Wacom vs. iPad Pro

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Hello, fellow artists! In case you haven’t bought yourself a drawing tablet just yet, you’re probably at that stage where you’re wondering which is the best one to get. As you may know, the market is awash with options, and it is very easy to get overwhelmed by them. Luckily, if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve learned a bit about the different brands and models, including their strengths, weaknesses, and how they stack up against each other.

Wacom vs. Huion

Wacom vs. XP Pen

Hunion vs. XP Pen

Wacom Vs. Surface Pro

One particular pair we haven’t done a thorough comparison of is the Wacom Cintiq and the iPad Pro. Both Wacom and Apple are large brands dominating their niches. Apple is a giant when it comes to computing devices, and Wacom is a giant when it comes to drawing tablets.

As you know, those two niches intersect. Drawing tablets are, at their core, computing devices, and a company that builds computing devices might try to extend the functionality of one of their models to include drawing capabilities. That’s how we end up with the iPad Pro, which is essentially a multipurpose tablet, competing with the Wacom Cintiq, a pure drawing tablet, on matters drawing.

We’re going to compare the two on a variety of factors in this article. However, before we get to that, let’s tackle the question of whether it is legitimate to claim that an iPad Pro can replace a drawing tablet. This is obviously a controversial issue, and artists of different levels of skill and experience all have very strong opinions on the matter.

As artists, we also have opinions. However, we will try to tackle the subject as objectively as we can, stacking the iPad Pro against a typical drawing tablet on a variety of fronts. After we’ve settled the matter, then we can compare the iPad Pro to a serious drawing tablet: the Wacom Cintiq.

In a hurry?…

Our Pick
Wacom Cintiq 22 Drawing Tablet

With Wacom firmly positioned at the top of most of our guides, when it comes to architecture, interior design and landscape architecture, the Cintiq 22 is a clear winner with its exceptional performance and large high quality drawing area.

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Capable of performing as a second monitor, the Wacom Cintiq 16 sits below the pro addition and for this reason does not come with several key features that professional artists will likely opt for and require. This does however make this tablet very affordable for what it is.

Apple 11-inch iPad Pro
Pros:
  • Excellent battery life.
  • High processing speed and performance.
  • High-resolution display.
  • Face ID.
  • Good response time.
Cons:
  • Lacks matte display.
  • No stylus pen supplied.
  • Expensive.
  • Limited external device support.
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With mouse and trackpad support the iPad Pro is capable of working much more like a small laptop than a traditional tablet. With its highly acclaimed Apple stylus and augmented reality applications this tablet could hugely benefit artist who either have limited desk space, or who are constantly on the go.

Can the iPad replace a professional drawing tablet?

Drawing tablets, such as the ones made by Wacom, give artists the capability to produce great works of art using many of the same skills they would use on a physical medium. The Apple iPad includes the Apple Pencil, which claims to offer many of the same features of a drawing tablet in a multipurpose tablet. Let’s see how it stacks up on the following factors.

Software choice

Arguably, the most significant difference between the iPad and your average professional drawing tablet is in the software. The iPad Pro supports quite a few powerful drawing applications, including Autodesk Sketchbook, Procreate, and Adobe Photoshop Sketch, among others. There are plenty of options, whether you want to paint, draw, or do cool designs.

The main problem is that these applications, albeit powerful, aren’t really meant for work in a production environment. The average professional drawing tablet can be paired with a Windows PC or a Mac to run high end graphics software for anything from architecture to fashion design to animation.

An iPad can help with some parts of the workflow, but it’s more for doing fun artwork than producing anything serious.

Pressure sensitivity

When you’re working with a pencil in real life, you can make stronger marks by pressing harder on the paper. When using a stylus, you should be able to do the same. Styluses simulate this by having pressure sensitivity, calibrated to a range of levels. The number of levels tell you how many different levels of pressure the stylus can register. The more the levels, the finer the level of control you have over how much pressure you apply to your pen.

There isn’t any standard or rule for how many sensitivity levels are enough. Some artists work just fine with 2048 levels, while others will take no less than 8192. Somewhere in the middle, there are those who think 4096 levels are more than enough.

Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t officially disclosed the pressure sensitivity of its Apple Pencil. There are anecdotes from artists saying it’s as good as an 8192-level stylus from Wacom, but these are unverified. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a difference in pressure sensitivity between the first generation Apple Pencil and the second generation one. The best option here is to head to an Apple Store and try the Apple Pencil for yourself. Then you can decide whether you like it or not.

Tilt and rotation support

Another important aspect of using a stylus that makes it feel like the real thing is how well it responds to rotation and tilt. When using an actual brush to draw or paint, you can rotate it to create strokes from different angles without having to move your canvas. Similarly, you can tilt the brush to alter the width of your strokes.

Low tilt causes narrower strokes while high tilt causes broader ones. Both of these techniques are incredibly useful when drawing and painting, and high quality styluses simulate them to make things feel more natural for artists.

The Apple Pencil supports only one of the techniques above, and that is tilt. You can draw with an Apple Pencil at different tilts to alter the sharpness of your lines. Straight up leads to very fine and sharp lines, while tilting at an angle makes for wider and softer strokes.

Unfortunately, the Apple Pencil has no support for rotation, unlike styluses from Wacom and other drawing tablet brands. Angled brushes can flow only in one direction. If you want to change their direction, you’ll have to rotate the tablet. While it’s generally easier to rotate an iPad than the average drawing tablet, since the iPad isn’t connected to an external computer, it can still be frustrating at times.

Tips and erasers

Still on the subject of styluses, the tip of it can have quite the impact of how drawing feels. Some professional styluses come with replaceable tips/nibs which have a variety of shapes and textures, simulating the feel of pens, markers, brushes, and even chisel tips. Advanced artists find this kind of variety absolutely priceless.

Apple Pencil does not have support for this kind of variety. Sure, you can buy replacement nibs for your Apple Pencil, since the original will eventually wear out, but you can’t choose between different textures for those nibs. They all come in the same style. The only way around this is to use your own improvisation and creativity to simulate different textures.

Another problem with the iPad Pro is its surface. It is so glossy that, when you draw on it with the Apple Pencil, which has a hard tip, it can feel rather unnatural, and nothing like the traditional pencil on paper. This might not bother everyone, as it is a matter of personal preference. However, if it does bother you, working with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil can turn out to be a very unpleasant experience.

Another issue is the eraser. Professional styluses come with an eraser. It is often incorporated into the opposite end of the stylus as a touch-sensitive tip. When you want to erase something, you just flip the pen over and use that end as an eraser. If you’re used to drawing with actual pencils, and used the eraser on the back a lot, your muscle memory will find this transition natural.

Again, the Apple Pencil does not have this feature. What you can do is double tap the stylus to turn the main tip into an eraser. Sure, it works, and might even be faster than flipping the stylus over, but it might not be as satisfying. Again, this comes down to personal preference. It might not be such an issue for you.

Programmable buttons

The vast majority of professional drawing tablets, no matter what their size or price, come with a set of programmable functions that you can customize to perform a variety of functions. You can have one button perform the ‘undo’ function, another can be for switching between brushes, and so on. This is a cornerstone of working with a drawing tablet.

Unfortunately, that cornerstone is missing in the Apple iPad Pro. The most you can do is double tap the Apple Pencil to switch between tools. The default is that it switches between pen and eraser, but you can customize it to something else. Unfortunately, that’s all the customization you’re going to get here. If you absolutely can’t work without shortcut buttons, this will seriously hamstring your workflow.

Cost

The iPad Pro costs about $800. This is a middling price, as you can easily get a graphics tablet for less than $100, and some drawing tablets (not by Wacom though) for less than $400. On the other hand, the Wacom Cintiq line is priced in the thousands of dollars. Given its capabilities, however, it’s rather overpriced if you’re buying it to just do artwork.

You’re better off buying a professional drawing tablet like Huion or XP-Pen. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a multipurpose tablet that also allows you to draw, the iPad Pro is a great deal.

Wacom Cintiq 16 vs. iPad Pro

As you can see from the analysis above, the iPad is more of a multipurpose tablet that allows you to do some casual artwork on the side. It’s certainly not meant to be used as a serious drawing tablet. To help you appreciate this, we will compare it to the Wacom Cintiq 16, which is the penultimate professional drawing tablet.

Let’s see how they stack up against each other.

Pressure sensitivity

The Wacom Cintiq 16 uses the Pro Pen 2, which comes with 8192 levels of pressure. As mentioned above, Apple has not officially disclosed the level of pressure sensitivity in the Apple Pencil. Both pens come with tilt sensitivity, though the Apple Pencil does not support rotation, which the Pro Pen 2 does.

Working area and tablet size

The iPad Pro comes in 2 sizes. The smaller one is 11 inches diagonally while the larger one is 12.9 inches diagonally. There are those who prefer the smaller model for its portability while others like the larger one as it provides a larger drawing area.

The Wacom Cintiq 16, as you might have guessed from the name, is 16 inches diagonally. So which is better?

Bigger is not always better. As a tablet grows larger, it becomes less portable, and this is certainly true of the Cintiq. It will spend most of its time on a desk, where it will be used with a computer. That said, it’s important to consider how you intend to use your drawing tablet. If you’re working from an office or a home studio, and don’t need to draw while on the go, the Cintiq 16 is the better option. On the other hand, if you like to work on the go, you might be better off with a smaller device.

Shortcut buttons

Shortcut buttons are very valuable as they allow an artist to customize them to perform different tasks and make their workflow easier. Wacom leads in this department. Wacom offers lots of unique accessories, such as the 3D pen and Wacom ExpressKey remote, as well as the shortcut buttons that come built into the Cintiq 16.

The iPad Pro, on the other hand, has no shortcut buttons of its own. You can double tap on the Apple Pencil to switch between tasks at a rudimentary level, but nothing beyond that.

Stylus/pen

Perhaps the most important area to make comparisons between the Cintiq 16 and the iPad Pro is the stylus department. The Cintiq 16 comes with the Wacom Pro Pen 2 while the iPad Pro comes with the Apple Pencil.

There are a lot of similarities between these two styluses, and also a lot of differences. For starters, the Apple Pencil is an active stylus while the Pro Pen 2 is passive. An active stylus is one that uses a rechargeable battery, while a passive one doesn’t use batteries. Both technologies work fine and don’t suffer performance issues on account of this.

However, a passive stylus is more convenient as you can potentially work indefinitely without having to stop to charge the stylus. That said, the iPad Pro does come with fast charging technology which makes charging the stylus a little less annoying.

When it comes to performance, both pens give high quality strokes, pressure variation, and accuracy. The Apple Pencil has a lower latency and higher speed than the Pro Pen 2, which gives it a slight edge. On the other hand, the Pro Pen 2 has 2 shortcut buttons and an eraser at the back, which the Apple Pencil does. This can make a great difference for artists who prefer working with shortcut buttons.

Another great advantage of the Pro Pen 2 is the hovering cursor. If you’ve used a Cintiq before, then you might have noticed a cursor that appears just beneath the tip of the stylus when you hover it over the tablet. This cursor gives you a useful indication of the size and shape of the brush you’re using. The Apple Pencil doesn’t have that.

In the comfort department, both pens have a unique feel. The Apple Pencil is rather thin, and feels more like a traditional pencil in size and shape. Some artists like that while others don’t. The Pro Pen 2 is much thicker and more hefty. It also has ergonomic curves to help with grip and comfort. Again, some artists love that and some don’t. This one’s a matter of personal preference.

Surface Texture

The Cintiq 16 has been made especially for use with a drawing pen. It’s hard to draw on a glass surface with a plastic pen, as the pen is difficult to control and tends to slip. Wacom therefore adds some texture on their screens. This comes in the form of etched glass, which offers a bit of resistance when drawing, feeling more like actual paper and offering more control over the pen.

The iPad Pro comes with a glossy screen surface, which does not feel as natural and may not be ideal for drawing for some artists. Others don’t mind it and say you get used to it after a while. The best way to tell if you like it or not is to head to an Apple Store and actually try it. Alternatively, you can buy a matte screen protector for your iPad Pro. It feels paper like and makes it easier to draw.

Now, a point has to be made here about matte screens. They are great for drawing with a stylus. However, the side effect is that colors appear duller on such surfaces. You can notice this effect most strongly when looking at deep blacks. Glossy screens, on the other hand, render colors more accurately. This is one of the reasons why some artists prefer glossy surfaces to matte ones.

FAQs

Is iPad Pro better than Wacom?

That depends on what you’re using to make the comparison. If you’re looking for a portable, multipurpose tablet, the iPad Pro is a great option. It is cheaper than the Wacom and allows you to pursue drawing and digital graphics as an art. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a professional, full-featured tablet, it’s hard to do better than the Wacom, even when you factor in its high price.

Can you use iPad Pro as a Wacom?

You can turn your iPad Pro into a Wacom using apps like Astropad, which allow you to project your iPad’s screen onto the computer and use it the way you would use a Wacom. The latency is low and the accuracy is great.

You can also connect the tablet using a USB cable or wirelessly. The latest iPad Pro actually natively supports this kind of screen mirroring using an app called sidecar. That said, take note of the fact that industry standard applications are still not available for the iPad Pro like they are for the Cintiq.

Is the iPad Pro a good drawing tablet?

That depends on what you’re trying to do with it. If you’re looking to do casual sketching and hobby graphics, then it’s an awesome tablet. It’s also a multipurpose tablet so you can do more than just draw with it. However, if you want to do serious professional work, there are better options than the iPad Pro. We have a full article on drawing tablets vs. iPads here.

Is Procreate free on iPad Pro 2020?

No it is not. It costs $9.99 on the App Store. That said, it is a powerful app for sketching, painting, and illustrating, so it is well worth the price.

Conclusion

And with that we come to the end of our head-to-head comparison. As you can see, both the Cintiq 16 and the iPad Pro have their strengths and weaknesses, and which is better depends on what you want to do and how serious your artwork is. If you’re looking for something more casual and universal, the iPad Pro is a great affordable option.

If you want to do serious artwork, however, you’ll need to invest in the Cintiq 16 and similar professional pen tablets. Until next time, happy drawing!

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