The iPad and Apple Pencil combination provides the best experience for artists in digital drawing and painting. You can be a beginner, a hobby artist, or a professional, you’ll be impressed by this tool. In this article I’m trying to help you choose the right one from an artist perspective.
There are plenty of different iPad models out there on the market. You really need to take the time to find the one that suits best for you. Note that not all models support the Apple Pencil. Furthermore there are more than one generation of the Apple Pencil, and one specific iPad model is compatible with only a specific Apple Pencil generation.
But let’s not go into technical details right away.
Let’s see the iPad models that supports the Apple Pencil. Apple comes out with new models every year, so this list extends quite often. There are always models that you can buy as new (marked with light blue, last updated: Jun, 2021), and you can buy used ones on the 2nd hand market.
New model prices come from Apple’s official website, but note that retailers often provide even better prices like 10% OFF.
New or Old iPad models?
Apple came out with this great product, the first iPad Pro model in 2015. Believe it or not, that one is just as good for drawing and painting as the new models.
Now, of course time has shown that new applications like 3-D graphics, or animation performs better on new, technically stronger models, and there are new technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) that can run only on new models, but if we are talking about strictly digital drawing and painting, we can say that the experience is perfectly fine on all models.
Also note that all iPad models that is compatible with the Apple Pencil has the latest iPadOS operating system support.
What about iPad screen resolution?
All models have 264 pixels per inch pixel density, so the resolution of each model is determined basically by its screen size. Bigger screen results bigger resolution in pixels, but for your eyes a specific picture will look the same on all screens because of the same pixel density.
Just as an example: the 12.9″ iPad Pro’s screen resolution is 2732 x 2048 px.
What about technical specification?
Different iPad models have different technical specifications like the chipset (A9X/M9, A10X/M10, A12/M12, M1) and the size of memory (2-16 GB). Obviously newer models with better chips and bigger memories perform better on performance tests, but as the oldest model works perfectly fine with the newest drawing software, you really don’t need to care much about these details.
What matters however, is the size of the storage built in the iPad. Older models start with 32 GB of storage, newer ones usually start with 64 GB. Getting the model with extra storage (64 GB – 1 TB) can add $50-$150 extra to the price.
The size of storage is really a personal preference.
Just as an example, I use the Procreate app for drawing and painting. It has a video recording feature, so you can play back what you drew. If this feature is turned on, the document file size can be easily above 100 MB. But you can store your files on the cloud or cheap external backup devices, so you can free up some space on your iPad time to time. Creating backups of your important files is a good practice anyway.
The design of different iPad models
Of course the models differ slightly in design like thickness of the body and the frame. But I personally don’t care much about these nuances. The iPad is not a status symbol for me, I use it for drawing and painting. What I prefer is the black frame and dark gray body which runs under the name Space Gray.
iPad 10.2″ – the budget option
If you want to spend the less, but you still want to buy a new model, choose the latest iPad 10.2″ model. This model is perfect if you are new to drawing, or if you’re looking for a portable device for everyday sketching on the couch, on the train, or on a bench in a park.
This model has a different screen technology than the others which results a small gap between the tip of the pen and stroke you draw on the screen, but in the angle you look at the screen you won’t really realize this.
Other new models and older iPad Pro models use a type of screen where there is no gap at all. Plus as you tap the pencil to the screen of the iPad, it knocks a bit louder than with other models. I don’t think that these are real deal breakers, I just wanted to mention.
iPad Mini for children
iPad Mini has the smallest screen size. For an adult I think it’s too small, because your hand will block off large portion of your artwork as you draw. For children it can be a viable option, especially because it’s really lightweight, so it’s easy to hold and it’s portable.
If the low price tag is not a priority for you, and you’re looking for a portable 10.5″ device which has a fast processor and the latest screen technology, iPad Air 3 or later can be a good option for you.
iPad Pro 12.9″ for professional use
If you’re a professional or plan to be one in the near future, you definitely want to choose one of the 12.9″ iPad Pro models. This is the largest screensize Apple offers, and it provides the best conditions for creating high resolution drawings and paintings with high level of complexity.
Should I buy a new iPad or a used one?
I personally like to enjoy the warranty that a new item comes with, especially if it’s an expensive tool. But it’s really a personal preference. A used item with some warranty from a trusted source like Amazon, can be as good option as a new one or even a better buy.
Watch out if you buy a used iPad
Buying older models from the second hand market always comes with risk. You can not be sure in which condition you get the item like battery health, scratches on the screen, and so on.
Plus Apple implemented some security features on iOS devices to prevent stealing. If you’re a buyer of a used item, you have to understand this feature and pay attention to this.
There is a functionality called iCloud tracking device. If the seller does not deactivate this feature, you’ll have problems with using the device. It will be asking the previous account’s password in the app store. The factory reset that you can perform on the iPad as the new owner will not be enough to solve this.
If you plan to buy a used iPad model, you should definitely read this article from Apple explaining this security feature.
Another big question is the battery health if you buy a used iPad model. Depending on the use and the age of the item, its battery can be in bad shape and it can cost you extra to replace it. Unfortunately Apple software doesn’t display this information, but with other software, the battery health info (%) can be read from the device. Ask the seller to install a software like this and provide a screenshot on this info if it’s possible.
Apple Pencil generations
Apple Pencil has generations. As I mentioned, one specific iPad model supports only a specific Apple Pencil generation. So, you need to pay attention to this compatibility when you make your purchase. Once you chose your iPad model, you need to buy the proper Apple Pencil to that.
How are new models better?
If you have other than drawing requirements for your iPad, you might also want to take further factors into consideration.
Let’s see some!
- iPad Pro models have 20% more brightness (600 nits) compared to non-iPad Pro models
- iPad Pro models have 120Hz screen refresh rate (pro motion) vs. 60 Hz in other models – the doubled frequency makes animation smoother
- iPad Pro models have longer battery life
- iPad Pro latest gen models have the fastest chipset
- from iPad Pro 3rd gen models there is no 3.5 mm headphone jack
- newer models have better camera properties
And of course Apple announces new technologies each year and they implement them in their latest most expensive product. But again, if you plan to use the iPad for digital art, you don’t need to buy the latest and greatest product.
Latest iPad model’s release date?
Next generation iPad models are released every year. So, if you’re looking for the latest technology for some reason, check when the next Apple event is going to take place. This is where new products are announced. There is usually one event held in March, and another one in autumn (Sep., Oct., or Nov.).