How To Turn Your iPad Into a Drawing Tablet To Create Stunning Digital Art

Digital drawing has come a long way in recent years. With the advent of high-quality drawing tablets and apps, it’s now possible to create highly realistic and detailed drawings with minimal tools. However, there’s still some debate about whether an iPad or a drawing tablet is the best choice for digital drawing or whether you can use your iPad as a drawing tablet.

Types of Drawing Tablets

Before we explain how to use an iPad as a drawing tablet, let’s briefly learn to differentiate between types of drawing tablets. There are graphic tablets, touchscreen tablets, and pen displays.

Graphic tablets are the most affordable option and use a stylus to control the cursor on a connected computer. Touchscreen tablets are similar to graphic tablets but also have a built-in screen that allows you to see your work as you create it. Pen displays are the most expensive option and come with an integrated screen and stylus.

Our iPad vs. drawing tablet comparison focuses on graphic tablets – screenless drawing devices. Let’s see how an iPad weighs up.

The Difference Between an iPad and an Actual Drawing Tablet

The iPad is an all-encompassing device, useful for playing games, texting, and browsing the internet. On the other hand, the only purpose of a graphics tablet is to be used for drawing. Thus, a good-quality graphics tablet offers a better drawing experience than an iPad.

Another notable difference lies in the graphics tablet’s lack of a screen, which makes connecting it to a PC necessary. With an iPad, on the other hand, you can choose to do the same or use it as a standalone device.

Furthermore, you’re probably aware of the price discrepancy between an iPad and a graphics tablet, particularly with pricier brands like Wacom. While you may find some budget-friendly drawing tablets in the same price range as an iPad, those usually lack performance-wise. In that case, you’re better off using the iPad as a drawing tablet for PC.

Setting Up Your iPad to Be Used as a Drawing Tablet

Before unleashing your inner creative genius, you must set up your iPad so it’s ready for drawing. Here are all the essential steps:

1. Install an App to Connect iPad to PC

Installing an app that will allow you to connect your iPad to a PC is an essential step to turning your iPad into a drawing tablet. There are quite a few such apps, but the most notable ones are Duet Display and Astropad Studio. These apps turn your iPad into a second monitor and allow you to run drawing programs while you draw with your Apple Pencil.

If you want to use Duet Display, you’ll have to download it to your PC and iPad. Remember that while the desktop app is free, you’ll need to cash out $19.99 for the iOS version. After downloading, you must connect your PC and iPad using the iPad’s charging cable.

While Astropad Studio is quite similar to Duet Display, it does have a neat feature that Duet doesn’t. Namely, it allows you to wirelessly connect your iPad to your PC. Astropad Studio comes with a 30-day free trial and costs $14.99 per month or $99.99 a year.

2. Install a Drawing App

Naturally, you need an app that enables you to draw on your iPad. Options are abundant, and you can experiment until you find the one that suits your art style best. Some of the most popular drawing apps include:

  • Procreate
  • Adobe Fresco
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Inspire Pro
  • Affinity Designer

Not all drawing apps are created equal, so try them out until you’ve found the one that works for you best. The wide range of tools will help you start your digital art creation journey after you’ve learned how to use an iPad as a drawing tablet.

3. Connect the Apple Pencil to Your iPad

To create professional-looking digital art on your iPad, you will need to get an Apple Pencil, a type of stylus pen designed specifically for iPads.

The process of connecting the Apple Pencil to the iPad is quite simple. If you have the Apple Pencil of the 1st generation, you’ll have to plug it into your iPad and then pair it via Bluetooth. In the case of a 2nd generation Apple Pencil, you place it on the magnetic connector instead of plugging it in, and the rest of the process is the same.

How To Draw on an iPad

An essential toolkit is more or less standardized across drawing apps. For this guide, we’ll use Adobe Fresco as an example to further explain how to use your iPad to draw. Here are some key steps:

1. Familiarize Yourself With Different Tools

To be able to create compelling digital art, you should familiarize yourself with all the tools and options available in the iPad drawing app. After choosing the canvas, the first thing to do is to explore the brushes you’ll use. Adobe Fresco features three types of brushes:

  • Pixel brushes
  • Live brushes
  • Vector brushes

Each category has its own set of brush types. For instance, among the live brushes, you have watercolour brushes, with results imposingly similar to the real thing. You can import additional pixel brushes from Photoshop.

That’s not all, as you can also tweak the settings for each brush. For instance, you may adjust a pixel brush’s hardness, angle, and spacing.

Among other tools are the eraser, smudging tool, and transformation tool. The transformation tool allows you to move around a selected section of your drawing.

Learn How To Use Gestures

Gestures make using the iPad as a drawing tablet more convenient and faster. For one, you can effortlessly zoom in and out using your fingers. To zoom in, you need to pinch the screen, while to zoom out, you spread your fingers.

You can also undo by tapping the screen with two fingers and redo using three fingers. A quick pinch of the screen will set your canvas on full screen.

Make Use of Layers

​​One of the great things about digital art is that you can easily experiment without ruining your work. One way to do this is by using layers.

This neat feature allows you to draw on one layer while keeping the background untouched. This way, you can simply delete that layer without affecting anything else, which is handy when you make a mistake. You also have the option to reorder and group your layers.

Tips and Tricks for Using an iPad as a Drawing Tablet

Once you’ve mastered the basics of creating iPad drawings, you can move on to experimenting with more advanced tools. These tools include the ruler, stamp tool, and lock transparency.


Not many artists think to use the ruler option while drawing. However, this tool can be pretty handy. For instance, you can draw lines as a guide for the text you wish to write by hand. Don’t forget to make separate layers for lines and text; you can simply remove the lines layer once finished writing.

Stamp Tool

The Stamp tool works just like its name suggests. It allows you to quickly create a forest by drawing only one tree, and the tool will duplicate your tree as many times as you wish. All you need to do is select the Stamp tool, choose a brush, and drag it across the canvas. Duplicates of your drawing will appear.

Lock Transparency

Lock transparency is another handy tool. This option lets you draw inside something you’ve already drawn without going over the lines.

Final Comments

Now that you know all the basics of how to turn your iPad into a drawing tablet, it’s time to start experimenting. Digital art offers endless possibilities, so don’t be afraid to try new things and have fun.


Can I use my iPad as a drawing tablet for my Mac?

Yes, you can use your iPad as a drawing tablet for your Mac. You’ll just need to install an app like Duet Display or Astropad Studio on your Mac and iPad.

Is it better to draw on a drawing tablet or an iPad?

If you wish to use your tablet exclusively for drawing, then a graphics tablet may be a better choice, as it was built for that purpose. However, an iPad is the way to go if you need more options, such as Facetime and games.

Is Wacom better or iPad?

Whether a Wacom graphics tablet or an iPad is better depends on your specific needs. Generally speaking, even though you can use your iPad as a drawing tablet, a Wacom may perform better, as it’s a high-quality graphics tablet explicitly designed for drawing.

Milica Milenkovic
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