Adobe Illustrator Desktop vs iPad Version: What’s the Difference

Although iPad Illustrator doesn’t have all of the same options as the desktop version, they do work to complement each other. Working on the iPad gives you pencil and paper illustration capability like the other mobile drawing apps. 

My name is April, I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for 13+ years. It’s always been my favorite tool to create vector art. I usually use the Desktop version, but I do know the iPad version pretty well too. 

This post will discuss the differences between the desktop and iPad versions of Adobe Illustrator.

Let’s check it out.

Key Takeaways

  • Instead of being able to hold Shift or Alt/Option, the iPad version offers a circle to hold to create similar effects.
  • There is a taskbar to help offer quick solutions to actions you may need to take in Adobe Illustrator.
  • The iPad version offers a new repeat button.

Adobe Illustrator Desktop vs iPad

Now obviously, the Desktop version is great for professional use, and the iPad version simplifies the tools and makes it more accessible for more users particularly drawing. Here’s a quick comparison of the interface, features, ease of use, and pricing.


Initially, when you open up the iPad Adobe Illustrator, you see similar things to when you would open up the desktop version. You have the toolbar on the left and a taskbar on the right. Tools have the same button look and graphics are generally placed where you would expect them. 

The biggest difference is that there’s no main menu at the top of the interface on the iPad version.

While the desktop version has more toolbars and panels. 


You can draw shapes in the iPad version using the Pen tool, Eraser, Type tool, etc. You’ll see the Command Actions bar that pops up below the area where you are working. This helps eliminate the need for some of the other panels you won’t have access to.

The other big feature is the circle in the bottom left that acts similar to holding down the Ctrl/Command or Alt/Option button. Adobe also built in some other features, the first being Edit > Copy appearance.

You can see here as we take a look at the desktop version, we see similar tools.

Secondly, the repeat feature is great and something they should add easier access to in the desktop version.

Ease of Use

You are still able to edit settings, but they are more limited. Here you can still change the color mode, raster effects, and color profile.

In the advanced app settings, you can change the placement of the toolbar and more.

The desktop version shown here has even more settings/preference options:

The Apple Pencil also pairs very well with the app. They have added palm rejection so that the touch screen is easier to use.

You can even customize what type of measurements you want for stroke and type…

Just like on the desktop version as well:


When it comes to purchasing, you have a few options. Adobe now requires subscriptions for its updated software. You can go about subscribing to just Adobe Illustrator or you can subscribe to a group of apps. Adobe Illustrator runs for $34.49/month, including the desktop and the iPad versions. If you get an annual subscription, you can get it for $22.99/month.

You can subscribe to all the creative cloud apps for $59.99 a month, and that includes all the versions (desktop, iPad, and web where available). 

Illustrator for iPad itself costs $9.99. It’s up to you which one values more. 

Final Thoughts

While you can be slightly disappointed that the iPad version of Adobe Illustrator has fewer options, realistically you wouldn’t want to do the same work on a desktop vs iPad. 

Adobe did try to think this iPad version through. They added several new features that work well on the iPad that aren’t necessary on a desktop. From the command circle to the repeat button, Illustrator on the iPad is worth checking out.

Have you tried the iPad version of Illustrator? What did you create with it and was it easier to make than on a desktop? Let me know in the comments below.

About April Ahlders
I'm a graphic designer in Kansas. I earned my Bachelors of Science in Technology for Graphic Design and Bachelors of Fine Art for Illustration in Pittsburg State University. The challenge of solving a need with imagery is what keeps me going from project to project, never knowing what is next. I seem to have a need for teaching and nurturing and enjoy helping others learn design!

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