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iPad Pro vs. iPad Air for Drawing, Procreate, Artists in 2024

Iva Mikles
iPad Pro vs. iPad Air for Drawing, Procreate, Artists in 2024

Trying to decide between iPad Pro and iPad Air for drawing on Procreate? I understand your dilemma!

I used both iPads to draw in Procreate and compared their features, so you can see which is better before you buy.

My helpful post breaks down all their features and benefits, giving you everything needed so that when it comes time to choose your new iPad, your decision will be easy!

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NEW iPad Pro M4 vs iPad Air M2 2024

Pro 13″
Air 13″
Pro 11″
Air 11″
Compatible

Display: 13″ Tandem OLED Ultra Retina XDR display; ProMotion (120Hz); Wide color P3 gamut; 2M:1 contrast ratio

Resolution: 2752x2064px at 264PPI

Brightness: SDR 1000 nits, XDR 1600 nits

Chip: M4 with neural engine (AI)

Storage: 256GB | 512GB | 1TB | 2TB

RAM: 8GB @256GB | 512GB and 16GB @1TB | 2TB

Weight: 1.3lb (580g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Display: 13″ LED-backlit IPS display; Wide color P3 gamut

Resolution: 2732x2048px at 264PPI

Brightness: 600 nits

Chip: M2 with neural engine

Storage: 128GB | 256GB | 512GB | 1TB

RAM: 8GB

Weight: 1.4lb (620g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Display: 11″ Tandem OLED Ultra Retina XDR display; ProMotion (120Hz); Wide color P3 gamut; 2M:1 contrast ratio

Resolution: 2420x1668px at 264PPI

Brightness: SDR 1000 nits, XDR 1600 nits

Chip: M4 with neural engine (AI)

Storage: 256GB | 512GB | 1TB | 2TB

RAM: 8GB @256GB | 512GB and 16GB @1TB | 2TB

Weight: ±1lb (440g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Display: 11″ LED-backlit IPS display; Wide color P3 gamut

Resolution: 2360x1640px at 264PPI

Brightness: 500 nits

Chip: M2 with neural engine

Storage: 128GB | 256GB | 512GB | 1TB

RAM: 8GB

Weight: 1.4lb (620g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Features: Hover, Double-tap, Squeeze, Barrel roll, Pixel-Perfect Precision, Tilt and Pressure Sensitivity, Low Latency for Note-Taking, Drawing, and Art. Attaches, Charges, and Pairs Magnetically

Compatible with iPad Pro M4 2024 and iPad Air M2 2024

Pro 13″

Display: 13″ Tandem OLED Ultra Retina XDR display; ProMotion (120Hz); Wide color P3 gamut; 2M:1 contrast ratio

Resolution: 2752x2064px at 264PPI

Brightness: SDR 1000 nits, XDR 1600 nits

Chip: M4 with neural engine (AI)

Storage: 256GB | 512GB | 1TB | 2TB

RAM: 8GB @256GB | 512GB and 16GB @1TB | 2TB

Weight: 1.3lb (580g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Air 13″

Display: 13″ LED-backlit IPS display; Wide color P3 gamut

Resolution: 2732x2048px at 264PPI

Brightness: 600 nits

Chip: M2 with neural engine

Storage: 128GB | 256GB | 512GB | 1TB

RAM: 8GB

Weight: 1.4lb (620g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Pro 11″

Display: 11″ Tandem OLED Ultra Retina XDR display; ProMotion (120Hz); Wide color P3 gamut; 2M:1 contrast ratio

Resolution: 2420x1668px at 264PPI

Brightness: SDR 1000 nits, XDR 1600 nits

Chip: M4 with neural engine (AI)

Storage: 256GB | 512GB | 1TB | 2TB

RAM: 8GB @256GB | 512GB and 16GB @1TB | 2TB

Weight: ±1lb (440g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Air 11″

Display: 11″ LED-backlit IPS display; Wide color P3 gamut

Resolution: 2360x1640px at 264PPI

Brightness: 500 nits

Chip: M2 with neural engine

Storage: 128GB | 256GB | 512GB | 1TB

RAM: 8GB

Weight: 1.4lb (620g)

Compatible with Apple Pencil Pro (recommended)

Compatible

Features: Hover, Double-tap, Squeeze, Barrel roll, Pixel-Perfect Precision, Tilt and Pressure Sensitivity, Low Latency for Note-Taking, Drawing, and Art. Attaches, Charges, and Pairs Magnetically

Compatible with iPad Pro M4 2024 and iPad Air M2 2024

iPad Pro M2 vs iPad Air M1

My Pick
Alternative
Affordable Pick
Advanced and professional artists who are drawing digitally every day for long hours and work on complex artworks which require many layers. I also love the big, bright screen because I don't get tired from looking at it and I can use it for drawing outdoors.
Advanced and professional artists who want the "best", but want to save a little bit of money.
Beginners, hobbyists, and advanced and professional artists who want similar specs to iPad Pro but their budget doesn't allow them to get iPad Pro.
Screen size: 12.9″
Display type: Liquid Retina XDR display
Screen brightness: 600 - 1000 nits
Screen resolution: 2732-by-2048 resolution at 264 ppi
RAM: 8GB (at 128GB - 512GB) and 16GB (at 1TB and 2TB)
Storage: 128GB - 256GB - 512GB - 1TB - 2TB
Screen size: 11″
Display type: Liquid Retina display
Screen brightness: 600 nits
Screen resolution: 2388-by-1668 resolution at 264 ppi
RAM: 8GB (at 128GB - 512GB) and 16GB (at 1TB and 2TB)
Storage: 128GB - 256GB - 512GB - 1TB - 2TB
Screen size: 10.9″
Display type: Liquid Retina display
Screen brightness: 500 nits
Screen resolution: 2360‑by‑1640 resolution at 264 ppi
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 64GB or 256GB
➕ Super large and super bright screen
➕ Powerful M1 chip (M2 with 2022 model)
➕ Generous storage options
➕ Great RAM options for a high number of layers in Procreate
➕ Wide color profile (P3)
➕ ProMotion tech for smooth drawing
➕ Large screen
➕ Powerful M2 chip
➕ Generous storage options
➕ Great RAM options for a high number of layers in Procreate
➕ Wide color profile (P3)
➕ ProMotion tech for smooth drawing
➕ Price
➕ Large screen
➕ Powerful M1 chip
➕ Wide color profile (P3)
➕ Up to 10 hours of battery life
➖ Price
➖ Price
➖ Limited storage options
➖ Challenges with the number of layers in Procreate
➖ No ProMotion technology
Apple Pencil 2
Apple Pencil 2
Apple Pencil 2

FYI - If you want absolutely the newest tech to get the M2 chip and use the Apple Pencil hover feature, get the 2022 iPad Pro 12.9″


FYI - If you want to save even more and don't mind older technology, consider getting the renewed iPad Air 4th generation.

My Pick
Advanced and professional artists who are drawing digitally every day for long hours and work on complex artworks which require many layers. I also love the big, bright screen because I don't get tired from looking at it and I can use it for drawing outdoors.
Screen size: 12.9″
Display type: Liquid Retina XDR display
Screen brightness: 600 - 1000 nits
Screen resolution: 2732-by-2048 resolution at 264 ppi
RAM: 8GB (at 128GB - 512GB) and 16GB (at 1TB and 2TB)
Storage: 128GB - 256GB - 512GB - 1TB - 2TB
➕ Super large and super bright screen
➕ Powerful M1 chip (M2 with 2022 model)
➕ Generous storage options
➕ Great RAM options for a high number of layers in Procreate
➕ Wide color profile (P3)
➕ ProMotion tech for smooth drawing
➖ Price
Apple Pencil 2

FYI - If you want absolutely the newest tech to get the M2 chip and use the Apple Pencil hover feature, get the 2022 iPad Pro 12.9″

Alternative
Advanced and professional artists who want the "best", but want to save a little bit of money.
Screen size: 11″
Display type: Liquid Retina display
Screen brightness: 600 nits
Screen resolution: 2388-by-1668 resolution at 264 ppi
RAM: 8GB (at 128GB - 512GB) and 16GB (at 1TB and 2TB)
Storage: 128GB - 256GB - 512GB - 1TB - 2TB
➕ Large screen
➕ Powerful M2 chip
➕ Generous storage options
➕ Great RAM options for a high number of layers in Procreate
➕ Wide color profile (P3)
➕ ProMotion tech for smooth drawing
➖ Price
Apple Pencil 2


Affordable Pick
Beginners, hobbyists, and advanced and professional artists who want similar specs to iPad Pro but their budget doesn't allow them to get iPad Pro.
Screen size: 10.9″
Display type: Liquid Retina display
Screen brightness: 500 nits
Screen resolution: 2360‑by‑1640 resolution at 264 ppi
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 64GB or 256GB
➕ Price
➕ Large screen
➕ Powerful M1 chip
➕ Wide color profile (P3)
➕ Up to 10 hours of battery life
➖ Limited storage options
➖ Challenges with the number of layers in Procreate
➖ No ProMotion technology
Apple Pencil 2

FYI - If you want to save even more and don't mind older technology, consider getting the renewed iPad Air 4th generation.

Videos: My Experience with iPad Pro and iPad Air for Drawing and Procreate

💡 Find out which iPads are compatible with Procreate Dreams: Procreate Dreams Compatibility with iPads

💡 Planning to get an iPad for Procreate Dreams? Explore my newest post: Best iPad for Procreate Dreams

For our comparison, I chose the iPad I use with Procreate – iPad Pro 12.9″ 5th generation, iPad Air 5th generation, and to give a bit of alternative to “my” Pro model, I also included the iPad Pro 11″ 4th generation.

I compare these models based on the most important decision criteria for artists and the drawing experience:

Screen Size

Photo: iPad Air vs iPad Pro 11 vs iPad 12.9 screen size comparison - ©Art Side of Life

I think there is no right answer when it comes to the screen size of your iPad for Procreate.

It is a personal thing, and as I explain in my post about iPads for Procreate, I like to compare it to the size of the sketchbooks you prefer.

iPad Pro models come in two screen sizes – 12.9″ or 11″ and iPad Air models come in one size – 10.9″.

My rule of thumb is, if you will be using Procreate often and for long hours, get a bigger screen. It will make your drawing experience more enjoyable.

If you are, however, looking for a portable iPad for Procreate, get the iPad Pro 11 or iPad Air.

Display Type, Screen Resolution, and Sharpness

iPad Pro 12.9″iPad Pro 11″iPad Air 10.9″
Liquid Retina XDR displayLiquid Retina displayLiquid Retina display
mini-LED backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technologyLED backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technologyLED backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
2732-by-2048 resolution
at 264 ppi
2388-by-1668 resolution
at 264 ppi
2360‑by‑1640 resolution
at 264 ppi
Wide color profile display (P3)Wide color profile display (P3)Wide color profile display (P3)
Table: Displays Comparison of iPad Pro 12.9″, iPad Pro 11″ and iPad Air 10.9″ – Source: Apple.com

All Apple products come with retina displays. And all the newest iPad models come with liquid retina displays and similar pixel density. This means you will be getting super sharp images, vivid colors, and bright screens.

The iPad Pro 12.9″ models also have the XDR display, which is a marketing term that means that in certain conditions (HDR content), it will be even brighter, more vivid, and sharp.

When I compare my iPad Pro 12.9″ to iPad Air 10.9″, it does feel sharper and more vivid!

This is important to me because I love to replicate this feeling of working with traditional media on the digital screen.

Processor, RAM, and Storage

I explain the importance of the processor, RAM, and storage size for Procreate in my post about the best iPad for Procreate, so I will not go into too many details here. To quickly summarize:

As you see in the table I made below, iPad Pro models have more generous storage options than iPad Air, and the biggest storage models also come with 16GB RAM, which is super impressive!!!

iPad Pro 12.9″
M1 or M2 processor
iPad Pro 11″
M1 or M2 processor
iPad Air 10.9″
M1 processor
Storage 128GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 128GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 64GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 256GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 256GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 256GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 512GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 512GB
RAM 8GB
Storage 1TB
RAM 16GB
Storage 1TB
RAM 16GB
Storage 2TB
RAM 16GB
Storage 2TB
RAM 16GB
Table: Storage and RAM Comparison of iPad Pro 12.9″, iPad Pro 11″ and iPad Air 10.9″ – Source: Apple.com

Number of Layers Available in Procreate

I noticed that the number of layers available in Procreate causes a lot of discussion on the internet.

And there is no wonder why.

I tried to find it, but there, unfortunately, is no exact formula for how to calculate the number of layers available in Procreate on your iPad, and Procreate team has been very non-committal about creating any kind of calculator.

I go into the reasons for why that is in my post about the best iPad for Procreate you can find here.

The only thing that I learned over the years is that RAM and iPad OS version determines the number of layers you get in Procreate.

What you need to know for our comparison of iPad Pro vs. iPad Air for Procreate is this:

All things being equal, at 8GB RAM configuration, both iPad Pro and iPad Air models will have an equal number of layers available in Procreate.

This depends on which iPad OS version you are running (iPad OS 15 and 16 are ideal) and on what other apps you are using in the background. The number of layers in the table below is approximate, and you may get the same or slightly different numbers.

CanvasiPad Pro 12.9″
Procreate # of layers
iPad Pro 11″
Procreate # of layers
iPad Air 10.9″
Procreate # of layers
3000 x 3000px112112112
16″ x 16″ @300 DPI414141
A4 @300DPI116116116
A3 @300DPI565656
A2 @300DPI232323
Table: No. of Layers Comparison of iPad Pro 12.9″, iPad Pro 11″ and iPad Air 10.9″ – Source: ©Art Side of Life Research

ProMotion Technology

Photo: Drawing on iPad Pro (right) feels much smoother than on the iPad Air (left) - ©Art Side of Life

The ProMotion technology is Apple’s branding for the 120Hz display refresh rate. For comparison, my first iPad Pro and my TV have a 60Hz refresh rate.

iPad Pro models are the only iPads that have the ProMotion technology.

I find the ProMotion technology in my iPad Pro amazing because, compared to iPad Air, the drawing is much smoother and more natural.

As I like to say, it feels like I was sketching in my sketchbook.

Brightness

Photo: iPad Pro (right) is slightly brighter than iPad Air which counts when you drawing in a lot of light - ©Art Side of Life
iPad Pro 12.9″iPad Pro 11″iPad Air 10.9″
SDR brightness:
600 nits max (typical)
SDR brightness:
600 nits max (typical)
SDR brightness:
500 nits max (typical)
Table: Brightness Comparison of iPad Pro 12.9″, iPad Pro 11″ and iPad Air 10.9″ – Source: Apple.com

The brightness of your iPads screen is most important if you want to draw outdoors or on the go, as I love to do.

I just love it when I can sit in the cafe, in a park, or on the top of the mountain and sketch people, animals, and beautiful landscapes. You can watch me sketching on my iPad in the vlog here:

In terms of screen brightness, both iPad Pro and iPad Air models have the same highest brightness in the normal mode. When working in HD mode, iPad Pro 12.9″ models will be even brighter.

To see what’s the difference between the brightness units of “nits,” check out my post about which iPad is the best for Procreate.

Apple Pencil Compatibility

Photo: Both iPad Air (left) and iPad Pro (right) are compatible with Apple Pencil 2 - ©Art Side of Life

I have good news.

There is no difference in Apple Pencil compatibility whether you choose iPad Pro or iPad Air.

Both models support Apple Pencil 2.

My Pick
Recommended
Recommended

Second Generation Apple Pencil :: Best Drawing and Painting Experience

Compatible with:

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

Matte Screen Protector for Drawing, Writing, and Note-taking like on Paper

I recommend you get them if you use a matte Paperlike screen protector

My Pick

Second Generation Apple Pencil :: Best Drawing and Painting Experience

Compatible with:

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

Matte Screen Protector for Drawing, Writing, and Note-taking like on Paper

Recommended

I recommend you get them if you use a matte Paperlike screen protector

As you could see in my post about which stylus you should choose for Procreate, Apple Pencil 2 has this invisible “tap button” that you can use for your most used shortcuts.

And what is more, when you get the newest iPad Pro 12.9″ 6th generation or the iPad Pro 11″ 4th generation, you can also use the “hover” feature, which simplifies the color drop, freehand selection, and brush stroke color preview.

Price

At the time of writing, depending on the configuration, iPad Air models are about ±40% – 50% cheaper than iPad Pro models.

However, once you get the 256GB model, you are getting close to the same price as the entry-level iPad Pro 11″ with 128GB, ProMotion display, and hover feature. Hmmm 🤔 I think I’d seriously think about getting it for drawing on Procreate!

Because of its price, I recommend iPad Pro 12.9″ models for advanced and professional artists who will buy them as an investment in their creative business. But if you are a beginner and you want the best iPad for Procreate, and you have the budget for it, by all means, get the iPad Pro, too!

So Which Should You Get for Procreate – iPad Pro or iPad Air?

My Pick
Alternative
Affordable Pick
5.0
4.8
4.2

FYI - If you want absolutely the newest tech to get the M2 chip and use the Apple Pencil hover feature, get the 2022 iPad Pro 12.9″


FYI - If you want to save even more and don't mind older technology, consider getting the renewed iPad Air 4th generation.

My Pick
5.0

FYI - If you want absolutely the newest tech to get the M2 chip and use the Apple Pencil hover feature, get the 2022 iPad Pro 12.9″

Affordable Pick
4.2

FYI - If you want to save even more and don't mind older technology, consider getting the renewed iPad Air 4th generation.

I personally use the iPad Pro 12.9″ 5th generation, and as a professional artist, I am super happy with it.

It’s fast, I find drawing in Procreate is super smooth, I have enough layers I need for my artwork, it runs iPad OS 16 with the new brush engine so that I can create awesome Procreate brushes, and it looks great in my classes 😊.

Iva using her iPad Pro - ©Art Side of Life
Photo: Iva using her iPad Pro – ©Art Side of Life

I chose it because I needed an upgrade from my first iPad Pro 10.5″, which couldn’t give me enough layers in Procreate.

And if you are wondering. I haven’t upgraded to the iPad Pro 12.9″ 6th generation yet, because I don’t see the need to justify the purchase. My process in Procreate wouldn’t benefit that much from the Apple Pencil hover feature, and I get enough layers for my artwork.

I recently surveyed my followers on YouTube and Instagram and my artist friends about which iPad model they use. I found out that:

In the end, I believe that whichever you choose, you will make amazing artwork with either of them.

Happy drawing and painting!

FAQs – iPad Pro vs. iPad Air for Procreate

Is iPad Pro better than iPad Air for Procreate?

Yes, iPad Pro is better than iPad Air for Procreate because it has better display, storage options, and RAM and uses ProMotion technology. Get more details in my blog post.

Is iPad Air good enough for Procreate?

Yes, iPad Air is more than good enough for Procreate. I consider iPad Air 10.9″ the best value iPad for Procreate. Get more details in my blog post about iPads for Procreate.

Is Procreate better on iPad Pro or iPad Air?

Procreate is better on iPad Pro because iPad Pro has better features for Procreate. If you are on a budget, though, iPad Air is the best value iPad for Procreate.

Iva

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am a full-time self-taught artist behind Art Side of Life® and a Top Teacher on Skillshare. I have 15 years of experience in the creative field as a concept designer, illustrator, art director, and now freelance artist, content creator, and art instructor. My goal is to help you get your creative groove on with Procreate and make awesome art through practical classes, tutorials, Procreate brushes, and guides on art tools, supplies and resources. About me »

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