Best iPad for artists 2023
The best iPads for artists built for drawing, sketching and creating on the go
Apple iPads are multi-purpose devices that allow you to watch TV shows, send emails, read books and so much more. But they're also fantastic tools for artists who work digitally, with a multitude of different drawing apps and accessories, like the Apple Pencil 2, available to upgrade your experience.
The iPad line are easily some of the best tablets that money can buy balancing portability and power better than any other. Where even the best MacBooks lack a touch screen and sit a little thicker in a backpack, any iPad relies on its touch interface, and slips into even the slimmest bag — even if you toss a case on it.
So if you’re a creative with need for a drawing device, then an iPad is the way to go. They also pair beautifully with some of the best note-taking apps too.
Best iPad for artists: iPad Pro 2022 (12.9-inch)
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Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The latest generation of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is our top pick for the best iPad for artists. It's the most powerful tablet Apple's ever made, with an even better display, M1 SoC, Face ID support, and more.
The iPad Pro's 12.9-inch display is a great canvas size for your art, whether you're sketching, painting, or editing photos — that still lets you be mobile. In our iMore review, we noticed that the new Liquid Retina XDR display in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro offers incredible color accuracy and shows off HDR images and video in all of its glory. So you're getting the richest blacks and most vibrant colors.
It also has a ProMotion display, meaning that it will run at up to 120Hz. This is great when working with the Apple Pencil, as your strokes appear on the screen nigh-instantly, like a real piece of paper, and renders more fluidly than it would on other iPads.
When it comes to power, the iPad Pro is truly an impressive machine. The M2 chip is the same one that is found in iMacs, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. It also packs in an 8-core GPU and 8GB of RAM on the 128/256/512GB models, or 16GB RAM on the 1TB and 2TB options. For drawing apps like Procreate or photo editors like Pixelmator Photo, this extra power can be invaluable for smoother painting or sketching experiences or applying photo edits more quickly.
The 2022 iPad Pro works only with the second-generation Apple Pencil when it comes to digital sketching, painting, and other artistic projects, which magnetically attaches to one side of the iPad. That attachment point also serves as an inductive charging space for the Pencil, so you can carry it around with you and charge it at the same time without having to stick it out of the charging port of the iPad Pro itself.
Using the Pencil is mostly the same experience as it has been on other iPads. The Pencil recognizes things like tilt and pressure applied to the tip and supports palm rejection. It has a new matte finish, which feels better than the glossy finish of the first Pencil. The Apple Pencil also has a small gesture area on its flat side, which you can double-tap to switch between your two most recent tools quickly.
To many, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro might simply be too big to be completely practical. If you want an iPad not as your primary artistic tool but instead as a supplement to your Mac or something similar, a smaller size might be just right for you. The same goes for if you need it to fit in slightly smaller bags. The recent redesign may have brought down the overall footprint of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but it's still a large tablet.
The biggest strike against the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is price. iPad Pros have always been more expensive than their non-Pro counterparts, but at just north of $1,000, the 2022 iPad Pro might be a big ask for some. It's another $130 when you throw in the Pencil. It's absolutely the biggest and best iPad screen you can get, and it has a lot of power behind it, but just be aware that you're going to be forking over a lot of money for that screen and that power.
Best for portability: iPad Pro 2022 (11-inch)
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
There's honestly not much to be said about the 11-inch 2022 iPad Pro that we haven't already said about its larger counterpart. We split them into two entries because their size and display really make them two different products for artistic endeavours.
One of the great advantages of the 11-inch iPad Pro over the 12.9-inch model and the 10.9-inch iPad Air is that it straddles the line between the portability of the old 10.9-inch Air and the power of the 12.9-inch Pro. This means that the 11-inch iPad Pro is about the same physical size as the previous 10.9-inch iPad Air model, with an ever-so-slightly larger screen. That might not sound like much, but even the slightest difference adds up to more than you might think when displays are around a foot in size. With 11 inches, it is still a decent size for drawing, photos, and any other artistic activity. We still prefer the larger 12.9-inch screen, but you might be willing to make that trade-off.
The other big trade-off between the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) is that only the 12.9-inch comes with the Liquid Retina XDR display. The 11-inch still only has a regular Liquid Retina display, so the 12.9-inch edges it out just slightly in terms of HDR content, vibrant hues, and deepest blacks. However, the regular Liquid Retina display still looks great. It should still be a great screen for anyone who deals with art or graphic design and values portability over power.
And despite being smaller than the 12.9-inch model, both iPad Pros have the M2 chip inside. It also has 8GB of RAM with 128/256/512GB models and 16GB RAM for the 1TB/2TB options. Both also have around the same 10-hour battery life, cameras with Center Stage support, and more. It's really just the size and display that are the differences between the two.
While we would go with the bigger screen, if the size and increased portability of this iPad Pro make it more appealing to you than its bigger sibling, it's still an excellent, powerful choice.
Best mid-range price: iPad Air 5 (2022)
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The iPad Air 5 walks the line between the lower-priced iPad 9th generation and the larger screen real estate of the iPad Pro lineup, making it the best overall iPad for most people. When reviewing the iPad Air 5, we concluded that the 10.9-inch screen offers decent real estate for drawing and painting, as well as an excellent portal for inspecting and editing your photos.
The iPad Air 5 also has something sure to be very important for many artists: Apple Pencil 2 support. Unlike the cheaper models of iPad that only support the first-generation Apple Pencil, the iPad Air 5 can take advantage of all the sensitivity and features of the Apple Pencil 2. It charges when it's latched onto the side of the iPad Air 5, just like it does on the iPad Pro, so you don't have to worry about sticking it in the Lightning port.
The biggest shock of the iPad Air 5 is what lies inside — the M1 chip, which has a fair bit of power behind it. It has Apple's Mac-level chip powering the whole thing, just like last year's iPad Pro, which makes the iPad Air 5 extremely responsive and speedy, no matter what task you throw at it. This will be, for many, the perfect mobile artistic platform.
The Air also has a laminated True Tone display. A laminated display combines the touch layer of your iPad's screen and the LCD display layer into a single piece, leaving no gap between them. This is important as you'll have a display of better overall quality than a non-laminated display, producing better images with a more vibrant range of colors. True Tone is great because it adapts the display's temperature to the light of your current room, making the display appear more as though the room is lighting it. It's not overpowering, but if you find this disruptive to your artistic workflow, it's easy enough to turn off from Control Center.
So, why is the iPad Air 5 just the best value pick and not the best overall? Mostly, it comes down to screen size, design, and feature set. On the surface, the iPad Air 5 utilizes mostly the same design as the 11-inch iPad Pro. However, if you look closer, you can start to see why the iPad Pro is still the best around.
Even though the iPad Air 5 looks like it would perform FaceID, you actually unlock it via Touch ID, which is inside the power button located on the top of the iPad. This might be a pro for some, but in the months since I've been using Face ID, I feel like I'm taking a step backward whenever I have to use a device with Touch ID. Additionally, the iPad Air 5 doesn't have a ProMotion display, meaning you won't get that buttery smooth display that can up to120Hz that makes scrolling and other fluid motions on the screen crisp and clear. On top of that, you also miss out on the four-speaker system the iPad Pro has and the newer camera array, which has a LiDAR sensor) and an additional 10MP ultra-wide rear-facing camera.
Still, for many, the iPad Air 5 is going to be a slam dunk. At $599, it starts at a whole $200 cheaper than the 11-inch iPad Pro and offers quite a bit of the same features. If you don't need the few "pro" features that the iPad Pro offers, the iPad Air 5 is the clear winner for artists.
The iPad Air 5 is a compelling product for artists looking for a very powerful tablet without the iPad Pro's price tag.
Best for travel: iPad mini 6
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
iMore reviewed the iPad mini 6, and it's our opinion that this model can't be beat for convenient portability. It comes in four gorgeous new colors, and while it starts at 64GB, you can go up to 256GB of storage, which should be more than enough for storing all of your digital artwork.
The iPad mini 6 also sports a brand new redesign that brings it more in line with the rest of the iPad lineup, except for the base-level iPad. This means flat edges, smaller bezels surrounding the new 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, USB-C charging, and no more Home button. However, while there is no Home button, the iPad mini 6 still uses Touch ID, which is now in the top button, and the volume buttons have also been moved to the top.
But why have the volume buttons been moved? It's a first, but the iPad mini 6 now supports the Apple Pencil 2, which magnetically attaches on the right side of the device. Since it now supports Apple Pencil 2, you get pressure sensitivity and double-tap to change tools. The iPad mini 6 is definitely the best iPad for artists who want portability.
Other new features with the iPad mini 6 include better cameras, including Center Stage for video calls, 5G connectivity to upload your artwork anywhere you go, and the new A15 Bionic chip that's similar to the one found in the new iPhone 13 lineup. It's absolutely a delight to use and perfect for digital artists on the go.
iPad mini 6 is perfect for travel, and it now has a redesigned bigger screen, Apple Pencil 2 support, and more.
Best budget option: iPad 9th-Generation (2021)
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you're on a budget but still need the best iPad for artists, then look no further than the 9th-generation iPad (2021). This may be the entry-level iPad, but it is still great for budding artists, especially since it has first-generation Apple Pencil support. The A13 Bionic chip is still plenty powerful for basic drawing, sketching, watching videos, reading, writing, and much more. Plus, this new generation of iPad starts at 64GB, but you can go up to 256GB for all of your digital art.
You get a beautiful 10.2-inch LCD Retina display that delivers incredibly sharp and detailed graphics and text with the iPad. Even though this is the second smallest display, it still gives you plenty of room to draw and sketch with your Apple Pencil with the greatest drawing apps on the App Store.
Speaking of Apple Pencil, the 9th-generation iPad may only have first-generation Apple Pencil support, but it's still a fine tool for any digital artist. With Apple Pencil, you're getting the best iPad stylus out there that works wonderfully with your iPad. You'll be able to seamlessly draw with tilt and pressure sensitivity, as well as palm rejection, so there won't be any unwanted marks on your sketch. Just know that the first-generation Apple Pencil only charges up via Lightning and doesn't support wireless charging like the Apple Pencil 2. And the first-generation Apple Pencil is completely cylindrical with no flat edge, so it may be prone to rolling on a flat surface.
Our reviewers assure us that the 9th-generation iPad is still a great choice when it comes to the best iPad for artists if you're on a budget.
Best non-Pro option: iPad 10th-generation (2022)
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The new iPad is still a great option for artists looking for the best iPad for drawing, with some great features for those looking to get drawing on the go. You won't get quite the power of the iPad Air or the iPad Pro, but you'll get plenty to get drawings on digital paper - although you'll have to pay a little more than before to get it.
The iPad is now a little more powerful under the hood - the old A13 Bionic has grown into the newer and more powerful A14 Bionic, with more processing juice to throw at all your drawing apps. There's also a touch more RAM, as well as some more graphics power from that new chip.
The biggest update is that much larger screen - it's now 10.9-inches, the same as the iPad Air and the iPad Pro. It's big, colorful, and bright, letting your pictures shine while you're drawing them. It's no iPad Pro in it's HDR representation, but it'll be great for sketching. The biggest issue with the screen is that it's not laminated, so colors can be a little more washed out proceedings can be a little more fuzzy. Not that you'll really notice that - it's the sound of the pen hitting the tablet you'll hear more, as it sounds a little more hollow than a laminated screen. It's nothing to big, but it's worth bearing in mind.
It also costs a little more than the model that came before - to the tune of about $130. That's nothing to sniff at, but you do get enough extras to justify the cost. Either way, its a stunning tablet for doing some drawing.
How to choose the best iPad for artists
The 12.9-inch 2021 iPad Pro is an excellent, powerful tablet that's great for whatever kind of art you create, which is why we have chosen it as the best iPad for artists. Its large display should give you enough room for your work, while its size shouldn't prevent you from taking it wherever you need to go.
After all, it's similar in size to a 13-inch MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, which fit in a lot of the best laptop bags. Plus, it packs in the beautiful new Liquid Retina XDR display, so you get the absolute best colors, and it is the best way to view HDR content.
The ability to magnetically attach the Apple Pencil 2 to the side of your iPad Pro could not be a more welcome addition. Not only can you now easily bring your Apple Pencil with you, but since it acts as an inductive charger, the Pencil is always charged and ready to go at any time inspiration strikes.
Developers have done their best to take advantage of the powerful M1 chip in the iPad Pro. While apps like Procreate are still great on the rest of these iPads, they really shine on the iPad Pro. From new features like tapping support on the Apple Pencil to the increased graphical power on the 8-core GPU compared to previous models, the latest iPad Pro is perfect for your artistic endeavors, no matter how demanding they are.
While other iPads might be more portable or less expensive, they don't quite match the overall experience of using the 12.9-inch iPad Pro for a creative endeavor. If the 12.9-inch size is a little too unwieldy for you, then the 11-inch iPad Pro is the second-best alternative — just know that it won't have the Liquid Retina XDR display, but it still packs in the M1 chip and all the other goodies.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.