The demand and interest for digital art has been steadily rising the past decade, especially since beginner–friendly drawing applications like Procreate has made it easier than before to start learning.
Procreate, which is only available on the iPad as of writing, is said to be one of the best and most preferred illustration apps out there these days. In fact, it’s actually one of the main reasons some people, like myself, buy an iPad and Apple Pencil in the first place. If you're also planning to buy an iPad for Procreate, you'll want to check out this quick Procreate guide for beginners.
Whether you’re a first-time iPad user or you’re planning to upgrade to a new one, there are many factors to consider when choosing an iPad.
The iPad is currently divided into four different models – the iPad, the iPad mini, the iPad Air, and the iPad Pro. These models can be further divided based on their different specifications like the size, storage, generation, and and so on. With this long list to choose from, it’s definitely not easy to pick the best one for you, especially if you’re on a budget.
How to choose an iPad
While the long list of options can be overwhelming, asking the right first question would make it a lot easier. If you’re planning to buy an iPad or upgrade to a newer model, the first thing you should ask yourself is “What are you going to use it for?”
In this article, our discussion will revolve around using the iPad for Procreate. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Are you a total beginner who’s looking for another hobby? Or you’re already doing art but wants to dabble on digital art? If you’re going to use Procreate just for the fun of it, you might not need the latest and the best iPad model.
If you’re a professional artist, you might be looking for a bigger screen for ease of work or something that could handle your big and high-resolution projects. You should also examine the specs that are relevant to your work if you're planning to use your iPad for something else aside from Procreate.
For example, if you do vlogs for fun or for a living and you’re looking for an iPad, you might be planning to use your iPad for video editing as well. If you are, you will want to choose an iPad that has a faster processor and higher storage.
Considering these things, you have to really think of how you’ll use the iPad when you get your hands on it. This question will guide you through choosing the perfect iPad for your needs and budget.
If you’re clear about your plans, let’s walk through the different things to look into when choosing your iPad.
Let's start with the screen sizes.
The iPad’s screen size could mean 2 things when it comes to Procreate.
First, you’ll have a larger canvas to work on. Having a bigger screen means having the possibility of higher canvas resolution. In Procreate, the higher your canvas resolution is, the fewer layers you can work on. This rule always applies, but do take note that larger iPads with better processors will have more layers for the same canvas resolution as compared to its other iPad counterparts.
A professional illustrator working with bigger or more detailed drawings would probably need more layers and a bigger screen size compared to someone who draws to pass time. Of course, this would still depend on your style and on how you work. There are some professional artists that make do with smaller iPad, and there are also those who choose the bigger option.
I have the iPad 2018 (6th generation). When creating larger pieces, I usually need to create multiple files to finish something that has more details. Since the layers weren’t enough for the canvas size and resolution I was drawing on, I had to find a way. Remember, the bigger and the higher resolution a drawing is, the fewer layers you can work with.
When I ran out of layers, I had to duplicate the file I’m currently working on and merge the layers together so I’ll have room for more. Then I'll continue working on the illustration on this new document
Since the previous layers has been merged, I most likely would not be able to edit it unless I go to the first canvas I worked on. This made me want to upgrade to an iPad with a larger screen.
The largest screen size you can afford in an iPad is the best option for this category. But, if you’re someone who is more concerned about portability, you can surely try looking into the smaller options.
The iPad’s RAM is another thing that affects the number of layers you can work with on Procreate. The more RAM your device has, the more layers you can work with.
For this one it’s pretty simple, get the largest you can afford. More RAM always better regardless of what you're planning to work on.
Procreate files are relatively small, so if you’re using the iPad solely for this purpose, the smallest storage you can find is a decent choice if you’re on a budget.
But since the iPad's internal storage is non-expandable, consider this too when choosing your iPad. Yes, you can simply transfer your files to another storage device, but you're still at risk of being out of storage for apps, downloads, and even the iPadOS. Transferring your files can also be a hassle, especially if you're working with a Windows laptop or computer.
If you’re planning to export your Procreate files into other filetypes, such as PSD, PNG, or JPG, consider getting more storage as well. Especially when exporting the time lapse video recording of your works, saving your works in other filetypes could eat up your device’s storage fast.
In addition to Procreate, if you’re planning to do video editing or audio recording on your iPad, I'd also suggest you choose a bigger storage. Otherwise, you’ll waste your time going back and forth freeing up space for newer files.
My very first iPad was a first-generation iPad mini with just 16 GB of storage. It was easily filled up, especially with the system update taking up a lot of that every time.
My current 6th gen iPad only has 32 GB of storage, and as of writing, 6.74 GB of that is consumed by the iPadOS. I didn’t anticipate that it would fill up that fast as I thought double my first storage would be enough. Turns out, I should've got the larger storage.
This is why when I upgrade my iPad, I’m planning to get one with at least 256 GB. Aside from doing work in Procreate, I'm planning to edit videos on it as well.
Now let's talk about the iPad’s generations.
Older iPad generations are usually cheaper than the latest release, like any other gadget, so they’re always considered good options for those on a budget. For example, if you want the largest screen but don’t want to spend that much on the latest iPad Pro 12.9-inch with, you may want to look into the earlier generations.
But, when it comes to these older versions, be sure to choose only those one or two generations below. This is because after some time, older iPads cannot be updated past a certain IOS or iPadOS version. For me, just it’s good sense to buy a newer model that can last you longer.
Based on the discussed criteria, let’s look at the current iPad models in the market.
The iPad’s base model, currently in its 9th generation, is perfect for those just looking to join in on the iPad-user community. The current generation now has Apple’s A13 Bionic chip with 64 GB and 256 GB storage options.
This iPad is perfectly capable of operating Procreate with its 10.2” retina display. This model uses the first-generation Apple Pencil.
This is the only iPad that kept the home button, equipped with Touch ID.
The iPad mini is the iPad’s pocket-friendly version. At 8.3”, you can usually hold it using one hand, so this one boasts when it comes to portability. This model also offers 64 GB and 256 GB storage options, but with 4-colors to choose from and with an A15 bionic chip.
Another advantage of the iPad mini compared to the base model iPad is its compatibility with the 2nd generation Apple pencil.
The iPad mini looks more advanced when it comes to features, so compared to the base model iPad, it usually boils down to your preference in screen size.
The iPad Pro is Apple’s premium iPad offering. It always has the top-of-the-line processor for the iPad, currently the M1 chip, and has the biggest screen size options at 12.9” and 11”. Its current storage options start at 128 GB and go up to 2 TB.
The 5th generation iPad Pro also has access to 8 GB of RAM for its 128 GB to its 512 GB options and a whopping 16 GB of RAM for the 1 TB and 2 TB options.
The iPad Pro amazed many users with its specs when it first came out, but was disappointed to know that the huge RAM will not be utilized due to software restrictions set by Apple.
Thanks to the latest iPadOS update, apps can now fully maximize the 8GB or 16 GB RAM in the iPad Pro. For Procreate, this means more (and I mean more) layers to work with.
The iPad Pro also has the best camera out of all the iPads, although this isn’t usually a deal-breaker, especially for those whose main objective is Procreate.
The only downside for the iPad Pro is its price tag, which currently starts at $1,099
For those who wanted the iPad Pro but can’t rationalize spending that much on an iPad, the iPad Air has been a valuable option.
But with the latest generation, the iPad Air which also uses the M1 chip and an 8 GB RAM is now a worthy opponent for the Pro. With a $450 difference between the 256 GB version of the iPad Pro 12.9” and the latest iPad Air, we’re given a more budget-friendly choice without much difference in performance.
The 10.9” iPad also comes in five different colors and a Liquid Retina Display. This iPad is compatible with the 2nd generation of the Apple Pencil.
So, what IS the best iPad for Procreate?
If you’ve noticed, the better and bigger the iPad is, the more expensive it gets. With that, and all the other things we've explained so far, I’ll give 3 recommendations for the best iPad you can get depending on your budget.
The BEST iPad
The best iPad for Procreate as of writing is definitely the new iPad Pro 12.9” (5th generation). The 1 TB GB variant is the top choice because it also packs and can utilize its 16 GB of RAM, thanks to the M1 chip. If you think you won’t need that much, the 512 GB is great, too. Future-proof your iPad by opting for the higher possible storage you can spend from your budget.
This is the choice for those who will use the iPad for professional work.
MVP (Most Valuable iPad)
If the best option does not make sense to you price-wise, the new iPad Air 5th generation is the way to go. It wins the Most Valuable iPad award for our iPad list at the moment. With almost half a thousand bucks compared to the iPad Pro 12.9-inch with the same storage, the iPad Air also boasts the new M1 chip.
Its screen is also just the right size at 10.9 inches and costs $150 less compared to its iPad Pro 11” counterpart.
This iPad would be perfect for professional artists who don’t want to commit to the iPad Pro or for hobbyists who want an iPad with sufficient storage, a large screen, and a top-of-the-line processor.
Best Budget iPad
Now if you’re really tight on the budget and you just want to start your Procreate journey, go for the base iPad model. If you can, try to get the 256 GB variant to ensure long-term use since iPad storage is non-expandable. This means if you want more storage you’ll have to buy a new iPad. This iPad has decent all-around specs that can definitely fill your iPad needs.
Now that we’re done, it’s time for you to make your choice. Considering all the things we talked about, your iPad would be a personal choice. Really think of your needs and budget so that you can pick the best option.
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