Ipad vs wacom for sketching


Hi guys.
I recently tested Ipad for drawing, and was jarringly surprised it didn’t meet my expectations regarding the pencil feel. It basically didn’t respond as I expected for the 1K price range drawing device.
Just curious on your experience. Maybe I want too much from it, as it’s not a specialized drawing tool. But as I recently went back to real-life 2d pencil drawing, I just get the feeling it’s nowhere close to real-life precision.
Maybe one can get used to any tool, so it’s a matter of time. Also I tested it with the pencil being wired to the stand, so it might affected the experience, but I remember using Samsung pen, and it wasn’t much of a difference I would say. Maybe a bit less precise, but in general, it was similar: you kind of draw on glass. Maybe if you add a sandpaper protection plastic on top, it would be a different matter.
So I’m curious on your experience and thoughts. Do you have Ipad, and how do you feel about it for drawing?


I have an iPad that’s already several years old. Expecting any generation of iPad to be a 1:1 for a full blown PC and Wacom is a bit much. However, as long as you temper your expectations, it CAN be a valuable tool. It really all depends on your choice of apps.

For 2D, your choices are pretty diverse. Currently, I have ProCreate, ArtRage, Sketchbook, and SketchClub all installed. They each have their own strengths and markets.

  • ArtRage, much like the desktop version, is super strong if you love to paint in oils, watercolors, or acryllics. The RYB color mixing is a strong selling point.
  • Sketchbook, also on the PC, is a bit more straightforward, but its simulation of real world pencils looks and feels so much more natural than any of the other apps.
  • ProCreate is that nice well rounded app. TONS of features for all sorts of artists. Great app if you just want to jump in.
  • Sketch Club is the quirky odd man out. It’s as robust and easy, fun to use as the rest, but its real strength comes in the form a community where you can share work, join challenges, collaborate, and share tutorials. It’s also damn fun to use when it comes to pixel art stuff.

When it comes to 3D, again, temper your expectations. I have seen people cast Blender onto iOS. I’ve even seen stripped down ports of it. For the most part, as you well know, doing CG with a pen alone isn’t all that intuitive. As clumsy as a keyboard or mouse can be sometimes, they remain the tools of choice for content creation.

HOWEVER, that said, if you’re just looking to do sculpting on the go (or sofa) then the iPad can almost certainly be what the doctor ordered. You have several choices of tools here, but I think that most people would probably (and understandably) recommend Nomad Sculpt. It’s about as close to ZBrush/3DCoat as you’re ever going to get on iOS. All of the major brushes that you’d normally use. Multires. Dynamic topology. Voxel remeshing. Proper OBJ/glTF file export so that you can continue working at your PC. Honestly? At $15, you’re just straight up stealing from the developers. :slight_smile: It’s that good.

As for the issue of drawing on glass… Yeah. I get it. A regular Intuos has a rough feel with some resistance to it. Pen displays do not, or at least not to the same degree. My first Cintiq 12wx years ago felt way too glassy. Like drawing on my phone. My current Cintiq 22hd feels decidedly less slick. Still not exactly the same as the Intuos, resistance-wise, but much more comfortable than the old 12wx.

The iPad shares more in common in that respect with my older 12x than the 22hd. It CAN feel like you’re trying to walk on ice at first, slipping and sliding all about. You do get used to it after a while, but only because your brain compensates over time. If it remains a problem, you could always slap on a screen protector that offers that extra level of resistance. I haven’t done it simply because the iPad screen is pretty scratch resistent, but I know people who have for the purpose drawing & writing. You might want to look it up.

Bottom line, much in the same way that you don’t buy a $800 laptop or $2k MS Surface and expect them to perform as well as a fully loaded $6k desktop gaming PC, don’t expect a $1k iPad to perform as well as the combination of a PC and Intuos/Cintiq. The iPad is great for speed sculpts, speed painting, sketching, and all sort of general purpose stuff. However, it remains limited by power and form factor. Expect it to be what it is and you should be fine.

The glassy screen is something that you can get used to… or not. It all depends on you the person, not even you the artist. Some people may never feel comfortable with pen displays. That’s who you see so many BEYOND factory new quality refurbished Cintiqs exist out there. They try them out for a few days, freak out at the idea of drawing on glass, and then return them pristine. Still, some other people just say, “F*** it. I spent $2k on this thing. Better force myself to use it or else.” :stuck_out_tongue:

IMO, if you spend all week working on a pen display, after a while, you don’t even notice any more. There’s a certain magic to working on real paper or canvas, but they’re also not nearly as convenient, or should I say, multipurpose. I mean, do you really want to say, “See this awesome $1k iPad? It’s the ultimate Candy Crush machine.” :smiley: No. Right?

I’ve been using digital drawing tablets since 1985 or so; 1997 on the PC. I’ve been using pen displays since about 2012 or so. All I can tell you is to just hide your sketchpad and pencils. That’s probably going to be the only way to force the change. On the plus side, all of the crumpled paper mess you don’t create leaves a whole lot more space for new sorts of messes. LOL

(FWIW, I’ve always been on the fence when it came to iPads in general. They’re just gigantic iPhones and Apple doesn’t expect us to notice. I’m okay with that only because drawing on my phone itself kills my ancient eyeballs.)


Cookepuss, thank you for your detailed review, I appreciate the time you spent on it, and it’s a sheer pleasure to read.
I will test those programs you mentioned, as I only tested Ipad with Procreate, as it ships bundled, so I could test it in the shop.
I only want to use Ipad (or any other onscreen tablet) for 2d, as my goal is to improve my 2d skills. I have some artistic background, but what I need is design skills, whereas I was more of a regular painter, so those skills didn’t quite help when you need to make a robotic design or a convincing 3d character.
I was thinking about Ipad not to draw professionally, but to improve my modeling skills through 2d practice, just to clarify what I’m expecting from it.
But I realized that a tablet won’t magically improve my 2d skills.
Just curious, which Ipad size do you have? As 12,3 inch seems pretty heavy to carry it around.
I was also thinking about some entry-level onscreen Wacoms, as the principal point for me is a realistic pencil experience. Or do I still expect too much? How would you describe the difference between Ipad and Wacom in terms of pencil feel?


Again, I haven’t updated my iPad in a few versions. Consequently, I’m using the 10.2" and that weighs about a pound flat, about 33% lighter than your model. Carrying around 1lb vs 1.5lb isn’t the issue. It’s holding it for a prolonged period of time. I suspect that’s going to be more of an issue for you than me and that the extra 0.5lb is going to make a big difference.

You might want to invest in a case with a handle/strap on the back that you can just slide your hand through. Minimize hand cramps from holding it. I’d recommend one, but I use one of those hard shell + rubberized cases since I have a bad habit of dropping things or tossing them on nearby furniture. :stuck_out_tongue:

For your first pen display, don’t overspend. Go with the Wacom One. It’s just under $400. It has a 13.3" screen and runs at 1080p.

Unlike older models like my 22hd or my older 12wx, there are no customizable express keys on the bezel. While that might be disappointing since you have to reach to the keyboard for your shortcuts, it seems to be how things are trending with Wacom pen displays. None of the newer models have them built-in. Not even the 32". If you want those dedicated express keys then you’ll have to spring for the optional remote… (Probably more useful for 3D/sculpting apps than 2D ones, tbh.) On the plus side, the lack of a built-in set of buttons means that it weighs less and the screen just about runs edge to edge.

Again, if you hate that drawing on glass feeling, I hear that more recent Wacom pen displays like the Wacom One have a much more paper-like feel with more believable resistance.

Oh. Night and day. Seriously.

For starters, whether you use the 1st or 2nd generation of the Apple pencil, it still feels like a heavy version of a disposable pen. It’s a bit thin like one too, which might make your hand cramp for prolonged sketch sessions. Additionally. true to form, Apple has dumbed down the experience and provided the pencil with only the tip button.

Now look at the Wacom stylus. It’s not even a fair fight. It’s a bit thicker, almost like a medium-small tip Sharpie. The hard, cold plastic feel of the Apple Pencil is replaced with a more matte, neutral resistance feeling plastic with a soft rubberized grip. Instead of a single tip button, the default Wacom stylus also contains a pressure sensitive eraser and 2-way toggle switch on the barrel. Draw with the tip. Erase with the top. Map the barrel to whatever you want like UNDO and REDO. The whole experience just feels more natural and comfortable. Long draw/sculpt session? No big deal. No major hand pain.

Also worth noting is that the Wacom pens typically also come with a weighted holder that contains a variety of extra nibs. That said, I’ve had my Wacom stylus for years and have never needed to change a nib. They’re super sturdy and can take a beating even if you have heavy hands. Like I said, the Wacom Stylus beats the Apple Pencil like it owed him money. :smiley:

One last point. Looking at the Wacom One, I noticed that it has these nice flip out feet so that you can just prop it at a (fixed?) angle on your desk. IIRC, you can buy a separate stand that gives you additional angle options.

My only complaint about the Wacom one, from what I can see, would be the lack of apparent VESA holes on the back. So, if you want to mount it to an arm on your desk, you might not be able to. Some 3rd party MIGHT sell a workaround, but I can’t say for sure. Below is what my 22HD looks like mounted. Dual swing arm clamped to my desk so that I can lift it, tilt it, or move it about in any number of directions/angles. Very helpful. Took the pic a few years back, but you get the idea.


On a side note… Stick to Wacom brand pen displays if you can.

Third party offerings from the likes of Huion can be a might cheaper and at larger sizes, but they can also be super finicky. Many people only report good experiences. However, I bought a 16" Huion for my nephew last Christmas and getting/keeping it running was a pain in the butt. It would disconnect/reconnect with Windows at random times. It would arbitrarily decide which was the primary display. Strokes, fast or slow, would just end up jittery in some apps. Other times, pen pressure would be lost. Even after updating the drivers, it took a lot of futzing around in Windows and finding physical hardware conflicts just to get it running decently. Never again.

I’ve been using all manner of Wacom brand tablets for the past almost 25 years. ArtZ-II Intuos. Bamboo. Intuos Pro 1-4. Cintiq. Each and every time, I’ve had nothing but a positive experience. Super sturdy builds. Rock solid drivers. Unparalleled app support. Beautiful & reliable pen. I can keep on going. They’re just that good. More expensive than the competition, but built to last.

My very first tablet, on the PC, was a Wacom ArtZ-II. Got it factory refurbished for next to nothing. Looked brand new. Lasted me for something like 7-9 years before I had to upgrade to the Intuos; PCs no longer supported serial ports, which meant that my still functioning ArtZII had become a relic. I can guarantee you, however, that if PCs still supported serial that same ArtZ-II would probably still be in service today. Bulletproof design and tech.

My nephew’s Huion? I’d be shocked if were still running by the spring. Those third party prices seem mighty appealing, but you ultimately get what you pay for… … imo.

OT: I just noticed a renewed/refurbished Cintiq 22HD on Amazon for about $700. That’s a sweet deal considering that I originally paid $2k for it. There’s a newer iteration. Same screen size. Same display resolution. A slightly brighter screen and more pen pressure levels aren’t enough to justify an upgrade for me. The 22HD screen is already bright enough as it is and, tbh, most people will never know or notice the IRL difference between 2,048 and 8,192 pressure levels on the pen. Looks good on a spec sheet, but that’s it. (Worthless extra precision imo since you really need a force hard press to max out the pressure. 2,048 is a sweet spot, I think.)

It’s practically the same device… Better in a sense since no newer Cintiq has those express keys built in anymore.Plus, because the 22hd remains a popular item in their back catalog, Wacom continues to offer driver support for it and will for some time to come. They’re in no hurry to discontinue support for the 22HD, based on a discussion I had with a Wacom rep recently-ish.

DEFINITELY worth snapping up at this relatively low price if you can afford it. (At about 19lbs with the stand, it’s a beast. When I say durable, I mean it.)


Cookepuss, thanks heaps!
The 22HD looks huge indeed. And I guess you need pretty vast forearm movements. for it. But you have that big canvas feeling I guess, which is nice.
While Ipad isn’t heavy itself, I noticed that each piece of equipment adds up, and it starts to matter while traveling, if you walk for 5+ hours a day. I might be wrong, but Ipad pro seems for a home usage, what’s your opinion on that?
So why would you propose taking a small Wacom first? Isn’t it more logical to take the best?
I hope it’s possible to take Wacom One to the bed, as I’d like to sketch while having some rest. It’s pity they don’t have bluetooth support.
I never used customizable keys on the side of my Intuos. I even didn’t know it has an eraser on the back of the pen. Maybe I found that using a shortcut is faster than flipping it over each time. So your point on keyboard and mouse is valid.
The only major drawback for me is the absence of touchscreen to rotate the canvas, but I think there should be workarounds.
Apple is a strange company. They seem to hold up any innovations, or are very cautious about untested features.
You persuaded me to test Wacom One, I think it should have a showroom here. I guess it doesn’t have mounting holes, because it’s comparably small, but I might be wrong.
Thank you again for your help!


Cookepuss, just read your second post. Again, amazing insights!
Inseed I was thinking about Huion, but I got that suspicious feeling it can’t be that good. And the last thing you want is having some stability issues with your daily professional tool. It’s great you enlightened me on that topic, as Youtube comments have all kinds of praises for it.
I wholeheartedly agree Wacom is superstable and reliable, so it’s worth paying a bit more.
22HD used seems like a bargain, great value indeed. I recall days when 2K$ was the starting point for Cintiques, and was unwieldy for our country.
I remember Wacom ArtZ-II., a friend of mine had it. It got a bit yellowy, but worked like charm for decades. But 256 levels of pressure, while was great for that time I guess, isn’t enough for 3d modeling nowadays as you have Zbrush.
Ah, good old days of early technologies. I also have those good memories of that equipment. Imagine going there back with our today’s knowledge, we would be millionares!
I had Bamboo prior to Intuos, and it was great for 2d (especially compared with Genius cheap tablets), but when I compared it with Intuos, it was night and day for 3d sculpting. I would hold that for 2d even 512 levels is enough.
I will test different formats in the showroom, I’m sure Wacom should have it in our city. but yeah, 22 seems tempting and a good long-time investment.

I just realized from your posts, that Ipad is suitable for casual sketching, while Wacom is good for pro users. Different markets and purposes.