The iPad Air recently got a radical overhaul which upgraded its chassis and enabled it to support tools previously reserved for the iPad Pro. Because it has always been lighter, thinner, and more affordable, digital artists on the move were quick to explore the possibilities. The idea of a powerful graphic design tablet at an affordable price is irresistible.
The iPad Pro is more powerful, but you may not need all that power if you use apps that don’t require too much of your resources. We will look at using the iPad Air for graphic design and illustration to optimize the experience within its limitations.
Getting the Best iPad Air for the Job
An iPad with cellular enables continuous connectivity for the graphic designer who is always on the move because the new iPad Air has the latest 5G cellular connectivity.
The iPad Air comes in 64GB and 256GB configurations. Because you will be dealing with large files that often require intricate processes like merging in Adobe Photoshop, you may want to get the 256GB for peace of mind.
However, with access to creative cloud and external storage options, you may not need a lot of storage; the 64GB option might be sufficient for your graphic designing needs.
This iPad comes with the Apple M1 chip that greatly enhances its performance, a new front camera, and a USB-C port that is twice as fast as its predecessor.
Maximizing the Potential of the M1 Chip
It has an 8-core CPU that enhances speed by up to 60% and an 8-core GPU that doubles the graphics speed compared to its predecessor, according to Apple. It can handle demanding apps previously only handled by the iPad Pro. This 16-core neural engine is focused on futuristic machine learning functions that make the new iPad Air extra intuitive.
The iPad can run graphic design software effortlessly and manage graphic-intensive designs, 3D designs, and realistic augmented reality (AR).
Maximize Production With iPadOS 15
The iPadOS 15 is the latest version of iPad OS, enabling you to fully utilize iPad’s unique capabilities. This is as close to a graphics tablet as you can get. (And thinks are bound to get even better with iPadOS 16’s multitasking and multiple monitor support).
Optimize the enhanced multitasking capability with options like Split View or Slide Over because the iPad is more intuitive, and the tools are more powerful and easier to locate and apply.
The iPad Air can communicate with MacOS, which gives universal control. You can even use a single mouse and keyboard to switch between your Apple iPad Air and MacBook Air, making sharing seamless. You can drag and drop digital art back and forth between your devices to use the best features from each.
The iPad Air features an ultra-wide 12MP front camera with center-stage functionality that lets it focus automatically on a particular asset. You can use this and the back camera to capture sharper photos, 4K videos, scan documents, and record AR experiences.
You have a makeshift mobile studio at your disposal for video and photo editing, development and sharing.
Thanks to several upgrades working together, you can update your projects on the go. The iPad Air now supports Wi-Fi 6 and 5G for the cellular version, enabling faster wireless connectivity. With the right conditions, 5G goes up to 3.5Gbps.
These benefits have been bundled with eSIM support, creating a flexible platform for accessing files, backing up data and sharing between apps and devices wherever you are.
Moving away from wireless connectivity, the iPad Air’s USB-C port is twice as fast as the previous generation. It is capable of up to 10Gbps data transfer rates, so you can import photos and videos faster despite their sizes.
This port gives you access to an expansive ecosystem of USB-C accessories like paired devices, cameras, and secondary (or primary) displays with better resolution.
Optimizing the Improved Display for Graphic Design and Illustration
The iPad Air comes with a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display that has been primed to provide a realistic and interactive visual and, to some extent, physical experience. The display technology accentuates Apple’s P3 wide color gamut, enhancing image accuracy. The fully laminated display has 500 nits of brightness, an anti-reflective screen, and True Tone sensors for regulation.
This combination of advanced display technology in an iPad is only inferior to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which is pricier.
The top button has an inbuilt Touch ID for secure authentication. Besides unlocking the iPad, you can use it to log into apps so that nobody interferes with your ongoing projects. It also secures sensitive apps on your iPad like Apple Pay (Assuming you will use the iPad beyond graphic design and illustration).
Some iPad Air accessories are needed if you are to reap maximum utility for graphic design and illustration. Especially if you don’t want to carry a tablet (the iPad) and another laptop with you for work.
The iPad itself is incredibly versatile and can replace your laptop for 90% of the cases out there. This is why I suggest you embrace the entire suit of essential iPad accessories.
The iPad Air is compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil, transforming it into a digital journal that can be deployed on a whim. The writing and drawing experience may not be as seamless as the iPad Pro models, but the Apple pencil has an almost imperceptible lag. This empowers precision and efficiency.
The second-generation Apple Pencil is a critical tool if you are optimizing your iPad for graphic design and illustration, so we highly recommend it.
The new iPad Air (just like the iPad Pro) supports the Magic Keyboard. It makes working with some apps easier and allows device collaboration. Its floating design and built-in trackpad make it easy on the wrist. It comes with layouts for more than thirty languages.
As someone who uses both the Magic Keyboard and the Keyboard Folio (the smaller keyboard on the right side of the above image) I can recommend both of them with some caveats.
If you plan on drawing a ton then go for the Keyboard Folio. Why? It folds back and allows you to hold the iPad a bit more sturdier in your hand. The Magic Keyboard doesn’t fold back, it requires you to pickup the iPad from the the keyboard stand.
If you also plan on writing emails, browsing forums and using messaging features? Go for the Magic Keyboard.
Get the Apps You Need
So we have the iPad, we have the accessories (including the Apple Pencils). We just need the software to get us started. Fret not because I have the best recommendation for an illustration/graphics design app for beginners and professionals alike.
ProCreate For Drawing and Illustrations
Just to be sure I’m not making a mistake I talked to my contractors and employees and asked them: Which app for illustrations and drawing do you recommend people to get for their iPad?
They wholeheartedly said that for design and illustration the best app to use is Procreate. I know people who specifically bought the iPad for Procreate and that is the killer app for an iPad when you are into graphic design and illustration.
I’m a programmer, game designer and entrepreneur, not an artist. I use it to doodle, take notes or create really rough (and ugly) sketches. But whenever I hire a new artist at my little studio? The number one request from them was an iPad so they can use Procreate (part of the reason why I have so many iPads lying around the office is to hand them and Procreate to other artists visiting or interviewing).
Procreate is a paid app but if you’re ever going to spend money on anything for an iPad I 100% hands down recommend you purchase Procreate. Click the image above to go to the App Store and Get It Now. (it’s not an affiliate link, I do not earn anything from you purchasing the App. I love it that much).
Where To Next?
This blog is a blog dedicated to using modern computing devices to run and manage a business. If you’re interested in using an iPad for your business, either as an entrepreneur, a small business owner or for your employees to use I recommend reading the following articles: