5 Best iPads for Drawing (2023)

Do you love to draw? Are you looking for the best iPad for drawing with Procreate? If so, you’ve come to the right place! I’m a graphic designer who uses an iPad regularly, so I have a pretty good idea of what you’re after.

Apple has released many iPad models over the years, making it difficult to keep track. In this article, I’ll break down each based on what makes them best for artists. That includes key features such as display (important), processor (super important!), and more.

I’ll also share my personal experience with the iPad and why I recommend it for every skill level, from beginner to pro.

So, if you’re wondering what is the best and cheapest iPad for drawing, keep reading.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, and I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. To learn more, visit my editorial guidelines.

Which iPad Is Best for Drawing?

1. iPad Pro 12.9-inch M1 (2021)

Overview

The iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation) is the best iPad for digital artists for two main reasons. The first is the M1 Chip, and the second is the Liquid Retina display.

In May 2021, Procreate announced on Twitter that Procreate is “up to 4x faster with even more layers,” with the M1 making the iPad Pro “the best Procreate experience yet.”

The iPad/Procreate digital drawing experience was already one of the best you could buy, but the M1 Chip made it even better.

It doesn’t stop there, though.

The iPad Pro 12.9 inch ALSO comes with Apple’s new and improved mini-LED powered Liquid Retina display.

Without getting too technical, the main takeaway is that the mini-LED technology improves contrast ratio and peak brightness over previous models. This makes it one of the most beautiful displays on the market.

Best Overall
Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch

iPad Pro 12.9-inch M1 (2021)

If you’re looking for the best iPad for illustration, I recommend the iPad Pro 12.9-inch. You won’t find anything better for digital paintings, sketches, and detailed illustrations, thanks to the M1 Chip and beautiful XDR display. I give it 5/5 stars.

Key Features

  • Display 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR
  • Weight 1.5 pounds 
  • Storage From 128 GB 
  • Processor Apple M1 Chip
  • Battery Up to 10 hours

Bottom Line

The iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation) is one of the best creative tools on the planet. Whether you are a professional artist or learning to draw, this portable device is an excellent choice.

Some might argue that the next-level performance offered by iPad Pro is not necessary for casual artists, but I disagree.

Here’s why:

Even as a beginner artist, your tools should inspire you to sit down and get lost in a day of drawing.

Especially if you are busy or lack motivation, any extra incentive you can give yourself to curl up on the couch and make more art is worth the investment.

2. iPad Pro 11-inch M1 (2021)

Overview

The Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation) is a step down from the amazing 12.9-inch model, but it’s a tiny step.

You still get the processing power of the M1 Chip but in a smaller package. The 11-inch iPad Pro also provides plenty of real estate for drawing.

Another difference is that the Liquid Retina display on the 11-inch model is not XDR. This means it doesn’t have the same mini-LED technology as the 12.9-inch Pro version.

So, what does this mean?

On paper, the Liquid Retina without XDR has less screen resolution and brightness, but the difference is negligible.

The 11-inch iPad Pro is still an incredible choice for artists or graphic designers who want a digital drawing tool at a reasonable price.

The battery life is the same as the 12.9-inch version. Both offer up to 10 hours, so you can spend an entire day drawing outside or on the couch without having to plug it in.

Amazing Option
Apple iPad Pro 11-inch

iPad Pro 11-inch M1 (2021)

I like the Apple iPad Pro 11-inch because it’s slightly more portable than the beastly 12.9-inch model. You’re still getting the M1 chip with a ProMotion display. This results in a smooth-as-heck drawing experience that is 100 percent worth the dough.

Key Features

  • Display 11-inch Liquid Retina
  • Weight 1.03 pounds 
  • Storage From 128 GB
  • Processor Apple M1 Chip
  • Battery Up to 10 hours

Bottom Line

Apple’s iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation) is the complete package. Portable and powerful, it provides an excellent balance between performance and price for all your artistic needs and desires.

Whether you’re using Procreate, Adobe Fresco, or any of your favorite drawing apps, the M1 combined with a ProMotion display (120Hz) provides a silky smooth experience.

Combined with the Apple Pencil, the Pro gives next-level performance making it one of the best iPads for drawing. However, you don’t have to be a professional to use it.

The tools/tech you use should delight and inspire. Anything that makes you want to sit down and improve your drawing capabilities is a good thing!

So, if you’re wondering what’s the best iPad for drawing, the Apple iPad Pro 11-inch is a solid contender.

3. iPad Air 10.9-inch (2022)

Overview

Amazingly, the Apple iPad Air (5th generation) costs less than both iPad Pros by a wide margin yet has many of the same attributes.

You are still getting the Liquid Retina, but it doesn’t have ProMotion. If this is your first iPad, this is nothing to be worried about. Only people who downgrade from an iPad Pro can tell the difference in the refresh rate.

The Air 5 (2022) also has the M1 Chip, just like the iPad Pros. In case you missed the memo, Procreate and Adobe are much faster with the M1. That is a huge deal because you’ll still get next-level performance out of the more affordable Air.

The display is just a hair smaller than the 11-inch Pro. Being an Air, it’s also lighter. This is an epic choice if you like to make digital drawings on the couch or outside.

Best Value
Apple iPad Air 10.9-inch

iPad Air 10.9-inch M1 (2022)

The iPad Air 10.9-inch is an epic drawing tablet that combines performance and value into one slick package. In my opinion, this is the best value option available. Where else can you find a Liquid Retina, M1 Chip, and full day of battery life at this price? Exactly.

Key Features

  • Display 10.9-inch Liquid Retina
  • Weight 1 pound 
  • Storage From 64 GB
  • Processor Apple M1 Chip
  • Battery Up to 10 hours

Bottom Line

The Apple iPad Air 10.9-inch (2022) has a thin and light design that is perfect for digital artists who value performance, portability, and cost.

It’s an excellent middle ground between the best-in-class (more expensive) iPad Pro and the entry-level iPads.

However, being the most recent addition to the iPad family, you benefit from all the latest technology.

If performance is more important to you, go with the Pro. If you value cost and portability more, go with the Air.

4. iPad Mini (2021)

Overview

I’ve been using the iPad Mini (6th generation) since June 2022, and I love it!

At first, I was hesitant about the size, wondering if it would provide enough screen real estate, but now I realize this is one of its greatest strengths.

At 7.69 x 5.3 inches, the Mini is the most portable iPad. It makes everything easier, from fitting it in your backpack to positioning it on your lap. It’s a perfect size for taking it wherever you need to go.

While it doesn’t have an M1, the A15 Bionic Chip is insanely fast. Trust me: It’s more than enough for a digital sketchbook.

Combined with a Liquid Retina True Tone display (same as the 11-inch iPad Pro), the iPad Mini is perfect for all your basic drawings and detailed illustrations.

Best Portability
Apple iPad Mini

iPad Mini (2021)

The iPad Mini has been my go-to device this past year. I love how I can hold it with one hand and how lightweight it is. Though it doesn’t have an M1 Chip, you’d never know because it feels snappy and fast. I take it everywhere and sketch ideas on it too. It works incredibly well for my graphic design work.

Key Features

  • Display 8.3-inch Liquid Retina
  • Weight 0.65 pounds
  • Storage From 64 GB
  • Processor A15 Bionic Chip
  • Battery Up to 10 hours

Bottom Line

There are two main reasons to get the iPad mini for drawing over the 11 or 12.9-inch model.

First, you want next-level performance in a smaller package.

Two, the starting prices of the Pro models are a bit out of your budget.

Whatever your “why “is, the Mini (6th generation) will not disappoint. It’s like a Swiss Army Knife for drawing tablets: Not only does it offer high functionality, but you can fit it in your coat pocket.

As I said, I’ve been using one with an Apple Pencil for a while now (I’m a graphic designer), and it has exceeded the high expectations I set for my mobile devices.

Larger than the iPhone yet more portable than an Air, it’s a good canvas size for artists on the go.

5. iPad 10.2-inch (2021)

Overview

The Apple iPad 10.2-inch (2021) is an excellent starter tablet that offers superb value. From art students to freelance illustrators, everyone who gets this budget iPad is blown away.

For the same starting price as a low-end laptop, you can get this 9th generation model with a beautiful Retina display, speedy A13 Bionic Chip, and up to 10 hours of battery life.

That means you can work on your digital art all day without plugging it in.

This iPad is only compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil. While the Apple Pencil 2 has new and improved features, you’re not losing anything in terms of drawing capability. Creative Bloq agrees.

The A13 Bionic Chip is not Apple’s most powerful processor, but you’d be surprised at how adept it is at handling large files and drawing apps.

Budget Pick
Apple iPad 10.2-inch

iPad 10.2-inch (2021)

The regular iPad is a fantastic option for beginner artists or anyone buying their first tablet. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as some of the other models, but don’t let that fool you. It may not be the best iPad for sketching overall, but it is a very capable and enjoyable device.

Key Features

  • Display 10.2-inch Retina
  • Weight 1.07 pounds
  • Storage From 64 GB
  • Processor A13 Bionic Chip
  • Battery Up to 10 hours

Bottom Line

Apple’s iPad 10.2-inch (2021) is the best cheap iPad for drawing.

Not everybody needs a Pro model or second-generation Apple Pencil, especially if you are a student or a casual artist. If that’s you, this is a legit choice.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s not suitable for detailed illustrations because it’s the entry-level model.

The touch screen is bright and responsive, the portability is on point, and the all-day battery life gives you the freedom to draw anywhere.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you’re wondering which iPad for drawing to get, look no further than the 12.9-inch Pro. With its powerful M1 processor, large Liquid Retina XDR screen, and all-day battery life, it’s the ultimate canvas for creating beautiful digital artwork from a coffee shop, your couch, or favorite place in nature.

Combined with the amazing apps available from Adobe, Procreate, and Affinity, you’ll have everything needed for maximum pleasure and potential.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner artist or a seasoned illustrator; designing on iPad Pro will give you everything you need to express your creativity to the fullest.

Gen Z woman draws with iPad and Apple Pencil on couch

FAQ

What iPad is best for beginner artists?

Apple’s iPad 10.2-inch (2021) is the perfect device for beginner artists. The large screen size provides plenty of real estate for drawing, while the beautiful Retina display ensures crisp detail and accurate color.

With up to 10 hours of battery life, you can work on your digital paintings all day without being tethered to a desk.

The iPad 10.2-inch also has an excellent price-to-performance ratio, making it the best choice for drawing on iPad for beginners.

Do Apple pencils come with an iPad?

No, the Apple Pencil doesn’t come with the iPad. It’s sold separately and covered under a separate warranty.

Though every iPad has Apple Pencil support, each generation is only compatible with specific iPad models. 

That’s why you should check Apple Pencil Compatibility for information on your specific device.

Is Apple Pencil good for drawing?

The Apple Pencil is excellent for drawing due to its natural feel, pressure sensitivity, and precision control. It works well with many drawing apps, including Procreate, Affinity Designer, Adobe Fresco, and Inspire Pro.

Moreover, the Apple Pencil has a generous battery life. This is crucial because it allows artists to draw and paint digitally for hours away from their desks.

What is the difference between iPad Pro vs. Air for drawing?

Here are the main differences between the iPad Air and iPad Pro:

  • The Air has a 10.9-inch screen, whereas the Pro comes in 11-inch or 12.9-inch.
  • Both have Liquid Retina displays, but only the Pros have ProMotion technology.
  • You can get 256 GB storage with the Air, whereas with the Pros, you can get 2TB.
  • The Air does not support Thunderbolt/USB-4; the Pro models do.
  • Both have a 12 MP Wide camera, but the Pros include a 10 MP Ultra Wide one.
  • The Pros support mmWave technology. The Air only supports regular 5G.

Are iPad Airs good for drawing?

There are a few reasons why the iPad Air is good for drawing.

First is the Liquid Retina display, which makes lines and shapes appear smooth with none of those annoying jagged edges known as pixelation.

Second, the battery is pretty substantial. If all you’re doing is drawing without any energy-draining apps running in the background, it should be able to last you all day.

Third, the M1 chip makes drawing programs like Procreate and Adobe Illustrator perform much faster.

Finally, due to its size and weight, you can take it almost anywhere and draw comfortably. That includes outdoors, though you may need a matte screen protector to shield your Liquid Retina from the elements.

M1 Chip, and full day of battery life

Further Reading

Drawing tablets serve an essential purpose, but shouldn’t replace a laptop for Illustrator. Of, if you sketch on paper, you might be interested a scanner for artwork or how-to books.