The best iPad for drawing can be one of the most useful tools a digital artist can ask for. Incredible advancements made by Apple in recent years has seen drawing on an iPad go from a cute novelty to a serious professional alternative, and many creatives now prefer the combination of a high-end iPad and an Apple pencil over a dedicated drawing tablet.
It’s a good time to be buying iPads right now. Prime Day is just around the corner, and Amazon Prime members can expect to see all sorts of incredible, limited-time deals on iPads and their accessories. Deals on Apple products don’t exactly come around often, so if you’re in the market for an iPad, these sales are well worth taking advantage of. Head to our Apple Prime Day deals 2022 hub where we’re keeping track of all the latest offers as they come in.
Apple’s new M1 processing chips (with M2 versions on the way), high-fidelity Retina displays and the exceptional Apple Pencil styluses all combine to make iPads the exceptional drawing tools they are. There are two Apple Pencils, and which one you need will depend on which iPad you buy – take a look at our Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 if you need to apprise yourself of the key differences.
The iPads on this list have been tested and rated by our team of expert reviewers. We’ve weighed up the strengths and weaknesses of each one when drawing up our list, and factored in cost as well, to ensure there are options for every budget. We have a useful guide to iPad generations if you feel you need a primer on the differences between the models, and use our guide to the best drawing apps for iPad to hit the ground running once you’ve got your tablet.
Want more drawing tablet options? Take a look at our guides to the best drawing tablets and the best tablets with a stylus for drawing, both of which contain more than a few iPads. In the meantime, read on to discover the best iPad for drawing now.
The best iPad for drawing available now
The iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) is the best iPad for drawing you can buy right now. Equipped with Apple’s superfast M1 processor, it offers enough processing speed to be put on a par with one of the best MacBooks. Its new Liquid Retina XDR display offers superb fidelity, and you need to get the 12.9-inch version over the 11-inch version to get the best version of this display, with ProMotion, True Tone, P3 wide color and a mini-LED backlight. There isn’t much out there in the tablet world to rival it currently.
In our full review of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021), we praised the drawing experience on this top-end iPad Pro. Its compatibility with the Apple Pencil 2 means you get one of the best styluses available right now, while the display’s refresh rate of 120Hz ensures excellent responsiveness. Having 2TB of storage is handy too.
This is not a cheap tablet. Not at all. Unless you’re going to be doing a lot of professional drawing work, it is probably more computing and display power than you need, and in that case, a cheaper tablet on this list will likely prove to be the better choice. Ultimately though, we had to nominate one tablet as the best iPad for drawing, and this is it, unquestionably. The absolute top of the pile.
Learn more about this tablet in our full iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) review.
If you want the power of an iPad Pro but can’t quite reach the 12.9-inch version financially, consider the iPad Pro 11-inch (M1, 2021), which still boasts the same powerful processing chip. There are a few compromises made as well as the size of the screen – it’s not the fancy mini-LED version – though let’s not get carried away, it’s still excellent, with P3 wide colour gamut, an anti-reflective coating, True Tone and ProMotion.
Whether or not an 11-inch display is large enough to create art on is a matter of personal preference. After all, digital artists can and do work on surfaces a good deal smaller than that. In our full review, we found that it struck a good balance between being a useful surface area while also keeping the tablet lightweight and portable enough to be used on the go. Plus, you also get some of the other premium iPad features, like 2TB of storage. You can draw and save your creations to your heart’s content for months, even years, without ever touching the sides of that.
With Apple Pencil 2 compatibility, the iPad Pro 11-inch handles like a dream. The combination of a featherlight touch and top-end sensitivity means that drawing on the tablet just feels incredibly natural and smooth. If you want the speed of an iPad Pro and don’t need the luxurious screen spread of the biggest version, this is an outstanding choice.
Read our iPad Pro 11-inch (M1, 2021) review for more details.
While the big iPad Pros are perhaps the most logical choices for drawing their big screens do have one downside in that they’re not the most wieldy options if you want to work on the move – on public transport, for example. For that, some artists swear by a completely different drawing experience from the bigger (and more expensive) iPad Pros: the newest iPad mini. It’s nice and compact, you can carry it anywhere and it fits neatly into any bag or case, but it’s still plenty powerful for sketching (more powerful than the standard iPad, which people are often surprised to learn).
The iPad Mini (2021) is a great choice for artists who travel a lot, this model has a small (8.3 inch) but perfectly formed Liquid Retina screen, offering a great resolution of 1488 x 2266 pixels. It supports the Apple Pencil 2, and in our review we found Apple’s claims of 10 hours of battery life seem about right, so you should have no problem drawing for several hours away from a power socket. The A15 Bionic chip keeps everything running nice and fast. And there’s up to 256GB storage, which is more than enough for most people. In short, if you’re looking for a compact tablet for digital drawing, you won’t find a finer option.
If you like the look of this miniature iPad, our Apple iPad mini (6th Gen) review goes into greater depth.
The newcomer to the iPad family, the 2022 iPad Air, is also a very strong contendor as best iPad for drawing, boasting incredibly Pro-like features. There’s still enough of a distinction to make the iPad Pros above a superior choice if you have the budget, but the iPad Air, which is very similar in size to the smaller of the two Pros, now packs the same M1 chip, making it a very powerful tablet for the price.
As we point out in our full iPad Air (5th Gen, 2022) review, screen resolution is on a par with the Pros. Moreover, we found the backlighting to be very even, colour accurate and contrast also good, making it a good tablet for all kinds of visual creative work, including drawing. That said it can’t compete with the levels of brightness of the Pro 12.9, and the 60Hz refresh rate (rather than 120Hz with the Pros) does mean it takes slightly longer for your drawing to appear on the screen. However, if you’re looking for a larger screen than the iPad mini and but don’t want to pay the price of the iPad Pro, this is the best iPad for drawing for you.
Want a 12.9 inch iPad Pro but don’t want to pay the high price of the newest model? The 2020 model lacks the Mini LED screen and the M1 chip of the current version, but it’s still a very powerful and capable device, and it doesn’t cost as much. So we’d argue that for most people, it’s the best one to go for. It’s not quite as fast as the top-end 2021 version, it offers less storage, and the screen isn’t quite as good. But we’re talking small degrees of difference here.
So for example, if you’re looking to use some heavy-duty 3D software, and need the fastest processor possible; or are doing work where a high degree of colour accuracy is super-important, it might be worth investing the 2021 model. For everybody else, though, the 2020 iteration is a great choice for digital drawing, with the exact same screen dimensions and high resolution (2732 x 2048) as its pricier successor, and support for the Apple Pencil 2.
Read more in our iPad Pro 12.9 review.
Looking for the best balance between performance and cost? You’ll find it in the iPad Air 4 (2020), which is a very good tablet at a reasonable price. This fourth-gen model is very different to previous iPad Airs, thanks to a major revamp that made it quite similar to the iPad Pro, but at a much lower price.
When it comes to drawing, it’s worth noting that the 60Hz screen response rate is precise half that of the iPad Pro’s 120Hz. That variation in sensitivity means that if you draw very rapidly, you might notice a difference, but we’ve not personally heard of any complaints from artists. (For more on the differences between the two tablets, see our article iPad Pro vs iPad Air).
For most people, then, the Apple iPad Air (2020) is a great choice for digital drawing. And with strong levels of battery life, screen resolution and processor performance, and a couple of good cameras, this is the best value iPad for general use, too.
Want to see more? Our iPad Air (2020) review goes into detail.
Apple gave its basic 10.2-inch iPad a refresh in 2021, upgrading the chipset for better performance and adding an improved selfie camera. The result is a reasonably priced iPad that has a surprisingly premium feel. The display is unchanged from previous versions, but it’s sharp and detailed, with punchy enough colours that your artworks will pop.
This is also the first model in the 10.2-inch range to offer True Tone support, which is Apple’s technology that adjusts colour balance depending on the quality of light in the room. Battery life is generally pretty good, and the new A13 chip provides a small but noticeable speed boost in operation.
While all this is very welcome, and does help the iPad 10.2-inch feel a little less like an inferior cousin to the more sophisticated iPads, we do wish Apple could have found room to include Pencil 2 support. The initial Apple Pencil is a fine stylus and does the job well enough, but the lack of built-in controls is a pain, as is the clumsy charging system. The Pencil 2 is just leagues better. Still, as a basic drawing tablet that does most things artists need, the iPad 10.2-inch (9th Gen) fits the bill very well.
Take a closer look in our full iPad 10.2-inch (9th Gen) review.
Want a small iPad for drawing, and don’t want to spend much money? The 2019 iPad Mini is very cheap right now, and offers good all-round performance.
The perfect size to carry with one hand, it boasts a bright 7.9-inch screen that works well with the Apple Pencil 1. Its A12 Bionic chip is pretty speedy for the price. Storage is generous, at between 64 and 256GB. And you get 8MP and 7MP cameras on the rear and front respectively. This all adds up to fantastic value, so if a compact iPad for drawing is what you seek, look no further.
Check out our iPad Mini review for a closer look.
How do I choose the best iPad for drawing?
Screen size: How much real estate do you realistically need when drawing? Larger iPads naturally have larger screens, which gives you more space, but also makes the tablet less portable and heavier to carry around, which arguably defeats the purpose of having a portable drawing tool. Then again, if you’re going to leave the iPad at home or in the studio, portability doesn’t matter. Ultimately, it depends on how and where you like to draw.
Processing power: Newer (and more expensive) iPads have faster processors, and are capable of handling more complex tasks without stutter or slowdown. Drawing is not the most intensive task that an iPad can perform, so this may well not be a factor – however, if you are working with super-high resolution files, then it’s going to be very important that your tablet can load and display them correctly.
Stylus compatibility: Different iPads are compatible with different versions of the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil 2 is the generally superior stylus, with on-pen controls, but is also more expensive, and works with more expensive iPads, so it’s up to you whether you can justify the outlay. Speaking of which…
Price: iPads are expensive things, and your budget is to an extent going to dictate what you have to choose from. A good way to expand your options is to keep an eye out for the latest sales and offers; we’re currently updating our guide to the best Apple Prime day deals, which is a good place to start.
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