Drawing Tablet vs iPad For Art: Which Should You Get

Drawing Tablet vs iPad For Art: Which Should You Get

When it comes to creating digital art, the tools you choose can significantly impact your work’s quality. When it comes to creating digital art, there are only two options: a drawing tablet or an iPad. When comparing a drawing tablet vs iPad, you probably already understand the benefits and limitations of each device but there are some key decision points you need to know to make an informed purchase. And this is how I am going to help you in this post.

I already cover some key areas in the following articles:

We all know what an iPad is, so I will not bore you with the history just yet. The same goes for a drawing tablet.

While a drawing tablet is a device specifically designed for creating digital art, it primarily aims at professional digital artists because it provides exceptional precision and control. 

On the other hand, an iPad is a now multifunctional tool that can also be used for drawing but it comes out on its own specifically when paired with an Apple Pencil

While both have their advantages, it’s essential to consider factors such as your skill level, budget, and preferred working environment to choose the right device for your needs.

The next sections will help you decide on a drawing tablet vs an iPad by getting you to evaluate the type of artist you are and how you would expect to create digital art so that we can decide which is better for you: a drawing tablet or an iPad.

what kind of artist are you - drawing tablet vs ipad

What Kind of An Artist Are You?

An iPad with Apple Pencil is better suited to:

  1. Amateur Artists and Hobbyists:
    • Those who are just starting out and want a versatile device that allows them to explore various creative avenues without a huge initial investment in specialized equipment.
    • Those who want to practice and create art on the go, given the iPad’s portability.
  2. Digital Illustrators and Concept Artists:
    • Artists who value the ability to sketch out ideas, especially in apps like Procreate quickly.
    • Those who appreciate the color accuracy and retina display of the iPad for digital painting.
  3. Students:
    • Those who want a multi-purpose device for note-taking, studying, and art creation.
  4. Comic Artists and Storyboard Artists:
    • Artists who might benefit from the iPad’s portability to sketch out scenes or characters quickly.
  5. Casual Animators:
    • Those who use apps like Rough Animator to create simple animations on the go.

A Drawing Tablet is better suited to:

  1. Professional Digital Artists:
    • Those who require high precision, advanced pressure sensitivity, and tilt functionality for detailed work.
    • Artists who use specialized software that might be better supported on a desktop setup.
  2. Graphic Designers:
    • Professionals who often work with vector graphics in software like Adobe Illustrator, can benefit from the precision of a dedicated drawing tablet.
  3. 3D Sculptors and Modelers:
    • Artists who use software like ZBrush or Blender might find drawing tablets more responsive and accurate for their needs.
  4. Animators:
    • Professionals who use software like Adobe Animate or Toon Boom Harmony might prefer the responsiveness and customizable express keys of drawing tablets.
  5. Traditional Artists Transitioning to Digital:
    • Those who might find a larger drawing tablet surface more akin to traditional drawing boards or canvases.
  6. Artists on a Budget:
    • Standalone drawing tablets without screens are generally more affordable than iPads, making them a good choice for artists who need a digital tool without breaking the bank.

Both (iPad and Drawing Tablet) are better suited to:

  1. Versatile Digital Artists:
    • Professionals who appreciate the portability and quick sketching ability of an iPad but also require the precision and dedicated features of a drawing tablet for more detailed work.
  2. Art Teachers and Tutors:
    • Those who teach might find an iPad useful for on-the-spot demonstrations and a drawing tablet for more in-depth tutorials.
  3. Freelancers:
    • Artists who work on varied projects and need the flexibility of both devices depending on client needs and project specifics.

While these categorizations are just a general guideline, as always, it comes down to individual preferences and any specific project needs. You should always test out devices when possible to determine which feels most intuitive and meets your requirements. 

I have said it a few times, I detested the idea of owning an iPad for digital art, and the snob in me said I should use a drawing tablet. 

When it came down to using both for a period of time, I actually came to love the iPad, and my brain could not adjust to drawing on a tablet while looking at a different screen, no matter how hard I tried. 

How quickly were my preconceived ideas flipped on their head!

Get an iPad if:

  • Versatility: You want a device that can be used for drawing, browsing, watching videos, reading, and more. An iPad is a multi-functional device.
  • Portability: You value a device that’s easy to carry around and doesn’t require a connection to a computer to function.
  • Apps: You’re interested in using a variety of apps beyond just drawing, such as ProcreateAdobe Fresco, and others, but also non-art apps.
  • Touch Interface: You appreciate the ability to use touch gestures in tandem with the stylus for a more intuitive experience.
  • Self-contained: You prefer a device that doesn’t need external power or a connection to a computer to operate.
  • Integration: You’re already invested in the Apple ecosystem and value the seamless integration between devices (e.g., Airdrop between Mac and iPad).
  • Note-taking: You also want to use the device for handwriting notes or annotating documents.
  • Varying sizes: iPads come in 12.9 inch, 10.9 inch and the mini 8.3 inch (the mini is not suitable as a drawing tablet).
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Get a Drawing Tablet if:

  • Dedicated Tool: You want a device specifically designed for drawing and graphic design tasks without any distractions.
  • Pressure Sensitivity: Many professional drawing tablets offer higher levels of pressure sensitivity and more responsive pens.
  • Tilt & Rotation Sensitivity: Some advanced drawing tablets offer tilt and rotation sensitivity, which can be crucial for certain art styles.
  • Customizable Express Keys: You value having physical buttons on the tablet that can be customized for specific functions in your drawing software.
  • Larger Drawing Area: Some drawing tablets offer larger active areas, which can be beneficial for detailed work or if you’re used to drawing from the shoulder.
  • Software Compatibility: You use specific software like Adobe IllustratorCorelDRAW, or ZBrush that might have better compatibility or feature support with certain drawing tablets.
  • Budget: Standalone drawing tablets (those without screens) tend to be more affordable than iPads, making them a good choice for those on a tighter budget.
  • Tethered Workflow: You prefer or are used to working on a desktop setup where the tablet is connected to a larger screen.
  • Sizes: You can get drawing tablets in all shapes and sizes so you are only restricted by your preferences and budget.
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Remember, I said it before and will say again that the best choice largely depends on your individual needs, preferences, and budget.

Some artists might find the iPad perfect for their workflow, while others might prefer the specificity and features of a dedicated drawing tablet.

And what works for me may not work for you. I know lots of artists who will never use an iPad but love their high-end drawing tablet.

Understanding Drawing Tablet Vs iPads

When deciding between a drawing tablet or an iPad, you need to consider your needs and preferences as a digital artist. Drawing tablets, also known as graphics tablets, are devices that connect to your computer. 

They offer a digital surface on which you can use a stylus to create artwork in various drawing apps. The main difference between drawing tablets and iPads lies in their functionalities and applications.

Drawing tablets come in various sizes and types—you might have heard of the popular Wacom tablet. 

Dedicated drawing tablets, such as the Wacom Intuos Pro tablet or Huion drawing tablets, offer a focused experience for graphic design, illustration, and other artistic pursuits.

Display tablets, like the Wacom Cintiq Pro or XP-Pen Artist, are equipped with built-in screens that make it easier for you to see your work come to life. 

These specialized tablets can be the best drawing tablets for professional artists.

Can the iPad be used as a drawing tablet?

Meanwhile, iPads serve not only as a digital drawing pad but also as a standalone device that can do multiple tasks. 

With iPad apps for drawing, you can dive into the world of digital art with the added convenience of a self-sufficient drawing device. 

For those who argue that an iPad gives digital artists a limited canvas space then I have something for them. I found this trick by accident while streaming a movie from my iPad to the TV using an HDMI cable.

I did not want to use an Apple TV as it complains all the time about some of my streaming services so I purchased an Anker multi port USB C connector where I plugged the USB C into the iPad and connected the HDMI to the TV.

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I saw my whole iPad screen up in all 50 inch glory, I decided to open Procreate. I then adjusted the canvas size so that it fit the screen size and voila! I had massive canvas space to work on.

When choosing the best iPad for drawing, consider features such as Apple Pencil compatibility and the iPad display size.

Benefits of Drawing Tablets:

  • Dedicated drawing experience
  • Designed for professional use
  • Pressure sensitivity & precision
  • Compatible with various industry-standard software

Benefits of iPads:

  • Multifunctional device
  • Portable and easy to use
  • Wide range of drawing apps
  • High-quality display
  • You can hack an iPad to act like a drawing tablet using a USB C multiconnector

Will different generation Apple pencils impact useability

I had almost forgotten about this. So different generations of the Apple Pencil do have differences that can impact usability.

I have used the second gen Apple pencil and I have nothing bad to say about it. Before you decide to skimp out and buy an older generation Apple pencil, you should look at my breakdown of their differences and how they might impact usability:

Apple Pencil (1st Generation):

Compatibility: Works with older iPad models, including the iPad Air (3rd generation), iPad mini (5th generation), iPad (6th and 7th generations), and all iPad Pro models from 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generations) and 10.5-inch.

Charging: The 1st generation Apple Pencil charges using a Lightning connector, which plugs directly into the iPad. This method can be a bit awkward, as the pencil sticks out from the iPad while charging.

Pairing: It pairs with the iPad by plugging it into the Lightning port, which can also feel a bit cumbersome.

Design: It has a completely round design, which means it can roll off flat surfaces if not careful.

Apple Pencil (2nd Generation):

Compatibility: Works with newer iPad models, including the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation and later) and the iPad Pro 11-inch (all generations).

Charging: The 2nd generation Apple Pencil charges wirelessly. It magnetically attaches to the side of compatible iPads, making the charging process more seamless and convenient.

Pairing: It also pairs with the iPad when magnetically attached, making the process more intuitive.

Design: Features a flat edge, preventing it from rolling off surfaces and providing a more ergonomic grip.

Gesture Controls: This generation introduced gesture controls, allowing users to tap the pencil to change tools or functions within certain apps.

Impact on Usability:

Charging and Pairing: The 2nd generation Apple Pencil offers a more user-friendly approach to charging and pairing. The magnetic attachment is more convenient than the Lightning connector method.

Ergonomics: The flat edge on the 2nd generation can be more comfortable for prolonged use and reduces the risk of the pencil rolling away.

Functionality: The added gesture controls in the 2nd generation can enhance usability, especially for artists who want to quickly switch between tools without interrupting their workflow.

Compatibility: The choice between the two might be dictated by the iPad model the user owns or plans to purchase.

While both generations of the Apple Pencil offer a high-quality drawing and writing experience, the 2nd generation has clear usability improvements that can enhance the overall experience.

But the best choice will also depend on the compatibility with the user’s iPad model, I am not sure if a 2nd generation Apple pencil works on older iPads. That is something I have been unable to test.

Key Features Comparison – Drawing Tablet vs iPad For Art

When deciding on a drawing tablet vs iPad the things that you should consider can easily be counted on one hand. Anything else is splitting hairs and nothing actually beats sitting down for an hour or so with the actual devices to test them out. 

Most Apple stores will allow you to play around with their iPads for as long as you like and if you want to try out a drawing tablet, I suggest going into a big box store such as Best Buy and play with any display models but if that does not work then do what my wife does.

She buys the devices, tests them out and then returns the ones (or all the ones) she does not like.

Most store have a no question return policy if you return the goods with a receipt of purchase within 30 days. The same applies to Amazon.

Pressure Sensitivity

A significant aspect to consider while choosing between a drawing tablet and an iPad is pressure sensitivity. The Apple Pencil offers 4096 pressure sensitivity levels, allowing you to create detailed artwork.

On the other hand, some XP-Pen tablets and other drawing tablets offer higher sensitivity levels, giving you more control over your lines.

Battery Life

You might want to pick a device based on its battery life. iPads have impressive battery life, lasting up to 10 hours, depending on the model.

Drawing tablets, especially pen displays, require a computer or laptop to operate, relying on the connected device’s battery. If you require extended working hours, an iPad Mini could be a good option for you.

Screen Resolution

Stunning visuals are necessary for digital art creation. iPads are known for their high-resolution Retina displays that showcase your artwork brilliantly.

However, the screen resolution of a drawing tablet depends on your computer monitor. 

To provide yourself the best experience, ensure your computer screen complements the drawing tablet’s capabilities.

Extra Features

Some extra features can elevate your drawing experience:

  • Procreate App – A popular and best drawing app for iPads, allowing artists to create stunning designs.
  • Palm Rejection – iPads with Apple Pencil support provide palm rejection. This means it recognizes only the pencil input, ignoring your palm touching the screen. Drawing tablets typically offer this feature too.
  • Touch Screens – iPads have touch screens, making them suitable for multitasking. Drawing tablets often lack touchscreen functionality, being more focused on pen input.

Remember, choosing between a drawing tablet and iPad depends on your specific needs, budget, and personal preferences.

Do thorough research and try devices before making your final decision to ensure you get the best tool for your creativity.

Application Uses

Consider the applications you’ll use when comparing a drawing tablet vs iPad. Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Sketchbook, and Clip Studio Paint are popular choices for digital art. The iPad, with apps like Adobe Fresco, is excellent for sketching, drawing, and painting.

Astropad Standard and Astropad Studio allow you to turn your iPad into a drawing tablet that works with your Mac.

You can use your favorite design programs like Adobe Illustrator and create print-ready illustrations. Remember that drawing tablets are specialized tools that excel in this area!

One unique feature of iPads is their ability to work with apps like Duet Display and Duet Pro. These apps let you use your iPad as a second display for your PC or Mac.

This is helpful for multitasking or keeping reference images nearby while you work.

Creating art for social media is a breeze with the iPad’s touch interface and easy sharing options. Snap pictures or add filters to your work with just a few taps.

This is a key advantage over drawing tablets, which typically need to be connected to a computer.

You’re now more informed about the various application uses for iPads and drawing tablets. Choose the device that offers the features you need to unlock your artistic potential.

Remember, the right tool is vital to enhance your creativity and grow your skills. Happy drawing!

Price Considerations

Determining the right tablet for your creative needs involves considering the financial investment. Let’s take a closer look at price points for both drawing tablets and iPads.

When it comes to initial investment, drawing tablets can be a more affordable option. 

A basic drawing tablet can start at as low as $40, while more feature-packed professional models can reach up to $2,500. This wide price range means you can find a good choice depending on your budget and artistic requirements.

On the other hand, iPads tend to have a higher price point, due to their multifunctionality. 

They are not just drawing devices; they also work as general-purpose tablets. As a result, purchasing an iPad is also an investment in a versatile mobile device that can cater to your specific needs and preferences.

Benefits in Context

Both drawing tablets and iPads have advantages to consider. The lower price range of drawing tablets can make them an attractive option if your primary purpose is to create digital artwork. They offer a more focused experience and cater specifically to artists’ needs.

In contrast, iPads may be a better option if you’re interested in utilizing a mobile device for various activities like surfing the web, watching videos, and exploring new technology.

iPads can be the best tablet choice if you value this versatility alongside the ability to create digital art.

Ensuring that you make the right choice is necessary, so weigh the pros and cons, keeping in mind your budget and artistic goals.

Your decision should align with your creative needs, preferences, and the desired level of function from your tablet. So, be careful when comparing options, and you’ll find the right device for your artistic journey.

Efficiency and User Preference

When choosing between an iPad and a drawing tablet, efficiency is necessary to consider. A closer look at different devices will help you make the right decision.

With a Windows PC for your artwork, a drawing tablet might be a better option for you. 

You can enjoy your favorite apps while you work on your desktop computer. A tablet with its own screen can offer a great choice for those who require more precise control over their art. On the other hand, a flat side tablet might save much space on your desk.

Staying up-to-date with advancements in the creative world is vital. 

Good news for iPad users: the Luna Display allows you to use your iPad as a desktop extension. This feature makes the iPad an efficient tool for your artwork, regardless of its smaller screen size. The iPad can offer you more flexibility and portability when working with a MacBook Pro or a different desktop setup.

Now, let’s talk about screen size and user preferences. When choosing between devices, a key factor is personal preference. The inch screen size of your device can dramatically affect your comfort and efficiency. 

Tablets with larger screens might be the easiest way to work, but some people might prefer a more compact option.

A consideration in your decision is the subscription model for creative software. 

Big names often offer their applications on different devices, allowing you to keep up with your art on the go. While both a drawing tablet and an iPad can provide quick access to your favorite software, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons.

To make the best choice for your artwork, take a long time and consider your needs. With so many options available, you can find the perfect device for your artistic endeavors.

iPad Model Variations

When choosing a drawing device, the iPad offers several options. The Apple iPad Pro comes highly recommended for artists. This model boasts impressive performance and versatile display sizes. The latest models have features that cater to creative needs.

The iPad Air models bring an excellent balance of performance and affordability. These devices have fast processors, making them great for drawing and multitasking. Although not as powerful as the iPad Pro, they still deliver an enjoyable drawing experience.

Another option is the standard iPad or the regular iPad. While these devices don’t have the same high-end specs as the iPad Pro or iPad Air, they are budget-friendly and still deliver an enjoyable drawing experience. With continuous updates, these models are also suitable for beginners or artists on a budget.

Several drawing apps are available on the App Store, allowing you to find the best drawing app for your needs. Popular options include Procreate, Adobe Fresco, and Sketchbook. Each app offers unique tools and features to create vibrant digital art.

iPads stand out from drawing tablets because they are self-sufficient drawing devices. They provide a portable solution, independent from a computer. Unlike Samsung tablets, iPads have a wide selection, ensuring there’s a device that matches your artistic goals and budget.

Remember, choosing the right iPad model is necessary to benefit your artwork. Take your time, compare features, and select the device that best suits your creativity and budget.

Before you go…

If you liked what you just read, chances are you will be blown away by some of the other articles I have written. I cover lots of topics from drawing to prints to even more! So here are a few of my latest examples you really should look at.

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