.7-inch iPad Pro models nets you full use of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for free. If you opt for the larger model instead, to get the same functionality you’ll need an Office 365 subscription which costs £5.99 a month.

Of course, both iPads do come with the Apple equivalent software in the form of Pages (word processor), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (slide-shows); so, it’s not like you’re left with no alternatives.

I really like them too, since they work great and you can get used to them quickly. However, it’s definitely something to consider if you’re looking to start a thing without taking on any recurring costs (apart from the…*ahem* substantial cost of the iPad).

Also, it’s worth noting that due to the iPad Pro operating with iOS (read: mobile) rather than full-blown Mac OS (read:desktop), the iPad Pro doesn’t offer the fully-fledged versions of processing programs. Regardless of how well Microsoft or Apple have optimised their programs for touch screens, the fact is that you’ll always be working on tools designed for mobile platforms.

How much this should affect your decision will depend on how you like to use your word/spreadsheet processors – if you’re someone who relies heavily on the more advanced tools afforded in MS Word/Excel/Powerpoint then the Windows Surface Tablets might be the way for you to go.

Word Screenshot

A screenshot of this article as written on Word using the iPad Pro.

If you’re just looking for something you can type into and apply some more basic design feats, then this absolutely won’t be a problem.

Whichever one you choose, I’ve found actually using them is a bit of a mixed bag. The iPad Pro offers a decent word processing experience; the screen is plenty big and like I said earlier, the resolution makes it easier to spend long stints typing away.

My main real complaint here though is that I really felt the absence of the mouse when I’d be writing up long documents. Since this was my only computer I didn’t really have any way of getting around this and this was exacerbated by the amount of time I’ve spent working on it for the last 12 months.

Although Microsoft pre-emptively worked on this by optimising iOS Office software for touch controls – while they get the job done, they never felt to me like a comfortable replacement for traditional mouse and keyboard setup.

It was never something which caused me to rage quit my work or anything – but it could get pretty annoying dealing with things the fiddly text-highlight controls which was especially annoying since accidently touching anywhere else on the screen apart from two teeny tiny icons means that all text becomes deselected.

The annoyance is added to when the touch accuracy in Word feels inconsistent – 95% of the time it works perfectly, but sometimes times you swear, you SWEAR(!), that you’re touching the right area but nothing happens (RAAAAGE). It sounds like a small thing but when that happens a couple of times in succession, it can really throw off your workflow.

But iPad…I still love you.

Looking at the above, it’d be easy to assume that I’ve had a nightmare using the iPad Pro for the last year since it looks like all I have are complaints. I’ve tried my best to be as comprehensive as possible when describing any issues I’ve experienced so that anyone reading this can be informed but the truth is, I’ve not once regretted purchasing the iPad.

It’s a great way to show off your work and just feels like a more fluid, natural means of presenting yourself then it would be with a full-on laptop

It’s been an invaluable tool for me for a number of reasons. For example, I love the fact that it’s always ready to go – unlike a traditional laptop there’s no boot up time, as soon as I’m ready to work then so is the iPad. All I have to do is hit the home button and it lights straight up without any loading or anything which brings an incredible sense of fluidity to my work.

Another great use I’ve found for this ‘always-on’ feature as I’m getting the website up and running is being able to do quick-fire iPad presentations for people I want to work with. Like when I’ve shown my website to potential collaborators who are say, shop owners, it’s been really cool to just be able to lean against the counter with the iPad and walk them through the concept, website and design.

It’s a great way to show off your work and just feels like a more fluid, natural means of presenting yourself then it would be with a full-on laptop.

It’s also lightning fast, never once stuttering or slowing down regardless of the work I perform on it – something which has remained the same from the day I bought it in January 2017 until now. Apps and tools like Word boot up in seconds meaning that you’re never left waiting around for something to happen.

It’s also a brilliant tool to use for quick and easy design-work thanks to third-party apps. As someone who’s yet to delve into the world of professional design software from the likes of Adobe, I’ve loved being able to use apps like these (link to article on design apps) to create great-looking graphics in minutes.

Pretty much every image and graphic you can see on Inkbike has been made solely using the iPad and it’s been so awesome having a tool that allows me to just pump those out in a heartbeat without needing to be an expert in design software.

Accessories header

I know it seems weird to follow on from the above with an entire section dedicated to accessories; but I think that for someone to make full, productive use of the iPad Pro, a couple of accessories are unfortunately essential. Let’s start at the top.Keyboard headerRight, allow me to paint you a picture *clears throat all official-like*…

So you’ve dropped several hundreds of pounds for an iPad, like enough hundreds that could have instead paid for a whole week’s holiday in some paradise-looking hotel in a Croatian national park in sunny August, flights and all (in case it wasn’t obvious, at the time of writing this I’m also planning my summer break).

But instead you have opted to spend your money on a big-ass iPad and having dropped that amount coinage, naturally you’re going to want to buy a case to protect it from everyday wear and tear.

If I was to give you just one single critical piece of advice that you would listen to, it’s this: do yourself and your sweet, yet-to-be-damaged spine a favour and don’t shell out for one of those fancy ones with a keyboard built in. I know, I know – they really do look like a good idea (THINK OF ALL THAT SPACE YOU’LL SAVE IN YOUR MOBILE-OFFICE ACTING BAG WITH A KEYBOARD BUILT IN TO YOUR CASE, OH SWEET WONDERS OF ENGINEERING).

Trust me, all it takes is 10 minutes sat at a desk, crumpled over your iPad,  Keyboard combo for your spine to start singing.

Screenshot 2018-03-14 13.08.09

I’m looking STRAIGHT at you Logitech (though your other products are still awesome)

What ARE you talking about mate? It’s the same as working on a laptop, I do that all day and I’m fine.

Yep, totally see where you’re coming from. I mean the 12.9” iPad Pro is even roughly the same size as a lot of laptops so that would absolutely make sense.

EXCEPT that laptop screens tilt baby. Tilt. For. Days.

Because of that, you can do this magical thing where you adjust the way you’re sitting. Want to sit upright more? Not a problem, just tilt that screen back. Want to sink into the recesses of your chair? That’s A-OK buddy, you just tilt that screen down. See where I’m getting at?

Want to readjust your sitting position with the iPad Pro? Not going to happen (or if it does, it’ll tilt to one of like 3-set positions which aren’t great either), and that noise just beyond the immediate crumbling noise of your own spine giving in like an old abbey? That’s Tim Cook laughing at you while you try.

Anyway sorry, I went off on a tangent there…

My point is, don’t buy a keyboard case combo and instead just opt for a case and a separate Bluetooth keyboard (any Bluetooth keyboard will work with an iPad, it doesn’t have to be an Apple one). This means that you can still have the keyboard at your fingertips but you can move the screen to wherever is most comfortable for you at your desk. For me, it’s resting happily on a stack of books at the end of the table at eye-level – something my spine is super happy about.

If you’re worried about the impact this will have on the portability of the device, I completely understand but you can get some really tiny little keyboards to carry around, some even fold up to take even less space. Plus, chances are, if you’re carrying a bag big enough to a fit a “12.3 screen, you’ve got room for a teeny, little keyboard.

I personally got this one, which is on the slightly pricier end of the spectrum at £32.50. Partly because of its size so it could fit snugly in my backpack but also not take up too much room on my teeny, tiny desk. It also has the fun little perk of being able to connect to up-to three devices at the same time, which you can switch between. I have a little desk stand for my phone, and it’s pretty cool to see I’ve got a message, press a button and just be able to type a reply straight from the keyboard.

There are absolutely cheaper options though depending on what you’re after, if you want to stick with the Apple aesthetic there’s this one for like £11.

If you want something to take up less space than the others then there are a couple of foldable keyboards with good reviews too, liiiiiiike this one.

Apple Pencil

I would argue that another one of the main reasons for someone to buy an iPad Pro is for what it allows you to achieve creatively.

What was, and remains biggest draws for me when buying the iPad Pro was that it was something I could use as a Word Processor for all of my work, while also being an awesome tool for graphic design and digital artwork. Because of this, the Apple Pencil was absolutely essential for me to make sense of this purchase. I know that because I had to wait a couple of days after my iPad arrived before I bought the Apple Pencil and honestly, in that time, I wasn’t really sure what to do with the iPad.

Like it was cool to be able to watch Netflix on such a big screen and everything. My experience almost certainly would have been different if I’d had a specific project on at the time but….yeah, for the first few days before I got the Apple Pencil it was kind of like owning just a giant phone.

Screenshot 2018-03-10 21.13.49

BUT OH BOY AFTER THE FIRST FEW DAYS, the iPad was awesome. Apps like Procreate and Autodesk Sketchbook with the iPad Pro + Pencil combo are an honest delight to use. Just having that many colours, brushes and tools at your disposal make creating art an absolute joy.

I remember when I first got the iPad, I was playing the remastered Bioshock game series (self-professed geek right here) and had a wicked time painting my own posters in the same theme;

IMG_0145

An example of my digital artwork completed using the iPad Pro + Procreate

The Pencil itself works perfectly, it never feels like you’re having to overcome its limitations as a piece of tech to carry out work, it just enables you to put whatever is in your mind’s eye to digital paper.

The iPad’s capacity for digital artwork is also one of the biggest crowd pleasers I’ve found when I’ve been drawing on it out and about – friends and family love painting with it when they come over and I’ve even had strangers come up to me in cafés asking me all about painting with the thing.

It really is just incredible fun to use regardless of your skill level, so it’s something I wouldn’t hesitate to anyone who owns the iPad Pro. The only thing you have to consider is whether or not you’re willing to part with £100 for the pleasure but again, I’ve never once regretted the decision to buy it.

Another huge benefit of the iPad Pro as a graphics tablet is actually its price compared to competitors. Yep, you read that right – an Apple product offering value for money compared to competitors.

Doing a little bit of research around the area of graphics tablets lets me know that the two biggest players in the market seem to be Wacom and Huion (with Wacom tending to be slightly more popular).

If graphic design is something you’re looking to get into (something incredibly empowering when it comes to starting your own something as it means you can create your own branding and graphics), you have two options really when it comes to these tablets;

File 05-02-2018, 20 46 01

A touchpad-style one where the lines you sketch appear on your computer rather than on the tablet itself.
Starting price: £49.99 (at time of writing)
Requirements: Computer & Software

File 05-02-2018, 20 46 12

One with a full-HD interactive screen where you can see what you’re drawing/painting on the tablet in real-time.
Starting price for known brand: £699
Requirements: Computer & Software


Then you have the iPad Pro waltzing in and providing you with a uncharacteristically fair price for Apple, as a third option;

3

One iPad Pro with HD touchscreen where you see what you’re drawing/painting in real time AND a solid word processor AND a video player AND whatever else the App store makes out of it.
Starting price (2017 10.5-inch model): £619
Requirements: Apple Pencil (which admittedly is still the most expensive pencil you will ever buy) & Software -No need for a computer.


I’m not saying it’s cheap or anything close to an accessible, entry-level price for people looking to dabble in graphic design – but if you are fortunate enough to have the means and can justify the price, the iPad Pro actually offers pretty decent value for money.Conclusion header

Yes.

Yeah no like I said before, this is a purchase I never regretted making. But it is a tricky decision in the first place, you could absolutely afford to buy a decent mid-range laptop for the same or less. So the question is, if your considering one, what extra features does the iPad Pro offer for your money?

You get a gateway into the world of graphic design and digital art, a decent word processor, a means of delivering beautiful presentations mobily and a computer system which is ready to work as soon as you are.

For a project-driven someone, I definitely think that the iPad can really open up a lot of avenues for someone to follow in a way that makes them fantastically accessible. Before I had the iPad Pro, I had never considered the possibility that I would get into design, be presenting to collaborators on-the-go or be a digital artist. Now I’ve designed a whole website, successfully worked with a handful of entrepreneurs that I’ve presented to and…well ok, no I’m definitely not an artiste but I know a lot more about constructing a digital painting than I ever would have without buying the iPad Pro.

Developing these skills haven’t just been useful in my personal projects, but have helped me develop skills that have helped me career development too.

Ultimately, the benefits you’ll see from having the iPad depend entirely on your usage, but if you’re willing to look into, I can absolutely guarantee that you’ll be rewarded. While this doesn’t take the sting out of the incredibly steep price-tag, if you’re fortunate enough to be in a financial position to be able to consider buying one, I wholeheartedly recommend you do.


How much do you feel you have a need for a big-ass iPad? Is the merging tablet/laptop something you see potential in? You KNOW I want to hear your thoughts, let’s have a chat!

Email: kaeyo@inkbike.com
Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike

Fin.