Best iPad for graphic designers 2022

iPad Pro 2020 Apple Pencil Batman Hero
iPad Pro 2020 Apple Pencil Batman Hero (Image credit: iMore)

Graphic designers have a few choices when it comes to purchasing an Apple iPad. Our number one choice is the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which offers the largest display you can buy along with the best internals. It works with the second-generation Apple Pencil so that you can create anytime you'd like. We've gathered other noteworthy models to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.

Best Overall: 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)

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iPad Pro 2021 review

iPad Pro 2021 review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / iMore)

The well-received 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) is Apple's largest and most feature-packed tablet to date. Featuring an all-screen design that's also shared with our runner-up, the 11-inch iPad Pro, this model supports the second Apple Pencil and comes with the super-powerful M1 chip also found in Apple's Mac lineup.

The Liquid Retina XDR display is the first, and currently only, iPad display to feature mini-LED technology for OLED-like blacks and up to 1,600 nits peak brightness for HDR content. Add to that ProMotion high-refresh rate, P3 wide color, and True Tone, it's far and away the best display on an iPad and a top pick for creatives.

If you're working with large files, you may also stand to benefit from the extra storage an iPad Pro offers with up to 2TB configurations available. The higher-capacity models also include 16GB RAM which may come in handy for your intensive workflows.

Further, the iPad Pro models are the only iPads to include a LiDAR scanner. Though not necessarily for graphic designers, the feature works with the device's dual cameras, motion sensors, and frameworks to measure depth. This combination makes iPad Pro great for augmented reality. A super-fast Thunderbolt / USB 4 port, Face ID, and mmWave 5G support are other reasons to go Pro.

Two reasons not to consider this tablet: The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the most expensive Apple tablet to date, with prices ranging from $1,099 to $2,399, depending on your configuration. A sixth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro could arrive in the near future and will almost certainly replace this model in Apple's retail stores.

12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)

The largest and best you can buy

Reasons to buy

+
Largest iPad available
+
Best display on any iPad
+
Powerful M1 chip
+
Up to 2TB storage and 16GB RAM
+
Apple Pencil 2 support
+
Face ID
+
Thunderbolt port

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Could soon be replaced

Whether you want the largest canvas, the best display, the most power, or a lot of storage space, this is the tablet to buy.

Runner Up: 11-inch iPad Pro (2021)

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro (Image credit: iMore)

If you love everything about the 12.9-inch iPad Pro but its large size, there's the third-generation 11-inch iPad Pro. This tablet has the same internals as our top pick but within a smaller footprint. Inside, you'll find a blazing-fast M1 chip and you can still spec up the storage as high as 2TB and benefit from that extra RAM.

Though the display is still edge-to-edge with gorgeous P3 wide color, True Tone, and ProMotion, it doesn't offer mini-LED technology so you won't benefit from the extra brightness or deeper blacks, so bear that in mind when deciding between the two. It is, however, smaller, lighter, and more portable while offering the same support for Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard. It also has an advanced rear camera setup, mmWave 5G, speedy Thunderbolt port, and Face ID.

Like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the 11-inch iPad Pro is expensive, ranging in price from $799 to $2,099. And like the larger model, rumors continue to swirl around new iPad Pro models potentially arriving later this year.

11-inch iPad Pro (2021)

More portable choice

Reasons to buy

+
More portable
+
Powerful M1 chip
+
Up to 2TB storage and 16GB RAM
+
Apple Pencil 2 support
+
Face ID
+
Thunderbolt port

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks mini-LED that the larger model offers
-
Still expensive
-
Replacement could be incoming

If you feel overwhelmed by the 12.9-inch iPad Pro but want the same specs (outside of the fancy mini-LED display), this is the iPad you should consider.

Best Alternative: iPad Air (2022)

iPad Air 5 Drawing with Apple Pencil

iPad Air 5 Drawing with Apple Pencil (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

The iPad Air (2022) is our overall best iPad. It brings many of the same features found on the iPad Pro series but for a little bit less, including the super-speedy M1 chip and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil.

Though the Air's display is not as advanced as the display in the iPad Pro models since it lacks ProMotion, it still goes edge-to-edge and offers a large 10.9-inch canvas, P3 wide color, and True Tone. If you can live without the higher refresh rate of the iPad Pro and the mini-LED tech offered by the 12.9-inch model, the Air could be a good way to save some cash while still enjoying the features that matter most.

As we mentioned above, the iPad Pro offers some advanced, AR-ready cameras, but those aren't necessarily all that useful for graphic designers. The iPad Air instead offers a single, 12MP shooter on the back which is totally adequate for day-to-day use. A USB-C port with up to 10Gbs data transfer speeds could also come in handy for designers, too.

It has Touch ID built into the top button, rather than Face ID, but it does support Apple's Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. Finally, like all current-generation iPads, the iPad Air (2022) promises up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‑Fi or watching a video and up to nine hours of surfing the web using a cellular data network.

Apple's most colorful tablet, the iPad Air (2022) is available in space gray, starlight, pink, purple, and blue with 64GB or 256GB of storage. Prices start at $599 which is much more palatable than the iPad Pro models.

iPad Air 5 (2022) - 10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB

Feel it in the Air

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable price
+
M1 chip
+
Still has a large display
+
Apple Pencil 2 support
+
Choice of colors
+
USB-C port

Reasons to avoid

-
No ProMotion or mini-LED
-
Touch ID instead of Face ID
-
Limited to 256GB of storage

Apple's newest iPad Air skips some of the fanciest features in order to offer a more affordable price, though you still get the M1 chip and Apple Pencil 2 support.

Best Budget Choice: iPad (2021)

Apple Pencil using color wheel tool in drawing app

Apple Pencil using color wheel tool in drawing app (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

First introduced in 2010, the adjective-less iPad is now in its ninth generation. It's now the budget choice in Apple's tablet lineup and is the option designers should consider if affordability is key.

For nearly half the iPad Air (2022) price, the iPad (2021) includes a 10.2-inch display and up to 256GB of storage. It is the only current iPad model that offers the more traditional design with a thicker top and bottom bezels. With that also comes the old-school Touch ID Home button. Though it might look older, the familiar design may be a boon to those that are used to it — plus the internals have had a recent spec-bump!

Inside, it's powered by the A13 Bionic chip which, though first released in 2019, is still plenty powerful today. It also still has support for the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, though you'll be using the first-generation Pencil for any handwriting, sketching, or drawing.

The display is a little smaller than that of the iPad Air at 10.2 inches, versus the Air's 10.9 inches, and the display technology is also a little lesser. Instead of a Liquid Retina display, it includes a regular LED-backlit Retina display. It does feature True Tone, which automatically adjusts white levels to match your ambient lighting, but misses out on the P3 wide color display found on every other iPad, as well as the ProMotion of the Pro models. The display also isn't fully laminated like the other models in the lineup meaning your taps and Pencil swipes feel a little more detached from the content on-screen.

The 2021 iPad isn't a bad tablet, and price alone is what makes it very popular. Therefore, if money is the biggest factor in making your selection, buy it and start making new creations. Otherwise, spend the extra to get the iPad Air.

iPad (2021)

Save cash with this selection

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent price
+
True Tone display

Reasons to avoid

-
Smaller and lower quality display
-
Old-school design
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Limited to Apple Pencil 1 support
-
Less powerful A13 Bionic chip
-
Lightning port

If bells and whistles aren't necessary, or you want to spend as little as possible on an iPad, you can't go wrong with this model.

Best for Portability: iPad mini (2021)

Ipad Mini 6 Review Hero

Ipad Mini 6 Review Hero (Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

Weighing just 0.66 pounds, the iPad mini 6 is the most portable iPad you can get today. Despite being so small, Apple has managed to fit an 8.3-inch display into its chassis, going edge-to-edge like the Air and Pro models that came before it.

With the new and improved design comes support for Apple Pencil 2, making this an ideal sketchpad to take on the go. It's powered by the A15 Bionic chip too, so there's plenty of power packed into this diminutive iPad.

Despite being Apple's smallest tablet, it's not the most affordable option. Aimed squarely at those that need portability over all else, it's actually something of a premium purchase with a $499 starting price. If you can get away with a larger device, it may well be worth spending the additional $100 to get the extra screen real estate and M1 chip of the iPad Air. There's also no Smart Connector on the iPad mini meaning no special keyboard accessories.

iPad mini 6 (2021) - Wi-Fi, 64GB, space gray

Portable powerhouse

Reasons to buy

+
Super-portable design
+
Speedy A15 chip
+
Apple Pencil 2 support
+
USB-C port

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey for its size
-
No Smart Connector

When convenience and portability matter, consider the 8.3-inch iPad mini for your design needs.

Take your design work to the next level

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) is Apple's largest and most feature-rich tablet to date. Because of this, it's our choice for the best iPad for graphic designers. The premium iPad includes a desktop-class M1 chip plus the best display we've ever seen in a tablet. It supports the second-generation Apple Pencil and includes a super-fast Thunderbolt port for hooking up extra storage or an external display — all of which will be a boon to designers.

However, this tablet is going to cost you, with prices starting at $1,099, plus the cost of accessories like the aforementioned Pencil. It's also worth noting that the current iPad Pro is mid-cycle meaning a new one could be on the horizon in the near future, though that shouldn't put you off buying one today if you are in the market for a tablet upgrade as the current model will last you many years.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.