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How To Use An iPad As A Drawing Tablet For Mac

Attention all digital artists, UI designers, and doodle aficionados! Before you splurge on a new graphics tablet, let’s explore how to use your iPad as a drawing tablet for Mac.

While the iPad is already a great tool for digital art creation with apps like Procreate and Photoshop, you might yearn for the versatility of your Mac or PC. This article will guide you through combining the best of both tools into a powerful, seamless creative setup.  I’ve personally tested several apps to help you find the best solutions on the market.

iPad as a Drawing Tablet vs Graphics Tablet

How does an iPad stack up against a traditional graphics tablet? Let’s take a quick look:

Graphics Tablet:

  • Pros: Graphics tablets are designed with one purpose in mind – digital art. They offer a high level of precision, have handy shortcut buttons, and they’re often more affordable. Wondering how graphics tablets work? Check out this article.
  • Cons: They lack the portability of an iPad, they require a computer to run, and they don’t offer a display. You have to look up at your computer screen while your hand draws below, which can take some getting used to.

iPad as a Drawing Tablet:

  • Pros: iPads are multi-purpose. You can draw, sure, but you can also check email, stream shows, and so on. They have a high-resolution screen for drawing and previewing your work, plus they’re portable.
  • Cons: iPads can be pricier. Also, while apps like Procreate offer a great drawing experience, they may not integrate as seamlessly with desktop applications as a dedicated graphics tablet.

Ultimately, using an iPad as a drawing tablet for Mac can be a more affordable option compared to purchasing a separate graphic tablet, especially for those who want the flexibility of a multi-purpose device. It’s not necessarily better or worse than a graphics tablet – just different.

Using an iPad as a drawing tablet for a Mac is a cost-effective solution for digital artists.
– Jenny LeClue

person drawing woman character
Photo by Balázs Kétyi on Unsplash

Exploring Apple Sidecar

Imagine using your iPad as a second screen for your Mac, moving apps between screens, while still using your favorite iPad apps. This is possible with Sidecar, a feature in macOS and iPadOS. But, not all devices support Sidecar, here’s a quick rundown of compatible Macs and iPads:

Macs:

  • MacBook (2016 or later)
  • MacBook Air (2018 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (2016 or later)
  • Mac mini (2018 or later)
  • iMac (late 2015 or later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 or later)
  • Mac Pro (2019)

iPads:

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (6th generation or later)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)

If Sidecar is not an option, here are some third-party apps

If Sidecar isn’t an option for you, we’ve got you covered with a list of third-party apps that can do the job just as well:

Astropad

Astropad is a game-changer for digital artists and designers. It’s an innovative app that transforms your iPad into a professional-grade graphics tablet for your Mac. As a versatile tool, it offers seamless compatibility with many popular design applications, making it a fantastic alternative to traditional graphics tablets.

Switching tools and adjusting settings is as simple as using keyboard shortcuts on your computer.

Before you dive into the digital art world with Astropad, let’s ensure your tech gear is up to the task. Here’s the minimum requirement list:

  • A Mac running MacOS 10.11, El Capitan, or later
  • A PC with Windows 10 64-bit, build 1809 or later
  • An iPad updated to iOS 12.1 or later
  • A robust Wi-Fi connection or a reliable connecting cable

Now that we’ve got the compatibility check out of the way, let’s move onto the fun part. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide for the set up:

  1. Start by downloading and installing the Astropad app on your iPad.
  2. Next, download Astropad for your Mac or PC.
  3. Connect your iPad to your computer. You can do this wirelessly if you’re on the same network, or by using a cable.
  4. Open Astropad on both your iPad and computer.
  5. Voila! Your iPad now mirrors your computer, ready for you to create digital art.

Duet Display

With the Duet Display app, you can harness your iPad’s capabilities as a drawing tablet for your Mac or PC. This app lets you mirror your iPad to a larger computer screen for a better view of your artwork, use keyboard shortcuts, and dedicate your iPad solely to your creative process.

Before you start, make sure your devices meet Duet Display’s basic requirements:

  • MacOS 6 or higher
  • Windows 10 64-bit or higher
  • iPad iOS 7 or later
  • A strong Wi-Fi connection or a connecting cable

If you have all the right gear and updates, here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up Duet Display:

  1. Download and install the Duet Display app for your iPad.
  2. Download and install the app for your computer.
  3. Connect your iPad to your computer via a cable or the same wireless network.
  4. Launch the apps on your iPad and computer.
  5. Your iPad will now be mirrored on your computer. You’re all set!

Did you know — In 2020, Apple sold over 14 million iPads worldwide and the global graphic tablet market is expected to reach $3.6 billion by 2025.

EasyCanvas

I personally wouldn’t recommend EasyCanvas because it lacks a wireless connection and I found the app a little clunky. Once you have the app on your Mac or PC, your screens will mirror each other, allowing you to utilize your iPad as a drawing tablet while enjoying the larger display of your computer. As Astropad and Duet Display are the two most popular apps, I’d recommend sticking with those.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for a PC?

Yes, it is entirely possible to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for a Mac. Through apps like Astropad, Duet Display, and Easy Canvas, your iPad can become a fully functional graphic tablet. These apps mirror your Mac screen on your iPad, making it ideal for digital artists and designers. You can use an Apple Pencil for precision, or your fingers for a more freehand approach.

Do I need a special app to use my iPad as a drawing tablet?

Yes and No. Apple Sidecar can be used but it may not pack as many features as some of the third party apps. The most popular app for this purpose is Astropad, which provides a seamless connection between your iPad and Mac. The best advice is to test and see what works for you.

What is the latency like when using an iPad as a drawing tablet?

When using an iPad as a drawing tablet, you’ll notice minimal latency with apps like Astropad.  In terms of hardware latency, almost all iPad models with Apple Pencil offer a nearly instantaneous response time when drawing.

Conclusion

So, there you have it! Turning your iPad into a drawing tablet for your Mac isn’t just a pipe dream – it’s a practical reality. It’s a smart, cost-conscious way of shaking up your workflow. Sure, it might not be a perfect match for a dedicated graphic tablet, but for my needs, it’s more than enough. I’m a fan of my trusty Wacom tablet, but when I’m on the go, the versatility of an iPad wins me over every time. It’s not just a drawing tablet – it’s an all-in-one powerhouse!

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