While the ways that we use our iPads are unique (a college student jotting down notes in a classroom, an illustrator painstakingly crafting a new drawing, a grandparent trying to sign up for Netflix, or a kid buying a few extra lives for a mobile game while their parents aren’t paying attention), we do all share one need: a case. The right iPad case protects your investment from accidental spills and drops, and it might even keep you from hearing the Wilhelm Scream the next time it slips from your hands. (We’ve all been there, picking up our precious tablet with careful, concerned movements, like we’re investigating a crime scene, only to be flooded with relief when we don’t see any cracks.) The right case can also improve your iPad’s functionality by letting you set it at different heights or angles. And of course, it can look good.
To find the best case or sleeve for all sorts of people, we reached out to 17 different tech experts, art directors, illustrators, artists, and other folks with great taste. Here are their picks for the best iPad cases, in terms of both security and style.
Best overall iPad case
Although it’s not technically a case, since it doesn’t have a back, this classic iPad cover protects the fragile screen from scratches and occasional drops. Five of our experts recommended it. “I had used bulky cases for previous tablets, and they really hurt the portability factor,” says Tatiana Quiqley, a 3D artist and illustrator. “The case is a little pricey, but it’s lightweight and easy to fit into your bag or on your lap while you are irresponsibly drawing in bed,” she says. Harry Hembley, the illustrator behind the popular “lil bean” Instagram account, which has 1.6 million followers, likes that the Folio, “folds to the perfect angle for daily drawing.” He also likes the case’s simple-but-nice suede finish. And Jason Snell of the tech podcast praises its portability and durability. “I’ve been using Folio for a few years now,” he says. “It does get some wear around spots where you might grip the case whilst drawing, but I think it’s a fair trade off for how light the thing is.” Both Quiqley and artist Kofi Ofosu also appreciate the case’s folding mechanism, which makes drawing on the iPad comfortable, no matter how you might be sitting — and even if you’re lying down.
Best origami iPad case
Duane Bruton, an art director at Ryot Studio in New York City, appreciates the VersaCover’s flexible design. “It took me a long time to find the right case,” he says. “The cover has triangular segments that you can tuck back in on each other to give yourself more or less surface area, depending on what you have to balance it on, or to give yourself more or less tilt.” This case lets him use his iPad anywhere and for anything: “When I’m sitting at my desk, I like to have it propped up nearly straight, but when I’m doing dishes and watching YouTube, I put it at a really low angle so I can look down on it on the counter,” he says. And he’s dropped it on the ground a few times with no issues.
Best cases for turning your iPad into a laptop
The Combo Touch comes with a trackpad, backlit keys, and an adjustable kickstand, which Snell says makes it perfect for students who have the iPad Air. Pair it with the Apple pencil (using the case’s one-click smart-connector technology), and you’ve got a note-taking powerhouse, he says. One of the case’s best features are the “four modes,” which are essentially different viewing angles. There’s one for sketching, typing, watching videos and reading. It’s sturdy, and there’s a convenient nook to store your Apple Pencil
Illustrator Sadie Lewandowski bought the iPad Smart Folio case about a year ago. “I really wanted a keyboard that was easy to carry around with my iPad,” she says. “What better way to have a keyboard than on the case itself? Whenever I’m in research mode before an illustration, I pull out the keyboard so I can quickly type, and when it’s time to draw I tuck away the keyboard flap behind the screen, which deactivates the keys so there are no accidental button presses.” Lewandowski describes the case as sturdy and surprisingly light. It’s the perfect weight to keep her iPad stable while she draws on her lap: “Pressing heavily on one side of the screen won’t make the iPad jiggle.”
Most durable iPad case
Maggie Stephenson, an illustrator with more than 90k Instagram followers, says the Targus is one of the most reliable cases she’s found. “The exterior is non-slip and has a comfortable and cool feel that you’ll appreciate if you have to hold your iPad for a long period of time.” She says that the case also accommodates the Apple Pencil really well, helping it to stay on the iPad’s magnetic smart connector. “I use my iPad every day for hours at a time and have found this case to be the most robust, but also the most comfortable one around.”
Best iPad sleeves
Despite the anxiety it may induce, four of the cool people we spoke to say they prefer to leave their iPad naked and use a sleeve. Dominic Kesterton, a popular artist and illustrator with over 59K Instagram followers, is adamantly anti-case. “I hate grabbing on all that clunk when I draw. It just feels like it’s in the way,” he says. Illustrator Nick Liefhebber agrees. “I like the design and form factor of the iPad by itself. Sometimes I hold the iPad on my lap when drawing but I also use a simple foldable Kolibri iPad stand and that doesn’t work well with a case.” Liefhebber has been using this sleeve for almost three years. “I bought it on etsy. It’s rugged, with a waterproof outside and soft padded inside.”
If you’re looking for a pop of color or a variety of patterns, Strategist writer (and illustrator) Liza Corsillo recommends the Baggu puffy laptop sleeve, which she uses for her iPad. “I have the bright pink, but they just launched new patterns and I honestly love them all.” They have a simple velcro closure and can fit any device up to 13”. Plus, they’re machine washable.
Best budget iPad case
“I wanted something that was slim and light but that didn’t skimp on protection,” says Daniel Fishel, an illustrator and designer who’s worked with Netflix, The New York Times and GQ. He especially enjoys this case’s portability and flexibility: “It rolls up nice, allowing me to draw at a slight angle.” It also has an auto wake and sleep cover. If you use an Apple pencil, Fishel recommends attaching a Pencil sleeve to the back of the case, so you never have to worry about it falling off and getting lost.
Best iPad cases for people who use Apple Pencil
The most important feature in an iPad case for Muis S, a freelance illustrator, is having a safe place to store their Apple Pencil, “so I don’t lose it,” they say. With this case, you slide the pencil into the opening on the side, where it’s protected — and also charging. That way, Muis says, the pencil is always ready in case they want to draw. They also like the built-in stand, which lets them prop up the iPad and draw.
“I’d been forever misplacing my Apple Pencil, so I love that this case has a sleek-looking holder that keeps my Pencil snug and easily accessible,” says illustrator Shelly Laslo. The two angles that the folding flap offers are awesome, she says: “The high angle is for perusing online inspiration, and the low angle helps ease my neck pain when illustrating.” It also has a raised bezel around the edge to protect the screen and camera.
Best leather iPad case
“It’s by no means the Otterbox of cases, but if I dropped my iPad in this case while it was closed with the elastic band, I wouldn’t be scared,” says Lo Harris, an illustrator and animator with over 24K followers on Instagram. “It has a cool magnetic smart cover that automatically wakes and puts my iPad to sleep when I open and close it, which helps save battery life,” she says. “It also has a front pocket where I can keep note cards and cash. Plus its soft, synthetic leather is super elegant, and the trifold capability lets you prop it up and attach a keyboard or watch a movie.” Harris also says, “It’s by no means the Otterbox of cases but if I dropped my iPad while it was closed (there’s a nice elastic band you can close it with) I wouldn’t be scared.” She says she can easily slip it into a bag and it strikes a nice balance, “between style and protection.”
The best iPad case that’s not a case at all
Instead of a case, illustrator and YouTube creator Stefan De Groot prefers the TabStrap. “It is handmade of merino-wool felt and vegetable-tanned leather,” he says. Plus it rotates 360 degrees, so you can spin your screen without taking your hand out of the strap — a feature De Groot finds very useful for illustration. The TabStrap works like a combination of a painter’s easel and a palette, letting you view your work at different angles while keeping your grip on the iPad at all times. It also serves as a stand, in case you want to prop it up to watch a video or at a gentler angle for drawing.
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