Upgrading Drawing Hardware

I currently draw with an 11" iPad Pro and Sketchboard Pro, usually in GoodNotes, but also sometimes Linea or Procreate. My drawings are mostly digital whiteboard-style illustrations. A quick scroll down my blog will show several examples.

I’m about to transition to a role that involves a lot more illustration, and I’m considering upgrading my tools. I’m considering getting a larger iPad Pro (perhaps with Paperlike and Luna Display) or getting a Cintiq.

Thoughts and feelings about which you would choose if you were me? Or alternatives I’m not considering? I’ll keep the 11" iPad no matter what. It’s mine and the new hardware will be purchased through work. I know Photoshop very well and imagine that’s what I’d use to draw with the Cintiq.

1 Like

I’d love to know whether Paperlike or the many knock-offs are worth paying for. I write a lot of annotations, mostly on PDFs, on a gen 4 iPad Air, and have just discovered Nebo (handwriting recognition to text is REALLY good!). Most review sites about these writing surfaces seem to be ran by people who are on commission. I also settled for a Logi Crayon stylus (cheaper) but am forever wondering if I am missing a trick here in terms of upgrading to the Apple Pencil. So I’ll keenly follow the advice here given to @beck

@SebMacV I can speak to both of your wonders… The Apple Pencil absolutely worth it. The Paperlike is good, not great, and compromises the crispness of the retina display. If you use the device for more than drawing, I don’t think it’s worth it. If that’s the vast majority use, then it might be.

1 Like

Great advice – I’'ll put the money for a Paperlike towards a new pencil :slight_smile:

1 Like

:thinking: with sidecar, would you be able to use the iPad with a Mac and draw/sketch directly into a Mac app?
Or did you need an independent device?

As far as apps, do you want to stick with something pixel based, or switch to something vector based? I’m thinking perhaps the later, as you could develop and reuse a visual vocabulary across illustrations.
Adobe Illustrator? OmniGraffle? InkScape? Curio?

Maggie Appleton might be a good resource for finding tools.

Also, dedicated storyboarding software might be a good choice.


Astropad Studio basically turns your iPad into a Cintiq type of tablet. Get on the 30 day trial to see if it works for you. Quite impressive tech, but ultimately not for me.

I use (and love) a Xencelabs Medium, the old school tablet without a screen. as I want my artwork up on the Studio Display. That ergonomic setup works well for me, not having to hunch over artwork on the table. I realize this is the traditional way of drawing, but I am a “digital first” kind of user.

Good call, @JohnAtl! I asked her on Twitter and she said something that I’m sure would echo my own experience:


Never had Cintiq in my entire life as a designer but I heard the same sentiments from others that working on the iPad is better.

Go for the 12.9", the extra screenspace is worth it. The display is also better on the 12.9. Even with the latest iPad Pro, the 11 is stuck with Liquid Retina.

Not a fan of screen protectors like Paperlike as I find the colors a bit muddled. I also have no problem drawing on a screen.

I do connect my iPad Pro through sidecar to use as a drawing tablet in Affinity Designer. I have no experience with Luna Display with a dongle but I think the latency can still be improved with Sidecar. I just like that I can use my iPad Pro with additional tool like the Tourbox.

I’m still happy with my old school Wacom but I have my eye on Xencelab in the future.

I usually start my vector illustration from the iPad then transfer to the mac as I find working on the last details faster and better (in my experience).

1 Like

I’ve had the paperlike 1 on my ipad 12.9 pro for 4+ years. I would not use an ipad without one. I write a lot in Goodnotes. It really makes writing and drawing easy.

My daughter uses procreate all the time and loves the paperlike. This is the paperlike 1 though.

The only negative for the 12.9 pro is that it was considerably heavier. If you’re using it anywhere other than a desk that’s something to consider.

Curious—are you thinking the nature or mix of drawing work will change, or just the quantity?

Good question! On reflection, I imagine both will. Definitely quantity, but also the nature of the drawing to a degree. I’m not going to be doing fine art, but I could see refining or expanding into different styles.


1 Like

Makes sense. Nothing brilliant to add: I agree the 12.9" with the fitting Sketchboard or Darkboard is most likely the way to go. You’ll make good use of the extra room. Astropad + Luna lets you work in the same style on desktop apps for heavier/finer work.

On the software side, this could be a good time to mix some new applications into the mix. Clip Studio Paint and MediaBang are two to look at. They’re both optimized for creating comics, and why wouldn’t you want to be nudged in that direction creatively? :slight_smile:

1 Like

Sadly Clip Studio Paint is moving into a subscription model. I just gifted my niece with a license a few months ago. I guess I just have to gift her a subscription every year on her birthday until she’s adult enough to afford it.

3.3 Stars on the ipad with some scathing reviews?

Hey, that’s why we talk to each other on this forum and not the App Store.


So you’re saying that this is a good app irrespective of the reviews? I would trust this forum over the AppStore reviews any day.

While we’re here, @cornchip’s suggestion of drawing apps reminded me of another need I’ll have, which is creating a library of images to reuse certain illustrations. I think Eagle’s is probably the one, but open to suggestions as well.

I think it’s something Beck might want to look into to aid producing a wider variety of drawings. She knows her goals and skills better than me, of course. Clip Studio is still quite good despite the subscription move and questionable approach to freemium (a lot of reviews have those themes.) It’s not as immersive as Procreate, at first, but a lot of artists like it more for some work. It could be worth investing learning time for her four-year project.

I should probably be drawing a fun 2x2 grid for this, but I think of Clip as expanding Procreate use and MediaBang of Linea use.


If you go with a Cintiq, get a large one. I got a 12” Cintiq a while back and never really warmed up to drawing on it–especially if I want to make vertical images. It mostly gets used like a regular Wacom tablet now, and if I want to draw digitally I use my 12.9” iPad.

1 Like