Should You Buy an iPad or a Drawing Tablet?
Updated: November 14,2022
With advances in tablet technology making it easier than ever to create digital art, many artists are finding themselves at a crossroads when deciding what hardware to use to create. As a result, the internet is flooded with drawing tablet vs. iPad comparisons.
Both options have pros and cons, and the right choice for you will depend on how you plan to use the device. Apple’s iPad lineup may offer portability, convenience, and flexibility in your creative process, but it's hard to dispute the versatility of using a drawing tablet with a suite of advanced Windows software - as well as the much more affordable price point.
So which one is right for you? In this blog post, we'll lay out all the facts so you can make an informed purchase. Keep reading to learn more!
Drawing Tablet or iPad - How Should You Choose?
Most artists, graphic designers, and other creative professionals have gotten used to the benefits of working with a digital drawing tablet connected to their computer. However, in the past decade or so, iPad drawing tablets have become an increasingly popular option, especially among digital art creators.
There are several factors to consider when choosing between an iPad and, for example, a Wacom tablet. Below, we'll compare the two device types in terms of portability, display quality, price, software options, and more.
Immediately, drawing tablets lose out in this category: They require you to connect them to a laptop or desktop computer to use them, which can be a bit of a hassle when you're on the go. iPads, on the other hand, are completely portable and can be used anywhere, anytime, without additional gear, outside the Apple Pencil.
Pitting an iPad’s vs. a drawing tablet’s display quality is a bit difficult, as that will mostly depend on several factors, such as the kind of computer screen you have, what graphics you're working with, and which tablet you can afford. Also, some drawing peripherals come with a screen, while others only have a flat surface that serves as a sensor for your drawing pen.
However, most drawing tablets with in-built display screens don't come close to the quality of Retina displays, Apple's proprietary technology. It was first introduced on the iPhone 4 in 2010 and has since been used on various other Apple devices, including the iPad, MacBook Pro, and iMac.
These screens have high pixel density, which means they can display sharper details and more vibrant colors, resulting in crystal-clear images and text. The screen can reproduce a broader range of colors, making for more lifelike images. The Retina display has become one of the defining features of Apple's product line.
However, the screen size will vary greatly depending on which Apple product you use. For instance, the iPad Mini, with an 8.3-inch screen, has a much smaller drawing surface than the iPad Pro, with a maximum screen size of 12.9 inches.
Also, if you have a professional drawing tablet and a high-quality screen to connect it to, you won’t really be missing out on any details when creating.
An iPad as a drawing tablet is more expensive than any entry-level device made for this specific purpose, and most drawing pen displays in general.
However, the price difference between the two diminishes when you factor in the cost of a compatible monitor, computer, and software. The price of hardware for desktop computers has significantly increased in recent years, making it a more expensive investment than in the past.
On the other hand, as you’re already likely to have a PC or a laptop as your workstation, investing in a Wacom or XPPen tablet, for example, is much more affordable than buying an iPad.
There is a much more comprehensive range of software available for digital art and modeling on a PC than for an iPad turned into an Apple drawing tablet.
Computers running on Windows have a range of paid and free programs with various features for digital painting, drawing, 3D modeling, sketching, and graphic design. Photoshop, Illustrator, and CorelDRAW are some of the most popular examples that previously weren’t available on iOS, but that has also changed in recent years.
Even though the iOS App Store has a more limited selection of art software, the offer has expanded significantly. Some apps, such as Procreate and Adobe Fresco, offer features that come close to those of desktop programs.
The Adobe Creative Cloud offers are the same as on Windows or macOS computers, and you can download Adobe CC programs directly from the App Store. Adobe Sketch was a go-to solution for iPad users until the company ended support for the software and had Adobe Fresco take its place.
There are also free drawing apps available, such as Autodesk Sketchbook and MediBang Paint. They offer a more limited set of functions, but can be a great way to get started with digital art on your iPad.
On the downside, the drawing tablet vs. iPad Pro comparison paints a much starker picture (pun not intended) when choosing a device for advanced 3D modeling, engineering, or similar uses.
These functions aren’t nearly as well-supported by iOS apps as on Windows. Therefore, architects and engineers will probably stick to their Wacom tablet for a long while yet.
The Second-Generation Apple Pencil
The Apple iPad Pro used as a drawing tablet can be a solution for professional artists, especially when used with the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil. This pencil tool’s matte finish, improved responsiveness, and wireless charging are just some of the reasons for its excellent reputation in the stylus niche.
The tip of the stylus pen has a great pressure sensitivity range, so it can ensure finesse between thicker and thinner lines based on how hard it is pressed against the screen. This iteration of the Apple Pencil also supports palm rejection, so it will not register accidental touches from the user's hand.
Whether you're an artist, student, or professional, the latest Apple Pencil is a significant improvement over the first generation Apple Pencil must-have accessory for anyone who wants to get the most out of their iPad Pro drawing tablet.
Why You Might Not Like Using an iPad as a Drawing Tablet
Even though the iPad has become extremely popular as a tool for artists and designers, it has some drawbacks. One downside is that the iPad (even with the iPad Pro’s 12.9-inch screen) is a relatively small device, making it challenging to create large-scale drawings or paintings.
Additionally, the iPad's glossy surface can sometimes cause reflections and glare, making it difficult to see your work clearly. Finally, the iPad's battery life is not always ideal for extended drawing sessions.
Despite these minor drawbacks, the iPad remains a popular choice for many artists and designers thanks to its portability and ease of use. In fact, Apple’s product is often compared to Surface Pro X and other similar devices, but has more to offer than any direct competitors.
Different Types of Drawing Tablets
We've already mentioned that some tablets come with an integrated screen, and some do not. However, there are other significant differences between different types of drawing pads and how they can be used within professional digital art workflows.
A simple drawing pad directly interfaces with your computer and acts as an input device. The tablet doesn't have an integrated display, so you'll rely on your computer's screen to see what you're doing. These tablets are often more affordable than pen displays, but will take some time to get used to.
The reason an iPad tablet with a pen is an excellent tool for drawing is its screen, but, fortunately, it’s not the only product in the market with such features.
Tablets with built-in screens offer a more natural and intuitive drawing process. Some models have displays that provide the feeling of drawing on paper to further improve the user experience, and have programmable button shortcuts on the sides of the device to make it easier for the user to change tools and brushes, and edit their creation.
Standalone pen displays don't need to be connected to a computer, so they're even more portable. These are often the most expensive products in the drawing tablet world, but they offer the most flexibility regarding where and how you can use them.
Wacom Tablets Overview
Wacom produces excellent professional drawing tablets, and it’s a popular choice for artists and graphic designers. It offers an alternative to the iPad as a drawing tablet for anyone looking for an affordable solution.
These devices come in a variety of sizes, with the most popular being the Wacom Intuos and Wacom Cintiq. Both of these tablets offer a pressure-sensitive pen, making them ideal for creating digital drawings, models, and art in general.
One of the main advantages of Wacom tablets is their price. They are significantly cheaper than other brands on the market, making them a great option for budget-conscious users. In addition, Wacom tablets are compatible with both Windows and macOS computers, giving users the flexibility to use them with the device they are most comfortable with.
As you can see, finding a suitable amateur or professional drawing solution will mostly depend on your goals, skillset, and budget. Dedicated drawing tablets are the best solution for PC workstations, and since you can also use an iPad as a drawing tablet for a Mac, it’s a decent investment for those who need a device compatible with macOS.
If you are looking for an affordable and reliable drawing pad, you can always check out our comparison of the drawing tablets' range of products. Finding a suitable device is a process that requires effort and time, but it will definitely pay off in the long run. Good luck with your digital art career!
Frequently Asked Questions
There is no easy answer to this question. While the iPad is generally easier to use than getting a laptop or a PC along with a drawing tablet, it may not be as suitable for professional artists. Drawing tablets offer more flexibility and higher-quality displays, but can be more challenging to use and aren’t as portable. Ultimately, it depends on your needs and budget.
Yes, they are. You have access to some great applications such as Adobe Fresco and Procreate, and the iPad's portability makes it a great device for digital artists on the go.
As we've covered in our guide comparing a drawing tablet vs. an iPad, it depends on your needs. If you're a professional artist, you'll likely want a higher-end drawing tablet and a computer setup to follow it along. However, if you're just getting started with digital art, an iPad may be a better option since it's more affordable and easier to use.
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