The best iPad for drawing needs to be able to sate the needs, requirements, and demands of digital artists. While originally seen as more of a gimmicky device, the iPad has changed a lot since the first generation debuted in 2010. It evolved from its personal digital assistant (PDA) origins with the Apple-produced Newton MessagePad to truly become a “great computer in a book” that can do everything from video editing on Adobe Premiere to checking your emails, and of course, digital drawing.
iPads may not have a screen as sensitive or as big as dedicated high-end drawing tablets, but their high graphic fidelity retina displays, immense processing power, and program compatibility make them appealing for drawing. Add to this a whole bevy of tools and drawing apps alongside a wide list of advanced pressure-sensitive styli and electronic pens like the Apple Pen, and you turn iPads into the best option for creatives and digital illustrators who might want an all-in-one drawing device. But which ones are the best? Read on to find the best iPad for drawing that suits your needs!
Related: iPad Pro or iPad Air – Which Is Better?
Inside This Article
- Features that Make iPad Great for Drawing
- Which iPad Is Best for Drawing
- Where to Get the Best iPad for Drawing
- Where to Get a Cheaper iPad
- What Is the Best Drawing App for iPad
- Which Apple Pencil Is the Best for iPad
- What’s Next?
Features that Make iPad Great for Drawing
Before we begin with our list of the best iPad for drawing, we want to talk about a few features that make the iPad a great drawing companion. iPads have a few great features that make them suited as all-around solutions for digital illustrators who need something more than a drawing tablet. These features include its CPU, RAM, storage space, screen size, display resolution, battery life, and Apple Pencil support.
Because of their “computer-like” elements, iPads have powerful ARM-based systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) using proprietary system chips designed by Apple. These chips work as a combined CPU and GPU that handles everything on the iPad from basic computing to the graphic display.
While Apple’s earlier “Apple Silicon” chips like the A15 and A16 Bionics were good, the current M1 and soon-to-release M2 chips can blow most other ARM-based chips out of the water! This means that any iPad can handle almost anything you can throw at it, from maxing out your layers to complex video editing.
Related: Why Is My iPad So Slow?
Memory (RAM) and Storage
To go along with their beefy SoCs, all iPads also have a large amount of RAM and storage to make use of it. Because of cost differences, though, most iPad releases will have several options to choose from. As an example, the current gen (2021) iPad Pro 12.9” has five models to choose from, 8GB RAM with 128GB ROM, 8GB RAM with 256 ROM, 8GB RAM with 512GB ROM, 16GB RAM with 1 TB ROM, and a 16GB RAM with 2TB model. Just about any model will let you have a good amount of storage space with more than a decent provision of RAM since even the most power-hungry iPad apps won’t be able to use all of it.
Now for the screen size. iPads have a lot of variation regarding screen size, from a large 12.9 inches with the iPad Pro (2021) to a modest 8.3 inches with the iPad Mini (2021). Regardless of which model iPad you choose, though, you can be assured that the entire screen (except the frame) can be used as an active drawing area with touch capabilities to boot!
Related: How to Limit Screen Time on iPhone and iPad
Display and Resolution
Since we did mention the screen size, you should know that these iPad screens also have high graphic fidelity due to their construction. As Liquid Retina Displays (LRDs), iPad screens have a higher than average level of pixels per square in (PPI). This means that its display resolution, contrast ratio, pixel density, and refresh rate are superior to other tablets that only use normal LCDs and give out a crisp and clear image down to the pixel!
Since the best iPad for drawing is basically a small portable computer, you will probably need a heavy-duty battery to go along with it. Thankfully, iPads can offer a solid six to eight hours of continuous use with just one charge! Compared to dedicated drawing tablets that need a constant computer connection, the iPad’s battery lets you carry it anywhere and use it independently.
Apple Pencil Support
Finally, the last feature that makes the iPad great for drawing is its Apple Pencil support. There are two versions of the Apple Pencil, but both were made with artists and illustrators in mind. Both have all the basics these creatives will need with a stylus including pressure sensitivity, palm rejection, tilt sensitivity, pixel precision, and extremely low latency. With all those features, Apple Pencils are also compatible with most iPad drawing programs including Procreate, Adobe Illustrator Draw, and Autodesk Sketchbook.
Which iPad Is Best for Drawing
Now that we covered what makes them great, let us talk about what is the best iPad for drawing that suits you. There are four main iPad series lines to choose from, and each has different strengths and weaknesses. These four are the iPad Pro, the iPad Air, the iPad Mini, and the original iPad series. Apple releases new versions of these models almost every year with notable differences between them aside from the pricing.
To help you pick what iPad is best for drawing, we will lay out the specs and what we like about the latest of these series’ models. We will also talk about what we like about each model and what we think each is best for. Aside from that, we will also add a link to each model’s Amazon product page so you can see and compare their prices. Without further ado, here is our list of the best iPad for drawing digitally!
Also read: The Best iPad Stands for All Models
Storage: 1 TB
Screen Size: 12.9 inches
Weight: 685 g
Display Type and Resolution: Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED LCD 2048 x 2732 pixels
CPU: Apple M1
Apple Pencil Compatibility: 1st and 2nd Generation
First up is, of course, the iPad Pro — Apple’s “premium” tablet. There are several versions of this model but the one we chose was the 12.9-inch one with 16 GB RAM and 1 TB of ROM. Not only does the iPad Pro have a liquid retina display, but it uses Apple’s own “XDR” or Extreme Dynamic Range technology. This means that it has a higher than average contrast and brightness that gives the iPad Pro a uniquely sharp and crisp image when combined with ProMotion and True Tone display technology.
Aside from its graphical fidelity with 265 ppi, the iPad Pro also comes equipped with Apple’s M1 chip that uses this model’s 16GB of RAM to the fullest. This means that you have eight computing cores and another eight cores just for the graphics! Of course, with all the goodies the iPad Pro has, it has one severe downside — its price. But, if you need a heavy-duty drawing tablet that can last, the iPad Pro is more than a worthwhile investment.
Best Recommended for: All-around Illustration
Best For Intense Drawing Sessions
Storage: 256 GB
Screen Size: 10.9 inches
Weight: 462 g
Display Type and Resolution: Liquid Retina IPS LCD 1640 x 2360 pixels
CPU: Apple M1
Apple Pencil Compatibility: 1st and 2nd Generation
The iPad Air is what we consider the best iPad for drawing for those looking for a balance between features and pricing. This model sits at a comfortable place between the base iPad and the premium iPad Pro when it comes to its price point and advanced features. While it may not have the advanced XDR display, it still has a high 264 ppi with its 1640 x 2360 resolution screen, making it near-equal to the Pro version. It also comes equipped with Apple’s advanced M1 chip with a decent 8 GB of RAM to go with it so processing power is not a problem.
Its downside, though, is its screen size. While it may have high resolution, the screen is limited to just a 60 Hz refresh rate. It also goes without saying that it has a smaller screen compared to the iPad Pro at just 10.9 inches instead of the Pro’s 12.9 inches. That said, its great resolution, decent screen size, and powerful processor make the iPad Air a great, if not economical, drawing tablet.
Best Recommended for: Intense Drawing Sessions
Screen Size: 10.2 inches
Weight: 498 g
Display Type and Resolution: Retina IPS LCD 1620 x 2160 pixels
CPU: Apple A13 Bionic
Apple Pencil Compatibility: 1st Generation
Probably the weakest iPad on this list in terms of specs, the base iPad (2021) has two things going for it against the iPad Mini
— screen size and resolution. It has a decently sized 10.2-inch screen with a 1620 x 2160 resolution; sadly it is just a Retina IPS LCD screen. This type of screen does not have the “rounded” corners Liquid Retina displays have, nor the higher contrast and brightness.
Another problem with the base iPad is its CPU and RAM since it has a weaker Apple A13 Bionic chip with just 3 GB of memory installed. While relatively weaker than the M1, the A13 Bionic is still a hexacore CPU with a penta-core GPU that can handle most applications and programs. Overall, the best part about the base iPad is its price. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) far below the iPad Air or Pro, the base iPad model is great for artists who need to do some light work.
Best Recommended for: Light Illustration and Drawing
Screen Size: 8.3 inches
Weight: 297 g
Display Type and Resolution: Liquid Retina IPS LCD 1488 x 2266 pixels
CPU: Apple A15 Bionic
Apple Pencil Compatibility: 1st and 2nd Generation
The iPad Mini is the best option for artists who want a portable all-in-one drawing tablet without lugging around their computers. Equipped with the decently powerful hexacore CPU A15 Bionic, this chip clocks a few GHz higher than the A13 Bionic. It also has an additional 1 GB of RAM compared to the base iPad that’s why Mini really beats it tech-wise. Depending on how you intend to use it, iPad Mini’s small and portable size can be a downside and an advantage. At just 297 g, the Mini is almost half the weight of the base iPad. It also has a smaller screen at just 8.3 inches.
That said, the Liquid Retina IPS LCD screen is a lot more responsive than other iPads, which is great when you’re working outside or in the dark. Aside from that, it also has one big advantage over the base iPad model — it is compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil. Overall, those on the go, those who want to sketch on a trip, or someone that just needs a portable all-in-one drawing tablet should find the iPad Mini a great travel companion.
Best Recommended for: Artists on the Go
Where to Get the Best iPad for Drawing?
Just like knowing where to buy mobile accessories, where you buy your iPad is important too. Due to how popular Apple products are, they are some of the most faked items in the world. Fakes of devices like the AirPods Pro are harder to spot due to their “clones”, but iPads are different. Due to their complexity, fake iPads are easy to see at a glance. But what happens if you’re ordering online?
Because of problems like that, it is best to only buy from trusted retailers and sellers. These include brick-and-mortar stores like an actual Apple Center or approved Apple resellers like Walmart and Target. If your only option is to buy online, you can also buy your iPad directly from the Apple Online Store or through their Amazon store page.
Where to Get a Cheaper iPad?
We understand that iPads are expensive investments, especially for struggling artists or illustrators. Thankfully, you have a few options to get your hands on an iPad for far less than MSRP. These include the occasional discounted items on Amazon and refurbished iPads.
Amazon offers a great selection of discounted Apple devices like refurbished Apple Watches, iPhones, and even iPads through their Amazon Renewed store page. These items are second-hand items that are professionally inspected, cleaned, refurbished, and rigorously tested by Amazon for resale.
Amazon Renewed offers a good deal on most Apple products including the ones we presented in this article. They have good listings for the iPad Pro (5th Gen 2021) 12.9” 1TB version for just $1,600, the iPad (9th Gen 2021) 256 GB version for just $480, and for Mini (6th Gen 2021) 256 GB version for just $685. Sadly, Amazon Renewed does not yet offer a “renewed” version of the Apple iPad Air (5th Gen 2022).
What Is the Best Drawing App for iPad?
Since you are looking for the best iPad for drawing, you will need a good drawing app to go along with it. While we have a whole list of tools and drawing apps for Android and iOS alike, we will say that we like the Procreate app a lot. An award-winning iOS and Mac exclusive program, Procreate has a good pedigree behind it since it was used in movie posters for shows like Stranger Things and Blade Runner. Procreate has also been an industry-standard program for creatives just like the Adobe suite is for drafting work. If you want to learn more about it, we have a full-length Procreate review you can look through.
Which Apple Pencil Is the Best for iPad?
The first generation Apple Pencil was released in 2015, alongside and compatible with that generation’s Apple iPad Pro. A second version was released a few years later in 2018. It has a few notable additional features namely touch gestures and inductive charging. Due to its added features, there is no doubt that the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil is hands down the best for iPad. At least until the inevitable release of the 3rd Generation Apple Pencil.
That said, you do not need to be constrained to just using the Apple Pencil for your iPad work. There are a lot of active and passive styli that work just fine on the iPad like the Logitech Crayon or the Adonit Dot.
Related: How to Use the Apple Pencil – From Charging to Pairing
There you have it — a good range of devices to choose the best iPad for drawing. Of course, while hardy, iPads will have problems and errors. For those inevitable occasions, you might want to learn how to restart, hard reset, and factory reset your iPad ahead of time.
Also, if you are looking to get a quick gig to show off your talent in graphics and get a few bucks for it, you might want to read up on Fiverr, a great freelancing app.