Best art and graphics tablets reviews, 2016-2017
Choosing the best drawing tablet for your needs can be hard. Tablets for Artists helps by offering detailed reviews and news. Whether you seek the best graphics tablet or tablet with screen, you’ll learn a lot here.
Maybe you wish to draw, paint, write, upload, and share your art. Or maybe you’re a parent encouraging your child to draw. There’s a solution for every artist and budget. Even cheap drawing tablets will greatly improve your art workflow.
Below are our top picks for graphics tablets, pen-display tablets with screens, and the best tablet PC laptops or 2-in-1s. They are digital drawing pads, monitors, or computers you can draw on.
To see all tablets reviewed so far and a list of Wacom Intuoses, please go to our Comparison Chart page.
BEST DRAWING TABLET 2016-2017: OUR TOP PICKS
|Wacom Cintiq 13HD Pen & Touch||Cintiqs go up to 27". Top brand with the most features, including pen tilt/rotation sensitivity.||Read our review|
|XP-Pen Artist 22E tablet monitor||Economical choice offers size and value. 2,048 levels of pressure. EMR digitizer.||Read our review|
|Wacom Intuos Pro Medium (2017)||Premium graphics tablet. Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. |
Intuos Pro Paper Edition option uses real pens and paper.
|Read our review|
See our article on choosing a Wacom graphics tablet.
|Huion 610 Pro||Popular, affordable Wacom Intuos Pro alternative.||Read our review|
|Apple iPad Pro||iOS portable tablet. 12.9" or 9.7", tilt-sensitive, works with Apple Pencil|
Read our review
|Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen||Android portable tablet. Great size & value. Wacom S pen; you can also use a larger Wacom pen on it (more info in review). New 10.1" HD||Read our review|
|Wacom MobileStudio Pro ||Two sizes, 13 and 16. 3D camera option. Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 levels.||Read our review|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 4||Popular Windows 2-in-1 for art, notetaking, general.||Read our review|| |
Check price (Microsoft)
Wacom dominates the digital drawing pad market with their Cintiq tablet monitors and Intuos graphics tablets. but they’re not the only game in town for computer drawing pads. They offer the most advanced features and excellent build quality, but some alternative brands are not bad.
Best graphics tablet: Wacom Intuos Pro
Our favorite graphics tablet is the Intuos Pro. It’s also the most popular among creative professionals.
The Intuos Pro’s advanced features enable you to customize your workflow, work quickly, and exercise the most creative control. The Intuos Pro Medium is the most popular tablet among artists, photographers, and designers.
If you want to draw on paper, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition may be the best choice of graphics tablet.
The size allows freedom of arm movement and enough room to draw and edit. The Pro Pen 2 delivers a whopping 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity.
As an economical Intuos alternative, the Huion H610 Pro also made the list of best graphics tablets. With the alternative, the build quality is fairly similar. The drivers differ somewhat.
Top pen display: Wacom Cintiq
The Wacom Cintiq is the most popular in pen-display monitors. Like the Intuos, the Cintiq offers extensive controls and tilt sensitivity and the Pro Pen 2. Its rotating stand gives you freedom and the drivers let you customize keyboard commands on a per-application basis.
You can also map the pen buttons to keyboard commands. Wacom products come bundled with some art programs. Wacom Touch models also let you use your fingers for gestures, or finger painting on Cintiqs.
Recent developments for Wacom include the Cintiq Pro and Wacom MobileStudio Pro. The Cintiq Pro is similar to the 13HD and also comes in 15″. It has the Wacom Pro Pen 2 that has 8,192 levels of pressure.
In more affordable options, we also really like the XP-Pen 22E and Yiynova MVP22U . They bring a larger tablet with screen to those on a budget. The Ugee 2150 is also a good choice. Artisul makes tablet monitors with great build quality and straightforward drivers in the 10″-13″ category. The Huion 610 Pro does a lot of what the Intuos does.
Our picks for portable and mobile drawing tablets
Portable tablets are great travel companions–not only can you draw, write, type, and transmit, but they can serve as cameras, phones, and navigators. They are digital sketchbooks.
Our top choice: iPad Pro. In portable tablets, we love the iPad Pro 12.9″ because of its size and the tilt-sensitive Apple Pencil. It’s an excellent stylus for drawing. It’s the best active pen I’ve tried. It even lets you use the side of the tip to do shading.
The Apple Pencil at 22 grams weighs a few more grams than most active pens and it’s skinny. While most artists are happy with it there are some who don’t like the thinness. Using a rubber grip should help with comfort.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen is nearly as good for art, and more budget-friendly. We feel it’s the best Android tablet for drawing, and it now has an HD screen. You can get a larger Wacom pen for it if you choose. The enhanced S Pen it comes with can be used at different angles.
Portables give you access to large app stores, iPad to the Apple app store and Samsung to the Google Play store, which has millions of Android apps.
A Windows tablet PC might be right for you with its versatility as combination computer and screen you can draw on. An i5 or i7 is best to run Photoshop. There are also portable Windows machines with less powerful Atom processors that are good for use with less demanding art software.
Several Lenovo ThinkPad Yogas have Wacom pens and are powerful and rugged computers with comfortable keyboards. The Lenovo Yoga 14 is a powerful touchscreen with a Wacom pen and plenty of horsepower. The unique Lenovo Yoga Book combines a graphics tablet and screen and comes in Windows and Android.
The new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has been released with a Wacom AES pen, and the new Dell Latitude 2-in-1 that’s more powerful was announced in Jan. 2017 and will soon be released. The Lenovo Miix 720 is another promising newcomer with a Wacom pen.
(Most tablet PCs offer full-size ports, while portables have micro USB. If you’re not looking for an art device but rather a portable with a full USB, check out our article about tablets that sport full-size USB ports.)
Top high-end PC choice: Wacom MobileStudio Pro
The snazziest of all the drawing tablets, this all-in-one slate from Wacom packs a lot of power, 8,192 pressure levels, Cintiq controls, two sizes of 13 and 16, and a 3D camera option. Its form factor makes it portable. We did a hands-on review. This is probably the best tablet PC for artists, if budget allows.
Take your time to browse the choices before making a decision, and feel free to ask questions.
Who uses tablets for art?
Illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, cartoonists, animators, crafters, architects, doodlers, and other visual artists use a digital drawing tablet with stylus. There are specialized, art-centric drawing tablets, and general computers with art capabilities. There is no one-size-fits-all.
Before you buy
Before you buy, consider your budget and specific needs.
Do you need high-res files? If you’re looking at tablet PCs, what are the demands of your art software–are you a Photoshop user, or could you get by with a smaller art program? Do you need customized keyboard commands? Do you want to scan traditional media artwork, then use the tablet to edit and color?
Will you be traveling and want a portable art studio? Using it in bad weather? Will you be commuting with your tablet? Do you lose small parts easily? (If so, you might want to pick one that has a pen silo or way of attaching the pen, or a suitable carrying case).
Do you prefer to draw at a desk, or on the couch? Will you be using a multiple monitor setup? All these things make a difference in how happy you will be with your purchase.
Think about what else you might do besides draw–such as write and sign your name–for instance, you can sign documents. Some devices have handwriting-to-text conversion.
What other things can you do?
You can trace designs. Photographers can use the pen to edit photos with sensitivity and accuracy. Game designers can create video-game art. Scrapbookers can do digital scrapbooking.
Art tablets are great if you’re an artist who does print-on-demand work; they allow you to skip the scanning stage. Schools have adapted them for educational use. You can also use them for OSU gaming.
OK, what’s the best tablet for the money?
If you want a portable sketchbook with a screen, I’m going to go with the Galaxy Tab A with S Pen 10.1″. You will have portability, the whole Google Play store, an SD card slot, and a Wacom pen. I think this is a great drawing tablet for carrying around.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The best drawing tablets feel the most natural to use the pen on. What’s beneath the screen has a lot to do with this.
There is an active digitizer under the screen. The digitizer picks up signals from the pen.
Nearly all artists need pressure sensitivity. Pressure sensitivity makes it so that the harder you press down, the thicker your line gets, just as using a pencil on paper. In some programs, you can also control opacity and other features using pressure sensitivity.
You also want good pen accuracy. “Parallax” is the name for the little gap you will see between your pen and line.
And, you want no lag time between when you touch the pen to the screen and when you see your line.
Palm rejection is important. It enables the computer to distinguish between touches your hand and from the pen, so that you don’t accidentally make a mark with your hand while drawing with the pen. This is only an issue if the model has multitouch.
Multitouch is the ability to use gestures such as zoom, pan, and navigate by using two or more fingers. Art software is increasingly made to integrate with touch. Almost all Wacoms have touch, from Cintiq to Intuos and Bamboo. Our article on how to pick a Wacom graphics tablet will help you understand the ins and outs of Wacom’s offerings.
The touch feature is not a necessity. A lot of the Wacom alternatives do not have it, and some Cintiqs do not have it.
TYPES OF TABLETS
Graphics tablets are made mostly of plastic and attach to a computer. They do not have a screen; you draw on them while looking at your computer screen. Some people call them computer drawing pads. The keys on the side, and the buttons on the pen, can be programmed to various commands.
Graphics tablets are considered the best drawing tablets for beginners or those on a budget, or if you don’t need to draw on the screen. If you mainly want a cheap drawing tablet, this is the type for you. Our graphics tablet reviews take an in-depth look at individual models.
Pen-display tablets. Many prefer a tablet with a screen, such as the Wacom Cintiq, for its directness. It’s a monitor your draw on that mirrors your computer display. Because you draw on it, it’s referred to as a tablet monitor. Most people feel the best drawing tablet is one that gives you the freedom to work directly with your pen on the display.
Tablet PCs run Windows. Some of the best are the Surface Pro 4, Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14, or the art-centric Wacom MobileStudio Pro. The best choice for students might be a tablet PC 2-in-1, as it can be a general-use laptop as well. An i7 or i5 processor is recommended for running Adobe programs.
The Surface 3 is older and less powerful, but is an economical choice for light Photoshop.
For most professional artists, it is best to be able to run full Windows in order to use full Photoshop and other desktop programs.
There’s not one best drawing tablet for Mac or PC. If you have one you have to attach to your computer, it will work equally well on both, though occasionally some drivers will have a little variation in certain art programs in different operating systems.
There is Linux support for some. Not all art programs enable pressure sensitivity.
Click to see a comparison chart of all we’ve reviewed so far, with handy links to reviews and shopping.
Digital Drawing Tablet Brands
Wacom (pronounced Wah-kem) dominates the market. Their Intuos and Cintiq line are considered the top drawing tablets. The Intuos and Intuos Pro line is considered the best graphics tablet brand, and the Cintiq pen-display monitor line is considered to be the top tablet with screen. Wacom offers the most advanced features and controls, including pressure sensitivity in Adobe Illustrator.
Companies such as Ugee, Yiynova, Artisul, Monoprice, and more make both graphics tablets and tablets with screens that offer most of the same functions. Some artists feel a one of these is the best drawing tablet because their approach to drawing doesn’t require all the Cintiq features. See our reviews of these affordable drawing tablets here.
These non-Wacom brands do not get pressure sensitivity in Illustrator, but the ones I have tried do get it in vector layers in Clip Studio Paint, so that is one way of getting the line variation you may want in vector.
Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Dell, Vaio, Toshiba, Fujitsu and more also make Windows tablet PCs with digitizers for use with art. They can handle full desktop digital art software programs.
PC companies Microsoft and Dell are also getting into the “big drawing tablet” field with their big-screen offerings.
This site contains many drawing tablet reviews, so use the menu or search bar on the right to find them by type or brand.
Digital art tablets at a glance:
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Here’s some more info on some of our top choices. (Note: if you don’t see some of these on the chart, it’s because we had to make room for the new, but they are still recommended).
Powerful Tablet PC 2-in-1: Vaio Z Canvas
We like the Vaio Z Canvas in this category, with the Microsoft Surface Pro line close behind. These, as well as the Surface Book, are Windows tablet PC 2-in-1s with detachable keyboards. Microsoft released the 28″ Surface Studio all-in-one in Nov. 2016.
(Click for our Surface Pro 4 review)
You may decide that a 2-in-1 or tablet PC is the best tablet for the money, since you can use it as a computer as well as an art studio.
Slate tablets have been getting rarer, but Wacom has just created a new one with its MobileStudio Pro. A slate has no keyboard specifically made to connect with it–you can connect your choice of keyboard via USB or Bluetooth.
Best tablet PC Convertibles: Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga line
A convertible tablet is a laptop where the screen swivels or bends back so you can lay it flat with the screen facing up. We like the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14, 460, Carbon, and X1. The 460 is a good general-use PC convertible that’s not too pricey. The 14 has a discrete graphics so is good if you’re a heavy graphics user. ThinkPad Yogas bend into different positions called modes.
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro (mentioned above) supplants the Cintiq Companion 2. Critics of the CC2 don’t like the fan noise, and the battery life was not so great, but drawing is smooth and silky.
Wacom Cintiq HD Pen and Touch
The Cintiq is a combination of tablet and monitor. This Cintiq 27HD Pen Touch (below) has to attach to a computer (laptops are fine, as are operating systems Windows, Mac and Linux). These come in sizes from 13″ to 22″ to 27.” Touch is an optional feature. With it, you can use gestures to pan, zoom, rotate and navigate, and finger paint as well. Some art software is specially made for touch.
Here’s a 22″, 18 lb. Cintiq 22HD Touch, used by artists and animators.
We also like the XP-Pen Artist 22E. Click for review.
Click for our Wacom Cintiq 13HD review.
What about the regular iPad?
The non-Pro iPad runs a mobile Apple OS. can’t run full Photoshop, only apps, and it does not have pressure sensitivity.
But overall, the regular iPad is not the best art tablet for the majority of users. It is certainly possible to do fantastic art on it, and there are many great art apps you can use with it. But you’d be working around limitations.
You can also use any of them with 3D software such as Blendr. Most are pressure sensitive. The Wacom Intuos 3D has some software specifically for 3D sculpting.
Trends in drawing tablets
Trends right now include real-world elements such as ways to digitize using real pens and markers, stronger 3D program support, innovative input devices such as the Microsoft Surface Dial. Though it has yet to hit the shelves, increased sophistication in optics, such as scanning 3D objects from the screen and being able to manipulate them.
Best tablet for beginners
If you’re just getting your feet wet, it may be wise to try a graphics tablet, as it’s the least expensive of the options. The Wacom Intuos Draw is the simplest Wacom. It doesn’t have touch. It’s small, so good for kids and small drawings. It may be the best graphics tablet for beginners.
Any tablet is fine for beginners. The main challenge with tablets is learning the software, such as Photoshop. There is some learning curve to customizing the keyboard and pen shortcuts. But you don’t have to use those controls.
It’s best to start with a simple drawing program such as ArtRage or Sketchbook Pro and work your way up to Photoshop. Photoshop Elements may be all you need. Learning the basics such as layers and brushes will get you on your way.
Types of digitizer
While this may seem dull and technical, the digitizer affects the feeling of drawing, so it’s important to understand the basics. The digitizer in a tablet refers to a layer under the screen or surface that reacts to the pen and maps its location on the screen. Those with pressure sensitivity are called active digitizers.
The main active digitizer systems are Electromagnetic Resonance (EMR), which is found in Cintiqs and older tablet PCs, Wacom Intuos graphics tablets, and Wacom alternatives. Wacom has its own patented EMR system.
Most artists consider EMR to be the best digitizer, as it’s the most sensitive, highest resolution, natural-feeling, fluid drawing experience. I do agree that the very best drawing tablets have EMR.
The drawbacks are that there can be jitter around the edges of the display, and there’s a bit of parallax, meaning a gap between the pen and tablet. The company has improved upon these flaws a lot in recent years, especially jitter.
Wacom EMR has a batteryless pen, meaning the pen is “passive,” because it draws power from the tablet. (You will still hear these pens called “active pens,” a general term for pressure-sensitive pens whether they are technically active or passive).
Wacom AES digitizer
The newer Wacom-penabled tablets have Wacom Active Electrostatic Solution, also called Wacom ES or Wacom AES. Some of these pens take a battery; others can be charged via a charging port; the pen and digitizer work together to complete the charge. These are quite sensitive and nearly as good as EMR. Here’s a diagram from Wacom:
“Latency” refers to the distance between when the pen touches the tablet and where the mark appears.
Microsoft’s Surface line, all use N-trig, though the original Surface Pro and Surface 2 used Wacom EMR. The Vaio Z Canvas also uses N-trig.
N-trig DuoSense pens take a battery and are based on projected capacitive touch technology, and combine pen and multitouch. You do not see the cursor while drawing, whereas with Wacom you do. When you draw, the mark is right below the pen, as with a real pen, because the digitizer is closer to the surfaace.
Though we do not feel the N-trig has as fluid a drawing experience or the accuracy of Wacom, some of the best tablet PCs use N-trig and many artists do like it.
Synaptics is a less popular type of digitizer in the a the art-tablet world, but it’s still out there. It uses ClearForce pen and touch controllers. One computer with Synaptics is the HP Spectre x360. The drawing experience with Synaptics is OK, but not as good as the others.
Apple iPad Pro digitizer
Apple doesn’t release info about levels of pressure sensitivity, but the Apple Pencil is very sensitive, and accurate as well. It also has tilt sensitivity. You don’t see the cursor with the iPad Pro.
Lower-priced Wacom competitors use drivers based on or similar to UC-Logic and older, expired Wacom patents. These include XP-Pen, Ugee, Hanvon, Atmel, and more. These provide an excellent drawing experience, with responsive pressure sensitivity.
Which digitizer you choose to use is a personal choice based on preference. Wacom and Microsoft are working together on a universal pen, so there will be fewer decisions to make.
Drawing with the active pen
The following are different aspects of digital drawing. The first two are elements of the drawing experience.
The pressure curve refers to how hard you press to get your lines to a certain thickness or opacity. It’s an adjustable setting. If the pressure curve is steep, small increases in pressure will produce a thicker line or deeper opacity. If the pressure curve is shallow, you will need more force to increase line width or opacity.
Initial Activation Force
This refers to the amount of pressure needed to make a mark. Wacom EMR requires the least pressure; even gently gliding the pen over the screen produces a mark. On N-trig, the IAF seems to be about the weight of the pen itself.
Tilt and rotation sensitivity
The best graphics tablets and tablets with screens have pens that get natural tilt sensitivity (angle detection). Wacom Cintiqs and Intuos have this, and so does the iPad Pro. On Galaxy Tab A with S Pen and Galaxy Note, Samsung’s Enhanced S pen has it to an extent. The Lenovo Yoga Book offers 100-degree tilt sensitivity.
Tablet PCs (except the Lenovo Yoga Book Windows) don’t have the tilt feature even if they are Wacom-penabled.
A tablet PC won’t give you as many customizable features such as physical hotkey shortcut buttons, but you can use an on-screen Wacom Radial menu or an app if you want to program shortcuts.
As mentioned, only Wacom professional-level tablets offer rotation sensitivity, also known as barrel roll, which lets you create patterns, sort of like Spirograph, by rotating the pen. The bad news is you have to use the optional Art Pen in order to do this, and this only works on older Cintiq and Intuos models.
What about Apple?
“But I love MACS!” Steve Jobs did not like tablets too much at first, though he later changed his mind and put out the iPad–but even then, he was anti-stylus, thinking hands were enough.
There are two sizes of iPad Pro. The iPad Pro can be a professional digital drawing tablet. Used with the Astropad app, it can become like a Cintiq, feeding the image into your Mac. Used with the Duet Display app, you can do the same thing with your Windows machine.
The Axiotron Modbook Pro [Mac OS X] (see its Amazon page) is a MacBook Pro that runs the full Mac OS, but sadly it costs much more and does not do quite as much, as, say, the Microsoft Surface Pro.
2-in-1 PC, pen-display monitor, or mobile? How to decide
A familiar quandary for artists is trying to decide between a Cintiq and a tablet PC or even a mobile sketchbook. That is a difficult choice. This New York Times article outlines the difference between a tablet running Windows and one with a mobile operating system. Mainly, a mobile operating system won’t be able to run desktop Adobe programs such as Photoshop.
If portability, even around the house is not extremely important to you, then a Cintiq or other tablet monitor is a more satisfying art experience. Most artists feel a large screen makes the best drawing tablet.
But if you don’t want to deal with having to attach your tablet to your computer, then a tablet PC with pressure sensitivity, such as a Surface Pro, Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga or the soon-to come Miix 720, is not a bad choice. A 2-in-1 gives you the option of a detachable or attached keyboard. The Miix 720, specs-wise, may become one of the best tablet PCs.
A portable Android tablet or iPad Pro is a great thing to have, too. The convenience of just picking it up and drawing, rather than waiting for boot up, can be motivating. Apple iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil arguably is the top active stylus.
Mobile tablets let you use the large app stores associated with them, and art apps cost only a few dollars even for the premium ones.
Many feel that the best tablet for drawing is one that’s just flat that you can detach from the keyboard, and they don’t feel they need Express Keys (customizable physical buttons). Others want a 2-in-1 with all the bells and whistles, such as the MobileStudio Pro or Vaio Z Canvas.
Children are natural artists, so we’re also reviewing tablets for kids.
A look back at earlier devices
People first got a glimpse of tablets in sci-fi works in the 1960s. Apple sold the short-lived Apple Graphics Tablet, made by Summagraphics in 1979, with a price tag of $650. It attached to the Apple II.
In the 1990s, the only and therefore the best drawing tablet available was a Wacom graphics tablet and it cost hundreds of dollars.
Digitizing was starting to catch on with the public in the form of scanners. In 2000, Microsoft introduced the first commercially sold tablet PC. No one was interested, save for a few curious artists who saw the potential.
In 2006 I got my first tablet PC, a Toshiba Satellite Portege, and I was hooked. I was able to make more money as an illustrator because I was so much faster. I’d either solely use the Portege, or I’d use traditional media and then scan and edit the image.
Being able to draw right on the screen instead of apart from it made it the best drawing tablet experience I had had. I was able to simply upload art to the illustration client’s server, no scanning needed.
Traditional vs. digital art
Digital art is a very forgiving way of working. You can email or upload files; you can have them printed halfway around the world in the blink of an eye. Creating digital art doesn’t mean you have to stop using traditional media. Many artists combine the two in their work or in the creative process. Some release limited-edition prints of digital art.
I still advocate learning and continuing to use traditional materials as essential to being well-rounded artist. Even the very best drawing tablet won’t do you much good if you haven’t developed your skills.
Working in layers, such as with Photoshop, provides great freedom. Clients pretty much all want the artist to deliver digital files.
With all the choices, everyone from doodler to pro should be able to find the best drawing tablet for their needs and budget.
Click here for a closer look at the newer offerings in tablets for digital artists.
Here’s an introductory video by Wacom about using the Intuos.
We have created this site to help you find YOUR best drawing tablet for drawing, painting, designing, sketching, editing, and doodling. Please share, like, follow, and repin. We love to hear from you in the comments, and are happy to answer questions.
Tablets are a great way to make art that’s “pretty as a pixel.”
history source: Wikipedia
end of The best drawing tablet for you