The iPad and Apple Pencil combination provides by far the best experience in digital drawing and painting. You can be a beginner, a hobby artist, or a professional, you’ll be impressed by the iPad drawing experience.
There are 12 different iPad models out there in 2020. In this article I’m going to help you to choose the right one from the artist perspective.
Let’s see the iPad models that you can choose from.
Light blue background marks the models that you can buy as new currently. New model prices come from Apple’s official website. Note that retailers often provide an even slightly better prices like 10% OFF.
Older iPad models also work fine
Apple came out with this great product in 2015. Believe it or not, the first 12.9″ iPad Pro model which is more than 4-year old now is just as good for drawing as the new models.
So it’s important to state that the drawing and painting experience is totally fine on all models independently from the differences regarding technical specifications. Whichever iPad model you choose, it has the latest iPadOS operating system support.
What about iPad screen resolution?
All models have a 264 pixel 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 eye the same 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) and the size of memory (2 GB, 3 GB, 4 GB). Obviously newer models with better chips and bigger memories perform better on performance tests, but as the oldest model works perfectly 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, 128 GB, 256 GB) can add $50-$150 extra to the price.
The size of storage is really a personal preference.
I use the Procreate app for drawing and painting. It has a video recording feature, so you can play back what you drew. If it is turned on, the file size can be easily above 100 MB. But you can store your files on the cloud or cheap external backup devices to 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 7 10.2″ – the budget option
If you want to spend the less, choose the iPad 7 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 7, 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 5 for children
iPad mini 5 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.
iPad Air 3
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 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.
You can skip the other iPad Pro models with smaller screens.
Should I buy a new iPad or a used one?
You can see by now that this is a question only if you want to go with one of the 12.9″ iPad Pros.
I personally like to enjoy the warranty that a new item comes with, especially when 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.
There is an iCloud tracking device functionality. 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.
Another big question is the battery health if you buy a used iPad. 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 for this info from the seller if it’s possible.
Apple Pencil generations
Apple Pencil has generations. An iPad model works only with a specific generation of Apple Pencil. Pay attention to this when you make your purchase.
How are new models better?
If you have other than drawing requirements for your new iPad, you might want to take other factors too 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 3rd gen models have the fastest chipset
- iPad Pro 3rd gen models have no 3.5 mm jack for listening music
- newer models have better camera properties
New iPad models release date?
Next generation iPad Pro models will probably show up in March, 2020.
UPDATE: New 2020 iPad Pro is out
It has almost the same design as the 2018 iPad Pro (3rd gen). There are slight performance improvements (below 10%). It has new camera system including Ultra Wide lens and LiDAR scanner supporting AR (Augmented Reality). New Magic Keyboard with trackpad will arrive in May, but it will be compatible with the 2018 iPad Pro model as well.
The 2020 iPad Pro is compatible with the Apple Pencil 2nd gen.
Pricing is similar to the 2018 model. The 11″ model starts from $799, the 12.9″ model starts from $999.
From drawing/painting perspective I cannot see reason to choose this one if the 2018 iPad Pro is still available in stores.