Should You Buy an iPad Pro?

Should you buy an iPad Pro?
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Is it worth saving up money for an iPad Pro? Is it a game changing tool that will elevate your design work…or just a nice toy to have around to play with?

Today, Sarah Haffner (my partner in crime for this post) and I are excited to share with you what we learned after talking to seven surface designers who use the iPad Pro for their illustration and design work.

And next week? We’ll continue this iPad discussion by talking apps.

Enjoy…we hope you find this info helpful!



Drawing Motifs. There was a pretty clear split between designers who prefer to start their designs by marking on paper and designers who prefer to just jump right by doodling on the iPad. A lot of it seems to has to do with personal preference, habits and the designers unique approach to creating patterns.

“There is just a special kind of hand/eye/paper thing that happens that I don’t see on the iPad”. (Alana)

“My process actually differs quite a bit based on the type of artwork that I want to end up with.  Regardless, I always start with sketching either in my sketchbook or, if the type of pattern I’m creating demands it, in one of my iPad Pro apps.” (Jen)


Finishing Designs. Several of the designers noted that while they like to create their designs on the iPad, they prefer to finish them on the computer in Photoshop or Illustrator. They feel that this is necessary to get the files just the way they like them.

“I always finish my design on my desktop computer in Illustrator. I finish the repeat and make the pattern. But, I am doing more and more of the designing process on the iPad.” (Alana)


Tracking Inspiration. A number of designers noted that the iPad Pro is a great tool for taking photos of things that inspire them, creating color palettes and documenting pattern ideas. As well, because it is so easy to quickly sketch an idea out on the iPad it can help you determine if a pattern idea is worthwhile.

“I use it to trace over drawings/handwork. To quickly see if an idea has legs. To keep track of inspirations.”(Dominique)


iPad Pro Artwork
Patterns created on iPad Pro. Left: Bea van der Zwaag Right: Jen Koym



Apple Pencil. Designers raved about the quality and fluidity of the lines they were able to create using the Apple Pencil with their iPad Pro.

“I love how I’m able to capture the quality of my hand in the design…to create easy ­flowing lines, swirls and shapes.” (Alana)

“You can draw with the Apple Pencil which feels more natural than drawing with a mouse or touchpad on the computer.” (Mandy)


Quick Edits. Designers liked how you can use the iPad Pro to quickly recolor motifs and edit shapes. They talked about how easy it is to turn a rough sketch into something that is close to done.

“The iPad Pro is my go to tool because of the speed of execution… I can choose colors and change shapes in no time.” (Dominique)


Versatility.  The designers like that they can use the iPad Pro for many different aspects of their design process.

“I can use it for inspiration (Pinterest, Instagram), as my camera, scanner, sketchbook, drawing tablet, and primary means for creating both vector-based and raster-based graphics.  If I wanted to do all of that without my iPad Pro, I’d need my computer, a Wacom tablet, a digital camera, a stand alone scanner, and a sketchbook!” (Jen)


Portability. The designers highlighted that they can take the iPad Pro along with them, and design from anywhere.

“I love the fact that I can take the iPad with me when I am out and about, creating sketches on the go. I find it hard to imagine working life without it now!” (Bea)

“The biggest perk of working on the iPad Pro is the portability of it, it’s like having a sketch pad and all your pens, paints and pencils on hand and you don’t need to wait for anything to dry.” (Jojo)


Time Saver. Several designers felt that the iPad Pro helped them save time by streamlining the design process.

“What I used to do was either scan my drawings or take a photo on my phone and send it to my desktop then redraw them in Illustrator. Starting with iPad art saves me a step and a LOT of time.” (Alana)


iPad Pro Artwork
Patterns created on iPad Pro. Left: Alana Jelinek Right: Cara Rowlands



Learning Curve. Several designers mentioned that it took them quite a bit of time in the beginning to learn how to incorporate the iPad Pro into their design process, and to understand how to use all of the apps that are now available.

“It certainly takes some getting used to and some forethought when you’re drawing something to finish in Illustrator. I’ve learned to be careful about drawing shapes and not overlapping certain paths otherwise the finishing process can take a lot of work.”(Alana)


Repeat Patterns. Several designers found it challenging creating repeat patterns on the iPad Pro and suggested that using the iPad for this purpose may be more trouble than it’s worth.

“When making a repeat pattern you have to think ahead so you leave space on the left where you have an overlap shape on the right. Otherwise you will have to do a LOT of rearranging, and when you have connected shapes here and there, as well as shapes with lots of points, it can be a enough work to make you wonder if it was worth it to do your drawing on the iPad. But the more you practice, the more awareness you get on where you are going and what you need to do or avoid to get there.” (Alana)


Need Computer. A few designers felt frustrated that they couldn’t find an easy way to use the iPad Pro to build patterns from start to finish. They found it necessary to finish their work on the computer.

“My biggest frustration with the iPad Pro currently is that it does not run the desktop versions of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.” (Jen)


Price. And price. The price point can be pretty high for for designers who are starting out, or who are still figuring out how to monetize their work. The versatility of the iPad Pro (which we covered above) does make it an easier sell because you can potentially avoid spending money on a scanner, etc. However, the fact that a lot of designers still feel a computer is necessary for finishing work means the iPad Pro won’t act as a replacement for a computer.

“The biggest drawback would be the price. I personally wouldn’t have bought it if I wasn’t using it for design work.” (Mandy)


iPad Pro Artwork
Patterns created on iPad Pro. Left: Jojo Fryer Right: Mandy Leeson


And one last tip, coming straight from Sarah… She suggests that if you have an iPad already, and are unsure about upgrading to the Pro, that you try out some drawing apps and practice on what you have. This will give you some idea of how much you’d like using a tablet for design.


So what do you think?

What is your takeaway after reading what our designers had to say?


Many thanks to the designers who contributed to this post:

Alana Jelinek, Radish Studio

Bea van der Zwaag, Fleur & Mimi

Cara Rowlands, Carabara Designs

Jen Koym, Juniperr

Mandy Leeson, Mandy Leeson Designs

Jojo Fryer, Jo Fryer Designs

Dominique Bousquet

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  1. I agree with all of them!! I’m an Apple girl but deciding to get the iPad Pro when I have the Mini wasn’t as hard as deciding on which Pro to get – the bigger one or the smaller one. I opted for the smaller one (10.5″) for the ease of carrying it with me. Either is an expense when really it’s that Apple Pencil that you’re after! Great article and looking forward to reading which design apps are the favorites.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Lisa! So are you happy with the smaller one or do you wish you had gotten the bigger one? I’m hoping to purchase one soon and am totally paralyzed by the decision! I’m so happy you liked the post!

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