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iPad for illustrator – highlights after years

My beginnings with iPad Pro

I have been using an iPad for my illustration work for 5 years now. In 2018, I bought my first tablet (iPad Pro 12.9″, 2017 model). It took me a long time to make this decision, mainly because of the size of the expense. I wasn’t convinced to what extent the iPad could be used in the work of an illustrator. I was afraid that it would only be a very expensive toy for digital sketching. You can read about all the considerations and dilemmas involved in this purchase in the post about iPad for illustrator

This purchase completely revolutionized the way I work and has become a tool I use far more often than the Wacom Intuos series graphics tablet back then, or the current Huion Kamvas 24″ screen tablet. This doesn’t mean that it is an ideal tablet for illustration. In addition to its advantages, it also has quite a few disadvantages. Nevertheless, I am a great enthusiast of working on the iPad and in good conscience recommend it to anyone who likes to draw digitally. I had to split the post into two, because an epic was created:) Today I will focus on the advantages. About the disadvantages soon!

Ipad for illustrator – advantages

In describing the advantages, I take into account my experience with the 2017 iPad Pro 12.9″ and the 2021 iPad Pro 12.9″. Although the devices are separated by a few years and a few new features, the way and smoothness of work, availability of applications, etc. are very similar.


The biggest advantage of using an iPad for illustration is the ability to unhook from the desk and get out of the dark studio-especially in summer. Painting on the terrace, on the train, on a park bench – this is true freedom. A spontaneous trip? No problem! I can do my illustration work while commuting to a place, in a car, on a plane. I can work on the beach, in a cafe, in a hotel and under a tent (all tested!). Sound great?

Of course, reality is not ideal. It’s hard to work in the sunlight. The screen reflects heavily, even despite the Paperlike screen overlay, and the battery lasts about 4 hours of uninterrupted work in daylight (if you don’t paint, but just browse the Internet or videos, it will last longer). Another issue, unrelated to the device itself, is taking your work on vacation. In my opinion, on workation type trips you neither work efficiently nor rest😉. But is it possible? Yes, it is!

Working posture

Another important issue for me related to the mobility of the iPad – the ability to work in different positions – laying down on the terrace, semi-reclining on the couch (back straight, although it sometimes varies :D), on the floor. Anyone who has to spend 8 hours of work at a desk knows how his spine feels about it. Mine has already demanded better working conditions: pains, numbness in my most precious left arm. A physiotherapist friend predicted big problems for me in the future (with my spine, not other issues ;)). I guess that it was the change of work position that worked wonders, because all pains and problems disappeared. And although I still often find myself working at a desk, I do it incomparably less often than before I bought the iPad, and my spine is grateful for it. Or at least it doesn’t whine.


For years I sat locked in a small room where my desk and computer stood. It was cluttered with paints, crayons and anything else that could be used for painting. There wasn’t much room for anyone but me, and the iPad wasn’t just a distraction from the desk, but also a way to emerge from the studio, sketching in my spare moments of rest, while watching a TV series with my family. I felt a bit like a vampire crawling out of the crypt into the light of day 🙂 Be warned! Once liberated, it’s hard to come back!

Ease and intuitiveness

Painting on the iPad is definitely more like painting / drawing in a sketchbook compared to the various tablets I’ve tried before. On many screen tablets such as those from Wacom or Huion, the thickness of the glass creates a distance between the pen tip and the line that appears below it on the screen (Parallax effect). In the case of inferior tablets, or the use of large brushes in Photoshop, for example, we can even register long delays in the appearance of the drawn line. These situations negatively affect the intuitiveness and comfort of digital drawing.

In the case of the iPad, the drawn lines appear right under the stylus. Delayed lines are extremely rare and are usually associated with very large brush sizes. Combined with sensational drawing apps such as Procreate and Infinite Painter (I’ll come back to them later), it gives an impression comparable to traditional drawing. Of course, the iPad’s screen is not a sheet of paper, and it does not offer the characteristic slight resistance of texture in guiding the pen. This didn’t bother me, as I was used to painting on a plastic smooth Wacom Intuos tablet. If this is a problem for you, you can use a screen overlay that, in addition to protecting it (very useful!), can also have a texture that resembles a piece of paper. Drawing on such an overlay (noises, slight roughness under the pen) makes such an experience even closer to working with a real sketchbook. The difference is that in addition to sketches on the iPad, you can make fully professional illustrations in a wide variety of styles.

Despite the great pleasure of drawing with the overlay, using without had the great advantage of being quieter. Now my husband complains more often about the pen whizzing across the screen late at night (drawing at łóżku❤️). You can’t have it all!

Gestures instead of hot keys

When working with paint apps, keyboard shortcuts are a must. With the iPad, you can also use them, but it is inconvenient. Using the keyboard would require a sitting position, preferably at a desk, and yet that’s what we want to get away from!

Gestures successfully replace keyboard shortcuts. The great possibility to edit them and create your own combinations, additional menus launched by gestures significantly speeds up work. Tapping with two fingers on the screen has become a standard undo motion in most touch applications. I’ve become so accustomed to them that every now and then I try to use this grip when painting traditionally (unsuccessfully, unfortunately!). It’s worth familiarizing yourself with the so-called handbooks to take full advantage of the gestures to speed up your work.

I also readed carefule Procreate Handbook and Infinite Painter Handbook and I highly recommend to read manuals of your favorite apps to know all useful tips and tricks! Very helpful!

Painting apps

A huge advantage of iPads are sensational apps for painting. Some of them such as Infinite Painter, Clip Studio Paint are also available for Android devices. Others, like the most popular Procreate, or the free Fresco work exclusively on iPads.

Are these apps better than Photoshop? No. Photoshop is more versatile and suitable for professional work with images, and gives incomparably greater editing capabilities. However, the advantage of Procreate, or Infinite Painter, is that these apps are designed primarily for painting. This means cleaner, more intuitive interfaces and only the tools we use most in digital painting. Adobe Fresco deviates a bit from their convenience, but its big advantages are its fantastic Photoshop brushes and the fact that it’s free. I would rate Procreate and Infinite Painter’s brushes as slightly inferior, although this is a matter of habit. Both programs give you the ability to create your own brushes, palettes, gradient maps. For Procreate, you can additionally import .abr brushes (Photoshop brushes). However, they require some editing to make them resemble their Photoshop equivalents.


As you can see, the two applications I use most often, are not as good as Photoshop. Nevertheless, in recent years, some 70% of my illustrations have been created in Procreate (stability, working convenience, great editing capabilities), another 20% in Infinite Painter (more painterly brushes, greater editing capabilities than Procreate, but less stability). The remaining 10% is divided between Rebelle (a sensational program that mimics digital media) and Photoshop.

Infinite Painter

Also, those skilled in vectors will find something for themselves. Affinity Designer and Illustrator for iPad work very decently. I was much more comfortable working in vectors on my computer, with a keyboard, mouse and at my desk. However, I rarely play with vector illustrations, so I haven’t had a chance to get used to the mobile versions of these programs, so I can’t judge how comfortable they are to use. Despite the fact that Photoshop is undoubtedly the most advanced of those mentioned, the winner with me was primarily the comfort and ease of working with the

iPad, which can be compared to painting in a sketchbook. It doesn’t require a proper workstation, and it doesn’t make the mess that always accompanies my traditional painting. As a result, I paint much more often, for example, while relaxing on the couch or before bed.

Adobe Fresco

The huge advantage of iPad apps are also the prices. The cheapest subscription to the Adobe suite with Photoshop and Lightroom is just over €12 per month for an annual subscription (€9.83 if it’s your first purchase). Meanwhile, the sensational Infinite Painter or Procreate cost about $10. And this is a ONE-time fee! For this price you get not only unlimited time use of the application, but also all updates. It’s hard to find better value for money among creative apps. Buying an iPad alone is a big expense, especially for someone starting out as an illustrator or drawing as a hobbyist, but creating illustrations using the apps mentioned above comes out much cheaper.

Clip Studio Paint

Other creative apps

A massive surprise that accompanied the getting acquainted with the iPad was the huge range of creative applications. The awe of the new possibilities was so great that I walked around sleepless for the first month. There was so much to discover! Not only from the artistic branches. I totally fell into Garage Band (music), then came the era of 3D applications. I still use Nomad Sculpt, and digital sculpting with it is more convenient, faster and intuitive than in Blender.

Accustomed to video editing complicated software, I was happy to discover much lighter but still powerful free apps: CapCut or VideoLeap. They have most of the tools needed for a person using them mainly for social media.

I have completely moved with my planning from a traditional planner to an iPad. I kind of miss taking notes with a pen in a real notebook, but once again convenience and the ability to keep all the important stuff in one place won out. I created my own gutsy planner, tailored for my own needs in Keynote (a free presentation app) with hyperlinks taking me to each tab, and I’m using it very well after importing it into Good Notes.

Team iPad

The arrival of the iPad caused a revolution in my life. It sounds like an pumped-up advertising slogan (that no one is paying for), but that’s exactly what happened. I’ve changed the programs in which I paint on a daily basis, my position and workplace, I’m more open to trips, and I spend a heck of a lot more time outdoors (weather permitting). The plethora of creative apps available caused a veritable creative boom for me. Everything was new and exciting.

Replacing the iPad with a newer one didn’t give me such joy anymore. Simply put, everything worked similarly, only that it worked more efficiently and a little faster. Therefore, if budget is a constraint, it’s worth betting on older models with more storage space to avoid transferring files between iPad and computer too often. I will return to this topic of iPad selection in another post summarizing the pros and cons.

Not all my expectations were met. Some advantages also turned out to be disadvantages. However, the pros listed today, in my opinion, far outweigh them.

If you have any questions related to this topic – as usual, I will be happy to answer them!

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