No more must you be cooped up in the office; these days, graphic design is something anyone can get started with – right from the sofa – thanks to tablets.

In fact, the latest crop of consumer-facing tablets are the best way to dip your toes in the graphic design waters, while the right apps can help turn you into an illustrating wonderkind in no time flat. Here’s everything you need to know to get started… 

The basics

To understand 2018’s graphic design landscape, we caught up with professional designer, and Founder & Creative Director of JUST Creative, Jacob Cass. He’s the man in the know when it comes to what’s hot – and what’s not – when it comes to tablet tech…

“The main benefit of tablets are that you can use a pen (or stylus) for drawing,” he says, “which can give you more control and be more comfortable while you work. Ultimately, this’ll only improve the efficiency of your design process.”

So what’s the first thing to consider when taking your designs on the go?

“All devices will do the essentials,” Jacob tells us. “However, you need to consider your preferred style and method of working. Do you want a large surface area for drawing, or are you using it just to be mobile, or something in between?

“So, before purchasing a tablet for your drawing, art, illustration, or graphic design needs, you need to consider things like the tablet’s active area size, features, stylus, pressure sensitivity, and resolution.

“Just like a mouse, a tablet is an input device. So if it’s comfortable and works with precision, then you have yourself a winner. But if you need extra features such as a bigger active area, consider investing a bit more.”

The tech

Apple iPad Pro + Apple Pencil

For professional grade tablets, Jacob recommends something that connects to a computer, such as a tablet from XP-Pen, but for non-pros he heartily recommends Apple’s iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil stylus (sold separately). And he’s not alone – the natural feel and quick response time of the Pencil has made it a firm favourite among pro designers and amateur doodlers alike.

iPad Pro comes in two sizes – 10.5 or 12.9-inch models – but both offer blisteringly fast performance and hours upon hours of battery life, making them the perfect partners for extended design sessions. You can grab either from Vodafone UK, starting at just £53 per month for 5GB of data – helping you stay connected wherever you draw from – and just £40 up front.

What’s more, there are loads of fully-optimised design apps made specifically with iPad in mind…

The Apps

Adobe Illustrator Draw | iOS and Android, Free + Subscription

Illustrator Draw by Adobe is an awesome tool for budding designers, and one of the only apps out there that supports vector-based drawing. Vector illustrations are comprised of software-driven shapes that retain their maximum quality no matter how big or small you make them, which means you avoid the kind of lower-resolution blurring that can affect traditional digital drawings if you try and scale them up.

This app requires an Adobe account to get going, but this comes with the benefit of cloud backups and access to the wider Adobe community, which Jacob works with on a daily basis: “Adobe products tend to be the industry standard, and most widely used,” he explains.

Affinity Designer | iOS, £19.99

Last year, Adobe-rival Affinity launched Affinity Photo on the App Store – a fully capable alternative to Photoshop, built from the ground up for iPad. And now Affinity Designer has joined alongside it, letting graphic designers take their work with them on the go like never before.

As with Adobe Illustrator Draw, Affinity Designer supports vector art, as well as all the brushes, effects and styles you’d expect from a pro software suite – all for just £19.99 without any subscription needed.

Procreate | iOS, £9.99

Procreate is probably the iPad’s best-known drawing tool, and for good reason. Clean and easy to get to grips with on the surface, the app includes a huge amount of power and pro features that you’ll enjoy digging into once you get to know it.

There are brushes, implements and styles aplenty – letting you create everything from simple pencil sketches to industry-ready logos – while its specially-tuned software offers seamless responsiveness from both the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro’s 120Hz display refresh rate.

You can find a few more apps that’ll help you get the most out of your iPad Pro and Pencil here.

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