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Best iPads with Pen for Drawing in Procreate & Co | 2023 Edition

Which are the best Apple iPads with a stylus for drawing in apps like Procreate and others? Here are our recommendations with Apple Pencil 1 and 2.

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Apple Pencil 2 drawing

Which are the best iPads with stylus for drawing in apps like Procreate? We have thoroughly tested all current iPads and always take a close look at the Apple Pencil 1 and Pencil 2 for our reviews. We use them for drawing, writing handwritten notes, and editing photos in Photoshop – with the stylus, of course.

One of the best painting and drawing apps for the iPad is Procreate, a brilliant tool for artistic expression. The star of the app is the brushes, which you can even create and customize yourself. Additionally, Procreate allows you to create 3D models that you can paint and add different textures to.

But which iPads are best suited to bring out your inner van Gogh? Let’s take a look at the best Apple tablets for that. Further down, we’ll introduce Procreate in more detail and share what we appreciate about the app.

Best iPads With A Pen: Quick Overview

  • Best iPad for Procreate thanks to the Hover Feature: Apple iPad Pro M2 (on Amazon*). Apple’s current premium models are among the best tablets on the market and are perfect for Procreate. The tablets come with either an 11 or 12.9-inch display with a refresh rate of 120Hz. Thanks to the new Hover Feature of the current iPad Pros, you can see the brushstroke just before your Apple Pencil touches the display. This allows you to estimate the brush thickness in advance, saving time and enabling more precise work. Apple’s flagships have the most powerful hardware on the market and use the same M2 chip as the current MacBooks. This allows you to create as many layers in Procreate as on no other iPad. This also leads to excellent performance in video editing, gaming, and image editing.
  • Almost as good as iPad Pro M2, but without the Hover function: Apple iPad Pro M1 (on Amazon*). If you can do without the Hover feature while drawing, we recommend opting for the predecessor model with the M1 chip. Compared to the performance of the current iPad Pro generation with the M2 chip, you won’t notice any significant differences in reality, and Procreate and other demanding apps run just as smoothly on the “older” devices with the M1 chip. Also, in terms of build quality and design, the tablets are hardly distinguishable from each other.
  • Best iPad Pro alternative for Procreate: Apple iPad Air (on Amazon*). The Apple iPad Air is almost on par with the iPad Pro. It offers slightly less performance, but smooth drawing with Procreate and professional image and video editing are still possible with the iPad Air. The screen is slightly darker compared to the iPad Pro and offers only 60Hz instead of 120Hz. Additionally, the iPad Air is only available in a 10.9-inch size. However, in terms of stylish appearance and high-quality construction, the iPad Air doesn’t need to hide from the iPad Pro at all. The lighter weight also makes it more mobile and provides a more comfortable drawing experience when holding the device directly in hand.
  • Best 8-inch tablet for drawing: Apple iPad Mini (on Amazon*). Artists who value portability may appreciate the iPad Mini. It has a slim 8-inch display and provides sufficient processing power for Procreate and resource-intensive apps like Adobe Photoshop or DaVinci Resolve. The device can easily be slipped into a larger jacket pocket and still offers a stylish display, making drawing and illustrating with Procreate enjoyable. The only downside is the so-called “jelly effect” of the screen. When scrolling, the entire screen content does not move uniformly. However, this is not noticeable or negatively impactful when working with Procreate.
  • Best mid-range iPad for Procreate: Apple iPad 10 (on Amazon*). The “regular” iPad 10 offers a great price-performance ratio and is also very suitable for creative expression with Procreate. The performance of the iPad 10 is still stronger than that of most premium Android tablets, making it ideal for drawing and editing images and videos. Unfortunately, we find it regrettable that the screen is not laminated. This gives the impression that the display is not directly touched when drawing with the Apple Pencil. Especially during drawing via Procreate or photo retouching, this does not feel ideal.
  • Good entry-level iPad for Procreate: Apple iPad 9 (on Amazon*). The iPad 9 is also well-suited for Procreate. Although the design may seem a bit outdated compared to the current iPad 10, and the performance is slightly lower, you can still draw fluidly and work productively with this model. Unfortunately, the display of the iPad 9 is also not laminated.

The best iPads for drawing in Procreate and others: All details

Let’s take a detailed look at the best tablets for Procreate and others.

Apple iPad Pro M1 & M2: Our top picks for Procreate

Apple iPad Pro M1 tested

The Apple iPad Pro is currently the best tablet for designers, illustrators, and photographers. The current model comes in two sizes – 11 and 12.9 inches – and, thanks to the M2 chip, offers the most powerful hardware of all current tablets. The same chip is also found in the current MacBooks. However, the predecessor model with the M1 chip is a smarter choice due to its lower price. It offers plenty of power, and working with Procreate is very smooth.

The only thing you have to do without on the older iPad Pros is the new Hover feature.

The Hover feature of the current iPad Pros with the M2 chip allows you to see brushstrokes just before the Apple Pencil touches the display. This allows you to estimate the brush thickness before the tip is placed, saving time and enabling more precise work.

Speaking of precise work: Both models support the Apple Pencil 2, which must be purchased separately and has a pressure-sensitive tip with 4000 pressure levels. The stylus can be attached to the side of the tablet and is charged there inductively. Drawing with the Apple Pencil 2 in Procreate is a lot of fun because it provides a very accurate and natural drawing and writing experience. It is also ideal for masking objects and retouching portrait photos in apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Affinity Photo.

Best Tablet Overall
Apple iPad Pro 11-inch
$886.95

The Apple iPad Pro M2 is the best tablet you can buy right now. It's more powerful than all competitors, has two very pretty 11-inch and 12.9-inch displays, as well as a premium built. We get great premium features like the good Apple Pencil 2, fantastic keyboard covers, facial recognition, and good speakers. However, compared to its predecessors, almost nothing has changed.

Buy on Amazon Our Review
11/30/2023 09:22 pm GMT

What we particularly like about the iPad Pro, as with all Apple tablets, is the wide selection of optimized and exclusive apps such as Procreate, Affinity Photo, or DaVinci Resolve.

Additionally, the iPad Pro offers Face ID facial recognition, four excellent speakers, high-quality construction, good cameras, and a LIDAR sensor. There are also two very good keyboard options from Apple – the Magic Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard Folio.

It’s a shame that the smaller 11-inch model still uses the older Retina display and does not have the more modern Mini-LED display found in the 12.9-inch model. The Mini-LED display offers better contrasts and black levels. The only downside is the so-called Blooming of the Mini-LED technology, which surrounds white text on a black background with a slight “glow.”

Nevertheless, illustrators will enjoy both models of the iPad Pro. The displays are very bright, sharp, and thanks to 120Hz and Apple Pencil 2, very smooth to operate. The iPad Pro also offers the best performance of all current tablets thanks to the M2 or M1 chip. However, the base version with 128GB of storage may be insufficient for professional designers, and a larger SSD is quite expensive, as is typical for Apple.

Illustrators working with a MacBook Pro will appreciate the high color homogeneity of the iPad Pro displays. The iPad Pro can also be used as a second display for a Mac thanks to Sidecar – a practical feature that we like to use on the go.

In summary, the iPad Pro is the best tablet for designers, illustrators, and photographers, and it is ideal for drawing with Procreate. The overall package of build quality, performance, and display quality in combination with the Pencil 2 is very good. However, Apple charges a premium for this.

Also Read: Apple iPad Pro Review

Apple iPad Air: Best iPad Pro alternative for Procreate

Apple iPad Air 5

The iPad Air is an excellent option for Apple fans who find the iPad Pro too expensive and heavy but still want a lot of performance. It is cheaper and still has the powerful M1 chip, making it faster than any current Android tablet on the market. The iPad Air is also compatible with the Apple Pencil 2, making it ideal for Procreate. The manufacturer also offers two keyboard variants. The build quality and appearance are excellent, and the cameras and LCD display are convincing. Apple’s software is expected to be kept up to date for several years.

However, there are some limitations compared to the iPad Pro: The 10.9-inch screen offers only 60Hz refresh rate. This makes drawing with Procreate not quite as smooth and natural as on the iPad Pro with 120Hz refresh rate.

Great Premium Tablet
Apple iPad Air 5
$599.00 $549.00

The Apple iPad Air 5 is a fantastic premium tablet. It's cheaper than the iPad Pro but offers the same super-fast Apple M1 processor. We get a premium metal body, good speakers, a fingerprint scanner, two keyboard options, and the fantastic Apple Pencil 2. The 10.9 inch LCD screen is a good one but a bit darker than the Pro and supports 60Hz only.

Buy on Amazon Our Review
11/30/2023 09:13 pm GMT

The base version of the iPad Air also offers only 64GB of storage space, which may be insufficient for designers with many large projects. The 256GB model, on the other hand, is not far in price from the smaller iPad Pro. So, if you need a lot of storage space, you should carefully consider whether to go for the iPad Air or directly for the iPad Pro.

Additionally, the iPad Pro has a Thunderbolt port with higher data throughput than the USB-C port of the iPad Air. If speed when transferring files is important in your daily work, this may be relevant to you.

Apart from that, the iPad Air is also an excellent tablet and is well-suited for creative expression in Procreate with the Apple Pencil 2. The only thing missing is the 120Hz of the iPad Pro to make it the perfect match for illustrators and artists.

Also Read: Apple iPad Air Review

Apple iPad mini: Best 8-inch Tablet for Drawing

Apple iPad Mini 6 Test

The Apple iPad Mini is the most powerful 8-inch tablet on the market. Thanks to its size, it also makes for an ideal tablet to practice drawing on the go.

With the Apple A15 processor, it provides enough power to surpass most premium Android tablets. While it may not compete with the M1 chip of the iPad Air and iPad Pro, the performance is more than sufficient for Procreate.

The metal casing feels high-quality, and with a weight of only 297g, it is comfortable to hold.

The fingerprint reader, stereo speakers, cameras, and USB-C port are also plus points.

The iPad mini also supports the Apple Pencil 2.

Best 8-Inch Tablet
Apple iPad Mini 6
$499.00 $469.00

The Apple iPad Mini 6 is the best 8-inch tablet on the market today. It offers a premium design, is more powerful than every Android tablet, supports the Apple Pencil 2, and ships with up-to-date software. We get premium features like great speakers and a fingerprint scanner. Sadly, the otherwise excellent 8.3-inch screen has a jelly effect which is a bit of a bummer.

Pros:
  • Premium design
  • Very powerful
  • Good speakers
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Apple Pencil 2 support
  • Up-to-date software
Cons:
  • Display has jelly effect
  • No phone capabilities
Buy on Amazon Our Review
11/30/2023 08:58 pm GMT

Although the iPad mini’s screen is of good quality and beautifully bright at 500 nits, it only offers a 60Hz refresh rate. The so-called “jelly effect” of the display can be distracting. When scrolling, the entire screen content is not uniformly dragged, creating a staggered display. However, this issue is not noticeable when drawing.

The iPad mini is available with 64GB and 256GB of internal storage and is well-suited for Apple fans who are often on the go and prioritize portability. In our opinion, the device is currently the best 8-inch tablet for illustrators, designers, and photographers.

Also Read: Apple iPad Mini Review

Apple iPad 10 & 9: Good Entry-Level iPads for Procreate

Apple iPad 10 tested

Even though the iPad 10 and 9 are considered entry-level tablets in the Apple universe, they are surprisingly powerful. According to the Geekbench 5 benchmark test, the iPad 10 even outperforms the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 series.

Drawing in Procreate feels fluid thanks to their performance. However, the display on both versions is not laminated. Therefore, when working with the Apple Pencil, you may sometimes get the impression that the display is not directly touched, which can be a bit bothersome during drawing. Additionally, the screen offers only 60Hz.

If you can live with slightly less performance and have no issue with the older design, the iPad 9 is also a good option. The build quality of iPad 9 and 10 is excellent, and the cameras are good.

Great Mid-Range Tablet
Apple iPad 10
$449.00 $399.00

The Apple iPad 10 is faster than all Android tablets. Especially compared to its predecessor, it offers a better and more modern design, a bit lager and bright 10.9-inch display, as well as a new and good keyboard cover. Overall, it's a great tablet but it does have a bunch of downsides. The screen is not laminated and I noticed a jelly effect. You can get it with the first-generation Apple Pencil. However, for that one to work you have to buy an extra adapter which is ridiculous. And, sadly, the price has increased.

Buy on Amazon Our Review
11/30/2023 09:18 pm GMT

Both iPads support the first-generation Apple Pencil. However, for the iPad 10, you need an adapter for the Apple Pencil 1 since the iPad 10 has a USB-C port, while the Apple Pencil 1 has a Lightning port. We would have preferred if the iPad 10 had simply been made compatible with the Apple Pencil 2. The Apple Pencil 2 is only compatible with the current models of iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. There are no differences in pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition between the models. However, if you use the Apple Pencil 1, you have to forgo the tilt function and inductive charging.

The iPad 10 and 9 are available with 64GB and 256GB of internal storage.

Read: Our Apple iPad 10 Review and our Apple iPad 9 Review

What is Procreate?

Procreate is a powerful digital drawing program that allows you to create anything your imagination desires. The app leverages the power of the iPad to provide one of the best digital drawing and painting experiences.

Procreate is currently available for €15.99 in the App Store. There is also Procreate Pocket for the iPhone, which costs €6.99. We appreciate that the developers have chosen to make Procreate available for purchase with a one-time payment and have not imposed a subscription on us.

Procreate is exclusively available for iPad and iPhone.

The Canvas in Procreate

Before you can start creating your artwork, you have access to a library of canvas size templates. However, you can also create your own canvases and save the dimensions for later use.

The maximum number of layers varies depending on the size and resolution of your canvas and the iPad model. In general, the larger the canvas, the fewer layers are available.

The Magic of Brush Selection and Tools

Procreate is a pixel-based app, meaning everything you create in the app consists of small points or pixels. This brings us to one of the core features of Procreate: the brush selection.

You have over 200 brushes to choose from and can work impressively realistically with textured brushes that mimic conventional materials.

Procreate is also compatible with “Photoshop ABR brushes,” which is convenient for artists who use both programs.

Additionally, you can pin brushes and save up to three default sizes and opacity settings. This allows you to maintain a consistent look when using specific brushes.

We find it really cool that you can even create your own brushes.

This gives you the ability to edit brushes by adjusting parameters such as stability or streamline.

You can even combine two brushes to create a dual brush. You can edit the way the two brushes interact, creating a unique look.

There are also brush sets created by artists available for download.

Procreate also offers additional tools that you can use while working, such as perspective and symmetry guidelines. These tools are quite useful when creating your artworks and contribute to an improved workflow.

With the “Page Assist” feature, you can turn Procreate into a digital sketchbook with multiple pages. Once activated, you can create comics, graphic novels, and more, which you can later export as a PDF file.

Creating and Designing 3D Models

What sets Procreate apart from other drawing programs is the ability to create 3D models.

Eight pre-installed models are available in the app for you to examine in detail.

You can draw on the 3D models and add different textures. This takes digital drawing and painting to a whole new level.

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