When the iPad was introduced in 2010, some people thought it was a “giant iPhone”, barely useful for more than browsing the internet, reading books, and playing games. But over the years, the iPad has evolved.
As it now supports input from keyboards and styluses, the range of its applications has increased. With a keyboard, your iPad imitates a laptop, giving you the freedom to complete a couple of tasks you would do on your PC. And with a stylus, you could take down notes, sign important documents, or draw.
Can the iPad Double as a Drawing Tablet?
Yes. With the Apple Pencil, an iPad can easily be converted to a drawing tablet. This can be exciting news for creative professionals. But when it comes down to deciding between an iPad and a drawing tablet, which one makes the most sense?
That decision depends on a combination of factors. To help you decide which is a better choice, we have gathered these factors and curated a comprehensive list in which we perform a comparative analysis of both devices.
Drawing tablets offer creative professionals a digital substitute for paper and pencil. And that’s pretty much all it is—a drawing device. However, the iPad is a general-purpose tablet that can do much more than draw. So, when you buy an iPad, you get more than a drawing tablet.
While you draw on your iPad with your Apple Pencil, you can also respond to a client’s email or search online for reference images on the same device. But with most drawing tablets, you need another device to complete auxiliary tasks.
Outside of drawing, your iPad can equally function as an eBook reader, an infotainment screen for your car, or remote control for the smart gadgets in your home.
2. Display and Canvas Space
If drawing is a hobby, the screen size of your device may not matter much to you. And both iPads and drawing tablets offer a varied selection of sizes and models. However, if you’re a professional or an artist making the shift to digital art, chances are you like your canvas space big.
While the iPad is available in different sizes and models, the one with the largest screen is the iPad Pro at 12.9 inches. This may be sufficient for a hobbyist or beginner. If you decide to choose an iPad, see our guide on which iPad you should buy.
Several drawing tablets offer more than twice the iPad’s max screen size. For example, Wacom Cintiq Pro 32 offers creative professionals 32 inches of canvas space. The larger the screen estate, the more room for creativity. That much space affords creative professionals the luxury of working in relatively greater detail.
While drawing on an iPad, you can watch your imagination take form on the iPad’s screen. But that’s not the case with every drawing tablet. There are more expensive and high-end models with inbuilt displays.
Still, some drawing tablets are merely drawing surfaces you must use alongside a computer. So, as you sketch with the drawing surface, you need to glance at your computer screen to monitor your progress.
3. Pressure Sensitivity
Typically, a drawing tablet comes with a stylus. But you would have to buy a compatible Apple Pencil with whichever iPad model you choose.
The Apple Pencil offers a remarkable degree of pressure and tilt sensitivity that most professionals deem realistic enough for a decent drawing experience. But it’s not quite the same as a drawing tablet’s stylus.
The higher the sensitivity level of a stylus, the more control you have over the pressure of your strokes. Apple hasn’t released the sensitivity level of its pencils. Many drawing tablets, like the Huion H610Pro V2, come with styluses with levels as high as 8,192.
With high pressure-sensitivity levels, you can have a more accurate and natural drawing experience. For drawing tablets, the stylus comes with a range of replaceable nibs, giving you some control over the style of your strokes. But you don’t get this with the Apple Pencil.
Additionally, you don’t have to charge the stylus that comes with your drawing tablet, as they don’t usually come with batteries. While you do need to charge your Apple Pencil, the Apple Pencil 2 supports wireless charging and attaches magnetically to your iPad.
4. Flexibility, Connectivity, and Portability
You can use an iPad without a secondary display. So, it’s perfect for work on the go. You can slip it into your bag and carry it with you on most days. It’s easy to pull it out whenever and wherever, perhaps on the train or at the park, and continue to work on your drawing.
But many drawing tablets are often bulkier and must be connected to a desktop or laptop before use. So you cannot use most drawing tablets alone, and when inspiration hits, you may have to wait until you get to your workspace and spend a few more minutes setting up.
Many drawing pads and tablets require cables to connect to your desktop or laptop. However, if you do decide to connect your iPad to your Mac using Apple’s Sidecar feature, you don’t need cables.
Also, Apple’s Continuity features are graciously extended to the Apple Pencil, allowing you to find your Apple Pencil if ever you should lose it.
5. Software Options
A drawing tablet works well with the desktop version of drawing software. But the iPad is a mobile device that only runs software designed for it. On the one hand, the iPad offers a decent array of software options to creative professionals, from Adobe Procreate to Adobe Fresco and Astropad.
Still, you have limited graphic software options on an iPad. For instance, the iPad version of Photoshop Sketch isn’t quite the same as the desktop version.
Most high-end software options are available only on computers. Whether it’s drawing software like Krita, Photoshop, or 3D modeling applications like Blender or Zbrush, you can access a full range of options with a drawing tablet.
6. User Experience
When you buy a drawing tablet, you purchase a single-purpose device that aids your productivity. But the iPad’s general-purpose nature may make it difficult to focus on your drawing when you get into work mode.
An incoming notification can distract you, and a FaceTime call can disrupt your workflow.
Furthermore, using the iPad to draw might feel unnatural to you. For one, the surface of the iPad is glossy. The texture isn’t quite like paper. But if you do not mind much, it shouldn’t be a problem.
If texture matters to you, the best drawing tablets are designed to imitate the paper and pencil experience. You can’t flip your Apple Pencil over to activate the erase function like a traditional pencil, but you can with the stylus on some drawing tablets.
Many drawing tablets come with programmable buttons with which you can create shortcuts. You can easily designate buttons for specific tasks, like undoing an action or switching between brushes.
With an iPad, you can only pretty much double-tap your Pencil. And that by default switches from pencil to eraser, but you can customize it.
Several high-end drawing tablets cost more than the Apple Pencil and iPad. While they offer precision and accuracy, they might be out of your budget.
Luckily, you can find pretty decent drawing tablets that also cost a bit less than the iPad. But chances are they wouldn’t have displays.
So if display matters to you, but the high-end drawing tablets with displays are out of your budget, you should consider the iPad. It offers great value for money since you can use it for other activities asides from drawing.
Drawing for Work or Fun
Deciding between an iPad and a drawing tablet primarily depends on how much drawing you do. For hobbyists, amateurs, and creative professionals who need a lightweight tool to work with on the move, the iPad and Apple Pencil combo is cost-effective. It’s great to use at leisure and offers a decent drawing experience.
But it wasn’t designed for intensive art production. The drawing tablet is a reasonable investment for advanced professionals who run sophisticated graphics software. Consequently, the return on their investment culminates in a more immersive drawing experience.