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The 5 Best iPads for Artists in 2023

As both a powerful creative tool and a convenient mobile device, the iPad has become an essential piece of hardware for many artists. With the right apps and accessories, iPads allow illustrators, designers, painters and more to create stunning digital artworks from anywhere.

But with various generations of iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad mini and the standard iPad model available, picking the best one for your needs isn‘t always straightforward. In this guide I break down the critical factors to consider and provide reviews of the top iPad models for artists this year.

Key Factors When Choosing an iPad for Art

Display Quality – A sharp, color accurate screen allows you to see your artwork clearly as you‘re creating it. Key traits like resolution, peak brightness, P3 wide color gamut support and ProMotion high refresh rates are advantages.

Processing Power – More powerful iPad chipsets allow you to work with high resolution files across multiple layers without slowdowns. M1 and M2 chips offer desktop-class performance.

Apple Pencil Support – All recent iPad models work with Apple Pencil, but some offer better responsiveness, magnetic attachment for charging, and updated generations with more features.

Accessories – Add-ons like the Magic Keyboard with trackpad can radically improve the iPad for professional creators who want a more laptop-like experience.

Portability – Smaller iPad Minis offer greater portability for drawing on the go, while 12.9" iPad Pros offer more generous screen real estate. Weight and form factor should be considered depending on your needs.

With artists‘ needs in mind, below are 5 of the best iPad models available in 2023 ranked across various price tiers.

1. Best Overall: 2022 12.9” iPad Pro

Display: 12.9” Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED (fantastic HDR, contrast and brightness)
Processor: M2 chip
Pencil: Supports 2nd gen Apple Pencil
Price: $1,099+

With desktop-class M2 performance, a stunning XDR display and seamless Apple Pencil integration, the latest 12.9” iPad Pro represents the pinnacle of what iPads have to offer artists.

The large canvas provides ample room to draw and paint comfortably, while the fast refresh rates and buttery smooth response feel almost like pen on paper. If you can afford the premium price, this is the iPad to get for art.

  • Pros
    • Best-in-class power and display
    • Massive screen real estate
    • Supports all creative apps and accessories
  • Cons
    • Very expensive, especially with add-ons
    • Not very portable for on-the-go use

2. Best Value: 2022 10th Gen iPad

Display: 10.9" Liquid Retina
Processor: A14 Bionic
Pencil: Supports 1st gen Apple Pencil only
Price: $449+

The latest 10th generation entry-level iPad delivers a great blend of quality and affordability. The crisp, vibrant 10.9” Liquid Retina display offers ample room for drawing and painting projects.

And while the A14 Bionic CPU isn‘t as fast as the M-series chips in the Pro models, it handles everything from Procreate to full Adobe apps without issue. The only downside is 1st gen Apple Pencil support instead of the newer model. But for the money, this iPad hits the artistic sweet spot.

  • Pros
    • Great display given the price
    • Surprisingly powerful performance
    • Works with full suite of creative apps
  • Cons
    • 1st gen Apple Pencil only
    • 64GB base storage is limiting
    • No ProMotion high refresh display

3. Best Portability: 2022 iPad Mini 6

Display: 8.3” Liquid Retina
Processor: A15 Bionic
Pencil: Supports 2nd gen Apple Pencil
Price: $549+

With ultra-portable size yet plenty of processing punch, the diminutive iPad Mini 6 lets artists create anywhere inspiration strikes. The one-handed form factor makes it easy to quickly sketch ideas or refine works in progress on the go.

And combined with 2nd gen Apple Pencil support and speedy A15 Bionic performance, the Mini 6 handles full professional apps and attachments despite its size. Just be aware the more compact screen can feel cramped for longer painting sessions.

  • Pros
    • Extremely portable
    • Fast processor for small tablet
    • Supports 2nd gen Pencil + full suite of apps
  • Cons
    • Pricier given smaller screen
    • Display can feel cramped for serious artwork
    • Accessories often don‘t fit smaller size

4. Best Display for Artists: 2023 12.9" iPad Pro

Display: 12.9” Liquid Retina XDR w/ ProMotion (stellar dynamic range + clarity)
Processor: M2 w/ 16-core Neural Engine
Pencil: Supports 2nd gen Apple Pencil
Price: $1,199

For artists who consider display quality an absolute top priority, the 12.9” iPad Pro offers the single best screen available. The mini-LED panel with localized dimming zones provides sensational dynamic range, contrast and color reproduction. And combined with buttery-smooth ProMotion, this iPad feels like a high-end drawing tablet come to life.

Every stroke translates perfectly with the 2nd gen Apple Pencil, allowing for subtle shading gradients and dazzling accuracy. Just be prepared to pay a premium for this unmatched display technology in a tablet.

  • Pros
    • Best display available on any tablet
    • Blazing fast M2 chip
    • Supports all creative accessories
  • Cons
    • Very expensive
    • Heavy and not that portable

5. Best Mid-Range: 2022 iPad Air 5

Display: 10.9” Liquid Retina
Processor: M1 w/ Neural Engine
Pencil: Supports 2nd gen Apple Pencil
Price: $599+

Slotting nicely between iPad‘s standard and Pro models, the colorful iPad Air 5 brings robust M1 performance and a gorgeous 10.9" Liquid Retina screen at an appealing price point. It handles complex multi-layer art files and high resolution exports with ease – no slowdowns or frustrations.

The Air also offers a lighter, slimmer chassis than the heavier duty Pros while supporting the latest Pencil. Unless you need the ultimate power and display capabilities, most artists will feel right at home creating on the versatile iPad Air 5.

  • Pros
    • M1 power at a reasonable price
    • Svelte, lightweight design with multiple color options
    • Supports 2nd gen Pencil and Magic Keyboard
    • Handled demanding art apps smoothly in testing
  • Cons
    • Display good but not Pro-level
    • 128GB starting storage is limiting

Some Key Accessories for Artists

To turn an iPad into a versatile art studio and take full advantage of Apple Pencil support, consider picking up some of the following accessories depending on your workflow:

  • Paperlike screen protectors – mimic the friction and feel of paper when drawing on the glass iPad screen
  • Adonit gloves – prevent unwanted palm contact when sketching while allowing for finger and Pencil input
  • Matte LCD screen protectors – reduces screen glare in bright environments
  • iPad Pro Magic Keyboard – provides backlit keys, a responsive trackpad, adjustable stand and pass-through charging for 2nd gen Apple Pencil models. Takes the iPad Pro to near laptop-levels of productivity.
Artist using iPad Pro with Apple Pencil

Image source: Apple‘s iPad Pro marketing materials

TLDR Summary

iPad Model Best For Starting Price
12.9" iPad Pro 2023 Top performance and display quality $1,099
10th Gen iPad 2022 Great value for money $449
iPad Mini 6 Ultimate portability for travel $549
12.9” 2023 iPad Pro Unmatched dynamic range and smoothness $1,199
iPad Air 5 Powerful mid-range model $599

Common Questions About Using iPads for Art

What apps do artists use on the iPad Pro?

Popular options include Procreate, Adobe Fresco, Affinity Photo and Designer, Clip Studio Paint, ArtStudio Pro and many more. Procreate is beloved for its intuitive interface plus wide range of brushes and advanced features purpose-built for illustration.

How much storage capacity is needed?

With PSD files, high resolution exports and space for things like photos and layer assets, serious artists should consider 256GB or even higher capacities given the storage demands of digital art projects.

Can I use the iPad for professional client work?

Absolutely – with powerful Apple Silicon chips like M1/M2 that rival laptop performance combined with professional grade accessories, iPads have never been better suited for freelance, commercial and gallery-exhibited work.

Does screen size really matter for digital art?

Up to a point, yes. While the iPad Mini 6 can work in a pinch, larger ~12" screens found on full-size iPad Pros allow for more comfortable workflows with UI elements less cramped together and more room to wield the Apple Pencil. But portability vs screen real estate is ultimately an individual preference based on your projects and needs.

I hope this guide helps shed light on the iPad model best aligned with your creative goals. With the right blend of display quality, power and portability, these impressive Apple tablets have become indispensable mobile art studios. Let me know if you have any other questions!