iPad lettering has taken the artistic world by storm. The iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Procreate App have become essential tools for many lettering artists. These tools make it possible to endlessly experiment and practice without the need to invest in replenishing supplies such as paper and pens.
Until recently, the Apple Pencil was only compatible with the iPad Pro. However, Apple’s latest model of the standard iPad released in 2018 is now also compatible with the Apple Pencil. (Please note that earlier models of the standard iPad are not compatible with the Apple Pencil). Aside from there being a significant difference in price between the iPad and iPad Pro, you might be wondering what the major differences are from an artistic perspective. It’s simple enough to read what the hardware differences are on the Apple website, but the available information doesn’t make it too easy to establish whether lettering on the iPad can match up to lettering on the iPad Pro.
Whilst researching how the two iPads differ when used with the Apple Pencil and Procreate App, I came across a really helpful video. The video doesn’t compare the iPads from a lettering perspective, but it does compare them from a drawing perspective which is very relatable to lettering. The new 2018 9.7″ iPad is compared against the 2017 10.5″ iPad Pro and the 2016 12.9″ iPad Pro.
You can check out the video just below, and following the video I’ve also described some of the key differences the video highlights too.
The video concludes:
The 12.9″ iPad Pro offers the best amount of screen space when splitting and sharing the screen with Procreate and something like a reference image. However, when lettering it’s more common to begin with a light outline and work over the top. If you don’t work from a separate sketch or reference image, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you want to use the standard 9.7″ iPad and don’t mind having a slightly smaller space to work on.
Both iPad Pro models have a better colour range than the standard iPad, but as noted in the video the standard iPad still has great looking colours and any difference is only noticeable when directly comparing models. If you plan on using a huge range of colours that only have tiny differences in tone within your lettering, the iPad Pro will likely be a good fit. If your colour palette and steps between tone won’t be quite as broad, the colours on the standard iPad shouldn’t limit your work.
The 2017 10.5″ iPad Pro comes with an anti-reflective surface which helps prevent distracting reflections on the screen when using it. The standard iPad does not prevent much in the way of reflections, so if you plan on working in situations where there is a lot of reflected light this difference will need some consideration.
One of the most important aspects of lettering on an iPad is pressure sensitivity for getting accurate strokes with varying thicknesses. The video demonstrates that the pressure sensitivity is very similar between the iPad Pro models and the standard iPad. This is good news for lettering artists that are interested in the cheaper iPad model.
The standard iPad does not come with a laminated display like the iPad Pro models. This means that when you draw or write on the screen it feels like the strokes are under the glass and there is a small gap which can have a little impact on precision. Whereas when drawing or writing on the Pro models it feels like the strokes are more on top of the screen. This isn’t a deal breaker, it just means that the iPad Pro feels slightly closer to drawing on something like paper than the iPad does. So if you’re really set on a very natural drawing experience the iPad Pro is more likely for you.
To the human eye, there is not a noticeable difference in lag between the standard iPad and iPad Pro models when using Procreate. When slowing down recordings of Procreate in action on the iPads, a slight lag on the standard iPad becomes apparent. However, this is only very minor and is not something you’re likely to notice when working.
The iPad Pro models have slightly faster processor speeds. This doesn’t have much impact when you’re working in Procreate and is more apparent when exporting files from Procreate. If you don’t plan on using too many layers in your lettering then exporting speeds will be fairly quick on the standard iPad. If you have a lot of layers and a large piece of work, then there could be a couple of seconds difference between exporting on the standard iPad compared with the iPad Pro models. When lettering occasionally this doesn’t matter too much, but when lettering daily, seconds add up.
Towards the end of the video, the 2016 iPad Pro model is described as having 2GB of RAM, when in fact it has 4GB. The 2017 iPad Pro model also has 4GB RAM, whereas the standard iPad model has 2GB. If you plan on duplicating a lot of layers in Procreate or working with a lot of layers this does have an impact on the standard iPad. It appears to cause some crashing issues. If your projects don’t get too big, this issue shouldn’t effect you if you choose to use the standard iPad. It’s worth keeping in mind though, as it can be quite difficult to predict exactly how many layers you might end up needing.
From this video, it seems safe to say that depending on how you work and where you work the standard iPad and Apple Pencil will most likely provide a great solution for the casual letterer. The standard iPad is priced much cheaper than the iPad Pro so it isn’t as much of an investment, and comes with enough features and hardware to enable you to make some pretty cool lettering. However, if lettering is your life and / or you want features and hardware that feel closer to using more traditional tools, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil is probably your best match.
If I come across any more comparisons that are relevant to iPad lettering I will update this article. Although I’ve tried to research this as thoroughly as I can, I highly recommend popping into an Apple store and trying out both the standard and Pro models of iPad before making a definitive decision on what you should buy, so you definitely get the right tool for you. Hopefully, this article can help you to make a more informed decision when purchasing an iPad for lettering.