Wacom Cintiq vs iPad Pro

Which do I prefer? It's the battle of the screen tablets!
Date Updated: 
December 1, 2023
When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
So you've decided you want a display tablet, and you know you want a high quality brand - that pretty much gives you a choice between a Wacom Cintiq and an iPad Pro. Well, it just so happens that I have experience with both.
Contents (hide)

In many ways, this is a battle between the established king of the tablet scene and a recent, exciting newcomer that has completely changed the market.

Apple didn't make their first tablet until 2010 but they’ve had a meteoric rise to widespread public adoption, while a Cintiq is still seen as a super-specialized piece of kit.

I've used Cintiqs for over a decade, and recently got an iPad Pro 12.9 to try to use it as a desktop replacement - no PC, just my iPad.  Painting, writing, working, entertainment etc, everything on the iPad. This is because portability has become more important to me in the last few years.

If you're just comparing a Cintiq and iPad for painting alone:

I think a Cintiq and iPad Pro are extremely similar to paint on, with some small differences - I find the Apple pencil more comfortable than a Cintiq's stylus for long painting sessions, but most people will not enjoy the glassy smooth screen of the iPad and will need a screen protector to have it feel like a Cintiq.

If you're considering using the iPad as a desktop replacement:

I've actually managed to do it 100%, but this has only been possible because of one important tool:

The iPad Pro can be used as a desktop replacement, and you can do 95% of tasks with iOS apps, but the key to 100% replacement is using Remote Desktop to connect to a cloud Windows instance when you need it.  With a stable internet connection, you can access Windows via the iPad, and have access to everything you'd have on a PC. 

I'm even writing this article in Windows on my iPad Pro!

Using a service like Amazon EC2 to host a cloud instance of Windows, you can choose the PC specs you want your instance to have, including graphics card, cpu, ram etc, and use Windows via your iPad with just a small amount of lag.

Here are my recommendations up front, before we do a deeper comparison of using an Apple iPad vs using a Wacom Cintiq:

iPad Pro 12.9

Recommended as a portable desktop replacement for professionals
To use an iPad as a desktop or laptop replacement to do professional work on, I'd get an iPad Pro 12.9. When working with an iPad, the biggest limitation is the screen size, so I'd recommend getting the iPad Pro 12.9, which is the biggest screen size available.

It also has the most powerful specifications, which means you'll be able to paint at large resolutions with multiple layers and complex brushes, you'll be able to do 3d modelling and sculpting, and easily run multiple apps at the same time.

The 2021 iPad Pro has a significant power upgrade over the 2020 models, but current iOS apps can't use that increased power, so you could consider getting the 2020 version to save some money.

I've got the 2020 model of the 12.9 with 512GB of hard drive space, and use Dropbox and Apple iCloud as further storage and an Amazon EC2 instance for Windows, and it's all worked perfectly for me as a PC replacement.

<button-link>Check the prices of the iPad Pro 12.9<button-link>

iPad Air

Recommended as a portable desktop replacement for amateurs
If you aren't going to be using it professionally but still want something that can replace a PC, then you might be fine going with an iPad Air instead of the Pro.

The iPad Air has a 10.9" screen and lower specs than the Pro, so your paintings and 3d models will have to be made to a lower resolution, but honestly most users wouldn't even notice the difference.  

The iPad Air is around half the price of a Pro, so it's worth considering whether you really need the extra power and 2 inches of screen of an iPad Pro.

<button-link>Check the prices of the iPad Air<button-link>

Recommended as a compliment to a PC or laptop

iPad Mini

The iPad Mini is a great choice as a portable compliment to a separate desktop or laptop PC with a Cintiq.

With just an 8.3" screen, you're going to struggle to finish artwork on an iPad Mini, but it would be absolutely fine for getting a piece of art 80% of the way there and then finish it off on a PC at home.

The Mini is actually a really powerful device for its size, so just like the Air you should be able to make whatever art you like on it, limited of course by the screen size.

If I had a PC at home and just wanted something purely portable to make art on, then the iPad Mini is what I'd go for.

<button-link>Check the prices of the iPad Mini<button-link>

It’s only worth getting an iPad over a Cintiq if you want the portability - if I was working from home at my own desk I would rather use this Cintiq:

Recommended for those not needing portability

Wacom Cintiq 16

If I didn't need the portability of an iPad, I'd probably go for a Cintiq 16 instead - the 15.6" screen is a really nice size to work on, and the device has all the features you need to make professional work.

The extra screen space that 16" gives you over 13" is really nice.  It doesn't sound like much at only 3", but that translates to quite a lot of screen space in reality.

On top of that, native use of Windows and having full control over your PC hardware is a valuable advantage.  With an iPad, you are bound by the limitations of Apple, both in the iPads hardware and its apps, but with a Windows PC you get much more control over everything.  A cloud instance of Windows makes up for this somewhat, but not 100%.

And even though this is the non-portable option, a 16" screen is portable in a pinch - you wouldn't want to be carrying it around every day, but if you really need to take it somewhere with a laptop, you can do it easily enough with a big backpack and some protective padding.

<button-link>Check the prices of the Cintiq 16<button-link>

Read on for the complete breakdown:

Brand Differences

Both Wacom and Apple are seen as premium brands, and so command a premium price-tag for their usually high quality products. There's not much difference between how their brands are perceived by the public.

Wacom and Apple have consistently delivered some of the best products in their niches.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I currently own and do all my work on an Ipad Pro 12.9, and before that used Wacom Cintiqs for around 8 years. I like their products - but I’m going to have to be honest up front: at this point in my life, I see 'premium branding' as a negative thing.  I know not everyone will agree with me.

In this day and age, I fear that high profile brands like Apple and Wacom sometimes misuse their prestige, and use it to leverage more money out of their fans.

I prefer to buy from the up and coming brands when I can, the ones that want to impress me and convince me that their products are worth spending my money on. Brands like Huion and XP-Pen dont have much loyalty established with their fanbases, so instead they have to create the best products they can, and sell them for as cheap as they can offer them.

Whereas some of Apple and Wacom’s past actions I personally see as quite anti-consumer; things like pricing their tablets at twice their competitors equivalent, or releasing extremely expensive stands, stylus’ and nibs, knowing that their loyal customers won't have many other options if they want to continue using their favorite brand.

I still think Wacom and Apple make the best tablets in the market, but their pricing model leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

Stylus Differences

Lets begin with the stylus, as that's the part of each device that you have to handle all day:

Cintiqs come with a Pro Pen 2, which is quite feature-rich for a stylus

It has replaceable nibs, two buttons on the side, an eraser tool on the end and a comfortable rubbery grip.  It’s also battery-free, so you never have to charge it

This stylus has over 8000 levels of pressure sensitivity, and while I myself cant tell the difference between 8000 and the 4000 of my previous tablet, plenty of others reportedly do.

iPad Pro uses the Apple Pencil, a simple stylus 

The Pencil is comparatively short on features - it also has replaceable nibs, but no buttons, no eraser on the end, no rubberized grip.  It just has a single hidden button: double-tap the side of the pencil, and it’ll act as a button, usually switching to an eraser in most apps.

The Apple Pencil is battery-powered, and so must be charged.  However, even though it's a bit annoying that it needs charging now and then, it lasts hours and charges to full battery in 10 minutes.

I don’t think I’ve once run out of battery with my Pencil - I just clip it to the iPad overnight and whenever I take a break, and that's enough to keep it topped up just fine.

The pressure levels of the Apple Pencil are not public knowledge, but from my experience they are indistinguishable from the 4000 or 8000 on a Wacom stylus.

The Apple stylus is shaped like a pencil; the Cintiq stylus is shaped like a marker pen

Apple’s Pencil stylus is thin and resembles a slightly heavy pencil; Wacom’s Pro Pen 2 is fatter and tapers to the end, shaped similarly to a marker pen. Its nib is very pointed and thin.

When using a Pro Pen its shape makes me hold much closer to the tip, with a tighter hold on the rubberized grip.  I get good control over the movement of the small tip because of this, so it’s easy to get accurate lines, but I find that it can be tiring for my fingers to grip it tightly for more than a couple of hours, and it's difficult to find a looser way to hold the stylus.

On the other hand, the Apple Pencil’s is shaped just like - you guessed it - a pencil. Its nib is fatter and more rounded than the Pro Pen’s. Its shape encourages me to hold it a little further back and looser, much like I would hold a real pencil.

For me, the Apple Pencil is more suited for comfort, and the Wacom Pro Pen 2 is more suited to accuracy.
I feel very comfortable using the Apple Pencil and can use it for hours without fatigue, but I’d say because of its shape and fatter nib it’s harder to be accurate than it is with a Wacom Pro Pen 2.

The Apple Pencil is smooth and straight, it isn't rubberized or tapered like the Cintiq stylus. This would theoretically make it easier to grip the Cintiq stylus than the Apple pencil, but I haven’t had trouble gripping either of them.

Perhaps when I travel with my iPad to a hot, sweaty country, I’ll notice the Pencil getting slippery and harder to grip.

The Cintiq stylus requires calibration, the Pencil doesn’t

I don’t know how Apple have done it, but the Pencil doesn’t need any calibration, and is super accurate as soon as you start using it.  A Cintiq stylus will require you to calibrate it when you set up your software and drivers, and you might find yourself re-calibrating it now and then.  

The process is simple, but the fact that Apple have managed to remove the need to calibrate completely means I have to take a small point away from Wacom.

Screen Differences

Their screens are generally similar, with some key differences:

The iPad Pro has a smooth, glassy screen

The screen of iPad Pro is made from precision-milled glass. It's really, really smooth, and combined with the smoothness of the plastic nib of the Apple Pencil you’ll find your stylus gliding over the screen with almost 0 friction.

When I first started using the iPad, I found the glassy feeling of the screen a little off-putting and strange, but after a few months I’m completely used to it.  I actually enjoy the smooth feeling of the screen now, which is unexpected after a decade of using toothier screens.

One of the most popular iPad screen covers is Paperlike, which friends of mine recommend.

But it seems I’m the odd one out, and most people really dislike how it feels - luckily there are different screen covers you can purchase that add some tooth and friction to the screen to make it feel closer to drawing with a pencil on paper. 

This may be additional money to put into your already expensive iPad, but besides providing a more traditional feeling to making art on an iPad, it also protects your iPads screen making it last longer.

The Cintiq has a toothy, semi-matte screen

The Cintiq’s screen is a bit toothier than the iPads, and feels closer to something like paper.  

Most people seem to agree that the Cintiq's screen feels way better to draw on than the iPads glassy screen - this lets most people use the Cintiq’s screen comfortably, right out of the box.

You may still want to get a screen cover to protect your Cintiq though, as changing a Cintiq screen will cost at least a couple hundred bucks, and a screen protector less than $40.

iPad Pro’s have small screens with large resolutions; Cintiqs generally have larger screens with smaller resolutions
Most Cintiqs are 1920x1080, and have a 16:9 aspect ratio.  The 11” iPad Pro has a resolution of 2388x1668, and the 12.9” has 2732x2048.  Their aspect ratios are 4:3, which is a bit better for portrait oriented work but perhaps slightly worse for landscape.

I myself notice the iPad 12.9 resolution’s crispness against a larger 1080p screen but I’m fine painting on either - not everyone will notice the difference, nor care.

iPads of course only go up to 12.9" - the smallest Cintiq screen is only a tiny bit smaller than that at 12", and there are plenty more Cintiq sizes going all the way up to their 32 inch beast of a tablet, if you want to draw on what is essentially a TV.

Some Cintiqs have bad color accuracy and need calibrating

Cintiqs usually will need their color settings checked when you buy one, as their colors are sometimes slightly off - Wacom have gotten better at calibrating the colors correctly in their factories over time, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

My first Cintiq, a 12WX from back in 2012, had completely incorrect yellows and reds, and my art looked totally different on other monitors.  No matter how much I calibrated that Cintiq, I could never fix it.  My next Cintiq was much better though, and I was able to get the colors pretty much print-accurate.

Unlike some Cintiqs, iPad color accuracy is fantastic out of the box - I didn't need to calibrate my 12.9 at all.

As an aside, both the iPad and Cintiq screens don’t do that well in direct sunlight and other bright environments, so despite the iPad being more portable than a Cintiq, you probably still wont be using it outside that much.

Quality and Durability Differences

Wacom and Apple are known for crafting high quality products, and so both Cintiqs and iPads are well made devices.  However, there are some external factors you have to consider when comparing their quality: 

An Ipad Pro will potentially have a shorter lifespan than a Cintiq

This depends heavily on how you might use them, but generally speaking an iPad's portability and multi-use capability comes with heightened risk of damaging it.

The iPad is very thinly built and ultimately quite a fragile piece of kit.  If you are carrying it around the house, putting it in a bag and taking it out with you, using it not just for art but also reading on it, watching YouTube etc, then each time you do so you risk damaging or losing it.

A Cintiq will usually sit static on your desk, rarely moving, if at all. You usually just use it when you are making art, and sometimes as a second monitor. The risk of breaking it is much lower, and it would be quite a challenge to lose one!

When all-in-one devices break you need to get a whole new one

It's hugely convenient to have everything you need in one device, but it comes with a silent price that not everyone considers - if even a small but key part of it breaks, it can render the whole thing unusable.

Ipads are complex devices with many components (e.g. hard drive, battery, etc) which means many points of potential failure.

This isn't the case with every aspect of the iPad Pro, as something like the Apple Pencil is replaceable, but if anything in the iPad Pro's hardware has issues and breaks, you're forced to either spend enormous amounts of money in repairs, or to buy a new iPad altogether.

If your setup is instead a Cintiq and pc, then if your Cintiq fails and breaks you can still use your pc, and vice versa.  

Functional Differences

The iPad Pro is much more portable than a Cintiq

One of the main reasons artists go for an iPad Pro instead of a screen tablet and pc setup is the portability.

Being able to chuck an iPad in a bag and go anywhere to do your work is very freeing - being able to work whether in a cafe, in your office or on the sofa means you’ll be able to find more opportunities to make art.  If you have a busy family life, it’s much easier to grab a bit of time here and there for painting on an iPad.

Now, a laptop paired with a small Cintiq is technically a portable solution. I tried out a similar setup, using a laptop and a 16” Huion Kamvas Pro - the setup weighed about 4kg, including their stands, power cables and accessories.  All of that is very bulky to carry around, and also takes a lot of time to set up and pack away each time you want to use it.

I don't think this comes anywhere close to the iPads balance of portability and power.

My iPad Pro 12.9 with its stand, all its accessories and the bag to put it all in, comes to about 1.5kg total. It all takes up less than a third of the space of the laptop and tablet solution, and takes moments to pack away.  I don’t even need access to a plug socket to work for a few hours, unlike with a screen tablet.

All without much loss in computing power. 

I enjoy working and travelling at the same time, so switching over to using an iPad Pro, instead of laptop and tablet, has made the experience even more enjoyable.

Excellent touch recognition on the iPad

The iPad Pro has great touch recognition, especially while using Procreate. 

Apple has managed to make the touch recognition on the iPad Pro remarkable, and the Procreate team must have worked hard on it, as using touch in Procreate in conjunction with the Apple Pencil feels extremely intuitive and seamless. Touch gestures in Clip Studio Paint are also pretty good and seamless, though I personally concentrate on using keyboard shortcuts over gestures.

I still have occasional issues when I paint in Clip Studio Paint, with the palm of my hand accidentally color picking from the canvas when I move my hand.  It's been a little frustrating learning how to avoid it, but I must be getting better as it happens much less frequently than when I first got my iPad.

Hopefully I'll get even better at it over time, as I get more practice and as Clip Studio Paint develops and hopefully improves its palm detection.

Pro versions of the Cintiq have touch functionality, but in my experience it's not good or useful enough to integrate into your workflow when you have access to a keyboard.  Using keyboard shortcuts is usually faster and more accurate than touch gestures, and I actually ended up turning off touch on my Cintiq as the only time I used it was accidental, which slowed me down while painting.

iPad Pro only has a single USB socket

The most annoying functional difference I’ve had to get used to with the iPad Pro is its lack of USB sockets - it has a single USB-C, and that’s it. I can only plug 1 thing in at a time, and that includes the charging cable.

This is slowly forcing me into replacing my devices with Bluetooth versions, as I’m getting annoyed at not being able to charge the iPad and use a device at the same time - my headphones and keyboard are now Bluetooth, and pretty soon I’ll be switching my mouse to a Bluetooth one as well.

Software Differences

The software difference is important for me personally, as I wanted to see if I could switch to iPad 100% and was used to using a Windows PC with a Cintiq - I wasn't sure iPadOS would be able to do everything I needed it to.

Art Software

With a Windows PC you have access to quite a lot of different art software, but it's very likely that if you’re reading this article you’d be considering using either Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint or Krita for the PC.

I’ve got the most experience with Photoshop - its unfortunately the most expensive option of the 3 being a monthly subscription, but it’s also the most feature rich and extensively taught online.

Clip Studio and Krita work basically the same way as Photoshop - they all have very similar interfaces, tools and shortcuts and you paint in them much the same way, with some added features and other features missing.

On an iPad pro you are limited to only using iOS apps, but there is a pretty broad range on the App Store.  Honestly speaking though, I’ve only used Clip Studio Paint - I’ve tried Procreate and may try some others but so far, I haven't felt the need to.

Clip Studio Paint on the iPad Pro works very much like Photoshop on PC, at least for digital painting. It took me a while to get used to it having used Photoshop for more than a decade, but after a week I was used to nearly everything I needed.

In fact I think it’s even better than Photoshop in some respects, allowing you much more control over the interface and brush settings - not to mention, Clip Studio’s monthly subscription costs only 20% of Photoshop’s.

I haven't had that much use out of Procreate yet, as Clip Studio does everything I need it to, but from my brief testing it seems very streamlined and easy to pick up, but still powerful under the hood.  The interface is minimal and you can accomplish a lot with touch gestures, but you are also given a lot of control if you want it, especially over brush settings

Before getting the iPad, I was really worried I wouldn't be able to find art software that could match up to my years of experience with Photoshop but actually, it’s been a non-issue.
Other Software

More than whether I would find software to paint in, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to do everything else on an iPad that I can on a PC.

Obviously, you can’t use the same programs on an iPad as you would on Windows, and even if you could the iPad might not be able to run them very well.

Replacing my PC with an iPad Pro has been a challenge, but its actually been 100% possible.
I’ve found a way to do everything that I do in my daily life, for work and for leisure. Getting used to the iPads clunky file management system has been challenging, but I’m used to its quirks now. I’ve found capable apps to do nearly all of my usual activities, even options for 3D sculpting and modelling.

For everything that I couldn’t find an app for, I’ve been using an Amazon cloud workspace - a remote windows desktop that I connect to over the internet, and with a keyboard and mouse connected my iPad Pro acts just like a Windows PC.  I can choose whatever specs I want, such as the RAM and graphics card, and I can install whatever I like on it.  

I went with fairly basic specs, for which I only pay $0.07 for every hour that I use it.

There’s slight lag, and I need a reasonable stable internet connection for it, but it’s an absolute bargain that's made the iPad Pro a 100% desktop replacement for me.

The only thing I haven't been able to completely replace is gaming - there are some great games on the iPad, and you can also use cloud solutions like Xbox Cloud Gaming, GeForce Now and Google Stadia to play a lot of Steam and Xbox games, but they only work with a controller and internet connection.

I don’t play games that often and the selection is wide enough when I do fancy it, so I don't mind this limitation that much.

Usability/Painting Experience

After comparing all the main factors, now we need to know: what are they like to paint with, and which one provides a better painting experience overall?

Through all of this, ultimately I think a Cintiq and iPad are extremely similar to paint with - the comfort of the stylus, and size and texture of the screen is the biggest difference between them.

I got pressure and my brushes right in Clip Studio in 10 minutes, and the glassy screen took longer to get used to but now it feels normal. The fact the transition has been so easy is a great sign. 

One of the most notable ones being that they allow you to create digital art with a stylus on the same screen that you're looking at (where as non-screen tablets require hand-eye coordination).

With this comes a huge disadvantage for both - using either  for long periods of time, daily, will result in bad back posture and eventually back and neck pain.

These, of course, can be countered by using good quality stands or standing desk, etc, but that would ask for additional expenses, and not everyone's budget allows for that option.

Cintiqs have worse parallax than iPads

Parallax, in drawing tablet terms, is the distance between where you place your stylus on the screen, and where the cursor shows.

Cintiq series tablets suffer from higher amounts of parallax than iPads, so its not actually as close to drawing/painting on paper/canvas as you might like.

It's not as big of an issue as it used to be with older models of Cintiq, as they claim to have eliminated parallax entirely, but I can confirm there is 0 parallax on my iPad Pro.

It's easier to switch between portrait and landscape on iPad

Because the iPad is lighter and easier to handle, and it has a 4:3 aspect ratio, you can easily work on either portrait or landscape pieces of art.

Most Cintiq are 16:9 aspect ratio and hard to rotate, so are much better suited to making landscape art than portraits.

Some Mac users report lag when using Cintiq

I'm not going to go in depth about this as it's quite a niche problem, but just know that if you are a Mac user, you may encounter stylus lag with a Cintiq.


With a Cintiq, there aren’t many third party manufacturers making accessories, so your only real option will be official Wacom accessories and replacement parts from their online store. You can be sure these will be well made, but expensive. 

For the iPad however, on top of Apple's own expensive and well made accessories, there are loads of third party manufacturers making accessories and replacements - keyboards, cases, nibs, cables, the list goes on.

Amazon is absolutely flooded with cheap but functional accessories for the iPad Pro, that are inevitably lower quality than Apple’s own products but in my experience function just fine.

PRICE Differences

Both are very expensive items

At the time of writing, the cheapest Cintiq is the Cintiq 16 at $650, and the most expensive is the Cintiq Pro 32 at $3300 - also, you need a PC or Mac to use it with.

There are also fantastic brands like Huion and XP-Pen that have been offering very similar tablets to Wacom, for about half of the price.  They haven’t quite matched the quality, but for a 50% price cut they more than make up for it in my eyes.

As for iPad Pro, in addition to purchasing a Pencil 2 stylus at $130: the cheapest, lowest specification version of the 2021 model of iPad Pro is $800, and the most expensive and highest specification is $2400.

Regarding direct alternatives to the iPad Pro, there aren’t really any good ones for digital artists - the closest thing is a Surface pro running Windows, but from what I understand painting on it just isn't up to par and doesn't really seem to be recommended by many artists at all.

iPad Pencil nibs are really expensive 

Wacom Cintiq nibs are pretty easy to get hold of, and at around $5 for 5 official nibs are expensive enough - official Apple Pencil nibs are $20 for 4.  

That’s $5 each! For little lumps of plastic!

I think my Pencil nibs will last a long time though, since my first nib is showing 0 signs of any wear at all - but still, a price of $5 each is difficult to justify.

An iPad will likely need more accessories than a Cintiq 

You’ll probably need to get a bunch of accessories for your iPad - the Pencil stylus is even an extra purchase!  An expensive purchase at that, even if I am very fond it.

Accessories for a Cintiq can get expensive if you get an arm for it, but the iPad Pro hands-down has many more additional expenses.
You’ll probably also want to get a screen protector, a protective case, a bag, and if you don't already have them, bluetooth keyboard, mouse and earphones. You might also decide you need a stand, a portable power bank and some spare Pencil nibs.  Whew.

A Cintiq comes with a stylus and usually some spare nibs.  Aside from this, you may want to get a cheap glove, a screen protector and possibly a stand or arm if your Cintiq didn't come with one.

An Ipad Pro will potentially have a shorter lifespan than a Cintiq

As mentioned earlier in the article, generally speaking an iPad's portability and multi-use capability comes with heightened risk of damaging or wearing it out.

The iPad is very thinly built and ultimately quite a fragile piece of kit.  If you are carrying it around the house, putting it in a bag and taking it out with you, using it not just for art but also reading on it, watching YouTube etc, then each time you do so you risk damaging or losing it.

A Cintiq will usually sit static on your desk, rarely moving, if at all. You usually will only use it when you are making art, and sometimes as a second monitor. The risk of breaking it or wearing it out is much lower.

Since the iPad Pro is an all-in-one device, if even a small but key part of it breaks, it can render the whole tablet unusable and you'll have to replace the whole thing.  If your setup is instead a Cintiq and PC, then if your Cintiq fails and breaks you can still use your PC, and vice versa, and hopefully replace whatever is broken more easily.

Luckily, Apple and Wacom both offer a 1 year warranty that covers internal parts failure, 

Apple also offers Apple care+ for $5.99 per month that covers up to 2 physical damage incidents every year - if you have an iPad Pro, and especially if you travel with it, I would consider Care+ a ludicrously good deal, though it obviously drives up the price of owning an iPad by $72 a year.


Painting on an iPad Pro is very similar to painting on a Cintiq, except for the glassy screen and shape of the stylus. As a potential portable workstation, The iPad Pro 12.9 is working great for me - but the key to making it work for 100% of tasks is to remote desktop to a Windows instance when needed.

The only reason I’ve recently switched from using Cintiqs to working on an iPad Pro is because portability has become more important to me. I enjoy working while I travel so I want a portable workstation, and the iPad is basically the most portable solution out there.

Here are my general recommendations for artists regarding Cintiq vs iPad Pro:

Best as a portable desktop replacement for professional artists - iPad Pro 12.9

The biggest limitation is the size of the screen, but it has specs and apps powerful enough for large digital paintings, 3d modelling and sculpting, and with an Amazon EC2 instance for Windows it works as a very portable PC replacement.

<button-link>Check the prices of the iPad Pro 12.9<button-link>

Portable PC replacement for amateur artists - iPad Air

The iPad Air has a 10.9" screen and lower specs than the Pro, so your paintings and 3d models will have to be made to a lower resolution, but honestly most amateur users wouldn't even notice the difference.  At about half the price, this can still replace a pc for amateur use.

<button-link>Check the prices of the iPad Air<button-link>

As a portable compliment to a PC - iPad Mini

The iPad Mini is a great choice as a super portable compliment to a separate PC with a Cintiq - with an 8.3" screen and good specs, it would be absolutely fine for getting a piece of art to 80% completion when out and about and then finish it off on a PC at home.

<button-link>Check the prices of the iPad Mini<button-link>

If portability is not important - Wacom Cintiq 16

If I didn't need the portability of an iPad, I'd go for a Cintiq 16 instead - the 15.6" screen is a really nice size to work on and portable in a pinch, and the device has all the features you need to make professional work. On top of that, native use of Windows and having full control over your PC hardware is valuable to a professional artist.

<button-link>Check the prices of the Cintiq 16<button-link>

Hey, I’m Christopher

I started making digital art in 2009, became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, and now I’m able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.

I created this blog to help other artists make the same journey.

SelfEmployedArtist.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program,  an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We also participate in similar affiliate advertising progams for Skillshare, Squarespace and others.