With the holidays looming around the corner, many of us have been turning to the Internet to figure out what to gift our loved ones - and ourselves. For graphic designers who've been drooling over the thought of playing around with Procreate, this is the time when research is necessary. We all know that iPads and their accessories come in many different shapes and forms, and suit varying types of designers, so what should you be on the lookout for?
To help you in your decision making, we asked some of our favourite Procreate designers - Molly Suber Thorpe, Addie Hanson, Floortje Visser, Lisa Glanz, Peggy Dean, Jimbo Bernaus, and Catherine Kay - to answer a few questions relating to iPad models, pencils, and accessories. We hope their insightful answers will help you on your way to getting yourself and your loved ones onboard the Procreate train!
What iPad do you currently use?
Molly Suber Thorpe: The 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen).
Addie Hanson: The 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen), 256GB.
Floortje Visser: The 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen), 256GB.
Lisa Glanz: The 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen).
Peggy Dean: The 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen) (That being said, I am still quite fond of the older model of the Pro as well).
Jimbo Bernaus: The 12.9" iPad Pro (3rd gen).
Catherine Kay: The 12.9" iPad Pro (2nd gen).
What has been your experience with this iPad?
Molly Suber Thorpe: 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen) - This is my third 12.9" iPad Pro and I love it. I really enjoy having the big screen size because it's as big as the average pad of art paper! I genuinely can't think of a single con, as I've never had any issues with the hardware or apps.
Addie Hanson: 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen) - Super, super positive. The biggest pro: increased layer capacity. All the 2020 iPad Pro models/sizes have 6GB of RAM, which is directly tied to the amount of layers you can use in Procreate. The other Procreate-specific perk is that it stores your color history, a feature that is only available on the Pro models. The biggest (and only) con: the price tag.
Floortje Visser: 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen) - My experience with this iPad has been great so far. I like how the screen covers almost the entire surface of the iPad, making it quite compact. It does feel a bit vulnerable, being so thin. I also missed the home button in the beginning. I really like the fact that you can snap the Apple Pencil 2 to the iPad and it charges while it's attached to the iPad, so my Apple Pencil is always ready to go.
Lisa Glanz: 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen) - I upgraded from an older model and the difference in speed is very noticeable. My older iPad had a much smaller screen size, so the new larger screen size has been amazing. It allows me to create really large artwork in Procreate and still have access to many layers, something my older iPad couldn’t do and which definitely hampered my workflow. The only downside is the bigger iPad is a bit more cumbersome to travel with, but it’s a small negative compared to all the other positives!
Peggy Dean: 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen) - While I love the compact body, the frame does tend to bend easily, even with a protective case and traveling with it inside of a designated laptop space in my bag. I don't think that these normal use situations should cause bending so easily. Otherwise, the interface is great and works beautifully. I wouldn't call it an upgrade from the previous model though.
Jimbo Bernaus: 12.9" iPad Pro (3rd gen) - It's been a great update from the previous model. What I noticed is that the battery lasts way longer than in the previous one I had.
Catherine Kay: 12.9" iPad Pro (2nd gen) - It's amazing, it's so easy to have on the go! It's the most portable and efficient tablet I've ever owned, it's like carrying around a digital sketchbook.
Have you owned/tried previous iPad models?
Molly Suber Thorpe: I've had iPads for years and three iPad Pros. I also have an iPad Mini that I use primarily as an e-reader, so I can access both Kindle and Apple Books. It is definitely not a suitable tablet for serious artists, though.
Addie Hanson: Yes - I've previously had the 2nd and 3rd generation iPad Pro models. Each release has been a significant improvement, but the change from 2nd to 3rd generation was the biggest game-changer: the edge-to-edge screen makes drawing that much more appealing.
Floortje Visser: I used a 12.9" iPad Pro (2nd gen), also 256GB. It's still working perfectly and is a really sturdy beast. It doesn't offer all the current updates though, so I had to upgrade.
Lisa Glanz: My previous iPad was a 9.7" iPad Pro (1st gen).
Peggy Dean: Yes, I used the older iPad Pro, also 12.9", and loved it. It's more durable than the newer versions. The other difference is the home button vs Face ID. Both worked great and I think it's really up to personal preference.
Jimbo Bernaus: Yes, the first ever iPad Pro! I believe I bought it at the end of 2017. It was a great machine and we still use it in the studio.
What pencil/stylus do you currently use?
Molly Suber Thorpe: I use the latest Apple Pencil model (2nd generation), but also used to own the original. At first I didn't love that it magnetized to the side of the iPad to charge, but now I like that a lot. There are no small parts anymore and it also seems more durable than the first model.
Addie Hanson: I currently use the Apple Pencil (2nd generation). I 100% recommend it over the 1st generation Pencil. Though compatibility depends on the iPad model, the 2nd generation is such an improved experience: magnetic charging/storage, tap gesture compatibility, and lacks any extra small part accessories for those of us who are prone to misplacing them. It's tough to quantify how much of an improvement it is to never be concerned about running out of battery life or needing to recharge it. And because it attaches to the iPad, it's always there and ready to be drawn with!
Floortje Visser: I currently use the Apple Pencil (2nd generation), since that's the one which is compatible with my newer iPad. I feel like it's a bit lighter than the 1st generation, which took some time getting used to as I really missed the weight and my hand started to cramp up with the new Pencil. I think the way the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) charges is a great improvement though. It doesn't have a cap like the 1st generation, which you can easily lose.
Lisa Glanz: I use the Apple Pencil (2nd generation). If your iPad is compatible with the 2nd generation, I definitely recommend getting it instead of the 1st. Simply because of the way it charges, it’s a game changer!
Peggy Dean: I use the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) exclusively and recommend it over any other. It's the most responsive and a small price to pay for its capabilities. It also holds a charge for a very long time and takes very little time to charge when needed. As someone who is frugal, I have learned the hard way that some things are worth investing in the big picture, and this is one of those things.
Jimbo Bernaus: I use the Apple Pencil (2nd generation). This depends on the iPad model you have, but if I had to buy a new iPad right now I would totally decide based on the Apple Pencil model. The fact that this Pencil charges magnetically is a huge step forward.
Catherine Kay: I use the original Apple Pencil (1st generation)! I love it so far and don't feel the need to change!
What iPad/Pencil would you recommend for:
Molly Suber Thorpe:
- A professional designer — 12.9" iPad Pro with 256GB+ of storage + the Apple Pencil (2nd generation).
- An amateur designer — 11" or 12.9" iPad Pro with 256GB+ of storage + the Apple Pencil (2nd generation).
- A designer on a budget — Refurbished iPad Pro (2nd generation or later) + corresponding Pencil (Don't get a used Pencil because many report these have a very short lifespan).
You can see that I recommend the Pro for everyone. I realize that it is the pricier option and genuinely not possible for everyone to get. However, I personally would take a used iPad Pro over a brand new Air any day of the week! The Airs are notoriously frustrating to use with Procreate, limiting file size and layer count. They are also relatively expensive brand new and I'm pretty sure you can get an older, refurbished Pro for the same price as a new Air.
- A professional designer — iPad Pro 12.9" (4th generation) + Apple Pencil (2nd generation) - for the smoothest workflow, this is the best option. The Apple Pencil (2nd generation), increased RAM, and faster refresh rate will allow for a really seamless experience. And, you'll never regret the larger screen, I promise!
- An amateur designer — iPad Air (4th generation) + Apple Pencil (2nd generation) - this is comparable to the Pro models with slightly less RAM (4GB). However, the storage options are limited to 64GB / 256GB, and 64GB might be a bit small for design files/complex brushes. So as an alternative, consider the 11" iPad Pro (4th generation), which comes with an option of 128GB of storage at a comparable price to the 256GB Air model.
- A designer on a budget — The iPad (8th generation)/Apple Pencil (1st generation) - this is a great budget option as the "entry level" iPad. I'd also recommend looking into any second-hand options locally, or refurbished models online. This can be a great way to get a higher end model at a more affordable price.
To sum up my thoughts on choosing a model: prioritize RAM first, then screen size, then storage. You don't need a massive amount of storage (128GB or 256GB will do), and you can stash files in the Cloud - but RAM and limited layers impact workflow more directly.
- A professional designer — budget permitting, 12.9" iPad Pro (4th generation).
- An amateur designer — budget permitting, any of the iPad Pros.
- A designer on a budget — I can’t really say due to my lack of experience with the other models, but I’ve heard that the latest iPad is amazing. Usually buying second hand can be a great deal, but because technology moves so fast it might be worth stretching your budget a little to get a new, entry level model instead of a second hand one. You can definitely get by with a smaller screen if you need to; I did for many years!
- A professional designer - 12.9" iPad Pro (3rd or 4th generation).
- An amateur designer - 12.9" iPad Pro (3rd generation) refurbished. You can find great deals, but the big screen is a game changer for any kind of designer/artist.
- A designer on a budget - The new iPad Airs are great machines and they are way cheaper than the Pro version. The good thing is that Procreate works in most of those devices!
Do you own any other iPad accessories? ie. glove, screen protector, etc.
Molly Suber Thorpe: I always use a touch screen glove. Mine is the 1-finger style from Smudgeguard. I never use a screen protector. Unlike many digital artists, I like the way my Apple Pencil glides over the glass screen.
Addie Hanson: I use a paper-feel screen protector - the Elecom Drawing Smooth screen protector. I've tried a couple different paper-feel screen protectors, and this is my favorite. It keeps a matte finish without scratching, scuffing, or wearing down too quickly. However, I do find that it wears out my Apple Pencil nibs over time, so I also keep a pack of replacement nibs on hand. I previously used a tempered glass screen protector, without issue. I loved the extra protection that gave my screen, but wanted to try out the paper-feel protectors to see what the fuss was, and now I'm not sure I can go back to drawing on glass! I don't use a glove, but I do recommend having microfiber cloths on hand to clean any smudges off the screen.
The only other accessory I've started using recently is a silicone sleeve for my Apple Pencil - my cat likes to sit next to me as I draw and tries to nibble on the Pencil, so I needed some kind of protection for it.
Floortje Visser: I don't use a screen protector, I can't stand the sound they make to be honest. I just like the smooth feel of my screen and I'm totally used to it. In the three years I used my previous iPad, I never had a scratch on it. Just be sure you use a protective case. I use the Pipetto origami case. I don't use a special glove either, I want to be able to feel the screen. Aside from that, I just use glass wipes to clean my screen when it's needed.
Lisa Glanz: I use Paperlike matte screen protector and Smart Keyboard Folio (an absolute necessity for me!). I also have a very cheap lightweight zip cover that’s actually meant for a laptop that I use for my iPad - it has pockets where I keep cables, AirPods etc.
Peggy Dean: Yes! I love my iPad case, which features a spot to also hold your Apple Pencil. I also recently jumped on the Paperlike train. I never used a screen protector until now and I started only so I could provide feedback to the community in my creative membership and I have to say that I love the paper-like feel of this matte screen protector.
Jimbo Bernaus: I would recommend a screen protector like Paperlike since it gives a paper feel to your screen and totally upgrades the drawing experience. I would also recommend any kind of case that puts your device at an angle so you have a better control of it. Finally, I'd buy a glove: Articka gloves are great.
Catherine Kay: I have a matte screen protector which adds a little resistance for the pen. I did try the Paperlike one, but I didn't like how it distorted and added grain to the screen, nor how rough it was.
What would be your go-to Procreate pack on Design Cuts?*
Molly Suber Thorpe: I would have to say my own Calligraphy Nibs Procreate Brush Pack because I honestly use my Fine Flourishing Brush every single day of the week. Literally. I do probably 95% of my digital calligraphy with that brush!
Addie Hanson: There are so many amazing brushes in Design Cuts' offerings, and I love that digital art allows me to dabble in a wide range of mediums! But time and again, I find myself returning to watercolor in Procreate. My Flooded brushes are always a satisfying choice for loose florals with a super watery look.
Floortje Visser: I think my Illustration brush set is very beginner friendly; it contains brushes for sketching, linework and texturing. But of course I like using all of my brush packs at the same time when creating Procreate artwork!
Lisa Glanz: Am I allowed to say my own brushes!? In all seriousness, I do actually use my own brushes everyday. Basically I created brushes that I specifically wanted in my own work, which is why I use them everyday.
(*If you're struggling to settle on a pack as a gift for your friends or family, you always have the option of requesting a gift voucher from us!)
Overwhelmingly, our designers recommended getting the 12.9" iPad Pro (4th gen), with at least 128 or 256GB of space, paired with the Apple Pencil 2. For designers on a budget, they suggested an earlier iPad Pro generation, a refurbished iPad Pro, or the latest iPad/ iPad Air, paired with the Apple Pencil 1. As for accessories, they stressed the importance of investing in a sturdy iPad case and a screen protector, with their favorite being the Paperlike protector.
Thank you for reading and we hope that these suggestions will go a long way in helping with your purchasing decisions this holiday season!