The iPad Pro was introduced back in 2015, featuring the still stunning 12.9-inch Retina display, groundbreaking performance, packed in to the thin and light iPad form factor we know and love. Alongside this, the Apple Pencil was debuted, immediately sparking the interest of designers and illustrators for its fluid feel, offering a new way to create and work.
Six years on the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil have become an invaluable tool for graphic designers, illustrators and creatives alike, with a number of apps developed specifically for the tech, turning the iPad in to a digital sketchbook and workspace.
In this article we’re going to answer the questions we get asked most on the iPad Pro and give our take on the best apps for graphic design and illustration.
Best iPad Pro apps for graphic design and illustration
£19.49, no subscription
- Affinity designer is a professional graphic design app available for both desktop and iPad.
- This is a great all round software, for illustrations, branding, icons, UI/UX designs.
- Available as a one off purchase, with no subscriptions this is a popular alternative to the Adobe apps.
- Affinity Designer for iOS can export as an EPS or SVG file so can be used alongside the Adobe apps.
£19.97 per month for an individual app, £49.94/ per month for All apps
- Adobe CC has long been an industry standard, with Photoshop a go-to when it comes to image editing.
- If you are accustomed to Adobe's software you should feel at home here.
- Photoshop and Illustrator for iPad is included with Creative Cloud subscriptions and available as either a single app or as part of the full suite.
- Educational discount available
£8.99, no subscription
- Procreate was made for the iPad, with everything you need to create expressive sketches, rich paintings, gorgeous illustrations and beautiful animations.
- Many find this to offer the most intuitive use of gestures with the majority of developers releasing brush packs for Procreate and Adobe.
free, with In-App purchases
- Infinite painter is one of the best-designed painting, sketching, and drawing apps created for iPad.
- In our opinion the gestures are not as polished and refined as procreate but the tools provided are nearly on par with Photoshop.
- Ability to export files for direct use in Adobe apps.
Apple Pencil (1st and 2nd Generation)
There are two versions of the Apple Pencil, both still available on Apple’s site.
The Apple Pencil was an instant hit with the built in sensitivity to pressure and tilt making it easy vary line weight, create subtle shading and produce a wide range of artistic effects.
The 2nd generation Apple Pencil was introduced in 2018, with a sleeker design. The lightning connector was removed, these can now be charged via a magnetic connection which snaps on to the new iPad Pro models. The Apple Pencil 2 introduced support for gestures, for example a double tap to switch tools within apps which is great to switch between a pencil and an eraser.
Apple Pencil 1 above, Apple Pencil 2 beneath
- iPad mini (5th generation)
- iPad (6th generation and later)
- iPad Air (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 10.5-inch
- iPad Pro 9.7-inch
- iPad mini (6th generation)
- iPad Air (4th generation and later)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation and later)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation and later)
iPad Pro vs Mac
The iPad Pro paired with the Apple Pencil is undeniably a great tool for creatives. It can be used as a standalone digital sketchbook, with the ability to move from concept to a polished final version. It can also be used as a graphics tablet paired with your Mac or as a second display for your Mac with Sidecar.
If you work as a professional designer we wouldn’t recommend the iPad Pro as your only device, but it can work as a great companion. To make full use of the majority of design apps the desktop versions provide the most complete functionality along with all of the features of macOS that we take for granted, for example easily converting files, connecting to other devices and use with other applications.