The best iPad for graphic design

The best iPads for graphic design are excellent alternatives to laptops and PCs when you’re starting or finishing a project on the go. These popular tablets from Apple are more powerful than ever before – or at least, the ones in the mid-range and high-end – and capable of tackling demanding graphical workloads.

Thanks to the advances Apple has made in their internals, especially the ones powered by Apple’s own chipset, quite a few iPads are giving laptops a good run for their money in terms of power. Their touchscreen function is also a plus, as graphic designers can more seamlessly hone in on the details of their design using their fingers and the iPad Pencil (or a third-party stylus).

And, because they’re so thin, lightweight, and compact, even when they’re attached to a Magic Keyboard, these capable iPads are the most ideal way to design on the go. 

Our list below has all the best iPads for graphic designers at a range of price points. It is somewhat short, of course, as not only are we looking at a smaller line of products, but we’re looking at them for a very specific need. If you want to know more about any of the tablets listed below, head over to our in-depth iPad generations article. 

A product shot of the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch on a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

01. iPad Pro (M1, 2021)

The best iPad for graphic design overall

Specifications

Processor: Apple M1 chip
Storage: 128GB – 1TB
Screen size: 11-inch / 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2388 x 1668 / 2732 x 2048
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm / 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible camera
+
Super-fast M1 chip
+
Gorgeous graphics

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one port
-
Accessories not included

Whether you want the more portable 11-inch model, or need a bigger 12.-9-inch display, the iPad Pro (2021) is still the best iPad for most graphic designers, especially those who don’t need the latest tech and/or want to save a little bit of cash. Save for their 2022 successors, these are the only tablets powerful enough that can see you through the most demanding graphics-heavy workloads without breaking a sweat. That’s, naturally, due to Apple’s much-lauded chipset with an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU. 

These are truly a graphic designer’s tools, especially when you factor in the 12.9-inch model’s Liquid Retina XDR display that proved to be an absolute stunner in our iPad Pro 12.9-inch review, and that incredibly responsive touchscreen that works beautifully with the Apple Pencil. 

While the Magic Keyboard isn’t included with the price, we also recommend getting it, as that floating design is great for when you’re using the stylus while the keyboard and trackpad are comfortable to use for sending out emails to clients. The introduction of the 2022 model means you can find some great deals on these slightly older, but still extremely capable, machines. 

iPad 2022 on desk with Apple Pencil and plant

(Image credit: Future)

02. iPad (2022)

The best affordable iPad for graphic design

Specifications

Processor: A14 Bionic chip
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Screen size: 10.9-inch
Resolution: 2360 x 1640
Dimensions: 248.6 x 179.5 x 7 mm

Reasons to buy

+
Bigger, brighter screen
+
Better video calling experience
+
Enough power for complex tasks

Reasons to avoid

-
Price hike too much for some
-
Needs Apple Pencil adapter

The original iPad has just received a massive and well-deserved upgrade this year, with Apple giving it a more powerful chip inside as well as a bigger and brighter display. It’s powered by the same A14 chipset that allowed the 4th-generation iPad Air to tackle demanding tasks such as video editing and, naturally, graphic design. So, of course, this new iPad proves powerful enough to do the same, as we found in our iPad (2022) review (opens in new tab).

Budget-minded graphic designers will also appreciate its True Tone display that boasts 500 nits of brightness, which helps a lot when you’re designing all day, and its 264ppi pixel density means you’re getting a lot of image detail and sharpness. Meanwhile, like the iPad Pro 2021, you’re getting up to 10 hours of battery life so it’ll see you through an entire workday as well. Keep in mind, however, that the storage options might not be enough for large files, so you’ll want to make sure you’re saving on your cloud storage.

Unfortunately, that price hike makes this almost as pricey as the iPad Air, if just a little cheaper. So, if you’re looking for something even less, you’ll want to continue to our fourth pick. Just bear in mind that you aren’t getting as much power.

iPad Pro on a desk with a drawing of an eye on the screen

(Image credit: Future)

03. iPad Pro (2022)

The absolute best iPad for graphic design if money is no object

Specifications

Processor: Apple M2 chip
Storage: 128GB - 2TB
Screen size: 11-inch / 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2388 x 1668 / 2732 x 2048
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm / 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning screen on both models
+
Fastest iPad ever
+
USB-C port

Reasons to avoid

-
iPad Pro 2021 still great (and cheaper)
-
No battery life upgrade

Thought we're still putting Apple's new flagship tablet through its paces in our iPad Pro, M2 2022 review, we are already impressed by the sheer power they offer. A massive upgrade from their 2021 predecessors, these 2022 iPad Pro are now M2-powered, which means they absolutely slay in both CPU-intensive and GPU-demanding tasks. Either the 11-inch or 12.9-inch is perfect for you if you want the most powerful iPad for your graphic design workloads and price isn’t a factor.

Get the iPad Pro 12.9-inch, and you’ll be rewarded with an eyeball-blasting 1000-nit brightness (1,600-nit peak, HDR only) and an impressive contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. That’s on top of the line’s P3 wide colour gamut coverage. But, it’s really that M2 chip that’s the star of the show here, touting an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU. Pair that with 16GB memory, you might even be tempted to venture into 4K video editing territory since you’ve got a lot of power at your disposal.

Unfortunately, these new models are on the pricey side and, therefore, not for everyone, which is why it sits in third place as our premium option. There’s also no upgrade option to its battery life as well.

iPad Air 2022 product shot

(Image credit: Apple)

04. iPad Air (2022)

A mid-range option if you want to travel light

Specifications

Processor: Apple M1 chip
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Screen size: 10.9-inch
Resolution: 2360 x 1640
Dimensions: 247.6 x 247.6 x 6.1 mm

Reasons to buy

+
Ridiculously powerful
+
Great screen for accuracy
+
Sleek, portable design

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen is 60Hz, no HDR
-
No 3.5mm jack

We’re massive fans of the iPad Air line as they straddle that line between luxury and affordability. This iPad is not only favoured by many because it's lightweight and attractive, but also because it's powerful yet affordable for many people. This 2022 model is more powerful than ever, upgrading from the impressive A14 Bionic chip to the even more impressive M1 with an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU. That makes this Air about on par with 2021’s Pros, although it’s still limited to 8GB memory and middling storage.

In our iPad Air (2022) review (opens in new tab), we said that it delivers “a notepad-sized package with the power of a MacBook Pro.” So pretty much anything you can do on your MacBook Pro 13-inch, you can do on this – assuming you’ve got the right mobile app for it. That very much includes demanding graphic design projects. And, it’s got Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard compatibility to help simplify your workflow.

The best part, however, is that you’re paying about half the price you’d pay for the iPad Pro models, which might make this a better value, especially if you don’t need a bigger screen. 

iPad 10.2-inch (9th gen) product shot

(Image credit: Apple)

05. iPad 10.2 (2021)

A great, affordable option for novice graphic designers

Specifications

Processor: A13 Bionic chip
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Screen size: 10.2-inch
Resolution: 2160 x 1620
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5 mm

Reasons to buy

+
Great screen
+
Good storage options
+
Apple Pencil support

Reasons to avoid

-
No USB-C support
-
Not Apple Pencil 2nd Gen

Budding graphic designers who are just starting out and perhaps not making money yet from commissions will be happy to know that the previous generation iPad is also a decent tool for graphic designing on the go. It isn’t going to wow you in terms of performance, and it might be a little frustrating doing 3D designs on it. However, it still has a great, albeit smaller, display with responsive touchscreen capabilities and Apple Pencil support that allow it to be a great budget drawing tablet, as we found in our iPad 10.2 (2021) review (opens in new tab)

In fact, you could even squeeze in some casual video editing here – as long you don’t expect fast rendering times. If you were to do sketches, painting, and illustrations, however, you can rest assured you won’t be plagued with lags that might distract you from your creative workflow. 

The best part here is that it costs much less than the other choices on this list. If you’re looking for a budget iPad to create your less graphically-demanding designs on, and you can work on a smaller screen, this is a capable option.

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Los Angeles-based Michelle is a writer and photographer. She regularly writes for TechRadar, Steve's Digicams and Techlicious, and is currently a freelance SEO and Production editor for TechRadar.