the best ipad for drawing for architects and designers

The Best iPad for Drawing for Aspiring & Seasoned Artists

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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An iPad, combined with the Apple Pencil and the best drawing apps, can be a very powerful drawing tool for digital art. Today's iPad allows many artists, illustrators and designers to unleash their creativity and bring their masterpieces to life. If you're just dipping a toe in the water or looking to take your work to the next level, here are the current top options for the best iPad for drawing :

1. Best Overall: 2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro

2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi‑Fi, 256GB) - Space...
  • Apple M1 chip for next-level performance
  • Brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion,...
  • TrueDepth camera system featuring Ultra Wide camera with Center...
  • 12MP Wide camera, 10MP Ultra Wide camera, and LiDAR Scanner for...
  • Stay connected with ultrafast Wi-Fi

For any artist looking for an iPad to create and express their art ideas, you are definitely in for a surprise if you choose the 2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro. You have never experienced capability from a device like this before. This iPad goes beyond the level of any of its predecessors and assures you power when ranked with other drawing tablets, iPads, or arguably versus Apple laptops as well.

Best IPad For Drawing

With the new M1 chip, you are guaranteed next-level performance, in combination with its beautiful 12.9 Liquid retina XDR Display, hailed as one of the best screens ever to grace this kind of device. You are also equipped with a 12MP Wide camera and 10 MP Ultra-wide camera to help you get clear photos for reference or artistic ideas. These cameras give the best immersive AR (Augmented Reality) courtesy of its LiDAR scanner, adding more realism and depth to your pictures.

You are also spoiled for choice, with the ability to choose from the 12.9-inch and 11-inch models, whatever suits your artistic needs. However, you should note that you only get the XDR Mini LED display with a larger size. This 2021 iPad Pro offers you all-day battery life, ultrafast WiFi, and extra hard drive options for your internal storage.


  • Amazing Mini LED screen
  • High-Level performance CPU
  • Incredible camera quality
  • Great audio
  • Great battery Life
  • Fast WiFi and 5G capability


  • Expensive
  • Not the best at multitasking
  • Doesn’t have substantial apps on the OS
  • Offers no multiple monitor support

2. Best Alternative: iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2020

2020 Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) - Space...
  • 12.9-inch edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display with ProMotion, True...
  • A12Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine
  • 12MP Wide camera, 10MP Ultra Wide camera, and LiDAR Scanner
  • 7MP TrueDepth front camera
  • Face ID for secure authentication and Apple Pay

If you want the outright alternative iPad for art, you certainly have to look at the latest generation of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This is the most powerful tablet ever made by Apple, and the price point shows it. But what you get certainly justifies what you pay for.

This iPad has a large 12.9-inch display that makes for a great canvas size for your art, from sketching and painting to editing photos. The new Liquid Retina display gives you an exceptional and uniform color display. It's also a ProMotion display, running at 120Hz for nigh-instant, buttery-smooth response to the Apple Pencil; it's just like doing it on a real piece of paper.

The iPad Pro has an A12Z Bionic processor, featuring an eight-core processor; four high-efficiency cores and four high-performance cores. That, and an additional GPU core, translates to a great deal of power for graphic processing apps. This means smoother painting and sketching experiences or snappy photo editing. Plus, you get roughly 10 hours of battery life.

This tablet also features Face ID support, which is ridiculously fast. Unfortunately, the iPad Pro is only compatible with the new second-generation Apple Pencil, although it features the new magnetic attaching and charging. Photographers who shoot on their mobile devices can take advantage of the improved rear camera setup, which includes a 10MP ultra-wide-angle camera, a 12MP wide-angle camera and a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor.


  • Large 12.9-inch display.
  • Magnetic mounting and charging for the Apple Pencil.
  • Face ID.
  • ProMotion.


  • Expensive.
  • Screen size might be too much for some.

3. Best Screen Ratio: iPad Pro 11-inch 2020

2020 Apple iPad Pro (11-inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) - Space...
  • 11-inch edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display with ProMotion, True...
  • A12Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine
  • 12MP Wide camera, 10MP Ultra Wide camera, and LiDAR Scanner
  • 7MP TrueDepth front camera
  • Face ID for secure authentication and Apple Pay

There's very little to separate the 11-inch 2020 iPad Pro from its larger counterpart. However, when it comes to art, the difference in screen size sometimes makes all the difference.

This iPad Pro brings out the best between the portability of the 10.9-inch Air and the performance of the 12.9-inch Pro. With a better body-to-screen ratio, this tablet offers a great display for multiple artistic endeavors. It's an excellent and powerful choice for artists who want to carry their drawing tablets around.

You get the same A12Z Bionic processor on this iPad. This translates to virtually the same performance, including 10-hour battery life. It also features ProMotion technology with the same pixel density. The iPad Pro 2020 (11-inch) is really just a smaller, lighter and cheaper version of the 12.9-inch.


  • As powerful as the 12.9-inch Pro.
  • Smaller and lighter.
  • ProMotion.
  • Face ID.


  • Still a tad expensive.
  • Smaller screen size might not be for some.

4. Best Value: iPad Air 4

2020 Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Green...
  • Stunning 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and P3...
  • A14 Bionic chip with Neural Engine
  • Touch ID for secure authentication and Apple Pay
  • 12MP back camera, 7MP FaceTime HD front camera
  • Available in Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, Green, and Sky Blue

This is arguably the most appealing iPad to most people, largely due to the fine balance between price, performance and screen real estate.

At 10.9 inches, the new iPad Air 4 offers reasonable real estate for drawing and painting and a great portal for checking out and editing your photos. For starters, it's compatible with the Apple Pencil 2, which gives you access to all the latest functionalities. It also features the A14 Bionic chip -Apple's latest processor, making it exceptionally fast, responsive and heavy-duty.

It also has a laminated True Tone display, producing better images with a more vibrant color range. True Tone, in particular, is pretty useful because it adjusts the display's temperature to ambient lighting. In case you find this feature overbearing or disruptive, you can turn it off from the Control Center.

However, this iPad lacks a few features, namely Face ID, ProMotion display and a four-speaker system. On the other hand, you still get the new dual-camera array, which includes a LiDAR sensor and an extra 10MP ultra-wide rear-facing camera.


  • Superb balance of price and power.
  • Fairly large screen.
  • Apple Pencil 2 support.
  • Great display.


  • No ProMotion display.
  • No Face ID.

5. Best Budget: iPad 8th-Generation 2020

2020 Apple iPad (10.2-inch, Wi-Fi, 32GB) - Space Gray...
  • Gorgeous 10.2-inch Retina display
  • A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine
  • Support for Apple Pencil (1st generation) and Smart Keyboard
  • 8MP back camera, 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera
  • Stereo speakers

If you've been looking for an affordable, entry-level iPad, the 8th-generation iPad is a pretty solid choice for budding starters. Despite having the older A12 Bionic chip, it's still powerful enough to get you going.

It has a 10.2-inch LCD Retina display that produces impressively sharp and detailed graphics and text. Even with a relatively smaller display, the iPad 8th-Generation 2020 still offers plenty of real estate for drawing and sketching. It's only compatible with the 1st-gen Apple Pencil, but you're still getting a top-of-the-line tool for any digital artist.

The Pencil allows you to draw seamlessly, thanks to improved tilt and pressure sensitivity, plus palm rejection. Unfortunately, the 1st-gen Apple Pencil doesn't support wireless charging, only Lighting. Additionally, this stylus tends to roll on flat surfaces since it's completely cylindrical.

All in all, the 8th-generation iPad is still a beat when it comes to the best budget iPad for artists.


  • A12 Bionic is still outstanding for the price.
  • Supports 1st gen Apple Pencil.
  • Quite affordable.
  • Up to 128GB of storage.


  • 32GB base storage.
  • Relatively outdated A12 Bionic.
  • Only compatible with 1st-gen Apple Pencil.

6. Best Portable: iPad Mini 2019

2019 Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Silver
  • 7.9-inch Retina Display with True Tone and wide Color
  • A12 Bionic chip
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • 8MP back camera, 7MP FaceTime HD front camera
  • Stereo speakers

You never know when inspiration will strike you next. The iPad Mini is a great companion if you're always on the go. It's small and compact, making it very easy to carry around.

For a relatively affordable price, you get an impressive display that produces bright, colorful and sharp graphics with true-to-life details. This makes it an excellent choice for several purposes, including drawing, editing pictures and even reading. However, the 7.9-inch screen size might be a tad too small for some artists.

According to Apple, the iPad Mini 2019 is up to three times faster than the Mini 4. This gives you enough power to run your favorite apps without any significant hurdles. More so, this tablet gives you up to 10 hours of battery life.


  • Small, lightweight.
  • An ideal starting point for amateur artists.
  • Suitable for artists who regularly draw on the go.


  • Only compatible with 1st-gen Apple Pencil.

Factors to Consider When Buying the Best iPad for Artists

1. Apple Pencil Support

The Apple Pencil is what makes it all possible. It's an intuitive and easy-to-use stylus that feels like a real pencil in your hand. It's excellent for taking notes, drawing, logo designing, painting, and even photo editing. The iPad-Apple Pencil blend is a perfect pair that will allow you to flesh out your most creative ideas.

The Apple Pencil is arguably the best stylus you can get for drawing on an iPad. Currently, there are two generations of Apple Pencils available. Both are practically the same, although the 2nd gen comes with a few more advantages.

First, it has better, more ergonomic charging. While you had to stick the 1st generation Apple Pencil into a Lightning port, the 2nd Gen attaches to the side of your iPad magnetically to charge. Furthermore, its feel is more similar to that of a real pencil, making it more comfortable to use.

The size is also slightly different, with the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil being lighter and shorter. The finish is also not as glossy, giving it a firmer, non-slip texture. In true Apple fashion, the 2nd gen can be said to be more user-friendly and practical.

That being said, both pencils are remarkable styluses overall, taking the digital drawing experience to a whole new level. The obvious choice between the two would be the Apple Pencils 2nd gen. However, it's worth considering that's is a bit more expensive and is only compatible with some iPad models.

a). Apple Pencil 2nd generation is compatible with:

  • iPad Air (4th generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd and 4th generation)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st and 2nd generation)

b). Apple Pencil 1st generation is compatible with:

  • iPad (6th, 7th, and 8th generation)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch

2. RAM

The more RAM, the better your iPad works. More memory allows the device to work faster and handle heavy-duty processes. This also means more layers to work with, especially in apps like Procreate and Adobe Fresco.

If you're working on complex art projects that need an extensive palette and intricate layers, you'll definitely need at least 4GB RAM on your iPad. If it's more of a hobby, you don't particularly need the best memory allocation. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't provide the specific RAM specifications on their products; we'll have to trust this source for detailed technical information.

  • Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch 20206GB
  • Apple iPad Pro 11-inch 20206GB
  • Apple iPad Air 20204GB
  • Apple iPad 8th Gen 2020 3GB
  • Apple iPad Mini 20193GB

3. Storage

While memory focuses on the short-term, storage is more about the long- but the same principle applies. More storage is always better. Generally, even your most frequently used app will only take up about 20GB a year for regular users. 128GB of storage should be sufficient to hold all your favorite drawing apps and your work over a good number of years. A heavier user might then need around 256GB.

4. Battery

Battery life is certainly one of the most critical factors to consider when you're choosing a drawing tablet. The last thing you want is your 'canvas' running out of juice after just a few hours of use. The good news is, iPads generally have very impressive battery life.

Apple makes sure that a single, full charge can last about 10 hours if mostly surfing the web. However, drawing on an iPad is a more demanding process that consumes more resources and power. But you'll still get a more than decent 6-7 hours of drawing on a fully charged iPad Pro.

5. Connectivity

LTE is one of those features that aren't particularly critical for digital art but still useful if you have them. It's only mostly needed if you're drawing outdoors or at a place with no Wi-Fi. But this is a simple problem that can be solved by connecting the iPad to your phone's hotspot.

In fact, if you own an iPhone, the latest iOS updates have made it remarkably easy to set up a personal hotspot with your iPhone or iPad. In that case, you could actually save some money by opting for an iPad with no built-in LTE.

6. Apps Compatibility

There are plenty of outstanding drawing apps nowadays. And you might be wondering which ones are compatible with your iPad. Well, you'll be happy to hear that all of them can work with your device. It seems like both major and smaller apps work just fine on iPads. You can run Procreate and Adobe Fresco to ArtRage and Graphic.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Drawing and Painting iPads

1. How is the iPad display suited to drawing?

It's always hard to tell actual colors from stand-alone drawing tablets unless you have a better monitor in front of you for comparison. However, iPad displays are great for drawing, thanks to exceptional resolution, color accuracy, range and subtlety. The iPad Pro, in particular, is quite outstanding in this respect.

2. How are the iPads with glare and parallax?

Glare and parallax can be annoying and frustrating for an artist. For anyone unfamiliar with these terms, glare is the reflection of light from above or behind the screen, making it harder to see and make out details. On the other hand, parallax is the gap between where a stylus' nib comes into contact with the screen and where the corresponding image appears.

The iPad Pro, Air and Mini feature an anti-reflective coating for glare and fully-laminated screens for parallax. That, combined with bright screens, brings out some of the best drawing tablets we have seen on the market. You'll never have to worry about making out the finest details.

Furthermore, all the iPads features on this list are well-engineered and designed to suit an artist's needs. They have very accurate, sensitive and responsive pencil-screen interaction to ensure glare and parallax never break your sweat.

3. What is the expected latency with these iPads?

Performance is something you never have to fret about with Apple products. These iPads perform exceptionally well, without any significant delay between moving the Pencil and an image developing on the screen.

That being said, some models do perform better than others. The iPad Pro surpasses the other models, thanks to ProMotion Technology, more RAM and a superior processor. However, even the standard iPad will definitely keep up with your hand movements seamlessly. 

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.