Should You Get A Drawing Tablet Or An iPad For Drawing?

Drawing tablets have been around for over 20 years, but should you replace them with an iPad instead if you’re an artist? If you’re here, then this is something you want to know.

Should you get a drawing tablet or an iPad for drawing? You should get an iPad if you want a very portable all-in-one solution for drawing. If you’re just starting out or have a lower budget, do consider getting a small drawing tablet first.

But let’s dive into why exactly should you get a drawing tablet or an iPad for drawing, and which option is best for your particular case!

Drawing Tablet VS iPad: Portability

Portability is a decisive point when choosing what kind of drawing tablet you want.

At least, for me it was.

Even though I don’t travel a lot, I like to draw in different places of the house or have something to bring with me when visiting relatives. You never know when inspiration strikes!

Not only that, but portability is also a very important thing to have into account when deciding if you want to buy a drawing tablet or an iPad.

While there are small drawing tablets that are easy to carry, in my humble opinion, nothing beats the iPad as a portable drawing solution.

drawing of a girl with a sketchbook walking outside
The portability of the iPad is a really great pro!

And let me tell you, it took me a long time to get an iPad of my own. I watched videos and videos about it. I went through all options until I made my decision.

But truth is, if you’re planning to draw on the go most of the time, then the iPad is the right decision!

Even if you can find drawing tablets that are small enough to carry with you, they still need a computer to work with. Most drawing tablets won’t work on their own.

And the ones that do… are usually quite big! So again, we get the portability issue.

The iPad however, I can take it with me whenever and wherever I go!

Even if you go for the biggest one, it’s small enough to fit in your purse, bag, or backpack.

If I know I’ll be away from home for more than one day, I always bring my iPad with me. It’s easy and light to carry. The iPad cases always have a space for the pencil, so you never forget about it.

The charger is also small enough to fit in the pocket of my bag. So really, it’s no hassle.

Then, I can just sit down and start drawing if I feel like it. Whether I go visit family or friends or if I go visit a new place and inspiration strikes, the iPad is right there beside me and ready!

The Cost of A Drawing Tablet VS iPad

If you’re just starting your art journey, or better yet, your digital art journey, it’s only natural that price is something important for you.

Sometimes we’re not even sure if digital art is something that we’ll enjoy.

Some people prefer to spend more money and be sure that they’re buying something good and that will last for a long time.

Others prefer to save that money and go for something cheaper until they’re sure that digital art is for them.

If you’re a beginner, I usually recommend going for something on the budget side.

It’s usually much beginner-friendly, you can easily bring it with you and, if you’re not that interested in digital art, then it’s not a great loss!

For that reason, I feel that the iPad is something for the later stages of your artistic journey.

iPads have many different prices, however, it’s always something that you’ll spend a good amount of money on, even if it’s a refurbished one.

And since you want to use it for drawing, it’s good to have at least a good medium size, so I recommend going with an Air or a Pro, on Amazon.

The price also varies depending on how much space the iPad has. Again, for art, you’ll want it to have quite some space.

Not only that, but price-wise, a con of getting an iPad instead of a drawing tablet is that besides the price of the iPad, you also need to purchase an Apple Pencil.  This costs from around 89$ to 120$ depending on if you need the 1st gen or 2nd gen.

So all in all, if you’re a beginner artist and don’t want to spend a lot of money, I’d say it’s preferable to get a budget drawing tablet first and see how it goes.

I’ve written before about the average drawing tablet price, so you can check on that and maybe you’ll find you’re new future drawing tablet!

Which Apple Pencil Do I Need?

There are two different generations of Apple Pencils.

The 1st generation Apple Pencil appeared with the first models of the iPad, while the 2nd works with the most recent models.

So, depending on the iPad model you’re buying, you’ll want to pay special attention to which pencil you need!

image showing the differences between the apple pencil from the 1st generation and the apple pencil from the second generation
The differences from the Apple Pencil 1st Gen and 2nd Gen, as seen on Apple’s Support.

There are also some changes between one pencil and the other that might help in your decision between an older iPad model or something more recent.

Their design is a bit different, however, what matters is their functionality. The 1st generation Pencil does not support touch in the pencil itself.

This means that you can’t assign gestures to the pencil so it can perform certain actions.

The 2nd generation pencil does offer that option, meaning you can, for example, change from pen to eraser by simply touching the flat side of your pencil!

The other difference is the way you charge the pencil.

You can charge both pencils on the iPad itself.

However, in the 1st generation, you need to connect the lightning connector to the iPad. This can lead to some accidents and it’s a very weird choice in my opinion.

The 2nd generation pencil will stick magnetically to the iPad and charge that way!

Their visual designs also have a practical side to them: the 1st generation is round, so, again it can lead to some accidents by the pencil just rolling away and falling.

The 2nd one has a flat side, so it won’t roll around and you can put it down safely.

These are just some things to have into consideration since it might have some weight in making a decision when choosing your iPad!

Drawing Software Options

Even though I’m a big fan of the iPad, drawing tablets win in this section. There are tons of drawing software for the computer, both free and paid.

That means, there’s a lot to choose from, so you can try out different drawing software and pick whichever suits you best!

drawing of a person drawing on a tablet in front of a computer
So many free drawing software to pick from!

On the other hand, since drawing on the iPad is something a bit more recent, there are only a few options of drawing software to choose from.

You can find a good number of free drawing software out there, but a lot of them are not as fleshed out as the most popular ones for the computer.

However, a lot of the paid drawing software for the iPad is actually sold at a very reasonable price!

Procreate is great to work with, very intuitive to use, and at a good price. You can also find Clip Studio Paint there, which works really well on the iPad, even though you have to pay a subscription for it.

But even though you can find some attractive drawing software on the iPad it’s nice to have more options in general.

For that reason, I think that if you’re someone who wants to explore different drawing software, especially the free ones, digital tablets win this battle!

iPad Just For Drawing?

The great thing about the iPad is that you can use it for much more than drawing!

When you’re getting a drawing tablet, you’re getting something extra to plug into your computer most of the time.

So, if you’re using a drawing tablet to draw, then you’re gonna need your computer as well.

However, the iPad is its own device.

With it, you can draw, browse the web, watch videos, listen to music, play games, work, and write (I’m writing this blog post on my iPad right now!)

Of course, for some things, it might be useful to have some extra accessories, like a keyboard for example.

But there are so many things out there while keeping each accessory small enough, so it’s easy to take with you if needed.

For example, even if I bought my iPad mostly for drawing, I also use it to read some of my favorite comics or to watch some videos when I don’t want to be on the computer anymore.

As I mentioned before, I use it to write articles or even to organize and write notes for youtube videos and new classes.

In short, you can be productive and also have fun with your iPad, anywhere!

It’s a more fleshed-out device than a simple drawing tablet and, in my opinion, one of its biggest strengths apart from portability.

The Easiest Traditional To Digital Transition

If you’re coming from a traditional background, the iPad is absolutely the easiest drawing solution for you.

The biggest hindrance with a new drawing tablet is that a lot of the time they have no screen, meaning you’re not drawing directly on it.

You’re drawing on your tablet and seeing what happens on a screen in front of you.

Even though it’s something that you’ll adapt to sooner than later, it can feel very weird at first. It was actually one of the reasons that took me so long to start working digitally!

However with the iPad you:

  • Draw directly on the screen, like you would on a piece of paper. There are even screen protectors that have a paper feel (link to Amazon) to make it even more believable and easy to draw on. 
    As I said before, even though there are screened drawing tablets, they tend to be a bit expensive and too big, making it hard to bring around with you.
  • Don’t need to take a picture or scan a sketch. You can start sketching on the iPad or just take a photo of your traditional sketch with the iPad camera.
    For a long time, I’d always sketch something on my sketchbook, then take a photo and open it on my computer so I can continue my drawing.
    However, with the iPad, I feel more compelled into drawing everything directly on it. I think it’s because it does feel like drawing on a sketchbook. Once you try it, you’ll want nothing else!
  • Have many brushes on a drawing software like Procreate (which most artists use on the iPad, me included) feel just like the traditional thing.
    Pencils, brushes, inks…. There is great software outside of the iPad that also has great brushes, but I don’t think anything beats the ones on Procreate. Especially if you take into account every possible brush that others have created and you can find on the web.
    It’s also very easy to both import and export new brushes. I never really created brushes before because it all feels too complicated. However, I’ve played with some brushes of my own on Procreate quite some times already!
  • Have a more authentic feel. Not only the iPad itself feels more comfortable to draw, but the design of the pencil is also much closer to an actual pencil or pen that you use in traditional art.
    This might not seem much but when it comes to adaption it really helps it be almost instant, while with a drawing tablet, there’s always a bit of a learning curve and adaption time.

Which One Is Better For You, Drawing Tablet Or iPad?

Ok, we’ve been through a lot of aspects that are very important when making a decision between getting a drawing tablet or iPad.

It’s always good to compare different devices and see what fits you best.

We all have different goals, so of course, the artistic needs also differ.

So after all these pros and cons, here are the results!

You should get a drawing tablet if:

  • Your budget is low/medium;
  • You’re just starting out as a digital artist;
  • More drawing software options are very important for you;
  • You want a simple device just for drawing, a complement to your computer.

You should get an iPad if:

  • You want an all-in-one solution;
  • Portability is important to you (planning to draw outside/on the couch);
  • You have a higher budget;
  • You want an easy transition from traditional art to digital.

Related Questions

Which drawing tablet should I buy? This depends on your budget and the size you need! Find the perfect fit for you in the What Size Drawing Tablet Should I Buy? blog post.

Which iPad should I buy? If you want a good iPad that is portable and still powerful, I recommend getting the iPad Air (on Amazon). But if your budget allows, I would instead go with the more powerful iPad Pro (on Amazon).

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Patricia Caldeira is the main writer here at Don Corgi. She's an art teacher with over 20.000 happy students across many platforms and courses!

Enjoy your stay and as always:
Keep on drawing!