Introducing PencilKit 

Session 221 WWDC 2019

Meet PencilKit, Apple’s feature-rich drawing and annotation framework. With just a few lines of code, you can add a full drawing experience to your app — with access to a canvas, responsive inks, rich tool palette and drawing model. Hear the technical details that make a great Apple Pencil experience. Learn about the new screenshot editor and how you can adopt just a few small APIs to enable your full content to be captured beyond the size of the screen, with or without your app’s user interface.

[ Music ]

[ Applause ]

Good afternoon.

Welcome to Introducing PencilKit.

I’m Will Thimbleby, and I want to talk about this fantastic little device.

This is the Apple Pencil and it can truly transform your user’s experience on iPad.

In fact, it’s the most unique aspect of iPad.

From preschoolers to Isaac Newton, from your To-Do list to fine art, the Pencil is often where it starts.

It’s available on the fantastic iPad Pros and across our entire lineup of iPads, from the smallest Mini to the largest Pro.

It’s fantastic for photo retouching, annotating, doodling, in fact, anything you want to do that requires precision.

In iOS 13, we’ve made great strides in latency, we’ve added a fantastic new tool palette.

We’re introducing PencilKit to enable you to add Pencil to your apps that much easier.

And we’re also introducing Markup Everywhere to allow users to annotate and markup your app’s content even if your app doesn’t do anything with Pencil.

We’re going to talk about great Pencil experiences, how PencilKit can help you make a great Pencil experience.

And finally, with Markup Everywhere, how you can provide the content to users so that they can mark it up.

What makes a great Pencil experience?

Well, a great Pencil experience is one that fully uses everything the Apple Pencil has to offer.

And that means fully using the precision the Apple Pencil has to offer.

It lets you touch a pixel and it gives you that information at 240 times a second.

It’s uniquely expressive, giving you force, azimuth, and altitude, allowing you to create real expressive marks on your app that bring your apps to life.

And finally, the second-generation Apple Pencil has Pencil taps, that allow the user to change modes in your app without ever putting the Pencil down.

There are now three different types of Pencil.

The first-generation Apple Pencil, the second-generation, and the Logitech Crayon.

These all have slightly different capabilities.

They all have that same great precision.

They all have the same azimuth and altitude that allow you to create your expressive marks.

The first-generation Pencil adds force to that.

And the second-generation Pencil adds tap gestures.

I’m going to talk about a few of the more complicated aspects of supporting Apple Pencil well.

But if you’re just starting and you’re wanting to build a custom drawing experience, I especially recommend ”Leveraging Touch Input on iOS” in WWDC 2016.

Understanding how a Pencil works is key to understanding what it does.

And so, I’m going to take you a little bit behind the scenes and tell you how the Pencil functions.

The Pencil creates a uniquely precise touch location on the screen and gives you that 240 hits.

As you know, it gives you azimuth, which is the angle around the perpendicular of the iPad.

And it gives you altitude or tilt, which is the steepness at which you’re holding the Pencil.

What you may not know is how it does this.

The Pencil generates a second hit and touchpoint on the surface of the iPad.

And using trigonometry, it uses that to calculate azimuth and altitude.

Finally, the Pencil has an axial force sensor that detects the pressure and it sends that data over Bluetooth.

There are a few consequences of this.

The first is azimuth and altitude may be estimated when that second touchpoint is obscured, perhaps by a finger or the edge of the screen.

Azimuth is emphasized when the Pencil is nearly perpendicular to the iPad.

And finally, the force data which comes via a different mechanism is delayed from the touch location data.

Handling these more complicated aspects of the Pencil is key to building a great Pencil experience.

As I draw in from the edge of the screen, I’m getting estimated azimuth and altitude.

As I continue to draw into the screen, as a second touchpoint comes onto the surface of the screen, you get the correct values.

Now, instead of leaving it looking something like this, you should be back-filling those correct values to correct the estimated ones.

Second, as you draw, there’s a region behind the Pencil that is using estimated force.

You should be continuously listening to force updates so you can be drawing the correct values.

This remains true even after the Pencil is lifted off the surface of the iPad.

There’s a region of the stroke that’s still waiting for those final force values.

You need to keep listening to them even after touch has ended.

Now, one aspect of this is that it means that the user can start drawing the next stroke before the last stroke has got all the final values.

I would recommend using a serial queue to only be handling one stroke at a time.

The time is short enough that the user is not going to notice.

But you want to handle the data correctly.

Another part of handling Pencil well is latency.

With physical pencils, the pencil is intrinsically tied to the line that’s being drawn.

On a digital device, there’s often a gap between where the implement is and where the line on screen is.

Keeping this as small as possible is critical to maintaining that feeling of drawing on paper.

We care so much about latency at Apple, that we have robots testing it continuously.

This is a high-speed capture from one of our tests.

It’s at 800 frames per second and you can see just how small the distance between the pencil and the line is.

Let me show you that in real time.

Did you get it?

I’ll show it to you again.

So, a few tips for providing the best latency.

First, you need to be rendering in Metal.

You only have a few milliseconds each frame and you need to be doing so consistently frame after frame to provide good latency.

In iOS 13, we’ve made great strides improving prediction.

You should be using predicted touches to reduce your latency even further.

Finally, if you’re building a drawing app, for absolute best latency you should avoid things like transparent Metal layers.

And you should be avoiding things like UI effects views with blurs and overlays on top of your Metal layers.

And one aspect of this that gets overlooked sometimes is the default navigation bar and, in fact, the home affordance can add extra cost to the rendering.

The final part of supporting the Pencil is the Pencil Tap gesture.

And this is a great way to let the user switch modes without having to put the Pencil down.

To do so, you should use UIPencilInteraction, set yourself as the delegate, and when the user taps, you’ll get called back.

When you do so, you should be respecting the user’s preferred tap action.

And this is something the user will have chosen in Settings.

If you can, you should be respecting this.

If it doesn’t make sense for your app, Pencil Tap should be used for nondestructive mode switching.

So, up until today, building a great Pencil experience was a lot of work.

We provide some great APIs and fantastic hardware and you have created some of the best drawing experiences in the world.

I’ve highlighted a few of the more complicated aspects of supporting Apple Pencil well.

And if you haven’t already, consider these as polish.

But for those of you who are just getting started, we’d love to make your lives a whole lot easier today.

So, I’m very happy to introduce PencilKit.

[ Applause ]

PencilKit is the framework that we use across our entire operating system.

We use it in Notes for providing low latency drawing and notetaking.

We use it in Pages for marking up documents.

And we use it in Markup Everywhere for annotating screenshots and PDFs of your app’s content.

We gave it to a few developers and Pinterest and Canvas added features to their apps in just such little time.

You can add it to your app in just three lines of code.

Here, we create a canvas, add it to your view hierarchy, and choose an ink.

And with that, you get the same industry-leading, low latency that we have across our operating system.

The same great expressive inks that we’ve spent hours perfecting.

And the same fantastic UI and tool palette.

With a few more lines of code, you can create something a little bit more comprehensive like our sample app.

I’d love to show that to you, now.

So, here we have our sample app.

It’s a little, little drawing app.

It’s got a few thumbnails of things I’ve been working on earlier.

And to give you an idea of the breadth of what PencilKit can do, I’ll just show you some of these.

Here’re some notes that have been taken and we can scroll through these beautiful notes.

And here’s a beautiful flower my friend Andy drew.

This gives me an opportunity to also show how PencilKit reacts to Dark Mode.

If I bring down Control Center, I can switch into Dark, and the flower that looked great in Light looks just as stunning in Dark Mode.

As I come out, the thumbnails are rerendered and you can see that the notes are just a legible.

But luckily for me, I get to do what every engineer dreams of and that is drawing on stage.

So, I’m going to switch back to Light Mode and I’m going to continue drawing a logo I was drawing earlier.

At the bottom here, you can see our great new tool palette UI.

And with a single finger, I can drag it around the screen to where it’s comfortable.

For now, I’m going to leave it at the bottom of the screen.

To finish this, I’m going to use the Ruler and marker to add some color.

So, I can tap the Ruler to bring the Ruler in.

And with two fingers, I can position the Ruler.

I can draw a straight line along the Ruler but I can also use the Ruler to mask.

So, I’ll do that.

Let me add some more color.

I’ll tap the Ruler to dismiss it.

And I’ll add some color in at the bottom.

Now, one of the most exciting things PencilKit is doing, is it’s starting to bring together the worlds of bitmap and vector, object and pixel.

And one of the areas you see there is the Eraser.

So, I’m going to use the double-tap gesture on the Apple Pencil to change the Eraser.

Just like that, I’ve switched modes.

And this is the Pixel Eraser which lets me draw around and cut out parts of this logo.

Now, if I tap the Eraser, I switch to the Object Eraser.

And using Object Eraser, I can draw around this and I can just delete the bits that I’ve cut out.

Just like that, I’ve used vector and bitmap operations to create a drawing.

Let me show you that again.

I’ll tap. I’ll get the Pixel Eraser.

I’ll take a cutout.

And this time, I’ll use the Lasso Tool, which is next to the Eraser.

I can move that where I want, or I can tap on it and delete it.

Now, that I’ve created my work of art, I really ought to sign this.

Luckily, our sample app has a signature feature.

And up here in the top right, I’m going to tap Signature and you’ll notice as I do so, the tool palette goes away and we have a custom picker up here which lets me take just a black or blue ink.

For now, I’m going to stick with black.

I’m going to add my signature.

Now that I’ve done that, I’m going to tap to sign my drawing.


I think that’s a great place to leave it.

I think I could frame that.

That’s cool.

[ Applause ]

So let’s talk about the architecture of PencilKit.

The main thing you’ll be using is the PKCanvasView.

This provides the drawable region for your app.

PKDrawing is the data model.

It captures all those beautiful strokes.

PKToolPicker provides the UI that floats around the screen.

And PKTools are the tools that provide those inks and interactions that happen on your canvas.

PKCanvasView is a UI scroll view that lets you pan and zoom.

It lets you choose how the user what the user’s interaction does to it by setting the tool.

And it allows you to get the data model from it and set the data model on it using the drawing property.

PKDrawing is the data model of PencilKit.

And this is the one piece of PencilKit that is available on macOS.

It has a data format and it allows you to load and store drawings to data.

You can use these drawings to generate images for sharing or thumbnails.

Let’s take a look at how the sample app generates thumbnails.

Because all of these values have value types, we can safely do this work on a background queue.

Because we want to generate those thumbnails in Light or Dark Mode depending on where the app is, we can use UITraitCollections performAsCurrent.

We use the drawing to generate that image.

And then, finally, we can set that image back on the main thread.

So, now I’d love to hand over to Jenny who’ll talk more about the fantastic tools and Tool Picker and the great things that PencilKit can do.

[ Applause ]

Thanks, Will.

Hi. I’m Jenny and I’m going to let’s continue our tour through PencilKit by walking through some of the great tools that PencilKit offers you.

These tools are located in a brand-new Tool Picker.

It’s dynamic.

It floats above everything.

I can drag it from edge to edge or even dock it to the bottom to really let it get out of my way.

As Will mentioned, these tools are PKTool types.

And for the marking tools, they’re PKInkingTool types.

You can specify one of the three types, either pen, marker, or pencil.

Each of these tools are super dynamic and expressive.

And you can see how within even a single stroke, the width and opacity change based on different Pencil properties like force, azimuth, altitude, or velocity.

You can set this tool on the canvasView to set what ink is set on the canvas.

If you set the canvasView as an observer of the Tool Picker, underneath the hood will set the ink on the canvasView for you.

However, if you have the signature pane and you don’t want the Tool Picker, you’ll set this in your application yourself.

For the PKInkingTool, you’ll specify either the type, pen, marker, pencil, the color, or the width.

For the width value, each of ink type has a default width.

However, as we saw before, this width isn’t a fixed value and it changes based on different pencil properties.

And so, rather this width represents a base value based on an average pencil user pencil characteristic.

You can also query the valid width range for each of those ink types.

You can see this here as I use the pencil tool.

As I hold the pencil more vertically, the pencil stroke is thinner.

But as I hold it more horizontally, the stroke is actually thicker.

As I change the thickness in the Tool Picker, the thickness scales accordingly.

We also have a PKEraser tool in which you can specify either a vector or bitmap, where vector corresponds to objects and bitmap corresponds to pixel.

We’ve actually worked really hard to unify the two worlds of vector and bitmap together, where vector is object and bitmap is pixel.

Instead of just erasing the pixels on the screen, we also sliced through those strokes so that you can separate them out or object erase them later.

We also have for selection, the PKLasso Tool.

With the Lasso Tool, any strokes that you intersect will be selected and then, you can drag them around, cut, copy, paste it, or even drag and drop them to different applications.

New to iOS 13, we also have a great Ruler Tool.

And it’s important to note that the Ruler is not a tool PKTool.

But rather, it’s a property that you toggle on the canvas to show or hide the Ruler.

You can either draw against it to snap your lines to draw straight lines, or you can mask against it like Will did with the apple in here with the water and the grass.

Now, that we’ve gone through some of the amazing tools, let’s look at the PKToolPicker and how we can get it on the screen.

An important thing to note with the Tool Picker is that it’s not a view.

Rather, it’s an object that shows or hides the view and it’s separate from the Canvas View.

It’s also important to note that it floats above everything and it’s very similar to the keyboard in that its visibility is based off of first responders.

So, let’s walk through some code and see how we can do that.

First, we’ll ask for the shared Tool Picker for the window.

We’ll add the Canvas View as an observer.

And by doing so, whenever you change the tool in the Tool Picker, you’ll also change the tool on the Canvas View.

The Tool Picker also has a list of responders.

If your object becomes first responder and it’s in this lest by setting visible to true, the palette will show up.

If setVisible is false, it’ll remove it from that list and then the palette will hide.

And so, when the Canvas View becomes first responder, we want the palette to show.

So, we’ll set visible to true.

Finally, we’ll make the Canvas View becomeFirstResponder so the palette will show up.

You can see this in our sample app.

Once we set the Canvas View to becomeFirstResponder, the palette will be visible.

However, in our sample app, we also have a case with at signature pane where we only want to offer you blue or black ink.

And we don’t want the palette to be shown.

And so, in order to handle that, we actually make the canvas the signature’s Canvas View becomeFirstResponder, which will then make the Tool Picker go away.

When you dismiss that Signature View Controller, underneath the hood you’ll automatically resign first responder which will then cause the tool palette to show up again.

One of the other things you’ll want to keep in mind with this responder-based visibility is that you may already have objects in your application that take first responder.

Like, for example, for edit and the new controllers.

And you’ll basically want the palette to show even when your Edit menu is up.

To do this, you’ll simply set visible to true for your object so that the palette stays visible.

Another thing you’ll want to consider with the Tool Picker is regular versus compact size classes.

You’ll notice in the regular size class that it floats above everything, you can move it around.

However, in the compact size class, it’s actually fixed and docked to the bottom.

And so, what does that mean in your application?

Well, let’s say you have a full-size app.

The photo spans mostly edge to edge.

And maybe it’s obscuring some of the photo in the regular size class.

But you can just move the Tool Picker out of the way, so it’s fine.

However, in the compact size class, it actually obscures kind of the most interesting part of this photo.

And so, what you’ll need to do in the compact size class is to make sure to adjust your view’s frame or your scroll view insets to account for the obscured frame from the Tool Picker.

You can do this by just listening for the Tool Picker’s frame changes with the Observer method toolPickerFramesObscured DidChange.

You’ll get this whenever you move from floating to docked.

At that point, you can adjust your content accordingly by asking for the frame obscured in your view.

Another thing you’ll want to consider with the Tool Picker are your undo and redo buttons.

You’ll notice how in the regular size class that undo/redo buttons are actually baked inside of the palette and provided for you.

However, in the compact size class, they’re not in the palette at all.

So, you’ll need to make sure in the compact size classes that you show your own undo and redo buttons.

Now that we’ve walked through how you can get a basic Canvas View and Tool Picker on the screen, let’s walk through some more of the advanced behaviors that you can have in PencilKit, starting with some of the Canvas View delegates.

You might want to update your app based on what the user is drawing.

You can do so by listening to the pencil or touch down, in which case you’ll get a canvasViewDidBeginUsingTool callback.

On pencil or touch up, you’ll get a canvasViewDidEndUsingTool callback.

However, at this point, your drawing is not yet fully updated because as Will mentioned, it’s not until those final force values come in, that you get a final canvasViewDrawingDidChange.

Only at this point, you’re guaranteed to have a final finished drawing.

And so, at this point, you can query the drawing from the canvas and update your model objects, generate thumbnails, or save if necessary.

You might also want to load a drawing into your Canvas View.

You can do so by calling set drawing.

At that point, we’ll start loading in the tiles.

However, it’s not until those tiles are done loading that you’ll get a canvasViewDidFinishRendering callback.

You’ll also get this callback after scrolling or zooming.

Speaking of scrolling, we not only have let you draw with your Pencil, but we also let you draw with your finger.

And since PKCanvasView is a scroll view, that means that one finger actually lets you draw.

And two fingers scroll.

This is toggled via the allowsFingerDrawing property on the Canvas View.

When this is set to true, one finger and pencil draw while two fingers scroll.

Now, this is the default behavior on the Canvas View.

And if this is not what you want, you can actually set this property to false.

In which case, only Pencil will draw and one finger will scroll.

However, you should keep in mind contexts like iPhone where Pencil is not available.

If you have some more complex interactions in your app, we’ve also exposed the drawingGestureRecognizer for you.

With that, you can set up gesture recognizer exclusions or failure requirements.

There’s a great talk from WWDC 2017 for ”Modern User Interaction on iOS”.

As Will mentioned, we also use PencilKit across all create parts including screenshots and markup.

And in these contexts, you can draw over contents.

You can easily achieve this in your app as well, by setting the opaque flag to false and setting the background color to clear.

In iOS 13, we also introduce Dark Mode which is a fantastic way to see your content in a completely different way.

Your PencilKit canvases also still look amazing as the colors dynamically adjust to maintain legibility.

You can see how I originally wrote this note with black ink over a white background.

But in Dark Mode, it changes to mostly white ink over a black background.

Not only do my notes still maintain legibility, but they also still look fantastic.

By default, your canvases will also dynamically adjust their colors if they’re in Dark Mode.

However, if this is not what you want, you can set the overrideUserInterfaceStyle to always be light.

You’ll especially want to do this if your content that you’re marking up doesn’t change, like if you’re marking up over an image or a PDF.

Now that we’ve walked through PencilKit and shown you how you can make an amazing drawing experience in your application, let’s look at Markup Everywhere, a new feature which allows your application to pass any content to be marked up.

This has surfaced through a new API on Screenshots, where we let you provide full content that whenever you take a screenshot over your app.

You can see this adopted in Safari.

Here, I have

I’m going to take a screenshot by using the new pencil gesture by pulling in from the corner.

And so, I have the screenshot I know and love but I can’t see the rest of the page.

So, I’ll tap that full-page segment at the top and now I have the full scrolling webpage for me to markup and share.

[ Applause ]


[ Applause ]

You can also see this implemented in our sample app.

Again, with the new Screenshot gesture, I’ll tap that full-page segment and now I have the whole note for me to send off.

You can also see this in interesting use cases like maps.

Again, using the new Screenshot gesture, I’m going to take a screenshot.

But you can see my screenshot is kind of covered up by the chrome.

When I tap the full-page segment at the top, I’ll be able to see my map without any of the chrome in the way.

I can see the roads and restaurants underneath.

You can easily adopt this in your application with only a few lines of code.

You’ll start by setting yourself as the delegate of the UIScreenshotService on UIWindowScene.

UIWindowScene is a new API to UIKit this year.

And you can learn more by referencing the ”Introducing Multiple Windows on iPad” talk.

Once you’ve set yourself as the delegate, you’ll deliver as the full content, which is expressed as PDF data.

You might already have this information generated for actions like sharing or printing.

But in case you don’t, there’s a great talk from WWDC 2017 from ”Introducing PDFKit on iOS”.

So, once you have that PDF data, you’ll implement the delegate method screenshotService, generatePDFRepresentation WithCompletion.

You’ll pass that PDF data to us in the completion handler along with two other pieces of metadata.

Which will help us ensure that when you go from screen to full page, that we have a smooth seamless transition.

The first piece of metadata is the indexOfCurrentPage.

This is useful in cases like Keynote.

Let’s say I take a screenshot of slide seven.

When I switch to the full-page segment, it’ll automatically jump me to page seven.

The second piece of metadata is the rectInCurrentPage.

This is useful in cases like Safari.

Here, I have this long scrolling page.

And I’m going to scroll to the bottom because I’m really feeling excited about the new iPad Pro.

So, I’ll take a screenshot at the bottom there.

Now, when I tap the full-page segment at the top, instead of awkwardly jumping me to the top, it’ll actually take me to the same page same RECT that I took the screenshot in.

The one important thing to note about this RECT is that we expect it in PDF coordinates.

And so, what does this mean?

In View Coordinates the origin is actually the top left.

However, in PDF coordinates, it’s actually in the bottom left.

So, you’ll need to make sure to do the appropriate coordinate transformations and send us that RECT in the appropriate coordinates space.

And so, we’ve shown you how with existing Pencil APIs, you can build your own powerful custom drawing engine.

But it will require a little bit of elbow grease.

You’ll need to listen to estimated touches, delayed force, all while rendering quickly and asynchronously.

But now, with the new PencilKit APIs, we’ve made it super easy for you to integrate drawing into your application.

And you’ll get the same expressive low-latency experience that we have across all of iOS.

Finally, you can also adopt other great Pencil APIs in UIKit such as UIPencil interaction to handle double-taps on the new Apple Pencil.

Or the new UIScreenshotService API so that you can deliver full content to be marked up everywhere.

For more information, you can reference the URL at this session.

Now, go off and build some amazing great Pencil applications.

And we hope you have a great WWDC 2019.

[ Applause ]

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