I review and recommend a lot of different products here at Art Side, but without a doubt the single item I talk about most, recommend most and use most myself is the Apple iPad Pro. It is also quite possibly the single most important and valuable tool on the market for any working commercial artist, illustrator, designer, or any creative making a living in digital art
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I keep wondering, though, what can make the iPad Pro even more valuable and useful? And in fact I get this question a lot from both readers and my students – specifically:
- What are the Best Accessories for my iPad Pro?
- What are the Most Useful Accessories for my iPad Pro?
- What iPad Pro Accessories do I Need as an Artist?
So I thought it was about time I put together a buyer’s guide for the most important, and nicest to have, accessories and addons for any digital artist with an iPad Pro – and, at the same time, the ultimate gift guide for anybody looking for the perfect present for same. apple pencil
What iPad Pro Accessories do Artists Use Most?
Yes, the iPad Pro is an extraordinary tablet, and a brilliant tool for any artist, but what add-ons can really take it to the next level? Especially in terms of making it even better for drawing, painting and editing artworks and digital art, making it easier to use and protecting it?
I took a look at my own kit, trying to figure out what is really important to me and what I use the most often, and also talked to other artists and associates, and put together this guide for the best iPad accessories available today – not just fluff or fancy gadgets, but actual tools and enhancements to make the best of all artist tablets even better.
I could see that, for me, the best iPad Pro accessories do several basic things:
- They improve my productivity
- They increase my enjoyment while working
- They protect my iPad Pro
- They improve my digital art
- They make my iPad more useful and dependable
- They inspire me
How is this 2021 iPad Pro Accessories Buyer’s Guide Organized?
I think it best to break this list of best iPad Pro addons into three parts, as follows:
- The iPad Pro Itself
- Must-Have Accessories for the iPad Pro
- Most Useful Accessories for the iPad Pro
Finally, I will whittle it down and present the most basic kit if you are a working commercial artist, a digital artist, a fine artist, an illustrator or designer or an art student. Any of the items in this list of best iPad Pro accessories for artists is really great to have, and incredibly useful to an artist, but the two packages in my Final Thoughts closing section will be the absolute minimum you should probably have.
Let’s start with the iPad Pro Itself
Before we start adding on, let’s make sure we have something to add on to! I know tons of my students have purchased iPad Pros already, and absolutely love them, but in case you haven’t taken the plunge yet let’s talk about the basic configurations.
There are two different sizes of the stunning Apple Liquid Retina screen available – 12.9 inch and 11 inch – and while I always recommend the larger iPad screen, which makes everything easier to see and work on, gives your work more impact (quite important if showing pieces to potential clients!) and allows for more detailed and accurate work, really both sizes are pretty large and quite useful, and budget may be the final determiner.
The other main factor is storage space. IPad Pro tablets always have the same amount of RAM, or working memory, but the ROM, or storage memory can vary from 128 gigabytes to a full 2 terabytes. 128GB is enough to store some current projects, though not many, and not necessarily large files like videos, animations, high resolution photographs or even large or extremely complex artwork. And if you want to keep a portfolio of your work on your tablet you really need more storage.
I will include two Amazon links here that will take you to the brand new 2021 models of the iPad Pro. One is for the smaller 11 inch display iPad screen and one for the larger 12.9 inch. These links will lead to the best prices currently available, and will also let you choose between the different amounts of storage memory – really, I do recommend that you get as much storage space as you can afford, and 512GB or more is really ideal, but don’t stress or spend too much – absolutely any configuration will be wonderfully usable.
Must-Have iPad Accessories
There are a lot of accessories for iPad Pros that are really nice to have, but there are a few that you really have to have – basic tools which are essentially indispensable if you are going to use your Pro for creating or editing artwork, photographs, animation, video or other creative projects.
This ties directly into a few questions which seem to come up most frequently:
- Does the iPad Pro include a Apple Pencil?
- Does the iPad Pro include a Case?
- Does the iPad Pro include a Keyboard?
- Does the iPad Pro include a Screen Protector?
And, as you may have already guessed, the answers are no, no, no and, wait for it, no.
Best Pencil for the iPad Pro
As you can imagine, drawing and painting without a pencil isn’t really on, but the good news is that there are quite a few really great styluses available for the iPad Pro, with excellent feeling in your hand and on the iPad screen and offering very precise and accurate control. Here are my favorites:
The Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) – not just because it’s an Apple, but because of its superb control and the way it feels in your hand, allowing for natural, flowing and fuss-free creativity which makes it one of my favorite drawing accessories.
Best Alternatives to the Apple Pencil
Adonit Note+ Digital Pencil – Adonit produces an extremely accurate and sensitive pencil, if not on the same level as the Apple Pencil, and substantially less expensive
Logitech Crayon Digital Pencil – a fun stylus that works perfectly and just seems to inspire creativity, but without pressure sensitivity
Before we move on, I should mention that several people have asked me questions like:
- What’s the best Wacom stylus for the iPad Pro?
- Is the Wacom stylus as good as the Apple Pencil?
I love Wacom products, and the Wacom Bamboo Tip is a great stylus for artists, but it is currently more expensive than the Apple Pencil, and for my money the Apple is better. So, there you go…
If you want to consider a different brand, the Zagg Pro Stylus below is a worthy contender, too!
Rechargeable battery; Dual Tip Stylus; Tilt Recognition and Palm Rejection; Automatic Pairing
Compatible with: 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Gen 3,4 & 5), 11-inch iPad Pro, iPad Air (10.9-inch), 10.2-inch iPad, 9.7-inch iPad, iPad mini (Gen 5)
Best Case for the iPad Pro
This to me is a crucial accessory, and not just because I can, at times, tend to be a wee bit clumsy… Even if you’re made of money, and I’m guessing you’re not, it is still ultra-important to protect your little baby and keep her (or, if you prefer, him) in perfect condition.
A good case will protect your iPad from drops and bangs, and keep the screen from getting scratched or nicked in your bag, which is not only good for appearance but also helps make sure your tablet keeps working reliably for as long as possible. And if that case has a built-in keyboard it can help transform your iPad Pro into a much more useful portable administrative tool – ideal for working commercial artists.
Best Case with Keyboard
Apple Magic Keyboard – by far the best smart keyboard / case available. Expensive, but for quality and durability, and for the keyboard’s smooth and flawless action, it is well worth it.
Logitech Slim Folio Pro Keyboard – a beautiful keyboard / case for the iPad Pro, and much less expensive than the Magic Keyboard, if not quite the same quality of feel and finish
Best Case without Keyboard
Apple Smart Folio – it’s really not that smart… As far as I can tell, the only real functionality is that it puts your tablet to sleep and wakes it up. But for quality, durability, protection and appearance this is definitely the best smart cover case you can get for an iPad Pro.
ZryXal Smart Case for iPad Pro – just as smart as the Apple, and quite decent quality, the ZryXal is a fraction of the price – and you get the added challenge of learning how to pronounce the name!
At the risk of this becoming the longest section of my whole buyer’s guide for best accessories for your iPad Pro, I want to include one more incredibly useful smart cover case. Even if you have a case already, or a smart keyboard / case, you might well want to get the slightly larger Tomtoc Portfolio Case, a protective and premium feeling waterproof case which has a pocket for your iPad Pro and compartments for cables, accessories, power banks and whatever else – or, since we’re artists – pencils, pencils, pencils and, you know…
11-inch iPad Pro / 10.9-inch iPad Air 4 /10.2-in iPad 8th/7th Gen with Keyboard, Carrying Storage Sleeve Bag with Accessories Pocket
Best Keyboard for the iPad Pro
And if you want a keyboard by itself – like for instance you want a full-sized keyboard for doing a lot of typing – you can get a lot of nice, smooth and reliable ones for your iPad Pro, but my favorite is the Logitech, a brand which you can always rely on for the best quality and functionality.
Logitech K780 Bluetooth Keyboard – with big and cleverly shaped keys and a well thought out layout, this is the perfect keyboard for lots of typing at high speeds, but is also quite pleasing to use for just light occasional work. It will work equally well with your Apple laptop or desktop computer or pretty much any other computer or device, and it has a nice grooved slot along the top for setting your iPad Pro into, so you can see the screen as you type.
Best Screen Protector for the iPad Pro
Another absolutely crucial accessory! The important thing to remember when selecting a protective screen film is that you should get one with the best feeling when using a stylus – some of the super-smooth normal screen protectors definitely are not appropriate for drawing and painting. The best I’ve found is the Bersem Paperfeel.
Most Useful iPad Accessories
Best Stand for the iPad Pro
I could have easily put this above, in the section for must-have iPad accessories, and I think it is really important to have. Here we’re not talking about a simple stand for viewing the screen – your new case will have that built in anyway – but a good, solid and well engineered stand optimized for drawing, painting and editing, with the right angle and plenty of stability which puts it among the most useful drawing accessories.
Elecom Aluminum Drawing Stand for 9.7 to 12.9 Inch Tablets – there are plenty of stands out there, but I really like the Elecom, which is stable, has four useful angles and stays completely out of my way while I’m working.
Best Drawing Glove for the iPad Pro
Really there probably isn’t a great deal of difference between one drawing glove and another, and any is really nice to have for flowing, friction-free work on the iPad Pro’s screen and to maintain palm rejection. Here are a couple of my personal favorites, which will work on either hand, are flexible and comfortable, won’t harm your precious tablet’s screen and glide perfectly across the surface:
Best Projector for the iPad Pro
Lots of people ask me about projectors, and especially questions like:
- What is the best screen projector for the iPad Pro?
- Does the iPad Pro need a screen projector?
And I have to say that for displaying your work – in a gallery or show, for a client or just in your own studio – or for multi-media work, tracing and copying, creating murals and all other kinds of things, a projector is an incredibly useful thing to have, and I am amazed at how much I use mine (the cool, tiny ViewSonic below).
ViewSonic M1+ Portable Smart Projector – incredibly tiny and cool as, this amazing little projector has great picture quality and sound quality and works flawlessly. And, did I mention how tiny and cool it is?
Elephas 2021 Mini Portable Projector – not nearly as small, or as cool, the Elephas is about a third the price and still has a great picture. Provides both wireless and wired connectivity.
Best Power Bank for iPad Pro
If you use your iPad Pro outdoors and on the go, at some point you will be really glad to have a good, large power bank, and the Anker PowerCore Essential is the best one I’ve seen, with enough stored juice to nearly triple your Pro’s usable battery life and exceptional material quality and durability.
Best Headphones / Earbuds for the iPad Pro
I’m no audiophile, but I have tried a lot of different headphones and earbuds, and to me the very best sounding are still the Apple. I think this is true with their wired in-ear buds, their Bluetooth buds and the normal over-the-ear Apple headphones, and when you factor in the trouble-free compatibility and use they are all easy recommendations.
Apple EarPods Wired Earbuds – the least expensive option, but with brilliant sound
Apple AirPods Wireless Earbuds – for the freedom wireless allows, especially when I’m in the zone, the Bluetooth AirPods are definitely worth the money (though I have the wired ones too…)
Apple AirPods Pro Wireless Earbuds – the best sounding Apple earbuds, and amazingly popular given the admittedly premium price
Apple AirPods Max On-Ear Headphones – an incredibly luxurious pair of headphones that are built as well as any product I’ve ever used, and sound absolutely out of this world
Best Music Service for the iPad Pro
I think people might not take me seriously when I recommend a streaming music service as an important accessory for artists, but I got to tell you that when I’m really working there is nothing better than to have great, energizing music playing, especially if I don’t have to be interrupted or distracted by selecting songs, restarting playlists or being jarred out of my space by suddenly too loud or too soft tracks. For me, productivity increases and I can work longer and feel better.
FREE 2 weeks trial with this link
Specifically curated- and produced music designed to improve your focus on the work in front of you
My favorite service is focus@will – not a familiar name, I know, but a specially engineered music streaming service with content specifically chosen to improve focus and mood, reduce stress and increase productivity. This link will let you try it for free, with a complimentary 2 week trial.
Other than that, when I am in a mood to discover new music styles, Spotify never disappoints me!
Final Thoughts: What’s the Most Basic iPad Pro Kit for an Artist?
Well, there are a lot of great ideas here for iPad accessories, but if you are like me you can’t necessarily get each and every one of them — no matter how much you might want to! So it may be a good idea to consider, in closing, what a perfect iPad Pro kit would look like, with the tablet itself and four of the most important accessories.
You can then choose other items as suits your own tastes and needs, but these can be considered the essential artist kits:
iPad Accessories Basic Kit – 11-inch
- NEW Apple 11-inch iPad Pro (2021)
- Apple Magic Keyboard 11-Inch
- BERSEM Paperfeel Screen protector 11-inch
- ELECOM Aluminum Drawing Stand
Apple M1 chip for next-level performance
11 inch Liquid Retina Display – ProMotion; True Tone; P3 Wide Color Gamut; 600 Nits Brightness
128 GB - 1 TB Internal SSD Memory
For iPad Pro 11-inch and iPad Air 10.9-inch
Compatible with iPad Air 4 (10.9 inch, 2020) / iPad Pro 11 (2020 & 2018 Models),iPad Air 4 /iPad pro 11 Matte PET Film for Drawing Anti-Glare and Paperfeel iPad Pro 11 Screen Protector
For 9.7-12.9inch Tablets, Adjustable 4 Level Angles, Slip Resistance Parts Attached
iPad Accessories Basic Kit – 12.9-inch
- BERSEM Paperfeel Screen Protector 12.9-inch
- ELECOM Aluminum Drawing Stand
Compatible with iPad Pro 12.9 Inch without Home Button,iPad pro 12.9 5th Generation Matte PET Film for Drawing Anti-Glare, Face ID Compatible, Paperfeel Film
For 9.7-12.9inch Tablets, Adjustable 4 Level Angles, Slip Resistance Parts Attached
You’ll notice that I’ve resisted adding headphones – to me a pretty essential bit of the kit, but not, I suppose, to everybody? Anyway, these packages, with an iPad and four important add-ons, will provide an amazingly useful and high quality working setup for any fine or commercial artist, illustrator, animator or student — providing protection and making the Pro a much more useful and productive tool than it already is.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article – The Best iPad Pro Accessories for Artists: A Detailed 2021 Buyer’s Guide – and I also would love for you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.