Do you own an iPad? No matter which iPad model you have by your side, you can tap into the endless in-house and third-party resources to make it as good as a professional drawing tablet?
Wait, isn’t an iPad supposed to be as good! Well, yes and no. iPads, especially the iPad Pros and Airs are exceptional drawing tablets, especially if you are a creative enthusiast. But to use your iPad as a dedicated drawing tablet is a different ball game, altogether.
Still, if you are just honing your skills, you cannot go wrong with an iPad, which in the hindsight lets you achieve exceptional doodling, sketching, brushing, painting, charcoal drawing, whiteboard scribbling, etc. Creatives, however, need to get hold of select apps like Paper 53, Fliplink, Adobe Idea, Sketchbook Pro, and more to get these creative recitals on point.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for now! With the right set of display-specific hacks and dedicated applications, you can take the iPad functionality to the next level. And that is exactly what I am going to lay down for you, in the subsequent sections.
How to Use an iPad as a Drawing Tablet?
Well, your iPad is already a badass drawing tablet, languishing right on your couch. But then, you can still follow a host of hacks and strategies to make it worth your time and effort. In the next few sections, I shall talk at length about two options to help you explore all the drawing and creative capabilities of the iPad.
Solution 1: Using the iPad as a Secondary Display
Sneak Peek: iPads extend support to the best-in-class stylus pens, including the likes of the Apple Pencil 1st and 2nd generation. Therefore, it can double down as a graphic pad in case you have a Windows PC or a MacBook by your side.
1. Apple Sidecar
With Sidecar, Apple attempts to get the ball rolling in terms of drawing suitability by targeting the iPads. Expected to work with any of the latest iPads, fifth-generation Minis, sixth-generation iPads, and more, Sidecar is an Apple-only solution that lets you keep the designing tasks restricted to the MacBook by deploying the iPad as the standard scribbling pad.
Unlike some of the popular third-party solutions, Sidecar is truly a first-party offering that is expected to work swimmingly with Apple devices. As far as connectivity is concerned, you can use Sidecar to connect iPads and MacBooks wirelessly and even via USB cables.
If compatibility is one of your concerns, ensure that the Mac runs macOS Catalina or anything more advanced. Some of the other prerequisites include a maximum distance of 10 meters between the relevant devices for the wireless mode to work and the insurance that both the devices use the common Apple ID.
- iPad works as a proper drawing pad and not a mirrored layout
- No screen latency
- The stylus is compatible with apps supporting stylus input like Illustrator
- Multiple Mac shortcuts are available
- Only works with the latest macOS variant
- Lack of on-platform stylus customizability
2. Duet Pro
Developed gleefully by ex-Apple technicians and engineers, the Duet Pro is more like a comprehensive version of the Sidecar as it expands the concept of a secondary display, even to the PCs. But then, you shouldn’t confuse the Duet Pro, which is the paid variant, with the free Duet Display that only extends the touch functionality to the iPad.
Duet Pro also includes customizable options for the pen pressure, tilt, and other aspects of stylus input. And the best thing here is the version-specific compatibility that extends right from the OS X in the case of the Mac and iOS 10 in the case of the iPad, straight up to the latest variants.
As far as suitability is concerned, you can virtually work on any application there is, including the likes of the Manga Studio, Illustrator, Sketchbook, and more. Also, once you install the app on the iPad and then on the Mac, the same sits on the Menu Bar of the Mac and the Windows system tray to access in one click.
- Affordable pick
- Several stylus controllers in play
- Covers a wide range of apps like ToonBoom, Corel Painter, and more
- Supports multiple gestures
- Encounters a bit of latency or lag when Windows PCs are concerned
3. Luna Display
Still searching for another solution that converts the iPad into the secondary display for your powerful MacBook? Unlike some of the other mirroring applications that restrict usability and do not let you use the iPad as an extension to the primary computer, Luna Display takes productivity to a whole new level by letting you set up connections with MacBook, wirelessly.
This solution is particularly useful for dated iPads that have lived out their life expectancy in terms of software compatibility but still boast decent and responsive displays.
- Seamless wireless connectivity
- Supports several magic gestures
- Lag-free processing
- Expensive investment
- Not particularly useful for Windows PCs
Solution 2: Using Applications for Maximize Drawing Capabilities
While I enlisted strategies to use the iPad as the secondary drawing device for the professionals, you can even leverage the potential of these inventive gadgets either as standalone drawing tablets or mirrored entities.
Often termed as the original drawing application for iPad, Astropad lets you mirror the drawing activities on your iPad onto the compatible MacBook. The best thing about Astropad is that it hardly faces issues related to compatibility, courtesy of its inclusive stance even towards the 2013 MacBook models.
Also, you can use it on iPads running iOS 9.1 and more. Coming to the suitability, Astropad, as an application has been optimized to allow you to connect the iPad wirelessly or via a wired connection to the concerned MacBook.
- Excellent wired throughput
- Even offers wireless connectivity
- Boasts relevant specs like Magic Gestures and on-screen keyboard
- The paid plan lets you customize and add pressure inputs
- Doesn’t offer device-like functionality as its strictly a mirroring app
- Premium plans can be pricey
While this seems like a standard drawing application to the uninitiated, iDisplay is one of the more sought-after resources to convert the iPad as a secondary display. The best thing here is that you can even have Windows as the primary PC variant as iDisplay doesn’t restrict its support to MacBooks.
As far as system compatibility is concerned, iDisplay supports iPads running iOS 10.1 and more whereas, for the MacBooks, OS X is the minimum variant that it supports. And as Windows updates are rather scarce, it works quite well with versions higher than or equal to Windows 8.
- Supports Windows and Mac ecosystems
- Can connect with multiple devices
- Wired connections are supported
- Windows PCs did show some latency during tests
- Wireless drawing experiences aren’t as fast
If you are looking for an application that allows you to use the iPad itself as a standalone drawing tablet, there aren’t many other apps that can match up to the Procreate.
Fun Fact: We have a a dedicated article on the best iPads for Procreate, in case you don’t own one and looking to use Procreate as your primary drawing app.
This app lets you immerse in hyper-realistic and sketch-based artwork. Plus, you can even use a slew of digital brushes, multi-touch app-specific gestures, and a layering system to ensure that the drawings and sketches are seasoned to perfection.
Another important aspect of using Procreate is its ability to let your export time-lapse and edited videos directly from the application to the primary computing device along with the PSD in play.
In terms of compatibility, procreate runs the latest 4.2 variant on the iPad and to run the same, the device should have iOS 11.1 or higher.
- Support for a wide range of drawing resources like brushes and formats
- Records brushstrokes in time-lapse
- Smooth workflow
- Only for the Apple ecosystem
- Doesn’t support vector designs
- Color adjustment options are scant
It is only appropriate to conclude the discussion with a feature-packed vector drawing application in iDraw. The best thing about using iDraw is that it allows you to extend the diverse functionalities of the iPad to the MacBook. If you want to make use of the iDraw, the app should be present on the MacBook and iPad, which then allows you to move the designs across devices.
Also, iDraw as a drawing app allows you to access features like outline glows, fills, and effects for achieving professional-grade designs. And on top of that, you also get access to brush strokes and the ability to use pencil lines for making responsive designs.
- Affordable app
- Works well with technical concepts
- Best for curves and shapes
- Not meant for the Windows ecosystem
Each of the mentioned solutions listed in the aforementioned sections lets you use the iPad as a drawing tablet in varying capacities. While you can deploy the iPad as a secondary display for handling more creative and technical designs with ease, there are quite a few solutions that let you use iPads as standalone drawing tablets. This includes an entire barrage of resources for the creative in you to make use of, including the likes of brushes, color adjustments, fills, strokes, and more.
Overall, it all boils down to your preference, drawing skills, preferred software module, type of the primary device, including the MacBooks and Windows PCs, and the nature of the work at hand, when it comes to selecting the preferred resource for bringing the best out of your iPad.