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How to Use an iPad as a Drawing Tablet for Mac & PC

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14 min read

Can you use an iPad as a drawing tablet? Yes! In this tutorial, we'll explore how to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for Mac. But wait! You might also be wondering if you can use an iPad as a drawing tablet for PC. Guess what? You're in luck! You can also connect an iPad to a PC for drawing and other purposes. Ready to find out how? Let's dig in.

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Can you use an iPad as a drawing tablet? Yes, you can! Stock Photo from Envato Elements.

What You'll Learn

  • How to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for PC
  • How to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for Mac
  • What is the difference between iPad models?
  • What is pressure sensitivity?
  • What applications connect the iPad to computers?

What You'll Need

  • An iPad model that is compatible with an Apple Pencil, if you intend to draw. Other iPad models may have limited compatibility, while older ones may not work.
  • A computer (PC or Mac) with a modern operating system. Required specifications may vary depending on the connection method you choose.
  • A WiFi connection and/or connection cable.

1. What to Know About the iPad and Connectivity to Computers

Can I use an iPad as a drawing tablet for PC? Yes! Can you use an iPad as a drawing tablet for Mac? That's a yes too! Can you use an iPad as a drawing tablet? Yes, and you have many options. 

However, it's important to note some specifics here, as that yes can be conditional. Let's cover the basics:

Different iPad Models Have Different Capabilities

It's important to note that not all iPads can do the same things. This is especially true if you have an older model. Here are some things you'll want to note:

  • You'll need to know which model of iPad you have. This is essential, especially if you don't have an Apple Pencil yet. You will also need to know this information to gauge compatibility with different connectivity software.
  • If your iPad doesn't work with an Apple Pencil (or you don't have one), you still may be able to use your iPad for screen mirroring. While drawing might not be an option, it can make for a really nice extra display!

There Are Two Apple Pencils: 1st and 2nd Generation

What if you have an iPad, but you don't have an Apple Pencil yet? Make sure you get the right one, especially if you're thrifty and you buy things renewed or used. 

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Which Apple Pencil works with your iPad? Stock Photo from Envato Elements.

The Apple Pencil 2nd Generation works with:

  • iPad Mini (6th generation)
  • iPad Air (4th generation and later)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation and later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation and later)

The Apple Pencil 1st Generation works with:

  • iPad Mini (5th generation)
  • iPad (6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th generation)
  • iPad (10th generation—but requires an adapter)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch

You can find this information, as well as more on Apple Pencil compatibility, on Apple's official website.

There are, however, third-party styluses out there for iPad as well. We won't cover them in this tutorial. However, knowing your iPad model will be essential for determining if any of these alternatives to the Apple Pencil will work for you.

How Do I Know Which iPad I Have?

If you're unsure of your iPad model, there's an easy way to figure that out. 

  • On the back of your iPad, you'll find a model number. 
  • You can also find this information in your iPad's Settings. Tap General, and then tap About. Your model number will be located here.
  • Once you've found the model number, you can use that number to look up your iPad model on Apple's official website

Once you know the model of iPad that you have, you can also look up a listing of all of its technical specifications on Apple's official website.

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Know which iPad you have, so you'll know its compatibility. Stock Photo from Envato Elements.

The iPad and Connectivity to Your Computer

It's important to note that connectivity often requires third-party software.

For example, the iPad does not have built-in compatibility with PCs to act as a second display. Third-party software for this connectivity is also available for Mac. In addition, we'll take a look at Sidecar, an option that is native for Mac users.

What About Pressure Sensitivity and the Apple Pencil?

So what is pressure sensitivity? Pressure sensitivity refers to your tablet pen's ability to detect the pressure you put on the pencil while you're drawing. So, for example, the input will vary depending on whether or not your draw lightly or press down hard. 

Can you use an iPad as a drawing tablet with pressure sensitivity? Yes, if you have compatible tools, both for PC and Mac. This isn't a case where you'll be stuck with basic input with no sensitivity. Great news, right? 

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Yes, the iPad has pressure sensitivity when connecting to Mac and PC. Stock Photo from Envato Elements.

Connecting Your iPad to Your Computer vs. Procreate

If your goal is to draw on your computer, you might be wondering which is better: drawing with your iPad as a drawing tablet or using an iPad native application like Procreate? 

Honestly, I think both have their pros and cons. I often draw in Procreate and then jump to Photoshop, for example—having both tools at my disposal is a benefit. If I'm drawing in Photoshop and I don't have my other tablet handy, it's very convenient to just pick up my iPad to continue my work. Likewise, if I'm sketching on the go without my computer, Procreate is very handy.

Curious about Procreate? Check out this introduction.

Connecting Your iPad to Your Computer vs. a Wacom Tablet

You might also be wondering: can an iPad replace a Wacom tablet? Is it better than other onscreen displays like a Wacom Cintiq? Personally, I think it depends on what you're looking for and your personal preferences.

I personally love Wacom's drawing pens—they tend to have a padding and push to them that feel very natural, as opposed to the Apple Pencil, which is quite hard and has no give. Wacom tablets often have a very natural tooth too (a texture to the drawing surface). Some artists prefer this to the iPad's glass-like surface. 

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Many tablets, like Wacom devices, have a more robust, padded pen. Stock Photo from Envato Elements

You can, however, customize your iPad drawing experience. For example, I use a paper-like screen protector on my iPad to give the surface texture some of that tooth that I enjoy. I also use Apple Pencil accessories, like a pen grip, to make the experience less firm on my hands. It's also very handy to pick up my iPad and connect it to my Mac if I need to make some quick adjustments to an illustration—as opposed to going to my main workstation and pulling out my large Cintiq, which can be rather cumbersome. 

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Drawing on iPad can be a very simple, user-friendly experience. Stock Photo from Envato Elements

Ultimately, your iPad can act as a touch-sensitive screen display for drawing on both Mac and PC. As a long-time digital artist, I'm impressed with how far this iPad compatibility has come.

2. Applications to Connect Your iPad to Your Computer (PC and Mac)

Here is an overview of some of the more popular applications you can use to connect your iPad to your computer. In most cases, you will need to download these applications to both your iPad and your computer in order for them to work.

In addition, you will need a means of connecting your devices. Some of these applications can do so over WiFi, but depending on your connection, you may prefer a wired connection.

EasyCanvas (PC and Mac)


Price: Free Trial for 3 Days, US$11.99 One-Time Purchase

EasyCanvas is just that—it is straightforward and very easy to use. Installation is a breeze, both on Mac and PC. While there are settings you can customize, EasyCanvas is very much ready to use, right upon default installation. It works both with a wired connection and with WiFi enabled.

Some of the features of EasyCanvas

Keep in mind that you can use EasyCanvas in a variety of ways beyond a drawing tablet too. Use it as an additional monitor. Use it to share content with others. It's a handy, easy-to-use tool at a very affordable price. 

Duet Display (PC and Mac)

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Price: 14-Day Free Trial, wide variety of subscription plans, based on features—$60 per year or US$11 per month subscription that includes Pressure Sensitivity, $250 One-Time Purchase

Duet Display is a more expensive option, but it does have some extra bells and whistles. It has a large variety of subscription plans, so you don't need to get features you won't need. However, if you're planning to use your iPad as a drawing tablet, you'll probably want to make sure you get the package with pressure sensitivity included.

Some of the features of Duet Display

Duet Display has a 14-day free trial, which is plenty of time to give the application a try. This is another one that works with both PC and Mac. In fact, it can even connect between ten different devices, which is pretty awesome. 

Astropad Studio (PC and Mac)

Astropad StudioAstropad StudioAstropad Studio

Price: 14-Day Free Trial, US$79.99 Yearly or US$9.99 Monthly Subscription

Astropad Studio is one of the more expensive options on this list, but it's packed with features. Customizable sidebar shortcuts make working on the iPad super convenient—no need to stay close to your computer keyboard to maintain your workflow.

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Some of the features of Astropad Studio

You can also adjust your pressure curve, which will affect the pressure sensitivity when you're drawing. Astropad is an excellent choice for professionals looking to incorporate their iPad into their desktop workflow. It also has a 14-day free trial, so it's free to give this one a try.

Apple Sidecar (Mac Only)


Price: Free, Included with Mac and iPad Operating Systems

Sidecar is a cool alternative because you don't need to download any third-party software to get things up and running. Make sure to check the official system requirements from Apple if you'd like to give Sidecar a try.

Sidecar is a really quick and easy way to either mirror your desktop or use it as a separate display. With Sidecar, I could easily open some of my illustrative work in Adobe Photoshop and continue drawing with my Apple Pencil—it even has pressure sensitivity. Convenient, right?

3. How to Use an iPad Pro as a Drawing Tablet for PC or Mac

So how can I use an iPad as a drawing tablet for PC or Mac? Want to connect an iPad to a PC for drawing? It's a lot easier to do than you might think! Let's walk through connecting an iPad to a PC or Mac.

Again, you could use any of the software we just reviewed. Choose your favorite! I'll work with EasyCanvas in this demonstration.

Note, EasyCanvas can use WiFi or a wired connection. I used a USB-C wire to connect my PC/Mac and iPad—it made setup a breeze. Afterwards, I could easily switch to WiFi. If you have trouble connecting wirelessly, give this a try!

Since EasyCanvas is also available for Mac, this process applies to Mac users too.

Step 1

First, you'll need to download EasyCanvas on your computer. This is as simple as going to the EasyCanvas website and choosing the right link. Make sure to choose the one that applies to your operating system.

easy canvaseasy canvaseasy canvas

Step 2

Once you've downloaded the software on your PC or Mac, install it on your computer. It's a program that will largely run in the background. I tried it on both platforms and didn't have to fuss with any settings—it was a very simple installation. 

However, it does have a simple settings panel (EL Display Hub) that you can use to help you get set up and customize your experience. Here's what it looks like on a PC:

easycanvas settingseasycanvas settingseasycanvas settings

Step 3

Then, you'll need to install EasyCanvas on your iPad. To avoid confusion, I viewed the official site from my iPad and used one of the official links.

One of the reasons I enjoyed EasyCanvas was the ease of getting started. The free trial requires no signup outside of the typical App Store installation, and you can jump right in and try it for three days. 

Here's what the app looks like installed on my iPad. Just tap the app to open it and get started. 

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Step 4

Here's what it looks like when you first open up the EasyCanvas app. If you get stuck, it has a handy tutorial you can tap on, right here on the start screen. It will help you get set up.

I simply plugged my iPad directly into my computer (it worked the same both on PC and Mac) with a USB-C cable. It was that simple. However, you can also do so with WiFi and Bluetooth enabled.

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Step 5

And there you have it! Here's a screenshot of me drawing in Adobe Photoshop, on my PC, from my iPad! It was simple and without lag. Drawing with my Apple Pencil, I could achieve the kind of pressure sensitivity I need when drawing in Photoshop.

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Step 6

When you're ready to stop using your iPad as a drawing tablet, it's as simple as closing the app on your iPad. Just like that, you're disconnected. If you want to reconnect, it's as simple as opening the app once again. It's very user-friendly, especially if you opt to establish a connection via WiFi.

I also tried EasyCanvas both on PC and Mac—with an installation on each. Connecting to different computers was simple, especially when using a wired connection. 

4. How to Use an iPad Pro as a Drawing Tablet for Mac 

Next, let's talk about a shortcut—how you can use an iPad as a drawing tablet for Mac. This walkthrough will show you how to do it simply and easily. However, remember, there are several options when it comes to how to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for Mac. 

You can try any of the applications we reviewed earlier in this tutorial. In this demo, we'll walk through using Sidecar, which most Mac devices already have built in. It's an easy way to connect to your iPad.

Step 1

Many current Mac computers and iPads can take advantage of a feature called Sidecar. It allows you to easily use your iPad as a second screen with just the click of a button! Not only that, it recognizes the Apple Pencil while in use. You can check out the full requirements to use Sidecar on Apple's website.

One way to start up Sidecar is from the Control Center Modules at the top of the Mac system menu. Simply click on Screen Mirroring to continue.

apple displayapple displayapple display

Step 2

From the resulting menu, you'll want to select your device. It's essential that you are signed into your Apple ID on both your Mac computer and your iPad. Then, you can choose what kind of mirroring you'd prefer: extending your display or mirroring your display.

Here's a look at my iPad mirroring my Mac desktop's display. I drew this in Adobe Photoshop, with my Apple Pencil—and I had plenty of pressure sensitivity to get variation in my brush strokes. 

Personally, I love the convenience of Sidecar. However, I did find that the third-party apps offered some extra bells, whistles, and settings that made them worthwhile.

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Now You Know How to Use an iPad Pro as a Drawing Tablet for Mac or PC

Which option do you think you'll try out? There are many different apps you can use to turn your iPad into a drawing tablet for PC or Mac. They all have free trials, so perhaps it would be best to give each a test and find out which you prefer!

Want to learn more about creative things you can do with your iPad? Check out these free tutorials, right here at Envato Tuts+.

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