Best iPad for Procreate in 2021

I guess that for anybody who knows me there’s no secret that I absolutely love the Procreate digital illustration app on my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil. 

For sure, there is no digital tool – hardware or software – that has done more to advance my art or to make it faster or easier than Procreate has.

In fact, I often say that my process, since discovering Procreate, and getting an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, is ten times faster than it was before, and I can do so much more so much better, and with so much less effort.

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Table of Contents

So I wanted to write a brief article about the best iPad models and Apple Pencil for Procreate – not a review (but believe me, if it were a review it would be a rave!), but just to answer a couple of basic questions.

  • First, is it worth it to buy iPad for Procreate?
  • Second, what are the best iPad models and Apple Pencil for Procreate? Are all iPads compatible with Procreate?
  • Finally, what’s the best way to learn Procreate?

Procreate is, without question, the best art program available for the latest generation iPad with Apple Pencil, and yet it is ridiculously cheap – only $9.99 – so, of course, if you already have a compatible iPad (more below about this) you absolutely should get this great app.

With a little effort and learning you will find, like me, that it totally transforms, accelerates and optimizes your process, inspires and enables you to do more, and actually improves your artwork.

How Much does Procreate cost?

As of now, Procreate has a very simple pricing. You can get it in App Store for about $10, depending on the exchange rate of your local currency. There are no recurring subscription fees, which makes Procreate one of the best and most affordable drawing programs!

Why is Procreate such a Great Program?

The promise of digital art seems so strong and compelling. It is, after all, what everybody’s doing, isn’t it? 

What all commercial and fine artists today are working in, and the way of the future? So, naturally, any aspiring artist worth his or her salt buys a big laptop and a serious art program like Adobe Illustrator.

Then they stare at the screen, click on a couple of tools, try to form and then close a vector and make it look like something, wildly stretch out a few vector points and giggle a little, play solitaire for a while and then reach for their sketchbook

And they may have spent a couple of thousand dollars but, to be fair, it is a really great app – they can just click on a red card and it automatically goes on top of the right black card!

Procreate is different though. 

It is an incredibly powerful program, with all the tools and options you would ever need, and yet you can sit down with it the first time and start making art. 

You have a canvas (and various canvas size), brushes, pens, shapes, colors, and so you are immediately in familiar creative territory. Using Procreate on my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil is such a joy!

Yes, Procreate is such a detailed and complex program that you will eventually need to spend some time really learning it, and in fact the sooner you really know all it can do, the sooner you can take your own processes and artwork to the next level (I will talk more about learning Procreate, and some wonderful online courses, in the last section of this article). 

But any artist can pretty much immediately start making beautiful things, and finally understand and realize the promise of digital art.

Some of the best features of the latest version of Procreate, in my experience, are:

  • 150+ Paint Brushes – and you can customize them and even add more!
  • Countless Filters, Effects, Gradients and more
  • Incredible Color Selection and Control, including Blending and Gradation
  • Aids and Cheats like Clipping Masks, Alpha Locks and Quickshape
  • Drawing Guides like Perspective, Isometric and Symmetry
  • Layers
  • Customizable Gestures
  • Animation
  • Intuitive Interface
  • Brilliantly Thought-Out Layout, Controls and Functions Overall

Yeah, when you see even this very short and incomplete list of the best features of Procreate, it can seem like an impossibly complicated, difficult and intimidating program, and for sure a really good course or deep self-study will reveal more and more that this marvelous app can do.

But the best feature of Procreate is in fact ease of use. It is simply a way to paint and draw that is familiar and comfortable for anybody, even if they’ve never used a computer for more than solitaire. 

Without having to worry about Isometric Guides or Clipping Masks, you can sit down and make a beautiful drawing or painting immediately!

What are the Drawbacks to Procreate?

Are there any downsides to Procreate? 

Well, yes, if pressed I would have to say that it does not allow vector work, although this can also be an advantage. 

Vector work is great for creating high-resolution, small sized, clean and sharp images like logos and such, but it is not an intuitive process – especially for people who work well and naturally in traditional media like painting, pen and ink, colored pencils and such.

Procreate, on the other hand, is a raster-based, or pixel-based, program, which is more reminiscent of physical painting and drawing. 

Yes, pixel-based files are much larger, but they are also much richer, more detailed, more colorful and realistic. 

Anyway, I can do 99 percent of what I want and need – for my own work and for clients – with Procreate, and if I really need to work with vectors I can simply use Illustrator on my MacBook. 

But when I’m painting or drawing digitally it’s always Procreate on my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, and I love it!

What is the Best iPad for Procreate?

One of the most powerful and important benefits of Procreate is portability. Well, I guess this is more of a benefit of the iPad itself, but I really consider Procreate and my iPad Pro as a single tool, which is always right there with me wherever I go. As such, I can see that Procreate on my iPad Pro allows and encourages me to work more and more often and to see more in the world around me. I can sit down anywhere and just start drawing or painting, with beautiful detail, rich, vibrant colors and an easy creative flow.

So, if this is kind of what you envision as the “promise of digital art,” you’ll now probably have one of the following questions:

  • What kind of iPad model and Apple Pencil do you need to run Procreate?
  • Which iPad models and Apple Pencil work best with Procreate?
  • What is the cheapest iPad for Procreate?
  • Do you need to upgrade your current iPad to work with Procreate and Apple Pencil?

While most recent iPads and Apple Pencil will work with the newest 5X version of Procreate, it does need iPad OS 13.2 or later to run, which is less than a year and a half old. 

This, in combination with the advances and improvements in the latest iPads, makes lots of artists feel like they want to get a new iPad and Apple Pencil to run this fabulous program, but if you are running any of the below, with iOS 13.2 or later, you are already good to go.

Overview: What is the Best New iPad for Procreate?

Featured Course
Practical Guide to Procreate

Master the Procreate app on your iPad with practical examples.

This class is a quick and easy guide to getting up and running with Procreate on your iPad. No experience necessary!

CLICK TO LEARN
  1. NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi‑Fi, 512GB)
  2. NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi‑Fi, 512GB)

    Apple M1 chip for next-level performance

    Brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. NEW Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB)
  4. NEW Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB)

    10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and P3 wide color

    64GB | 256GB

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. NEW Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi, 256GB)
  6. NEW Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi, 256GB)

    8.3-inch Liquid Retina Display with True Tone and wide Color

    A15 Bionic chip with Neural Engine

    64GB | 256GB; Up to 10 hours of battery life


    Buy Now on Amazon

I could easily recommend any current Apple iPad for Procreate, and they will all work great, but I wanted to offer what I think are the three very best choices on three different levels. So, for the short list, I would recommend the following:

If you want to buy a new iPad and Apple Pencil, or upgrade to the latest generation, I have to say the new models are really fabulous – fast and powerful, with bright and beautiful displays, light and totally totable and yet with a reassuringly solid look and feel.

To make your Procreate experience optimal, I would recommend that you get the biggest screen size you can afford, but remember that even the smallest iPad screens are sharp, clear and imminently usable. It is also good to get as much RAM and storage space as you can – especially if you are a commercial or serious fine artist. 

More RAM will let Procreate or other programs run faster and more smoothly, and the storage space will allow you to keep even very large, complex or high resolution files – finished pieces or works in progress – on your iPad. You could even store a fairly complete portfolio of your work on a larger SD drive.

I also strongly urge you to get the Apple Pencil – I’d say this is crucial, in fact, for ease, for control, pressure sensitivity and for detail. 

Also very nice is the Magic Keyboard – it protects your new iPad and also helps you use it as a full-fledged mobile computer, which is great for working commercial artists who need to do administrative tasks, billing, email, social media and other communications. And the track-pad on the Magic Keyboard is really good, and useful with Procreate.

But at the same time many of us are on a budget, and so have to ask not just “which iPad should I buy for Procreate” but instead “which iPad can I actually afford for Procreate?” And so, let’s not just find out what are the best iPads for Procreate, but what are the most affordable iPads for Procreate as well.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 Inch Screen Size

My Pick
NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi‑Fi, 512GB)

Apple M1 chip for next-level performance

Brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color


The best of the best, iPad Pro is the most useful and powerful mobile art tool I know. The newest liquid retina screen creates incredibly rich, sharp, bright and contrasty graphics. They not only make the creative process easier and more effective, the beauty of the big display – and my work on that display – actually inspires me and encourages me to become better and better.

The Bionic computer processor in the iPad Pro is far faster than most laptops out there, and never lags or crashes, no matter how big or high resolution the artwork. And the pen-to-screen interface is nothing short of superb, with a great feel, real physical control, great response and flow and extraordinary levels of precision.

For my money, the Apple iPad Pro is not just the best iPad for artists in 2021, but the best standalone drawing tablet available today period.

Best Apple Pencil for iPad Pro and Procreate

Apple Pencil (2nd)

Second Generation Apple Pencil

Compatible with iPad mini (6th generation), iPad Air (4th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generations), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations)


Apple iPad Air 10.9 Inch Screen Size

Affordable Pick
NEW Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB)

10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and P3 wide color

64GB | 256GB



The best of the best, iPad Pro is the most useful and powerful mobile art tool I know. The newest liquid retina screen creates incredibly rich, sharp, bright and contrasty graphics. They not only make the creative process easier and more effective, the beauty of the big display – and my work on that display – actually inspires me and encourages me to become better and better.

The Bionic computer processor in the iPad Pro is far faster than most laptops out there, and never lags or crashes, no matter how big or high resolution the artwork. And the pen-to-screen interface is nothing short of superb, with a great feel, real physical control, great response and flow and extraordinary levels of precision.

For my money, the Apple iPad Pro is not just the best iPad for artists in 2021, but the best standalone drawing tablet available today period.

Apple Pencil (2nd)

Second Generation Apple Pencil

Compatible with iPad mini (6th generation), iPad Air (4th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generations), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations)


Apple Magic Keyboard 11-Inch

For iPad Pro 11-inch and iPad Air 10.9-inch

US English

Apple iPad Mini 8.3 Inch Screen Size

NEW Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi, 256GB)

8.3-inch Liquid Retina Display with True Tone and wide Color

A15 Bionic chip with Neural Engine

64GB | 256GB; Up to 10 hours of battery life


Whenever anybody ever says that you can’t do serious, high quality, high resolution, detailed artwork on a smaller screen, I immediately think “they haven’t tried it on an iPad!” 

Of course the question “will a smaller iPad work well with Procreate?” is valid and good to ask, but the iPad Mini still has that phenomenal Apple Retina display – not quite on the level of the Liquid Retina, but still a stunningly bright and sharp screen with true and beautiful colors.

Yes, larger screens are easier to work on, and yes, the Mini does have less RAM and a somewhat slower processor, and if you can afford a bigger iPad you should probably seriously consider it. 

But the iPad Mini tablet does work great with Procreate, and there’s no reason you can’t be working with it on the highest levels. Some people even prefer the smaller, lighter and more portable package.

The smallest Apple iPad Mini, with 64 GB storage, is less than 400 dollars, and yet for all its darling tininess and affordability it’s nonetheless a powerful and fully usable tool for the serious commercial or fine artist, art student or beginner.

Apple Pencil (2nd)

Second Generation Apple Pencil

Compatible with iPad mini (6th generation), iPad Air (4th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generations), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations)


Apple Smart Cover

For iPad Mini

Different colors

What is the Best Way to Learn Procreate?

Featured Course
Practical Guide to Procreate

Master the Procreate app on your iPad with practical examples.

This class is a quick and easy guide to getting up and running with Procreate on your iPad. No experience necessary!

CLICK TO LEARN
Featured
Online classes for artists and creatives

Improve your art skills and learn how to make money as an artist with my easy-to-follow online classes such as Making Money as an Artist, Color & Light, Color Palettes, Perspective & Composition, Instagram, and more!

GET THEM HERE

Everybody talks about two things that make using Procreate so great

One, the incredibly simple, natural and intuitive interface and ease of use, and
Two, the amazing amounts of tools, functions, controls and advanced capabilities

What this means in a practical sense is that, yes, you can easily sit down and figure out how to make a beautiful piece of art with Procreate on your iPad, maybe even without any user’s guides or instructions, but you can also spend loads of time and effort on your own trying to figure out the apparently countless other, higher-level things Procreate will do. And chances are that time and effort will be at least a little frustrating, and you still won’t even scratch the surface.

A much better idea would be to learn from an expert, especially from somebody who is not only a good, clear and effective teacher but has been using Procreate in the real world, and can show you how to fully understand and unlock the true potential of Procreate as an advanced and multi-dimensional tool for commercial or fine artists.

There are lots of teachers and classes out there, and lots of those definitely meet these two qualifications, but I am very happy to offer my own online Procreate courses on the highly regarded SkillShare learning platform, and I am quite proud of them.

I feel like I really get Procreate, on all its levels, and can effectively present its most important and useful features, tools and benefits. And I hope my enthusiasm makes learning even more fun and productive – I love art, I love drawing, I love teaching, and – in case this weren’t yet clear – I love Procreate.

Please check out my courses using the links below, and if you have any questions about them don’t hesitate to ask!

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – What Is The Best iPad for Procreate? An In-Depth Guide for Artists – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.

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