How to turn your iPad into a drawing tablet.

AngieYeoh /

The iPad is great for drawing when paired with styles like the Apple Pencil, but the best software for artists is usually found on the desktop. That’s where the capabilities of the iPad’s graphics tablet come in, with which you can drag your tablet to Macs or Windows via your favorite apps.

There are a few different options for achieving this, so we’ll weigh the pros and cons of each approach.

Try before you buy.

All of the products listed below have some kind of free trial, with the exception of SideCar (Apple’s own free solution). Before you sign up for a subscription or pay a one-time fee, make sure you thoroughly test the full set of features. Verify that your solution works with your preferred creative apps, whether they be free tools like Inkscape and Gimp or professional apps from Adobe or Affinity.

Make sure you thoroughly test wireless performance if you want to rely on it. Things like nearby wireless interference or a lot of network activity can slow down wireless performance so stress tests can be done in order.

After all, these apps were built to work with Mac first, which means Windows support isn’t as mature. Some apps may work better with your specific hardware or preferred creative apps than others, so it’s important to check here to avoid disappointment.

Apple Side Car (Free)


Perfect for: Mac users whose current model is iPad and Apple Pencil.

SideCar is trying to turn Apple’s iPad into another display for compatible Mac use. It works with the iPad Pro, the third-generation iPad Air, the fifth-generation iPad mini, or the sixth-generation iPad or newer. You can find out which member you have by going to Settings> General> About.

Since the sidecar is a first-party solution, it usually works great (especially compared to some third-party alternatives). You can use it wirelessly or connect it directly to your Mac with the USB cable that comes with it, which means you can power it while working on your tablet.

Speaking of Mac, you will need a recent model running MacOS Catalina or later. 2016 MacBook Pro, 2016 MacBook, 2018 MacBook Air, 2017 iMac or 2015 Retina iMac, iMacPro, 2018Mac Mini, and 2019MacPro or later. You’ll need to use the same Apple ID on both devices, and stay within 30 feet (10 meters) of your Mac to work wirelessly.

One of the great things about the side car is that you can use it as a proper display instead of shooting things on the screen. Drawing is possible in Mac apps using Apple Pencil, which already supports stylus input, including Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Sidecar is well optimized, reliable and compatible with system level Max compatible. There are shortcuts all around the outside of the screen that allow you to quickly undo, use editing keys such as commands and options, and access app-specific shortcuts. The lack of customization can be frustrating for some users who prefer more control over UI or pen pressure settings.

Apple Side Car Setup in Big Pig.

If you have an iPad and a Mac

Astropid Standard / Studio ($ 30 or $ 12 per month)


Perfect for: Mac users who do not meet the needs of SideCar and Windows users.

AstroPad is the original iPad drawing tablet app. It first appeared in 2015, long before SideCar came into being, bringing synchronous tablet-like functionality with the compatible Mac and iPad. AstroPad now has two levels: a دف 30 one-time purchase that includes basic functionality, and a $ 12 / month (or $ 80 / year) subscription plan that includes many features.

Unlike the side car, the Astropad has a lot of hardware support. All you need is a 2013 Mac model running OS X El Capitan (10.11) or newer, with support for iPads running iOS 9.1 or later. This includes the second-gen iPad mini, the original iPad Air, the fifth-gen iPad, and any model of the iPad Pro.

You can use an Apple pencil or just draw with your finger or cheap capacitive styles (but not smart third party styles). AstroPad has been optimized for use with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, and it’s a great way to use the app. AstroPad relies on a companion app running on your Mac and can connect via USB or wireless.

Wireless performance can be a bit of a hit and miss, so wired is recommended for serious work or especially for busy networks. One of the major drawbacks of the AstroPad is that it relies entirely on display mirroring. Unlike the sidecar, the AstroPad doesn’t “add” an external display, allowing you to interact with everything on your primary display while in use. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter much about drawing.

AstroPad Studio provides access to some really useful features such as on-screen keyboard, external keyboard support, and magic gestures. This allows you to create your own set of gestures for frequently used functions such as undo or paste, which can greatly speed up your workflow. If you want to customize the pressure input, you have to pay a subscription.

While the SideCar is Mac only, a Windows version of Astropad is in development called Project Blue. There are a few minimum system requirements you’ll need, and you’ll need to sign up for Public Beta. Keep in mind that, as of this writing in August 2021, many features have yet to make it into Project Blue and this performance may be unstable during pre-release testing.

Dwight Pro (30 / year)

The person using Dwight Pro for the iPad.
Dwight display.

Perfect for: Windows users who do not like beta testing AstroPad.

Dwight Pro is part of the Dwight lineup of Mac and Windows apps that transforms your iPad into another display. The Dwight Pro is the only tire that includes support for stylus input, with full support for customizing things like pressure and tilt. You can use multi-touch gestures to pan, zoom and hover, but you’ll need an Apple pencil for stylus input.

The app is compatible with any Mac running OS X Mavericks (10.9) and any iPad 10 running iOS 10. You can connect your iPad using a USB cable or wireless connection, but expect some fuss and performance issues if you cut the cord.

One feature that Dwight Pro has on Astropid is that it does not rely on mirrors. Instead, Dwight Pro adds a secondary display (your iPad) that you can use to draw while displaying something else on your Mac display. You don’t need additional hardware or dongles to enable it, and it works this way on both Windows and Mac.

Dwight Pro is the most Windows-friendly solution, at least, while AstroPad’s Project is in Blue Beta. The Windows version of Dwight Pro has been available for years, and is more stable than competitors.

Also consider: Luna Display (130)

Promotional art for Luna displays for Mac and iPad.

Perfect for: Cached-up AstroPad users who want a wireless, second display.

The biggest drawback of the Astropad is that it relies on mirrors instead of adding a separate display. This means you can’t run a reference image, chat window or play video on your display while drawing on your tablet. The Luna display changes that.

From developers like Astropad, the Luna Display is a wireless USB-C or DisplayPort adapter that sends video signals from your Mac to an iPad (or other Mac if you prefer). It really gives you a wireless second display that integrates perfectly with the AstroPad.

You’ll still need to buy an AstroPad for Apple Pencil input, and if you want professional features like custom pressure settings or magic indicators (above $ 130 dongle), you’ll also need a monthly fee. Will have to reduce It’s a costly endeavor, but if you have other uses for the dongle, it might be worth the investment.

For example, you can use the Luna display to output a Mac display to another. This can be a great use for an old iMac on your desk with a nice display but outdated internals. Be sure to read the compatibility section on AstroPad’s Luna Display Support site before you buy. Make sure you make full use of it before you buy.

You can always drag on your iPad.

Tablets are more powerful than ever, the iPad Pro is now sharing processor architecture with some Mac models. Although desktops have always been the first choice when it comes to raw power and software availability, things are changing. Adobe has finally brought the full-fat version of Photoshop and Illustrator to the iPad.

This means you can get your drawing done on a tablet, without the need for a sidecar or third-party software. Apps like Procreate, AutoDesk Sketchbook, and Affinity Designer allow you to use your tablet to draw locally, no desktop required.

Consider an iPad for work or play? Check out the best iPads for drawing, travel and more.

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