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how to use ipad as a drawing tablet on mac - cover

How To Use An iPad As A Drawing Tablet For Mac

If you want to use your iPad as a drawing tablet, here we show you how the iPad can be used as a drawing tablet with any Mac.

The iPad has always been a tablet first and foremost but the introduction of the Apple Pencil back in 2015 turned it into a serious drawing tool for amateur and professional digital artists.

Although most digital artists use a dedicated drawing tablet for drawing and sketching, the latest iPads now give them a good run for their money as a drawing tablet too.

Although there’s no such thing as an Apple Drawing Tablet, the iPad is the closest thing to a drawing tablet made by Apple.

Because it’s an Apple product, it also naturally works seamlessly with Macs compared to popular devices like Wacom drawing tablet which are plagued by driver issues with Macs.

In fact we found that the iPad Pro is one of the best drawing tablets for Mac of 2024.

Here we show you how to use the iPad as a drawing tablet with Mac applications including that latest Apple Silicon Macs.

This means you can use your iPad and Apple Pencil to touch up and edit images that are open in applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and other graphic design software for Mac.

This gives you all the benefits of using the power of your Mac to run the graphic design software but the convenience of your iPad to draw and edit with.

For more on how the iPad compares to Drawing Tablets check out our look at iPad vs Drawing Tablets.

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Can You Use An iPad To Draw On Your Mac?

You can use an iPad as a drawing tablet on your Mac in three easy steps:

  • Download a drawing app or graphic design software on your Mac if you don’t already have one.
  • Connect the iPad to your Mac using Apple Sidecar so that it mirrors your Mac display or acts as a second display for your Mac.
  • Use your Apple Pencil and iPad and to draw in the graphic design application that is open on your Mac.

Which Is The Best iPad For Drawing?

Firstly, for this to work well, it’s important to use the best iPad possible for drawing on your Mac.

Both the standard iPad and iPad Pro can be used for sketching and graphic design.

However, it will come as no surprise that by far the best iPad for drawing in the 2022 iPad Pro with the latest M2 chip.

This is the best iPad for drawing in 2024 as it’s the latest model released by Apple and includes the latest Apple Silicon M2 chip inside.

All Apple products will eventually be based on the Apple Silicon chip and it’s possible that eventually iPads will have the same M1 Pro and M1 Max chips that are already being used in Macs such as the MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Studio.

We therefore strongly recommend getting the newest generation of iPad Pro over the older generation such as the 2020 iPad Pro with the older A12 chip.

The iPad Pro also has a much bigger 12.9 inch screen compared to the standard iPad which is far more comfortable for spending hours drawing and sketching.

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  • WHY IPAD PRO — iPad Pro is the ultimate iPad experience, with the astonishing performance of the M2 chip, superfast wireless connectivity, and next-generation Apple Pencil experience. Plus powerful productivity features in iPadOS.
  • IPADOS + APPS — iPadOS makes iPad more productive, intuitive, and versatile. With iPadOS, run multiple apps at once, use Apple Pencil to write in any text field with Scribble, and edit and share photos. Stage Manager makes multitasking easy with resizable, overlapping apps and external display support. iPad Pro comes with essential apps like Safari, Messages, and Keynote, with over a million more apps available on the App Store.
  • FAST WI-FI CONNECTIVITY — Wi-Fi 6E gives you fast wireless connections. Work from almost anywhere with quick transfers of photos, documents, and large video files.
  • PERFORMANCE AND STORAGE — The 8-core CPU in the M2 chip delivers powerful performance, while the 10‑core GPU provides blazing-fast graphics. Add all-day battery life, and you can do everything you can imagine on iPad Pro. Up to 2 terabytes of storage means you can store everything from apps to large files like 4K video.
  • APPLE PENCIL AND MAGIC KEYBOARD — Apple Pencil (2nd generation) transforms iPad Pro into an immersive drawing canvas and the world’s best note‑taking device. Magic Keyboard features a great typing experience and a built‑in trackpad, while doubling as a protective cover for iPad. Accessories sold separately.

How To Use The iPad As A Drawing Tablet

To use your iPad as a drawing tablet in a drawing application on your Mac simply follow these steps.

  • Connect an Apple Pencil to your iPad. If you don’t already have one, then you’ll need an Apple Pencil to draw properly on your iPad. Although many apps will allow you to draw with your finger, it’s obviously not suitable for sketching or drawing properly. The iPad does not come with an Apple Pencil so you have to purchase one separately. There are currently two Apple Pencil’s available – the first and second generation models. The first generation Apple Pencil is cheaper but does not support magnetic charging which conveniently connects to the side of the iPad and charges the pencil when you’re not using it. The second generation Apple Pencil also feels like a more natural pencil which is nicer to use when sketching, writing or editing PDFs on a Mac.
  • Download a drawing app or graphic design software for your Mac if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t matter whether the app has an iPad version although most drawing apps and graphic design software that work on Macs also have an iOS version. Note that there’s no version of Procreate for Mac which is one of the most widely used drawing apps on the iPad but there are plenty of alternatives for Mac users.
  • Connect your iPad to your Mac using Sidecar. Sidecar is a feature in macOS Catalina or higher and iOS 13 or above that allows you to use your iPad as an external display with your Mac. You can drag windows from your Mac to your iPad and vice versa and edit Mac applications on your iPad. So for example, you can drag an open Photoshop project on your Mac to your iPad and edit it with the Apple Pencil. To use Sidecar, both the Mac and iPad must be connected to the same WiFi network and have Bluetooth switched on as it works best over AirPlay. Note that using Sidecar to use an iPad as a drawing pad with a Mac does have some drawbacks. The main problem is latency or in other words, the lag time between your iPad and Mac communicating via WiFi. This means that sometimes there can be a slight delay or lag when drawing on an iPad connected to a Mac. Alternatively, you can also connect your iPad and Mac with a USB-C cable for a slighter faster connection and it will also charge your iPad at the same time but there will still be some lag.

To connect an iPad to a Mac using Sidecar, follow these instructions.

  • Make sure that both iPad and Mac are signed-in using the same Apple ID with two factor authentication enabled. If you don’t do this, you won’t see your iPad appear when you try to select it in AirPlay.
  • Make sure that both iPad and Mac have Bluetooth and WiFi turned-on. Alternatively, you can use the USB-C charging cable (Thunderbolt cable) that came with your iPad to connect physically to your Mac.
  • The easiest way to connect your iPad to your Mac is by using Sidecar via AirPlay. The AirPlay symbol is at the top of your Mac’s screen and looks like TV with an arrow underneath it. When you click on it, your iPad will appear as an available device. If you can’t see your iPad it’s probably because you haven’t signed in to the same iCloud account on both your Mac and iPad. Unlike an Apple TV which simply requires you to be connected to the same WiFi network, Sidecar requires iCloud to work.

 airplay on ipad

Once connected, your Mac screen may go black for a moment as it connects and then you’ll see your iPad screen on your Mac.

You can then drag and drop windows and applications between your Mac and iPad.

sidecar application
Source: Apple

To draw on your preferred Mac application using the iPad, simply drag the Window from your Mac to your iPad and start editing it with your Apple Pencil.

You can also click on on the green full screen button on the application on your Mac and select “Move to iPad Pro”.

sidecar mac to ipad

You can configure how want to use Sidecar in the Sidecar preferences.

You can also use the Apple Pencil as a mouse to navigate around the application and double click as long as you check the box in the Sidecar preferences.

sidecar menu bar

How To Insert An iPad Sketch Into A Mac Application

You can also easily insert a sketch made in an iPad to an application on a Mac thanks to Continuity Sketch.

macOS and iOS have a feature called Continuity Sketch which allows you to instantly insert sketches from an iPad into a document, email, note or folder in supported apps.

 continuity sketch
Source: Apple

To use Continuity Sketch between your Mac and iPad follow these instructions:

  • Make sure you are signed into the Mac and iPad with the same Apple ID. Continuity Sketch requires access to iCloud in order to work but both devices must be on the same Apple ID.
  • In the document you want to insert a sketch on your Mac, go to File > Insert From iPhone or iPad on your Mac.
  • On your iPad, draw the sketch you want to insert in the document on your Mac.
  • Tap Done when ready and the sketch will appear where you’ve positioned the cursor on your Mac thanks to Continuity Sketch.

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