The 5 Best iPads for Drawing and Artists in 2021

Apple iPads are phenomenal for creating art. In fact, an iPad combined with an Apple pencil and a suite of graphics design applications may be the most impactful technological development for digital art creation in the past decade.

However, there are so many versions of the iPad available, and it might be challenging to pinpoint the best iPad for drawing artists. Just to show how confusing this might be, here is a quick list of the variety of iPads (and Apple Pencils), available:

Possible iPad Models:

  • Apple iPad (6th, 7th, and 8th generation) – Compatible with 1st Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad Air (3rd generation) – Compatible with 1st Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad mini (5th generation) – Compatible with 1st Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation) – Compatible with 1st Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch – Compatible with 1st Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch – Compatible with 1st Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generation) – Compatible with 2nd Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation) – Compatible with 2nd Generation Apple Pencil
  • iPad Air (4th generation) – Compatible with 2nd Generation Apple Pencil

But don’t worry! In this article we break things to let you know which of these models will make for good drawing tablets. We will discuss the best iPads for drawing and digital artists, as well as the things that artists need to keep in mind while buying an iPad for digital art.

Additionally, we provided specific use cases for each product selection so that you can make the most appropriate choice for your situation. This includes a range of models, including the Apple iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Mini, and iPad Air, each of which can have its own advantages as an iPad for drawing.

We spent over 30 hours researching and writing this article. Much of that effort went into finding the proper selection criteria, tracking down the best available products based on those criteria, and then grading each of the recommended products with a score of 1-10 for each criterion.

Enjoy!

How To Choose the Best iPad for Drawing and Digital Artists

A digital artist needs good display features to create their best work, we focused mainly on those features and functions of iPads in our selection criteria.

Memory (RAM)

RAM holds data temporarily so that the CPU or applications can access it instantly. It’s essential when dealing with large graphics files and applications, and hence will be critical when using a drawing tablet.

The amount of memory is measured in Gigabytes, but strangely enough, Apple doesn’t disclose the amount of RAM in its iPads. This is purportedly because the apple devices are optimized so well that the processing units are very efficient in consuming resources.

As Apple doesn’t disclose the exact amount of RAM in their iPads, we gathered the data regarding the amount of RAM of iPads from Wikipedia and a few other trusted sources. The minimum RAM needed for artists is 3GB as Procreate, an app for artists running on as low as 3GB iPads.

With 3GB as the minimum, nonetheless, the recommended memory range for artists is 8GB.

In today’s article, we’ll be looking at tablets with memory from 3GB to as high as 16GB in some of the latest versions.

Storage

Storage means digital data is stored for more extended periods (instead of RAM, which is only held temporarily).

Storage is a significant selection factor regarding iPads for artists because of the multitude of applications and artworks you may need to keep stored on the iPad, each of which can take up a surprising amount of storage space.

Storage is measured using Gigabytes (GB), and ideally, you’d want your iPad to have at least 64GB of storage. But remember, the more you can get, the better.

In today’s article, we’ll be looking at iPads with storage options ranging from 32GB up to 1TB.

Display type

Being a visual medium, the display type of an iPad will certainly be an important consideration when picking your drawing tablet.

While all iPads have excellent displays, slightly older iPads offer Retina display, whereas the newer iPad models offer Liquid Retina display, and the most up to date version offers Liquid Retina XDR Display.

The Retina display is an LCD with a high Pixel Per Inch (PPI). This type of display was prevalent in previous years, but they don’t offer much color variety or brightness nowadays. However, what they do offer is affordability.

The Liquid Retina Display, on the other hand, is a type of OLED display panel. It has deeper black projection and brighter color projections than LCD/Retina, consuming less power.

Our recommendation would be to go for the iPad with Liquid Retina display, but if the budget doesn’t allow then going for the ‘regular’ Retina display isn’t the end of the world.

Pixel Density

Pixel density refers to the resolution of a digital image in pixels and is measured in Pixels Per Inch (PPI).

Generally, you’d want to ensure that your iPad has the highest pixel density possible because high pixel density provides more detail.

The minimum value for good art quality is 180PPI. If a person wants good art quality, we recommend iPads with 240PPI or more.

In today’s article, we’ll discuss articles with pixel density ranging from 264PPI up to 326 PPI.

Price

Perhaps the most critical selection factor among most customers is the price of an iPad. Based on the current market prices of iPads, we can divide them into three categories:

  • Cheap – $500<
  • Moderate – $500 – $800
  • Expensive – $800+

Below please find our recommendations for the best iPad for drawing. We’ve done our best to give different possible use cases, as well as provide objective metrics for the selection criteria. Enjoy!

Our Product Recommendations

#1. Best iPad for Artists Overall – iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch)

2021 Apple 11-inch iPad Pro

Selection Criteria

  • Memory – 8 and 16 GB Variant
    • Our Score – 9.5/10
  • Storage – Up to 1TB
    • Our Score – 9.5/10
  • Pixel Density – 264PPI
    • Our Score 9/10
  • Display Type – Liquid Retina display + 600 nits brightness
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Apple Pencil Compatibility – Apple Pencil 2nd Generation
  • Price – From $799
    • Our Score – 9/10

About the iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch)

Our choice for the overall best iPad for artists is the iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch version). It has solid selection criteria scores across the board, meeting all of our recommended ranges for our criteria.

As with most of the other options on this list, the iPad Pro 2021 offers many customization choices for its specifications. It offers storage as low as 128 and as high as 1TB. You can also choose the amount of memory you want on your iPad. However, the price will also go up the more storage/memory you select.

This is an excellent iPad for artists due to the high DPI count, screen size and Pixel density compared to some of the other iPads. It’s also got the Liquid Retina Display making this the ideal option for most digital artists today.

Pros

  • Variable Storage and Memory options.
  • A magnificent display with pitch-perfect color accuracy and detailing capability.
  • Comes at a reasonable price if the features are taken into account.
  • Chipset is capable of powering an entire desktop computer.

Cons

  • Multitasking is slightly tricky due to the way the iPad OS is built.

#2. Best iPad for Professional Artists – iPad Pro (12.9)

2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Selection Criteria

  • Memory – 8 and 16 GB Variant
    • Our Score – 9.5/10
  • Storage – Up to 1TB
    • Our Score – 9.5/10
  • Pixel Density – 264PPI
    • Our Score 9/10
  • Display Type – Liquid Retina XDR(mini-LED) + 1000 nits brightness
    • Our Score – 9.5/10
  • Apple Pencil Compatibility – Apple Pencil 2nd Generation
  • Price – From $1000
    • Our Score – 8/10

About the iPad Pro (12.9)

The “runner up” isn’t quite a runner up. It’s actually an upgrade compared to our first choice, but it’s also the highest price point on our list, so we think it may make the best choice for professionals looking to invest in their craft.

Our choice for the best tablet for professional artists is the iPad Pro 12.9 inch version. The iPad Pro 12.9 inch has a similar configuration as the iPad Pro 11-inch version, with some upgrades. The most notable ones are the display type (Liquid Retina XDR display) and its screen size (12.9 inches).

The thing that sets this iPad apart from other iPads is its display. The Liquid Retina XDR display is the best display among any iPads at the moment. The device’s display is also pretty bright (Up to 1000 nits). Other aspects of this iPad are pretty much the same as the 11inch version.

As with our top choice it’s compatible with the second generation Apple Pencil, which is the top of the line stylus for creating digital art.

The 12.9 inch iPad pro has an above recommendation range score in almost every aspect, and this makes it one of the better iPads available today.

Pros

  • Liquid Retina XDR display and 12.9 Inch Screen Size are best on the market.
  • Recommended Pixel density and DPI count required by artists.
  • Due to a large screen size and smaller bezels, the visuals look stunning, even compared to other iPad models.

Cons

  • It’s expensive considering the similarity to the lower-priced 11-inch version.

#3. Best iPad for Portability – iPad Mini

Apple iPad Mini

Selection Criteria

  • Memory – 3GB
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Storage – 64 and 256GB
    • Our Score – 8.5/10
  • Pixel Density – 326PPI
    • Our Score 9.5/10
  • Display Type – Retina + 500 nits brightness
    • Our Score – 7.5/10
  • Apple Pencil Compatibility – First Generation Apple Pencil
  • Price – From $559
    • Our Score – 8.5/10

About the iPad Mini

The best portable iPad for artists is the iPad mini. This iPad has one of the lowest prices available on the market and provides much utility for artists. In terms of our selection criteria, the iPad Mini has solid scores across the board.

The best thing about this iPad is its pixel density. Despite being a reasonably small iPad, it has the most pixel density among all iPad models, making it a great iPad for drawing, and very portable as well.

Keep in mind this is only compatible with the first generation Apple Pencil (NOT the second generation).

Like other Apple products, the iPad mini also has multiple storage options. While you can get up to 256GB of storage, the price will also increase. However, the $559 price tag is also quite good if you factor in the selection criteria and how they complement each other.

Pros

  • It has the highest pixel density among all iPad models.
  • Comes at a reasonable price.
  • Due to it being an iPad mini, it’s very portable and easy to travel with.

Cons

  • One of the lowest memory counts among all of the iPads.

#4. Best Budget iPad for Artists – Apple iPad (8th Gen)

2020 Apple iPad (10.2-inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB)

Selection Criteria

  • Memory – 3GB
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Storage – 32 and 128GB
    • Our Score – 8/10
  • Pixel Density – 264PPI
    • Our Score 9.5/10
  • Display Type – Retina + 500 nits brightness
    • Our Score – 7.5/10
  • Apple Pencil Compatibility – First Generation Apple Pencil
  • Price – From $330
    • Our Score – 10/10

About the Apple iPad (8th Gen)

“Budget” is a term that isn’t much associated with apple products, but the 2020 iPad (8th Gen) comes relatively reasonably priced. It has good selection criteria scores across the board and has Pixel density same as the latest iPads. With that pixel density, you can make digital arts (and print them) while maintaining the quality you desire, making this a very handy iPad for drawing.

While this iPad offers storage options between 32 and 128GB storage options, we only suggest the 128GB version as 32 GB might be a little short on storage.

The display portion of the iPad is good too. While the bezels are slightly more significant than recent iPad models, the display is bright and colorful.

The trade-off for the iPad mini is that it is falling somewhat short in the memory section. Nonetheless, it has the A12 Bionic chipset, which is powerful and easily handles most graphic-intensive tasks.

Pros

  • It comes with a powerful A12 Bionic chipset.
  • It has the same Pixel density and DPI count as the latest iPad Pro.
  • Very affordable price for an iPad

Cons

  • Due to low memory count, it might lag if too many applications are running at once.

#5. Best iPad for Beginner Artists – iPad Air 4 (2020)

2020 Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB)

  • Memory – 4GB
    • Our Score – 8.5/10
  • Storage – 64 and 256GB
    • Our Score – 8.5/10
  • Pixel Density – 264PPI
    • Our Score 9.5/10
  • Display Type – Liquid Retina + 500 nits brightness
    • Our Score – 8.5/10
  • Apple Pencil Compatibility – Second Generation Apple Pencil
  • Price – From $600
    • Our Score – 8.5/10

About the iPad Air 4

If you’re starting as an artist, the best choice for you would be the iPad Air 4. The reason for that is this iPad includes many top-class features at a lower price. In addition, this iPad has a balanced configuration all around and comes with good scores across our selection criteria board.

It comes with 4GB RAM and has storage options that go up to 256 GB, but remember, the price will increase. It also has a low bezel design, so the visuals pop up more sublimely.

The iPad 4 has the Liquid Retina display, so the pictures look more polished and smoother than the regular retina displays. The DPI Count and Pixel Density are also above the recommended ranges for artists.

Pros

  • The Pixel Density count matches the recommended range for artists.
  • Comes with a retina display despite being a medium-priced iPad.
  • The A14 Bionic chipset will serve an artist well for the next couple of years.

Cons

  •  Has a relatively lower battery life compared to other iPads.

Conclusion

This article provided our detailed product recommendations on the best iPad for drawing and digital art. It explained and addressed the critical factors on which to focus while buying an iPad for artists, and include recommendations for a variety of use cases.

In the first half, we explained why things like Memory, Storage, Pixel Density, and other essential aspects are important when buying an iPad for artists. Then, we defined these criteria, explained how to measure them, and left our recommendation regarding each of the requirements present in the article.

After we were done with the selection criteria, we mentioned some of our recommendations based on real-life use cases, such as the best portable iPad or the best budget iPad for artists. These recommendations included various makes and models of the iPad, including the original Apple iPad, the iPad Mini, iPad Air and of course the iPad Pro. We also took special consideration to reference the appropriate Apple Pencil compatibility (1st or 2nd generation), as that is of utmost importance for drawing apps and artists using drawing tablets.

Sources