Best iPad for Digital Creators

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An Apple iPad has long become artists’ favorite medium. Especially if paired with the Procreate app and an Apple Pencil. 

Image source: Procreate.

Why are iPads so popular among digital painters and creators alike? For one, they are portable. And powerful for what you need. Plus working with apps like Procreate or even Photoshop in iOS is a breeze, especially on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. But we’ll highlight specific iPad models in more detail below. OK, let’s dive in.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch with M1 Chip (2021)

The newest iPad Pro powered by Apple M1 processor.
Image source: Apple.com

OK, so this one was just announced on April 20th during the last Apple Event, but we anticipate it is going to be a perfect tool for any digital artist and well worth the upgrade. And why wouldn’t it be? It is powered by Apple’s latest invention, the M1 chip. Which means faster performance and longer battery life. Another perk the new iPad Pro gets is the Liquid Retina XDR display with a 1,000,000:1 ratio (!). The model comes with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and, brace yourselves, 2TB storage options to choose from, and, of course, Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + Cellular options. The base configuration starts at $1099 + tax (or $91.58/mo. 12 mo. installments). As for colors, Apple decided to stick with classics: Space Gray or Silver; no new colors were added this year. 

Both 12.9 and 11-inch models support 2nd generation Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard. They also have a Thunderbolt port, which means you can transfer your artwork between devices super fast. 

We have to note however, that older iPad Pro versions work quite well with most creative apps and pair with the Apple Pencil. So if you don’t want to compromise on the size, but also don’t want to break the bank, it might make sense to go for an earlier generation.

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Many artists prefer the 12.9-inch model, but this iPad version is more portable and almost just as great specs-wise. In fact, the only significant difference between the two models is that the 11-inch version does not have the liquid Retina XDR display. And the price, of course. The model caps at 600 nits brightness as opposed to 1600 nits in the 12.9-inch version. Still, it is quite an upgrade from the earlier 2020 iPad: you get faster performance due to the Apple M1 chip, more storage options, optional 5G, better battery life. In fact, the new iPad is said to be up to 50% faster than its previous version.

In terms of storage, you get the same options as with the 12.9-inch iPad: 128GB,  256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB. The base model starts at $799 plus tax.

Depending on your needs, the older 2020 iPad Pro 11 model might work out just as well, granted, it is not as fast as the new M1 based version. Yet, it is very much capable of running most popular drawing and editing apps. Plus, there are a few things that can be done in order to optimize and speed up their iPad.

Apple iPad Air 10.9-inch 4th Generation (2020)

2020 Apple iPad Air comes in Space Gray, Silver, Rose Gold, Sky Blue and Green colors.
Image source: Apple.com

You may find this one a bit more exciting as it comes in five different colors: the traditional Space Gray and Silver, Rose Gold, but then we also get cool new Green and Sky Blue options. So while the previous two models are obviously marketed to professionals, the iPad Air 4 has a more fan and casual vibe and therefore is more appealing to wider audiences. It can still be a great work tool for many digital artists nonetheless. For one, there isn’t much of a difference in terms of screen size compared to the Pro models. The 10.9-inch panel with flat-edge design is more than capable of handling all of your creations seamlessly. The A14 Bionic chip that powers this iPad model is quite fast, allowing you to run your apps without a snag. It supports USB-C charging. And it works with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard. 

Price-wise, the base configuration, with 64GB storage and W-Fi only options is $599 + tax. The most expensive one would be a 256GB LTE model and it costs $879.

Apple iPad 8th Generation (2020)

Apple iPad 8th generation colors.
Image source: Apple.com

This iPad is the best budget option. While it is somewhat of an entry-level model compared to above mentioned tablets, it is great practice iPad for beginners. Plus, it supports the 1st generation Apple Pencil. Now outdated Apple A12 Bionic chip is still enough for sketching, basic drawings, editing, etc. It will help you develop and polish your skills without breaking the bank. And the 10.2-inch is sufficient for using drawing apps quite comfortably. Storage options are quite limited though, you get to choose between 32GB and 128GB variations, but you will likely be storing your artwork on the cloud anyways, so it should not be too much of an inconvenience.

The model comes in Space Gray, Silver and Gold colors and optional LTE. The best part is that the base configuration starts at only $329 plus tax. So, as we can see, Apple wasn’t wrong marketing this tablet as “delightfully capable” and “surprisingly affordable”.

Apple iPad Trade In Value

Like all Apple devices, a used iPad holds better reselling value overtime compared to most Windows based tablets. So if you are looking to upgrade your iPad to the latest version, going through the Apple Trade-in program would be the best option. You can take advantage of it while purchasing your new tablet online or by bringing your older iPad with you to the nearest retail Apple store and trade it in on the spot. But, if you are done with Apple and want to try something else, or simply want to get some extra cash instead, selling iPad online instead is the way to go.

To give you an idea of how much older iPads can go for right now, here are a few examples:

As you can see, older models are still worth something, and if you are not interested in an Apple store credit, it might just make sense to sell it, as opposed to having it sit in the drawer collecting dust. Besides, selling online is one of the easiest ways to recycle unwanted tech. So why not go green and make some green?

In Conclusion 

While most creatives prefer larger screens for their elaborate projects, if you are just starting out, we recommend playing around with the Apple iPad 8 model, as it offers Apple Pencil support and is significantly cheaper than its Air and Pro series counterparts. But seasoned professionals will no doubt appreciate the 12.9-inch M1 based new iPad Pro tablet. Regardless of the model, all Apple iPads are very portable, light and fast, which makes them so loved in the digital artists community. In fact, more and more users choose to replace their bulky Wacom tablets with iPads, especially as the exclusive to Apple devices Procreate app continues to gain more traction among digital painters.

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