With Apple Pencil hover, you can quickly preview and switch between different tools and controls in supported apps.
Spotlight on: Apple Pencil hover
The illustration app kicked off in 2011 with touch-based controls — “just five fingers of input,” says CEO James Cuda — and won a rare pair of Apple Design Awards over the next decade for their innovative approaches to digital drawing, sketching, and painting. And with the introduction of Apple Pencil hover, the Procreate team is investing even more heavily in the stylus. Now, Apple Pencil hover is bringing tool and previewing shortcuts into an entirely new dimension. Apple Pencil hover activates when the nib is up to 12 mm above the display on iPad Pro with the M2 chip.
Developers can customize what the feature does within their app, including offering tool variations, menu selection, and even previewing lines themselves — so artists can draw, sketch, and color with even greater control. “It makes everything feel so playful,” says Claire d’Este, Procreate’s chief product officer.
With so many possibilities open to them, the Procreate team had to approach each idea with care and scrutiny to ensure they were aiding and improving design and creation workflows rather than hindering them. After a few weeks of back and forth, the team landed on a solution: customizable cursors that change with different brushes.
A second target was the app’s ColorDrop feature, which instantly fills a section of your artwork when you drag and drop a color on it, paint-by-numbers style. Using Apple Pencil hover, people can preview of what the artwork will look like before committing to a color, speeding up the process dramatically. Procreate’s interface has long championed minimalistic tool windows and intuitive gestures like tap-to-undo to keep the canvas clear for the work. But they hit a proverbial artistic wall when trying to build UI for repetitive interactions like adjusting brush size or opacity.
Iterations came and went; the pair tried variations on pinching and zooming and tapping and holding, but nothing felt properly connected to the rest of the Procreate experience. “We ditched it all,” says Bottomley, “and went with that very conventional set of sliders you see on the left hand side of the screen.” But whenever the team thought about features they really liked about the app, the sliders were conspicuously absent — until Apple Pencil hover. “The idea was you would use two fingers to pinch and zoom while you’ve got hover up, so you could clearly see where your brush is and how it changes in size before you mark the screen.
The gesture worked brilliantly when iPad was sitting on a table or against a stand — a common-enough use case — but anyone using the tablet on a couch had a different experience.
Use Apple Pencil with your iPad
With iPadOS, move the tool palette around the screen or minimize it so you have more space to draw and sketch. Use the ruler tool to create straight lines, then rotate them with your fingers. Choose from several drawing tools and colors, and switch to the eraser if you make a mistake. When you draw, you can tilt your Apple Pencil to shade a line.
Apple Pencil Hover: Everything You Need to Know
Of course, the 2nd gen Apple Pencil still has this functionality, but the addition of the hover feature has created a whole new dimension of interaction. In essence, the hover function allows artists, notetakers, and designers to preview their actions before they commit to them, thereby saving them valuable time. Apple Pencil hover works intuitively with the user to streamline important decisions. We’ve put together a few examples of the sorts of things that the hover feature can help you accomplish in one of the most popular creative apps, Procreate.
A few notable apps have really run with the new Apple Pencil hover feature, including Astropad Studio. Astropad Studio allows you to access full-scale apps (such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign) from the comfort of your iPad.
If you have an older iPad model, you can still mimic hover functionality in Astropad Studio with Magic Gestures. One of the preset shortcuts is Hover, which can be activated by pressing two fingers on your screen while using Apple Pencil.
True to Apple’s insistence on creating ergonomic, user-centric products, there are no unsightly buttons or complicated steps to follow. The Apple design team has worked hard to create a stylus that communicates with your iPad without ever touching it.
The nib of your Apple Pencil sends signals to your iPad, thereby creating a wireless connection. We recommend the Apple Pencil hover feature to graphic designers, illustrators, game developers, students who want to take notes, and budding creatives.
Just charge your 2nd gen Apple Pencil, open your favorite creative app, and start experimenting with the hover function.
Apple discusses iPadOS 16.4’s new Pencil hover features
While digital drawing is more forgiving in terms of correcting errors than its real-world counterpart, stopping and starting is still an extremely frustrating dimension that can ultimately hamper the creative process. Savage Interactive, which makes the graphics editing and digital painting iPadOS app Procreate, seemed especially bullish at the time of the product’s release.
“If you look at Procreate, they have the pencil brush, which is small and thin when you’re perpendicular to the display, and then gets wider as you Tilt for shading,” says Ikemoto. “With Tilt and Azimuth, Procreate can render an exact outline of the mark that you’re going to make when you set down your pencil brush, and that’s a huge accelerator for their users.”
The company got into the tablet stylus game around 7.5 years ago, announcing the first Pencil alongside the original iPad Pro. The Pencil 2, meanwhile, arrived alongside the third-gen Pro three years later, bringing wireless magnetic charging to the table.
“We wanted hover to be as easy to adapt as possible, so we used the existing APIs that we used for the Magic Keyboard Trackpad,” Ikemoto adds. For developers who have already adopted UI pointer interaction in their app, they get Apple Pencil hover for free without doing any work.
For Pencil, that means making sure there are some amateur artists on the team, actually using new additions to the line before rolling them out more widely to developers and users.
The freshly arrived iPadOS 16.4 also brings Safari web app push notifications for the home screen, 21 new emojis and assorted bug fixes.
iPadOS 16.4 adds an Apple Pencil hover upgrade — but there’s a catch
iOS 16.4 has just launched for recent iPhones, but you should pay attention to iPadOS 16.4’s arrival too as Apple Pencil hover has also got a new ability with the OS update. To be precise, the iPadOS 16.4 update now adds tilt and azimuth support to the Apple Pencil hover feature, which in simple terms means the iPad can now track the vertical and horizontal angles at which you’re holding the Apple Pencil, and adjust the preview on-screen as a result.
Apple Pencil Executives Discuss New Hover Features in iPadOS 16.4
The updated hover feature is designed to allow artists to view a mark at any angle before it’s actually made, making the iPad more useful than ever for drawing. With Tilt and Azimuth, Procreate can render an exact outline of the mark that you’re going to make when you set down your pencil brush, and that’s a huge accelerator for their users. The new hover functionality works in native Apple features like Markup, as well as in third-party apps like Procreate.
How to use Apple Pencil’s new Hover Mode with M2 iPad Pro
Pick up Apple Pencil, hold it over your iPad Pro, and you’re in Hover Mode. Plus what Hover Mode is ultimately most useful for is going to depend on third-party app developers and how — or whether — they adopt its features. The M2 iPad Pro detects both the proximity of the Apple Pencil, its attitude, and its angle of approach to the screen. Currently, Hover Mode works specifically with the second generation Apple Pencil and the M2 iPad Pro.
Confusingly, there is a similar feature on the M1 iPad Pro, where an Apple Pencil can be detected before it touches the screen.