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iPad vs Drawing Tablet: Which is better for an Artist? (Comparison)

iPad vs Drawing Tablet: Which is better for an Artist? (Comparison)

When it comes to digital art, one of the most debated topics is iPad vs Drawing Tablet. Artists and designers often find themselves torn between these popular devices, each offering unique benefits and drawbacks.

Related: iPad vs Wacom: Which is Better for Digital Art? (Full Review)

In this blog post, we will compare the iPad vs a Drawing Tablet, which includes graphics tablets, pen tablets with a screen, and more.

Related: 11 Best iPad Alternatives for Drawing & Digital Art (For Every Budget)

We’ll cover various factors such as functionality, pressure sensitivity, size, compatibility, and price to help you make a decision about which device is best suited for artists of all types.

Keep in mind though, with the XP-Pen Magic drawing pad out now, the ipad has some competition

iPad vs Drawing Tablet: Which is better for Digital Art & Graphic design?

1 iPad vs drawing Tablet Which is better for Digital Art Graphic design 1

iPads are very user-friendly, suitable for various tasks and ideal for beginner artists… while Drawing tablets are designed specifically for digital art, sometimes with higher pressure sensitivity, larger screens, more customization, and professional software compatibility. However, drawing tablets are generally less portable and more affordable than iPads.

Also see: 5 Best iPads for Artists (Drawing, Digital Art, and more)

IPAD vs DRAWINGTABLET Which is better for an artist

As far as performance, the iPad just as good as many drawing tablets, but the battery life of an iPad can be a big downside, so it’s really a different setup overall.

  • The big advantage is that you can use procreate on an iPad, which is exclusive to iOS. If you want to use a Windows only drawing app or need a larger display than 12.9 inches, then a drawing tablet is more ideal and an iPad may not be the best choice.
  • However, to use your iPad as a drawing tablet with a MacBook you could download  an app like Luna Display by Astropad or another duet display alternative, which works to solve for this.
  • Graphics tablets without a screen are significantly less expensive than an iPad, while Pen Tablets (drawing tablets with a screen) are somewhat in the same price range ($350+)… but you’ll need a laptop or PC to use a graphics tablet… so the pricing is tough to compare objectively.
Advantages of Using an iPad instead of a Drawing Tablet

Keep in mind, there are standalone devices like the Wacom mobile studio pro which doesn’t need a PC to draw with. There are also Pen tablets that have a screen, but they need to be attached to a laptop for desktop – an example of this is the Wacom Cintiq, Huion KAMVAS, or the XP-Pen Artist 12

When it comes to deciding between an iPad and a drawing tablet for digital art and graphic design, one must consider factors like pressure sensitivity, software compatibility, and portability.

Also see: 7 Best Drawing Tablets for Mac

An iPad can offer a portable, all-in-one solution with a varied range of built-in apps and the Apple Pencil.

You can also view Which Apple Pencil works with your iPad (Compatibility Chart)

On the other hand, drawing tablets provide a more specialized stylus, also with high levels of precision and access to industry-standard software.

Advantages of using an iPad instead of a drawing tablet

Utilizing an iPad for digital art presents some key advantages. One distinct advantage is the ease of file sharing and collaboration that iPads provide. Most of all Procreate is an app exclusive to iPads that makes it the biggest advantage to using it over a drawing tablet – since you can’t use drawing tablets with procreate.

See: Procreate iPad: 7 Best iPads for Procreate

With cloud storage integration and compatibility with the full ecosystem of Apple devices, artists can efficiently share their creations with clients or collaborate with other team members.

Moreover, the iPad allows for multitasking with its split-screen feature, enabling artists to work on their projects while browsing the web or watching tutorial videos.

Another advantage is the high-quality display found in iPads, with vibrant colors and Retina-level resolution.

These displays make it easier for artists to see their work come to life, giving them a more accurate representation of their final product. Besides, the long battery life of most iPads enables artists to work without interruptions and without worrying about finding an outlet mid-project.

Also see: 5 Best Wireless Drawing Tablets

iPad can function as a drawing tablet for Mac with Duet display app

One of the lesser-known advantages of iPads is their ability to turn into a drawing tablet for Mac computers when using the Duet Display app. With this app, users can connect their iPad to their Mac, turning it into an extended display.

See: Top 10 Duet Display Alternatives (Free and Paid)

This allows artists not only to mirror their computer’s desktop onto the iPad screen but also to interact with it using the Apple Pencil. This feature comes in handy for those who already have an iPad and a Mac in their toolkit and would like to utilize a drawing tablet-like experience without the additional expenses.

Advantages of using a drawing tablet instead of an iPad for drawing

4 Advantages of using a drawing tablet instead of an iPad for drawing

For those who prioritize precision and accuracy in their artwork, a drawing tablet can offer several benefits over iPads. One advantage is the higher pressure sensitivity levels found in drawing tablets. While the iPad’s Apple Pencil provides remarkable pressure sensitivity, dedicated drawing tablet styluses often offer higher levels of sensitivity, leading to finer control over brushstrokes and line work.

Another advantage of drawing tablets is their compatibility with industry-standard software like Adobe Creative Suite, providing artists with access to the same tools and functionality used by professionals. In addition, drawing tablets are designed specifically for drawing, resulting in displays with wider color gamuts and faster response times, which can make a noticeable difference in the overall artistic experience.

Limitations and downsides of using an iPad as a drawing tablet

5 Limitations and downsides of using an iPad as a drawing tablet

Despite the numerous advantages that iPads offer, they come with certain limitations when comparing them to dedicated drawing tablets. One primary concern is the less sensitive pressure levels of the Apple Pencil, which might not meet the expectations of professional digital artists seeking the hig

hest possible precision.

Furthermore, iPads are not equipped to support all desktop-grade design software, potentially limiting users in their choice of software and tools. Artists who rely on specific desktop applications might find iPads unsatisfactory for their artistic endeavors.

Lastly, the physical size of the iPad’s screen might not be large enough for those who seek a vast canvas to work on their intricate artwork. In contrast, drawing tablets can offer a more extensive range of sizes, some even exceeding 32 inches, granting artists greater flexibility for their creative projects.

How each iPad models compares to a graphics tablet

6 How each iPad models compares to a graphics tablet

iPad Pro vs Drawing Tablet

The iPad Pro is designed with powerful internals, offering an efficient and seamless drawing experience. One advantage is that the iPad Pro boasts a 120Hz display, which results in smooth, lag-free strokes. Moreover, the expansive 12.9-inch screen with retina resolution allows artists to work with ample space and enjoy the vivid colors of their creations.

On the other hand, drawing tablets can offer larger screen sizes up to 32 inches, but may not feature high-resolution displays like the iPad Pro. Side note: pressure sensitivity levels in iPads are generally lower than graphic tablets, but the Apple Pencil 2 does provide a realistic and natural drawing experience for most artists.

Drawing tablets allow users to access professional drawing software such as Adobe Creative Suite, which could be an important consideration for professional artists.

See: 7 Best Drawing Tablets for Photoshop & Illustrator

iPads, however, run mobile-focused programs like Procreate, Fresco, and the mobile versions of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. These apps are user-friendly and accessible, but artists focusing on highly detailed work could benefit from the flexibility provided by the software found on drawing tablets.

While a drawing tablet could provide more features for professionals, another advantage of the iPad Pro is its portability. As a standalone device, thanks to its lightweight and compact design, it can be used almost anywhere. Drawing tablets typically need a connection to a computer, limiting portability. Cost-wise, the iPad Pro can be pricier than many drawing tablets; however, with its multiple functionalities, it’s a worth considering investment.

Also see: 7 Best Drawing Tablets that Dont Need a Computer (Standalone)

iPad Air vs Drawing Tablet

The iPad Air is an intermediate option between the base-level iPad and the high-end iPad Pro. Offering an improved performance compared to the standard iPad, it provides a 10.9-inch display with retina resolution. This size is suitable for beginners and intermediate artists. Keep in mind, though, that drawing tablets can still offer larger screens and higher pressure sensitivity levels.

The iPad Air is compatible with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil and supports several drawing apps such as Procreate and Adobe Fresco. These apps provide a seamless drawing experience, but connecting the iPad Air to a computer may not be as straightforward compared to drawing tablets when using desktop software.

One advantage of the iPad Air is its lightweight design and all-in-one package, making it a superb choice for artists who are mobile or have limited workspace. Drawing tablets, while powerful and efficient, require a computer connection which could limit portability. Cost-wise, the iPad Air is cheaper than the iPad Pro, but it still might be more expensive than basic drawing tablets.

iPad mini vs Drawing Tablet

The iPad mini is the smallest and most portable iPad option, with a 7.9-inch Retina display. Its compact size is ideal for artists seeking a device they can carry with them and use for quick sketches or note-taking. However, the limited screen size might not be optimal for those who require more workspace or highly detailed illustrations.

The iPad mini supports the 1st generation Apple Pencil, which delivers a reasonably good drawing experience, but its pressure sensitivity may not be as accurate as dedicated drawing tablets. Like all iPads, the iPad mini provides access to various drawing apps, but the smaller screen could make utilizing the more advanced features of these apps less convenient.

When it comes to portability, the iPad mini is unmatched in the iPad lineup. This advantage makes it an excellent choice for artists who need a lightweight, travel-friendly device for quick sketches or brainstorming.

While drawing tablets can offer larger screens and higher pressure sensitivity levels, they are often less portable than an iPad mini. In terms of price, the iPad mini is considerably cheaper than its bigger iPad variants, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious artists or those who deem portability as a top priority.

iPad compared to a Drawing tablet: All aspects compared in-depth

Drawing apps

When it comes to digital art, having access to a diverse range of drawing apps is essential for nurturing creativity. iPads have the advantage of offering an extensive library of drawing and design apps tailored for mobile devices. Some top choices include Procreate, Adobe Fresco, and the Affinity Suite, which are all designed to work seamlessly with the Apple Pencil.

On the flip side, drawing tablets generally rely on desktop software for their artistic capabilities. Tablets that are connected to a computer allow users to access industry-standard software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and CorelDRAW. There’s even apps like autoCAD and Sketchup.

The learning curve for this software can be steeper for beginners, but it presents a plethora of features that may not be available in mobile-specific apps. Side note: Both platforms continue to evolve, offering new, in-depth options for artists, which means that app availability and functionality may change over time as new programs and features are developed.

Battery life

Battery life is an important factor when choosing between an iPad and a drawing tablet. iPads boast impressive battery life, with most models offering up to 10 hours of continuous usage.

This ensures that artists can create for an extended period without constantly worrying about recharging their device. However, it is worth mentioning that more intensive tasks, such as using drawing apps, may consume more battery power and potentially reduce overall battery life.

See: Why Your iPad Battery is Draining so Fast (and how to fix it)

In contrast, battery life is not a concern for wired drawing tablets, as they derive power directly from the connected computer. Standalone drawing tablets with built-in batteries, such as Wacom’s Mobile Studio Pro, have a varying battery life that can range from 5 to 8 hours, depending on usage.

One advantage drawing tablets have is that they can often be used while charging, which can help maintain productivity without interruptions.

Display and Canvas Space

Artists require sufficient screen space to work on detailed projects, making the display and canvas space a critical consideration. iPads come in various sizes, with the largest being the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which may be suitable for most casual artists and those who value portability. However, some professionals may find this size limiting and would benefit from a larger canvas.

Drawing tablets come in a wide array of sizes, with some high-end options like the Wacom Cintiq Pro 32, offering a 32-inch screen. This expansive canvas provides ample space for precision and detail, making it ideal for professional artists who require a dedicated workspace. The trade-off, however, is that larger tablets can be bulky and less portable than the smaller iPad models.

Pressure Sensitivity

Pressure sensitivity is a crucial consideration for any digital artist, as it greatly impacts their control over stroke weight and opacity. iPads, when paired with the Apple Pencil, offer impressive pressure sensitivity levels, usually around 4,096 points. This provides a natural drawing experience and is suitable for most users, ranging from casual doodlers to professional illustrators.

Drawing tablets, on the other hand, offer even greater pressure sensitivity levels, with some devices boasting up to 8,192 points. This increased sensitivity permits exceptional stroke variation and greater control of the drawing process for artists who desire a more realistic experience. High-end devices, such as the Wacom Intuos Pro, excel in this aspect, delivering superior control compared to their iPad counterparts.

Flexibility, Connectivity, and Portability

Portability and convenience play essential roles in determining whether an iPad or drawing tablet is right for you. iPads are lightweight, standalone devices that can function without any additional hardware. This makes them ideal for working in various locations and situations, offering maximum portability and instant access to drawing apps.

Drawing tablets, conversely, often require a connection to a computer and accompanying software. This reduces their portability and flexibility, particularly for those needing to draw outside of their primary workspace.

Standalone drawing tablets do exist, but they are often heavier and more expensive than iPads, making them less convenient for those who like to work on-the-go. Ultimately, the decision between an iPad and a drawing tablet will rely on the artist’s preferences for flexibility, connectivity, and portability, based on their unique needs and work habits.

Software Options

When comparing iPad and drawing tablets, one key factor to consider is the availability of software options. iPads offer a range of applications for drawing, sketching, and digital painting that cater to various skill levels. Popular apps such as Procreate, Adobe Fresco, and Affinity Designer, provide rich features and cater to a range of artistic styles. While these applications are powerful, some professionals may miss the full functionality provided by desktop programs like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or CorelDRAW.

On the other hand, drawing tablets support a wider variety of professional, industry-standard software since they are connected to PCs or Macs. This means artists can work with more advanced tools, layer effects, and file management capabilities, offering greater potential for detailed and intricate work. However, the learning curve might be steeper for users new to these programs compared to iPad apps, which are generally more intuitive.

Also see: Surface Pro models vs iPad Pro for Drawing & Art (Compared)

It’s essential to identify your artistic needs and evaluate whether an iPad’s software options are sufficient for your workflow, or if a drawing tablet with access to desktop programs better meets your requirements.

User Experience

The user experience of an iPad and a drawing tablet varies, impacting the overall drawing process and output. Drawing tablets with screens, like Wacom Cintiq and XP-Pen Artist, provide a more traditional, hands-on feel. The stylus often has customizable buttons for shortcuts, and their displays provide a textured surface reminiscent of paper, offering artists a precise and natural drawing experience.

Also, you can Discover the Latest XP-Pen Technology with Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2)

The iPad, while also offering a high-quality drawing experience, has a more seamless, touch-based user interface. Apple Pencil has fewer customizable buttons, and the iPad’s glass screen can feel less natural to some artists.

However, the iPad’s intuitive user interface and easily accessible adjustments to brush size, color, and opacity provide an appealing convenience for many users. The addition of a matte screen protector can help replicate the textured feel of a drawing tablet’s screen.

Also check out our post on the 5 Best iPads for Note-Taking (Hint: Screen size matters)

Deciding which device’s user experience suits you best depends on how much you value the natural feel versus the modern, touch-controlled interface of an iPad.


While primarily designed for drawing, iPads offer a plethora of features beyond artistic pursuits. An iPad can be used for tasks like browsing the web, streaming videos, playing games, or taking notes, making it a versatile investment. With its robust hardware, users can run multiple applications simultaneously, switching effortlessly between work and recreational activities.

Drawing tablets, in contrast, are created for a specific purpose: creating digital art. They don’t possess the range of functions that an iPad does. While drawing tablets can often be used for navigating computer interfaces or editing images and documents, their primary function remains as an artistic tool.

Individuals looking for a device that offers more than just artistic capabilities may find an iPad a better option, while those who require a dedicated and specialized tool for creating digital art may prefer a drawing tablet.

Pen Tablets with a Screen vs Computer Tablets

While comparing iPads and drawing tablets, it’s essential to consider the different types of drawing tablets available. Pen tablets without a screen, such as Wacom Intuos, are more budget-friendly but require users to draw while looking at their computer monitor, which might feel less natural.

Pen displays, on the other hand, allow users to draw directly on the tablet’s screen, such as Cintiq and XP-Pen Artist. However, these tend to be more expensive and still require connection to a computer.

See our choices of the top Best Budget Drawing Tablets with Screen Built-in

Computer tablets, like Microsoft Surface Pro or iPad, function as standalone devices and provide screen drawing capabilities without the need for a separate computer. These devices offer the advantage of portability and self-contained functionality, making them ideal for artists who need to work on the go.

My Experience Testing an iPad vs a Graphics Tablet

During my time as a graphic-designer, I have experimented with both iPads and graphics tablets for creating digital artwork. I found that iPads offer greater convenience and portability, allowing me to work on projects in different environments and make changes on the fly. However, the lack of shortcut buttons and the glass surface could sometimes hinder my workflow.

In contrast, drawing tablets provided me with a natural, paper-like drawing experience and better access to professional desktop software. This meant that I could create more detailed and complex projects with greater efficiency. However, they are often bulkier and less portable compared to an iPad.

See: PaperLike vs PaperFeel: Are they Comparable? (Drawing & Note-Taking)

Ultimately, my choice between an iPad and a drawing tablet depended on the specific project requirements and my personal artistic preferences. While both devices have their unique strengths and weaknesses, evaluating your artistic needs and style can help you determine which device best suits your situation.

Can I use ipad as drawing tablet for Windows or Mac

Yes, you can use an iPad as a drawing tablet for both Windows and Mac computers. This is made possible through the use of various helper apps that are available for download. Some popular apps to bridge the connection between your iPad and computer include Astropad, Luna Display, Duet Display, Sidecar, and EasyCanvas.

You’ll want to check out the 7 Best Drawing Tablets for Mac (Full Guide), which covers a lot of information you may want to know on this.

These apps effectively transform your iPad into a graphics tablet, allowing you to draw using your favorite drawing software on your computer.

To begin using your iPad as a drawing tablet, first download and install the appropriate helper app on both your iPad and computer. Once installed, follow the instructions provided by the app to establish a connection between the two devices. It is essential to make sure your iPad and computer are on the same Wi-Fi network for a seamless experience.

Using an iPad as a drawing tablet provides a versatile solution, as it doesn’t require a laptop or PC connection like dedicated drawing tablets, offering a unique pricing perspective.

It is important to consider factors such as pressure sensitivity, screen response, and overall user experience when deciding whether to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for your Windows or Mac.

Also see: iPad vs Laptop Pros and Cons: Replacing a Laptop with iPad

Can the iPad Double as a Drawing Tablet?

The iPad, when combined with the Apple Pencil, can indeed double as a drawing tablet. While the iPad is a multi-purpose device that caters to various tasks, its compatibility with Apple Pencil allows for a drawing experience comparable to that of dedicated drawing tablets. Drawing apps like Procreate, Adobe Fresco, and Affinity Suite offer a seamless drawing experience on iPads that rivals dedicated drawing tablets.

Also see: 7 Best Digital Art Pads & Tablets for Beginner Artists

The iPad offers certain advantages over dedicated drawing tablets, such as portability, a simple user interface, and a wide range of drawing apps specifically designed for mobile devices. This makes it an appealing choice for hobbyists, beginners, and even some professionals who prioritize a versatile, portable device for digital art creation.

Related: 7 Ways to Use Your Phone as a Drawing Tablet (Android & iPhone)

However, iPads may not offer the same level of pressure sensitivity, programmable shortcuts, or certain dedicated software as dedicated drawing tablets. Side note: iPads also have a slightly steeper price point compared to some basic drawing tablet models.

In the end, whether an iPad can double as a drawing tablet depends on the artist’s needs and preferences (see our post on Best iPads for Drawing for more on this) It’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of each device, keeping in mind factors such as budget, software requirements, and desired functionality, before making a decision.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ