Reviews
Leave a Comment

Best iPads for Procreate to suit all budgets

iPad for procreate with apple pencil

Procreate is one of the most powerful illustration apps out there, but unless you have one of Apple’s latest tablets, you’re sadly left in the dust.

Once you are ready to join the doodling fun, it can be confusing to know which iPad model is best for Procreate, with several sizes spanning a price range of over $1000.

To help, we put together this list of the best iPads for Procreate to suit any skill level or budget. Let’s get started!

Affiliate disclosure: Articles on Tiny Workshops may contain affiliate links.

Best iPad for Procreate: Quick picks

iPad Air 5 procreate

iPad Air 5 (2022)

  • Best overall value
  • Powerful M1 processor
  • Much cheaper than Pro models

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 inch procreate

iPad Pro 12.9 inch (2021)

  • Premium product
  • Gorgeous display
  • Expensive

iPad Mini 2021 procreate

iPad Mini (2021)

  • Portable size
  • Apple Pencil 2 support
  • Nice tablet experience

Best overall: iPad Air 5 (2022)

iPad Air 5 procreate

Pros:

  • Powerful M1 processor
  • Apple Pencil 2 support
  • Great 10.9-inch display
  • Excellent value

Cons:

  • Limited storage
  • No Face ID

For most people, the best iPad for Procreate will be the latest iPad Air. It isn’t the most feature-packed tablet that Apple makes, but it has everything you need to use Procreate.

In terms of power, the latest iPad Air has the incredible M1 processor, which offers laptop-level power. Needless to say, it’s more than enough for anything you can do in Procreate, including 3D model painting.

The other main reason to go for the iPad Air for Procreate is that it supports the Apple Pencil 2. This accessory charges wirelessly while magnetically attached to the tablet, which is far more convenient than the older model, which has to plug into the bottom of the tablet to charge.

Essentially, the iPad Air offers many of the benefits of the iPad Pro at a lower cost. It runs $200 cheaper than the cheapest iPad Pro, and the main things you’re missing out on are the ProMotion display and Face ID. In my book, that’s just not worth it.

That said, I’d still recommend opting for the 256GB model if you can. It retails for $750 (compared to $600 for the 64GB version), but active artists will want the extra space. It will also come in handy for any apps or games you might want to install.

And I’d recommend sticking with the Wi-Fi model unless you don’t have internet at home. If you need internet on your tablet while out and about, just tether it to your phone.

What about older models?

The iPad Air 4 from 2020 is a decent alternative because it still offers Apple Pencil 2 support. However, it comes with the A14 Bionic processor, which is what powered the iPhone 12 models.

As a result, it’s significantly less powerful and likely won’t last as long as the new model.

The iPad Air 3 shows its age even more with an A12 Bionic processor and no support for the Apple Pencil 2 (although it supports the first gen). I wouldn’t recommend this model unless you get a crazy good deal.

Best professional: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 inch procreate

Pros:

  • Premium product
  • Unbeatable power
  • Apple Pencil 2 support
  • Gorgeous display

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not very portable

If money is no object, this is easily the best iPad for Procreate that money can buy. In fact, this is probably the best and most feature-rich tablet on the market.

This features the same M1 processor as the iPad Air above, but it comes with more RAM for even speedier performance. For illustrators using the iPad for Procreate, this is bordering on overkill.

The other huge upgrade over the iPad Air is the Liquid Retina XDR display. This sounds fancy, but it’s basically a fast, 120Hz display with crisp colors and exceptional brightness.

Do you need this much brightness for a home studio? Absolutely not. But it might come in handy while sketching outside!

However, that’s also one of the main weaknesses of the largest iPad. At 12.9 inches and 1.5lbs (682g), this is a beefy tablet to take with you in a bag. It’s basically a laptop, so even at home you’ll probably want a stand.

(Note, there’s a smaller iPad Pro listed below.)

The other downside is price. The Wi-Fi-only iPad Pro 12.9-inch starts at $1099 for 128GB, and it goes all the way up to $2399 for the 2TB cellular model. That’s a crazy amount of money.

If you can afford it though, the 256GB model is the sweet spot for Procreate.

What about older models?

While both the 4th-gen (2020) and 3rd-gen (2018) models support the Apple Pencil 2, I’d still recommend getting the latest model if you’re going to buy new.

The performance leap in the 2021 model is huge, and it’s truly futureproof. The same can’t be said for older models.

However, if you can pick up the 4th-gen model second-hand at a good price, it should serve you well for at least a few years.

Best alternative: iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

iPad Pro 11 inch 2021 Procreate

Pros:

  • Premium product
  • Manageable size
  • Apple Pencil 2 support
  • Fantastic display

Cons:

  • Expensive

If the 12.9-inch iPad Pro model is too big, the 11-inch model offers the same incredible performance in a more manageable package.

You’re getting all the same bells and whistles: the powerful M1 processor, a gorgeous display, and a super premium build.

Plus, not only is it smaller and lighter at 1lb (466g), but it’s also quite a bit cheaper! It starts at $799 for the 128GB Wi-Fi version, and maxes out at $2099 for the 2TB cellular version.

Honestly, I prefer the 11-inch iPad Pro to the 12.9-inch model, but if you’re someone who likes the extra real estate (and don’t mind paying a premium for it), the larger model might be a better pick.

Like above, I’d recommend picking up the 256GB model, which offers the best value at $899.

What about older models?

Like above, I’d still recommend getting the latest model if you can afford it. The M1 processor is just too good to pass up.

That said, all models of the smaller iPad Pro support the Apple Pencil 2, making them decent choices for Procreate. However, they’re no longer officially sold so they will all be second-hand or renewed.

Best portable: iPad Mini (2021)

iPad Mini 2021 procreate

Pros:

  • Portable size
  • Apple Pencil 2 support
  • Premium build

Cons:

  • Limited storage
  • Somewhat small
  • A bit pricey

Let me just say this first: The iPad Mini is my all-time favorite tablet. I used the 5th generation for years before upgrading to the latest 6th generation model when it came out in 2021.

However, as far as iPads for Procreate go, it has some limitations.

The main drawback is power. It comes with an A14 Bionic Processor, which is certainly powerful enough for Procreate, but not nearly as future-proof as the M1 models above.

The other big drawback is also its main advantage: size. At 8.3-inches, it’s much smaller than any other models on this list.

For me, that’s big enough for simple sketching on the go, but if you’re going to spend hours illustrating, it’s probably better to go for a larger iPad.

If you can deal with the smaller size or just plan on dabbling in illustration, this is an excellent choice. It still has Apple Pencil 2 support, and it’s super easy to slide into a bag or purse to take with you wherever go.

The base storage is a bit low at 64GB, but since this is more of a portable model, you can probably still get away with it if you manage your storage wisely. It is a bit pricey at $500 retail, but it’s really a pleasure to hold and use.

If possible, frequent sketchers will want to get the 256GB model just to be safe.

What about older models?

If the 2021 iPad Mini is a bit small for Procreate, the 5th-gen model from 2019 is tiny. It has a 7.9-inch screen and a much weaker processor in the A12 Bionic.

The real kicker is the lack of Apple Pencil 2 support. It can still work in a pinch, but it’s far from the best iPad for Procreate. I’d recommend avoiding it.

Best budget: iPad (2022)

2021 iPad for procreate

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Nice size
  • Apple Pencil 1 support

Cons:

  • Low base storage
  • Weak performance
  • Not the best screen

For budding artists on a tight budget, the standard iPad is still a decent option for Procreate. However, it’s not going to be as good as any of the other devices on the list.

While the 9th-gen iPad is an excellent tablet, there are several things that hold it back from being a Procreate powerhouse. Chief among them is the lack of support for the Apple Pencil 2. You can use the older version, but it’s much less convenient and prone to getting lost.

Considering the pencil costs nearly a third as much as the tablet, that’s a big deal.

Another issue is the weaker A13 processor, which will struggle with high-resolution art or 3D illustrations. It will work, but it’s not going to be nearly as speedy as any other tablet Apple sells.

The base version is very affordable at $329, but it only comes with 64GB of storage. Using this as your primary sketching device, you’re going to chew through that pretty fast with Procreate files.

I’d recommend getting the 256GB version for $479 if you can. Unfortunately, there’s no 128GB model to bridge the gap.

What about older models?

The standard iPad is the only one that Apple releases a new version of every year, and honestly the upgrades each year are pretty minimal.

Every iPad going back to the 6th-generation release from 2018 supports the Apple Pencil, although obviously they get even less powerful processors the further back you go.

The other issue is storage: older models start at 32GB (which is not enough) and max out at 128GB (which is barely enough). Make sure you get the top-end model if you are going this route.

Essential iPad accessories for Procreate

Once you’ve chosen the best iPad for Procreate to suit your budget, you’re only halfway there. Sadly, none of the iPad models are sold with everything you need to start drawing. Here are a few essential accessories:

Apple Pencil 2

If you want to use your iPad for Procreate, you will 100% need an Apple Pencil. This is a pricey accessory, but unfortunately it’s just the cost of entry.

Most of the models I’ve recommended above work with the Apple Pencil 2, which has a much more convenient charging mechanic. It simply attaches to the side of your tablet magnetically, and charges wirelessly. It’s also flat on one side, so it won’t roll off your desk. (It’s a big deal, trust me.)

It also has some extra features compared to the first model, namely a programable button you use by double tapping the flat side of the stylus. It also has a matte finish that feels like a wooden pencil.

That said, the first Apple Pencil offers the same basic drawing experience with Procreate, so it isn’t a bad choice by any means.

No matter which one you choose, you’ll want to consider some extra tips, since they don’t come in the box.

iPad drawing stand

If you want to use your iPad comfortably for Procreate for a long period of time, you’ll want some kind of stand to prop it up.

There are a lot of options out there and really most of them will work great. My only recommendation is to avoid clamping mechanisms that stick out significantly from the frame. This can get in the way of your wrist and it’s very annoying.

Matte screen protector

All iPads have a smooth finish that’s a bit difficult to get used to if you’re accustomed to drawing on paper. You can largely fix this with a simple screen protector.

My personal favorite, the Paperlike, adds just the right amount of resistance to your stylus while drawing. It will also protect your screen from scratches or cracks.

They’re a bit more expensive than other models, but they come in packs of two. One pack will probably outlive your iPad itself.

Keyboard

Procreate is relatively quick to use using the touch display, but you can speed up your process considerably with a simple keyboard.

You can use a full-size Bluetooth keyboard, instead I’d recommend a specialty keyboard made specifically for Procreate. The model linked below has a tiny footprint and more than 20 pre-programmed shortcut functions.

Artist glove

My final recommendation is a simple glove. This can add a bit of comfort, but its main purpose is to avoid oily buildup and unwanted taps on your iPad screen while using procreate.

The glove linked below fits both left and right-handed artists, and comes in a couple of sizes to suit your hand.

Other FAQs

Do I need an iPad Pro for Procreate?

No! Although the iPad Pro lineup is the most powerful and capable of running Procreate, cheaper models can use it too. However, the larger size and extra power make them the best option for professional artists.

Which iPads work with Procreate?

Nearly all iPad models released in the past four years work with Procreate. Even some models that predate the Apple Pencil will work, although outdated versions of iOS may cause problems.

Do I need an Apple Pencil to use Procreate?

No! The Apple Pencil offers the best experience and I highly recommend you get one, but the Logitech Crayon uses the same technology. A cheaper stylus may also work, but they can cause errors that aren’t worth the trouble.


That’s it for our extensive guide to picking the best iPad for Procreate! Which model will you be picking up to kick off your illustration hobby?

Leave a Reply