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The best iPad for drawing 2021

Best iPad for drawing: Hand drawing with Apple Pencil on iPad
(Image credit: Apple)

Seeking the best iPad for drawing? Well, that's kind of our thing, so you're in the right place! Here, you'll find them at a variety of sizes and to suit a range of budgets.

When choosing an iPad for drawing, the more important thing to consider is whether the Apple Pencil 2 is supported. The older Apple Pencil 1 is a decent stylus, but the more recent Pencil 2 offers better ergonomics, lets you switch tools with a double-tap, and is easier to attach to your tablet. (For more details, see our comparison article Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2).

In general, then, a more recent iPad that supports the Apple Pencil 2 is going to give you a better stylus experience. It will probably have better screen resolution, a faster processor and more storage too. That said, older iPads are a lot cheaper, especially with all the Apple Black Friday deals starting to emerge at the moment. And so you may prefer to compromise on performance to save money, even if that means using the Apple Pencil 1 instead. 

With all that in mind, we've brought together the best iPads for drawing below. And we'll give you all the information you need to choose the right one for your needs. Once you've chosen, check out our guide to the best drawing apps for iPad too.

The best iPad for drawing

iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best iPad for drawing overall.

Specifications
Stylus support: Apple Pencil 2
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels
Weight: 682g
Dimensions: 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm
OS: iPadOS 14
CPU: Apple M1 chip
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Rear cameras: 12MP, 10 MP, TOF 3D LiDAR
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Premium screen+Superfast processor+Generous storage options
Reasons to avoid
-The most expensive iPad

The best iPad for drawing you can buy today is the latest model, the iPad Pro M1 (2021). Compatible with the Apple Pencil 2, this tablet comes in two sizes, with screens measuring 12.9 inches and 11 inches in diameter respectively. We're going to assume that for most artists, bigger is better, making the iPad Pro 12.9 M1 (2021) the best iPad for drawing overall.

This iPad features the latest M1 chip, designed by Apple itself, which makes everything run super-fast and smoothly. And the new screen – exclusive to the 12.9 inch model –  is simply stunning. 

This Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide colour is a step up from all predecessors, offering excellent levels of brightness, contrast and colour. The mini-LED backlight makes for clear, vibrant images, and fine control over local dimming provides more visually nuance and depth. In short, you’ll be able to view your digital drawings with the maximum accuracy, clarity and detail.

With up to 2TB in storage, you’ll have plenty of space to store all your art, and more besides. There are fantastic 12MP cameras on both the front and rear. And while it is the most expensive option on the market, it’s both the best iPad overall and the king of all the iPads for drawing.

iPad Pro 11 (2021)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best 11-inch iPad for drawing.

Specifications
Stylus support: Apple Pencil 2
Screen size: 11-inch
Resolution: 1668 x 2388 pixels
Weight: 466g
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm
OS: iPadOS 14
CPU: Apple M1 chip
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Rear cameras: 12MP, 10 MP, TOF 3D LiDAR
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Superfast processor+Generous storage+More portable than 12.9 version
Reasons to avoid
-Inferior screen to 12.9 version

The 11-inch version of the latest iPad Pro is a small step down from the 12.9 inch version in size. It also doesn’t have the new Mini LED screen found in the latter. However, that does make it significantly less expensive. And the Liquid Retina display it does house, which comes with an anti-reflective coating, P3 wide color, True Tone, and ProMotion, is very lovely in its own right. 

In context to the other great iPads for drawing, and specifically in terms of value, this is an excellent choice, as you’re still getting most of what the 12.9 inch iPad Pro offers. That includes the super-fast M1 processor, the generous storage, the great cameras and the support for Apple Pencil 2. Plus if you travel around a lot, then the slightly smaller size and lighter weight might actually be preferable anyway.

iPad Mini (2021)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best iPad for drawing on the move.

Specifications
Stylus support: Apple Pencil 2
Screen size: 8.3 inch
Resolution: 1488 x 2266 pixels
Weight: 293-297g
Dimensions: 195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3 mm
OS: iPadOS 15
CPU: A15 Bionic
Storage: 64/256GB
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Very portable+Lovely screen+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller screen not for everyone

If you're looking for a completely different drawing experience from the bigger (and much more expensive) iPad Pros, the newest iPad mini is a fantastic choice. Want an iPad that’s nice and compact, that you can carry anywhere and fits neatly into any bag or case; but is super powerful and can handle all the sketching you throw at it? Then you want the iPad Mini (2021). A great choice for artists who travel a lot, this model has a small (8.3 inch) but perfectly formed Liquid Retina screen, offering a great resolution of 1488 x 2266 pixels. 

It supports the Apple Pencil 2. And with up to 10 hours battery life, you’ll be able to keep drawing all day when you’re away from a power socket. The A15 Bionic chip keeps everything running nice and fast. And there's up to 256GB storage, which is more than enough for most people. In short, if you’re looking for a compact tablet for digital drawing, you won’t find finer.

iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

Save money on a 12.9 iPad with last year's model.

Specifications
Stylus support: Apple Pencil 2
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2732 x 2048
Weight: 639g
Dimensions: 280.4 x 214.8 x 5.8 mm
OS: iOS 13.4
CPU: A12Z Bionic
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Rear cameras: 12 MP, 10 MP, TOF 3D LiDAR scanner
Front camera: 8 MP
Reasons to buy
+High-res screen+Large display+Supports  Apple Pencil 2 
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks M1 chip

Want a 12.9 inch iPad Pro but don’t want to pay the high price of the newest model? Last year’s model lacks the Mini LED screen and the M1 chip of the current version, but it’s still a very powerful and capable device, and it doesn’t cost as much. So we’d argue that for most people, it’s the best one to go for.

It’s not quite as fast as the top-end 2021 version, it offers less storage, and the screen isn’t quite as good. But we’re talking small degrees of difference here. 

So for example, if you’re looking to use some heavy-duty 3D software, and need the fastest processor possible; or are doing work where a high degree of colour accuracy is super-important, it might be worth investing the 2021 model. For everybody else, though, the 2020 iteration is a great choice for digital drawing, with the exact same screen dimensions and high resolution (2732 x 2048) as its pricier successor, and support for the Apple Pencil 2.

iPad Air 4 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best value iPad for drawing.

Specifications
Stylus support: Apple Pencil 2
Screen size: 10.9-inch
Resolution: 1640 x 2360 pixels
Weight: 458g
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm
OS: iPadOS 14
CPU: A14 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
Rear cameras: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Good battery life+Supports Apple Pencil 2
Reasons to avoid
-60Hz screen response rate

Looking for the best balance between performance and cost? You’ll find it in the iPad Air 4 (2020), which is a very good tablet at a reasonable price. This fourth-gen model is very different to previous iPad Airs, thanks to a major revamp that made it quite similar to the iPad Pro, but at a much lower price. 

When it comes to drawing, it's worth noting that the 60Hz screen response rate is precise half that of the iPad Pro's 120Hz. That variation in sensitivity means that if you draw very rapidly, you might notice a difference, but we've not personally heard of any complaints from artists. (For more on the differences between the two tablets, see our article iPad Pro vs iPad Air).

For most people, then, the Apple iPad Air (2020) is a great choice for digital drawing. And with strong levels of battery life, screen resolution and processor performance, and a couple of good cameras, this is the best value iPad for general use, too.

iPad 10.2 (2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best cheap iPad for drawing.

Specifications
Stylus support: Apple Pencil 1
Screen size: 10.2-inch
Resolution: 1620 x 2160 pixels
Weight: 483g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 13
CPU: A10 Fusion
Storage: 32/128GB
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Good battery life+Excellent value
Reasons to avoid
-Basic tablet-Doesn't support Apple Pencil 2

Want an iPad for drawing but can’t afford the latest models? The iPad 10.2 (2019) is only a couple of years old, and still very capable, but is available for an impressively low price right now.

Don’t get too excited: this is one of the most basic iPads. It only supports Apple Pencil 1, the front-facing camera is a measly 1.2MP, and it doesn’t have the fastest processor either. 

But on the plus side, the 10.2 inch screen is a decent size, with good resolution (1620 x 2160), and is perfectly fine for drawing. You get up to 10 hours of battery life, too. So all in all, this the best cheap iPad for drawing available today.

iPad Mini (2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

The best iPad for drawing that’s cheap and small.

Specifications
Stylus support: Apple Pencil 1
Screen size: 7.9-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
Weight: 304g
Dimensions: 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
CPU: A12 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
Rear cameras: 8MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Very portable+Excellent value
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't support Apple Pencil 2-Less power than later models

Want a small iPad for drawing, and don’t want to spend much money? The 2019 iPad Mini is very cheap right now, and offers good all-round performance. 

The perfect size to carry with one hand, it boasts a bright 7.9-inch screen that works well with the Apple Pencil 1. Its A12 Bionic chip is pretty speedy for the price. Storage is generous, at between 64 and 256GB. And you get 8MP and 7MP cameras on the rear and front respectively. This all adds up to fantastic value, so if a compact iPad for drawing is what you seek, look no further.

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. He is author of Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books. He was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine.