best drawing tablet

Best drawing tablet: a complete guide to art and graphics tablets

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Find the best art tablet with screen or computer drawing pad: a complete guide

Tablets for Artists is here to help you find the best drawing tablet to create digital art and graphics, whether you’re a beginner, hobbyist, or professional artist.

Our expertise comes through hands-on testing, research, and years of experience creating art for print and Web publishers.

8 TOP TABLETS FOR ARTISTS 2017

The table contains links to our thorough drawing tablet reviews. These are our top choices for the best tablets on the market, including non-screen graphics tablets, top tablets with screens, and the best tablet PCs for art.

Wacom Cintiq 13HD Pen & Touch
wacom cintiq 13hd pen and touch

Cintiqs go up to 27". Top brand with the most features, including pen tilt/rotation sensitivity.
Read our review Check price
XP-Pen Artist 22E tablet monitor
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The XP-Pen Artist 22E is similar to a Cintiq but much more affordable. It has 8 customizable hotkeys (16 total, 8 on each side of the screen, for easy access with either hand).Read our review Check price
Wacom Intuos Pro Medium (2017)
Wacom-Intuos-Pro-2017
Premium graphics tablet. Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. (Model: PTH660)

Intuos Pro Paper Edition option uses real pens and paper. (Model: PTH660P)
Read our review


See our article on choosing a Wacom graphics tablet.
Check price
Huion 610 Pro
huion-h610-pro-review1

Popular, affordable Wacom Intuos Pro alternative.Read our review Check price
Wacom MobileStudio Pro
wacommobilestudiopro

Two sizes, 13 and 16. 3D camera option. Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 levels.Read our review Check price
Lenovo Yoga 720
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lenovo yoga 720

High-powered laptop with Wacom Lenovo Active pen and dGPU optionRead our review Check Price
(Best Buy)

Lenovo.com
Microsoft Surface Pro (new June 2017). i7 recommended.
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Windows 2-in-1 for art, notetaking, general. New pen has tilt and 4,096 levels.Read our review

Check price
Amazon International link
Apple iPad Pro
appleipadprofordrawing

iOS portable tablet. 12.9" or 9.7", tilt-sensitive, works with Apple Pencil. We recommend the 12.9" size for drawing.
Read our review
Check price
Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen
galaxytabaspen10-1sm
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" HDRead our review

Check price

These are digital drawing pads you attach to a Mac or PC, pen-display tablet monitors, or full computers you can draw on.

You may really want a tablet with a screen, but you think it’s going to cost a fortune. You also don’t want a lemon or something so complicated you can’t use it. The good news is, there are enough art-capable tablets, including tablets with screens, to cover every budget. Even cheap drawing tablets offer the same basic functions as the pricier ones, and will greatly improve your art workflow. Even a beginner can use any of these.

This page covers the best drawing tablets. To see an overview of all tablets reviewed so far, please go to our Comparison Chart page.

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 other brands are not bad.

best drawing tablet

Best graphics tablet: 2017 lineup

What makes the best graphics tablet? It’s a combination of features, including size of the tablet, accuracy of the pen, and functions such as Express Keys that let you program shortcuts.

Wacom Intuos Pro Medium

Wacom refreshed its Intuos Pro lineup for 2017. Wacom Intuos graphics tablets are opaque, non-screen tablets with advanced features such as tilt sensitivity, customization of shortcuts on a per-app basis, and highly customizable pen buttons.

Our favorite is the Intuos Pro Medium. It’s the most popular model among artists, photographers, and designers. The Intuos Pro’s advanced features enable you to customize your workflow, work quickly, and exercise the most creative control.

Click here to read our detailed post on choosing the best Wacom graphics tablet.

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Intuos Pro Medium (2017) with Pro Pen 2. Image courtesy Wacom

The Intuos line also includes lower-priced Intuos tablets such as the Draw; please visit the link above for more info.

Top pick: Intuos Pro Paper Edition

If you want to draw on paper, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition may be the best graphics tablet. You can use a gel pen, ballpoint pen, and in the summer, Wacom is expected to release a real pencil. An app digitizes your art. Under the paper is a regular Intuos Pro tablet. We feel it’s the best drawing tablet without a screen.

Don’t worry–if you get the non-Paper kind, you can add the Paper features later.

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Intuos Pro Paper Edition, Image courtesy Wacom

We prefer Medium size because it allows freedom of arm movement and enough room to draw and edit. Large is often too big for a desk and requires too much arm movement, while small can feel cramped. Small is good for some uses, such as editing certain photos, or working on small drawings or scrapbooking. The Intuos Pro Paper only comes in Medium and Large.

The Wacom Pro Pen 2 delivers a whopping 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. Though the Intuos Pro and Intuos Pro Paper are not cheap, this professional-level graphics tablet has all the bells and whistles. You can customize the Express Keys on a per-app basis, and program the pen’s two buttons to your favorite shortcuts. It’s no wonder that Wacom dominates the market for the best graphics tablet.

Top affordable graphics tablet: Huion H610 Pro

 

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Huion 610 Pro

As an economical pick, the Huion H610 Pro is my top choice in affordable graphics tablets for PC or Mac. It’s got 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 6 hotkeys. The EMR driver gives you a springy, responsive drawing experience. It’s a very affordable item that’s durably built.

Though it lacks tilt sensitivity and can’t be customized per app, the build quality is good and it works well. It can be a little tricky to install for some. It doesn’t come with art software, but there are a lot of free and inexpensive art programs available. I have written a detailed Huion H610 Pro review here.

Top pen-display tablet monitors

A pen-display tablet monitor gives you the most freedom in drawing and almost feels like painting on canvas. These are very desirable. Professional animators at companies such as Disney use large Cintiqs.

Top pick: Wacom Cintiq HD Pen and Touch

The Wacom Cintiq is the most popular in pen-display monitors. Like the Intuos, the Cintiq offers extensive controls, pen-tilt sensitivity, and the Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 pressure levels. 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.

The textured screen is a pleasure to draw on because it has a bit of tooth. Wacom has its own patented digitizer that’s so sensitive you can run your pen lightly over it and still get a visible line.

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. It’s not needed, but Adobe programs are using touch more and more. The tablet can sense which is your hand and which is the pen. Many professional animators and illustrators use large Cintiqs.

Cintiq 22HD tablet monitor

Artist drawing on Wacom Cintiq 27HD

Cintiqs are powerhouses; they are not things you casually carry around, as they are heavy, some over 20 lbs. They allow you to really immerse yourself in drawing. For many artists, they’re dream tablets.

cintiq 22hd touch

Cintiq 22HD Touch, used by artists and animators

Here’s a 22″, 18 lb.  Cintiq 22HD Touch, used by artists and animators. Most artists feel a Cintiq is the best drawing tablet overall.

We also like the XP-Pen Artist 22E. Click for review.

Cintiq 13HD: smaller size, same art features

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Wacom CIntiq 13HD with pen. Image courtesy Wacom

 

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Artist drawing on Wacom Cintiq 13HD. Image courtesy Wacom

Click for our Wacom Cintiq 13HD review.

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″. The Cintiq Pro has not yet completely replaced the 13HD. But it does take the Pro Pen 2, with 8,192 levels of pressure. The Pro doesn’t have Express Keys; you can use an external controller.

Top affordable pen display: XP-Pen 22E

xppen22e review tablet monitor

XP Pen 22E tablet monitor

My favorite pick so far in economical tablet monitors is the XP-Pen Artist 22E because it has Express Keys like a Cintiq. I have done a detailed Artist 22E review where I tested it on Mac and PC with different art programs.

Other good choices we’ve reviewed are the 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 graphics tablet does a lot of what the Intuos does.

We test and review a lot of these affordable non-Wacom tablets on this blog.

Best mobile tablets for artists

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 good digital sketchbooks.

With portable tablets, it’s not quite as easy to organize your files in a central location as on a full-size computer. Each app has its own system. Using cloud storage may be your best bet.

Obviously, only Apple makes iOS devices, so size the main choice to make here.

Top pick, iOS: iPad Pro 12.9″

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 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. It has a fairly slippery surface.

Apps such as Procreate take the iPad Pro to a new level for professional art. The portability and fast bootup time makes it a great travel or go-to sketchbook or art studio. There are many art apps in Apple’s Appstore.

Apple Pencil: excellent drawing stylus

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 didn’t like the idea of a stylus. Things have changed at Apple, and now the Apple Pencil is one of the best drawing styluses as far as accuracy, though it has no programmable buttons or eraser end, and needs to be charged. It has tilt and lets you shade with the side.

Used with the Astropad app, the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil can become an input device like a Cintiq, when attached to a Mac.

 

ipad pro

iPad Pro 12.9″ with Apple Pencil

Best Android tablet for drawing

Android tablets give you a wide range of art apps from the Google Play store. There are not that many Android tablets with pressure sensitivity. Samsung has some other tablets that do that run on Windows, but here we’re going to pick the best Android tablet for art.

Top pick: Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen has a Wacom digitizer and pen with 1,024 levels of pressure. It’s more budget-friendly than the iPad Pro. 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. Samsung’s Air Command makes this a responsive, fun, and versatile all-around tablet and portable sketchbook.

Portable tablets do allow you to work in layers and with high-resolution files, depending on the app.

samsung galaxy tab a s pen 10.1

Samsung Galaxy TabA with S Pen. Image courtesy Samsung

Lenovo Yoga Book: unique computer drawing pad for Android and Windows

The unique Lenovo Yoga Book combines a graphics tablet and touchscreen, and comes in Windows and Android. It has an innovative Halo keyboard that appears and disappears, doubling as a graphics tablet surface and flat, light-up keyboard.

You can place paper on the tablet surface and draw with a real pen, seeing your drawing appear on the screen in real time. The beautiful watchband hinge and additional uses as an e-reader or media device make this a fun choice. It uses Wacom EMR.

lenovo-yoga-book

Lenovo Yoga Book. Image courtesy Lenovo

OK, what’s the best drawing tablet for the money?

If you want a portable digital 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 and travel. The sensitive Wacom digitizer allows you to express your creativity with great accuracy. I do recommend using a larger Wacom pen than the S Pen (please read our Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen review).

Best Windows tablet PCs for art 2017

Many tablet PCs are full-fledged art studios, with active pens and the ability to let you use full Photoshop. A Windows tablet PC might be right for you with its versatility as combination computer and screen you can draw on. You need to take the processing power into consideration. An i5 or i7 is best to run Photoshop. Windows tablets can be detachable, regular laptops, or nondetachable convertibles with rotating screens.

They can also be “Yoga” style, folding into a variety of positions, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga line. They don’t have tilt sensitivity, but are valuable as a combination portable art tablet/productivity laptop. Some are as powerful as desktops.

There are also portable Windows machines with less powerful Atom processors that are good for use with less demanding art software.

Top pick: Wacom MobileStudio Pro

wacommobilestudiopro

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.

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 Wacom MobileStudio Pro review. This is probably the best tablet PC for artists, if budget allows. It runs Windows, but with the Wacom Link, you can attach it to your Mac or PC and use as a regular Cintiq.

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro (mentioned above) supplants the Cintiq Companion 2.

Best tablet PC detachables

Tablet PCs run Windows. They are mostly laptops, detachables, or 2-in-1s. S A detachable tablet means the keyboard comes off, which has advantages for drawing.

The main drawback is these are usually not quite as powerful as some nondetachables, but the ones we’ve listed are powerful enough to run Adobe Creative Cloud.

Recent release: Surface Pro 5

The Surface Pro 5 pen has 4096 levels and tilt. See our article on the new Surface Pro 5 2017. We think it will be a top pick once it comes out.

Top pick: Surface Pro 4

 

bestdrawingtablet-surfacepro4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

See our review of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. The Surface Pro 4 is a go-everywhere device with an N-trig active pen. The computer comes in several configurations, up to an i7 with a discrete graphics card. The pen gets 1,024 levels of pressure. This tablet is popular among artists, though the pen is a bit less sensitive than Wacom.

Lenovo Miix 720: top Wacom detachable

The Lenovo Miix 720 has 4,096 levels and plenty of power. Why pick this? Because of the Wacom pen and fast speed.

Powerful 2-in-1: Vaio Z Canvas

vaioz-canvas

Vaio Z Canvas is an art-centered Windows 2-in-1.

See the Vaio Z Canvas on Amazon.

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. The Vaio  Z Canvas is so powerful you can edit video without a hitch. It’s as powerful as a desktop. It has some art-centric features in the on-screen commands.

It has Core i7-4770HQ with Iris Pro 5200 graphics and a fat 128MB L4 cache. Its Intel GPU gets is as strong as a discrete GPU.

Best tablet PC convertible: 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.

Top pick: Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14 first-gen

An oldie but a goodie. See our review of the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14, a Wacom-penabled tablet PC with NVIDIA graphics.

 

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Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14

Several Lenovo ThinkPad Yogas have Wacom pens and are powerful and rugged computers with comfortable keyboards.The Yoga line folds into various poses: tent, stand, laptop, and tablet.

Quality budget 2-in-1: Surface 3

For instance, the Surface 3, while it has been around for a while, is still a good all-around budget 2-in-1. It’s strong enough to run Photoshop, though not with the level of processor power you may need. It’s better for light Photoshop use. This would be a good one for college students to use for notetaking, homework, and artwork.

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 regular computer as well as an art studio.

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.

(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.)

Tablet PCs with GPU for rendering

A GPU helps with graphics rendering, and is a boon when you’re using 3D programs or certain Photoshop filters. It’s recommended for serious gaming as well.  While it’s not needed for Photoshop, it can be an advantage.

The Microsoft Surface Book doesn’t have the longest battery life but it does have an option with a GPU. It has an N-trig pen.

Even though it’s older, the first-gen ThinkPad Yoga 14 has a GPU.

The Vaio Z Canvas doesn’t have a GPU, but has GPU-level performance.

Best drawing tablet for beginners

If you’re just getting your feet wet, it may be wise to try a graphics tablet (with no screen), as it’s the least expensive of the options. The Wacom Intuos Draw is the simplest Wacom. It doesn’t have multitouch. It’s small, so good for kids and small drawings. It may be the best graphics tablet for beginners. It has four programmable Express Keys, and the pen gets 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity.

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Wacom Intuos Draw with Wacom pen

Any tablet is actually fine for beginners. The main challenge is learning the software, such as Photoshop. There is some learning curve to customizing the keyboard and pen shortcuts. But they are not difficult and you don’t have to use them.

It’s best to start with a simple drawing program such as ArtRage or Sketchbook Pro and work your way up to Photoshop.

Best tablet for photo editing

In graphics tablets, I’d say the Intuos Pro or Intuos Art Pen & Touch are your best bets.

Using a pen to edit photos in Lightroom, Photoshop, and other programs offers great accuracy and sensitivity and can improve photos beyond using only a mouse or trackpad. Some photographers find a small tablet size to be ideal, while others find that the best tablet for photo editing has a larger surface.

It’s common to use a Wacom graphics tablet to edit photos. Sometimes you may not need to cover large areas when editing photos, so small could be the right choice.

Many also use tablet PCs such as the Surface Pro for on-the-go editing using Photoshop and Lightroom. The portable Wacom tablet PCs with their Adobe color gamut are also excellent for photographers.

To use Photoshop and other photo editing programs, you need a reasonably powerful computer. See our article on top laptops and 2-in-1s for photo editing and Photoshop.

FINDING YOUR BEST TABLET

Should you get a drawing tablet with a screen?

Most people do prefer a tablet with screen, as you can see what you’re doing. We cover many that are quite affordable. Keep in mind that attaching a tablet to a screen, such as a Cintiq requires more cables and is heavier. Portable screen tablets can be a good solution but have less processing power. A graphics tablet without a screen takes some getting used to but opens the door to creating digital art. It’s all about finding a balance between cost and features. If you’re a beginning artist, a graphics tablet may actually be more challenging.

Before you buy

Before you buy a computer drawing pad or drawing tablet with screen, consider your budget and specific needs.

Do you need high-res files? Are you a Photoshop user? Do you need customized keyboard commands?

Will you be traveling or commuting with your device? 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). Will you do OSU gaming?

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.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The best 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.

You also want good pen accuracy. “Parallax” is the name for the little gap you may see between your pen and line. Though it’s fairly easy to get used to, it can get in the way of accuracy.

And, you want no lag time (also called latency) 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. Though you don’t need touch, it’s a useful feature and part of what makes a best drawing tablet.

Many 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.

TYPES OF TABLETS

Understanding the different forms is essential to picking the right tablet.

A graphics tablet, or computer drawing pad, is opaque and 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 tablet for beginners or those on a budget. 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 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 prefer drawing directly on a screen.

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.

You can use a pressure-sensitive stylus with it, such as the Jot Touch . (Read our iPad stylus reviews.) But you are better off having an active digitizer.

But overall, the regular iPad is not the best art tablet for the majority of users. You are better off with the Pro.

3D sculpting with a pen

You can also use any of them with 3D software such as Blendr. Most are pressure sensitive, giving much more of a feeling of sculpting. The Wacom Intuos 3D is the best graphics tablet for those approaching 3d as a hobby, as it 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 drawing tablet

Click to see a comparison chart of all we’ve reviewed so far, with handy links to reviews and shopping.

Tablets are for artists of all kinds

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.

Even if you don’t draw, they’re excellent mouse replacements that are easier on the wrists. They’re also good for note-taking or signatures.

Digital Drawing Tablet Brands

Wacom (pronounced Wah-kem) dominates the market. Their Intuos and Cintiq line are considered to be tops in functions and quality. 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. Wacom is the best digital drawing tablet brand.

Companies such as Ugee, Yiynova, Artisul, Monoprice, and more make both graphics tablets and tablets with screens that offer most of the same functions. 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.

This site contains many drawing tablet reviews, so use the menu or search bar on the right to find them by type or brand.

Infographic: digital art tablets at a glance

best drawing tablet infographic

This might help you figure out the best art tablet for your needs.

If you would like to share this infographic, please use the embed code on this page.

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).

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. Different types and brands give different drawing experiences.

The main active digitizer systems are Electromagnetic Resonance (EMR). Wacom has its own patented EMR system which is found in Cintiqs and older tablet PCs, Wacom Intuos graphics tablets, and Samsung tablets with Wacom. Non-Wacom tablets also use a form of EMR.

Best digitizer for art tablets: EMR

Most artists consider EMR to be the best digitizer, as it’s the most sensitive, highest resolution, natural-feeling, fluid drawing experience.

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’s EMR is patented. Non-Wacom tablets also mostly use EMR, also very sensitive, just as good in my opinion.

Apple iPad Pro

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. The iPad Pro’s digitizer is on par with EMR.

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. AES is nearly as sensitive as EMR. Here’s a diagram from Wacom:

wacom-aes-diagram

Wacom AES.   Source

N-trig digitizer

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. When you draw, the mark is right below the pen.

Though we do not feel the N-trig has as fluid a drawing experience or the accuracy of Wacom, for an overall productivity tool, we have the Surface Pro on our best tablet PC list, and it uses N-trig. Many artists do like it.

With the advent of the new Surface Pro 5 and the new Microsoft-Wacom pen, the era of favoriting one over the other may be over. It’s now mid-2017 and I’m waiting for these new items to come out.

Synaptics digitizer

Synaptics is a less popular type of digitizer in the a the art-tablet world, but it’s still out there. One computer with Synaptics is the HP Spectre x360. The drawing experience with Synaptics is OK, but not as good as the others.

Other digitizers

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.

Drawing with the active pen

The following are different aspects of digital drawing. The first two are elements of the drawing experience.

Pressure Curve

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.

Best drawing tablet art software

For Mac and Windows, the Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop and Illustrator, are the most popular, as well as Clip Studio Paint, Sketchbook Pro, and CorelDraw, and ArtRage, which has a lot of fun features such as glitter and impasto. Gimp is a free program similar to Photoshop, while Inkscape, also free, is like Illustrator.

For mobiles, Procreate for iPad/iPad Pro is a favorite, and on iOS and Android, Sketchbook, ArtRage, and Infinite Painter are all fine programs.

2-in-1 PC, pen-display monitor, or mobile? Find what’s right for you

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 is not extremely important to you, then a Cintiq or other tablet monitor will give you a more satisfying art experience. A large screen makes a big difference. But if you’re a sitting-on-the couch person, the best drawing tablet could mean something portable and small.

But if you don’t want to deal with having to attach your tablet to your computer, then a tablet PC with pressure sensitivity is not a bad choice.

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.

For something really large, the Microsoft Surface Studio is a big 2-in-1 with very high specs. There’s also a the Dell Canvas, a large tablet monitor, and a Dell 2-in-1 that’s not shabby.

Children are natural artists, so we’re also reviewing tablets for kids.

Digital art advantages

Creating digital art doesn’t mean you have to stop using traditional media. Even the most expensive drawing tablet won’t do you much good if you haven’t developed your skills. You can combine traditional and digital media, or photograph or scan your traditionally created work and make adjustments on your digital drawing tablet.

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.

These fun, fascinating devices are becoming a must-have for creative workers. We have created this site to help you find YOUR best drawing tablet for drawing, painting, designing, sketching, editing, doodling, and sharing. We’ve strived to make our drawing tablet reviews as helpful and thorough as possible.

Please share, like, follow, repin, and join our mailing list. 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.”

See our large comparison chart of all tablets reviewed so far.

history source: Wikipedia

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Best drawing tablets: a complete guide
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Best drawing tablets: a complete guide
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LOOKING FOR the best drawing tablet? Whether it's a graphics pad, pen-display monitor, or tablet PC? Let Tablets for Artists help you with our comprehensive, easy-to-understand reviews and personalized advice.
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199 thoughts on “Best drawing tablet: a complete guide to art and graphics tablets

  1. Johanna

    Hello. I hope that I’m not too late to get answers to my questions. I have just started using digital media for art. I want to start a web-comic by the end of this year but I don’t have a drawing tablet and my regular tablet(not a drawing tablet) has met it’s end. My comic won’t be super detailed but it will be colorful.(I don’t know if that affects my tablet options or not).
    Anyways, I am looking for a drawing tablet that is smaller than 15 inches and can run apps like MediBang(paint/drawing app) Gimp(a free “like” Photoshop program; optional) LINEWEBTOON, and games like Iruna and Fallout Shelter with a decent amount of space and the ability to have a 16GB SD card on it as well.. I think I’d like see what I am drawing on the tablet’s screen and on my laptop, rather than just on my laptop. My laptop is the Lenovo Think Pad T400 and I have Windows 7. It’s fine if I can only draw on it while it’s connected to my laptop but I would like to be able to use all of the other features(like app use) if there are any, anywhere that I have WiFi. Pressure sensitivity is not super important to me because I tend to write really heavily and go over lines more than once to get them thicker rather than press harder. I don’t have Bluetooth connect-ability with my laptop so using cords is a must! My price range is under $200. Also, do all drawing tablets automatically come with an art program on them? Do they have app stores too? I’m looking forward to your help and reccomendations.
    Note~ I read about %90 of this really helpful article but I can’t accurately use all of the terms yet so I hope this was descriptive enough. ~

    Reply
    1. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

      Hi,
      Most do come with apps or downloads, but some of the lower-cost Wacom-alternative ones (such as Huion) do not. Wacom does, and any separate tablet that’s also a computer has apps.

      For your budget, unfortunately, there aren’t tablets with screens that you attach to your computer, unless you buy used. The cheapest one is the XP-pen 10″ but it’s around $300 right now. There are some small Windows art tablets you could use by themselves (not attached to a computer) that around that much, such as the older Asus VivoTab Note 8, or the Dell Venue 8 Pro, also older.

      If you don’t care about pressure sensitivity, you can use anything with a touchscreen and regular stylus (like non-Pro iPad type of stylus) Android tablet, any touchscreen computer, or iPad. But then you will also not have palm rejection, which is a pain, as it means your palm can make a mark. You can check out this post about drawing styluses that can give you some pressure sensitivity–some work for both iPad, Android, and PCs–they do work through Bluetooth so the tablet would need those. All Android tablets give you access to the Google Play store, which has tons of apps, some free. iPads don’t have SD card slots but most other tablets do. There are a lot of Android tablets in that price range. You would have to use mobile apps from the Google Play store, not the desktop Gimp that you have.

      Wi-fi doesn’t really relate to the features, they will work without Wi-fi. Wacom Intuoses can attach to a computer via Wi-fi or cord. The tablets with screens that attach to computer all use cords.

      You may be OK just buying a non-screen tablet such as an Intuos, then you can stick to the art programs you have or use the ones that come with it. There’s an Intuos Comics Pen and Touch that comes with Clip Studio Paint Pro and Anime Studio.

      If you decide whether to get one with a screen or not and still have more questions let me know.

      Reply
  2. Emily

    Hello, thanks for this helpful article! I was so excited to see that comments are still receiving replies so many months later. Anyway, I have just recently been getting into art, mostly pencil and paper but some oil and watercolor painting too. I already have a laptop but I want a tablet to work on digital art because my phone isn’t quite doing it for me anymore. I’m a college student so price is important, I’d like to go as cheap as possible while still getting a product that will work for me. the pressure sensitivity is something I definitely want. I don’t want anything with a keyboard or that must be attached to a computer, I want something that works by itself and that I can draw on just like pencil and paper. Thanks for all your help!

    Reply
    1. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

      Hi, yes I’m still here lol. I think iPad Pro is a great tool–the larger screen especially gives adequate room to draw. Or, a less costly, the Galaxy Tab A with S Pen, which runs on Android. If you want Windows, which would allow you to use full desktop programs and not just apps, then the Surface 3 and Mytrix are both pretty affordable. Or a used Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 1, they are not made anymore but some are still around.

      Reply
      1. Emily

        thanks for the quick response! My budget is definitely on the lower end of this. I think a used Surface Pro 2 might work for me, but it doesn’t look like it comes with a stylus or pen? do you know if there is a generic stylus I can buy that will still allow for pressure sensitivity and stuff? sorry for the dumb questions I’m clueless about this. thanks in advance!

        Reply
        1. Emily

          Actually I found a refurbished Samsung galaxy tab 3 for a good price, do you know of a stylus or pen that I can buy separate that will be compatible with that? thanks again.

          Reply
          1. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

            That doesn’t have pressure sensitivity or palm rejection. You could get it in some apps with specific pens–this article about styluses goes over some pens and apps (most will work with Android as well as iOS). But the Galaxy Tab 3 would be more like drawing on your phone, the drawing experience won’t be as good as using a pressure-sensitive tablet.

        2. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

          Hi,
          Not dumb questions at all. I just saw this question, but I think it actually came before the last one. Here’s the answer if you’re still considering the Surface Pro 2. This one is the original Microsoft pen for the SP2. As they are not made any more, they have gone up but the refurbished ones are more reasonable. This oneis a copy of the MS pen and has the magnet and eraser.
          Or, this one, made by Samsung (for their computers that use the same tech), will also work on the SP2, but won’t have the eraser or the magnet that holds the pen to the side of the tablet.
          P.S., you don’t really need an eraser end, as you can use an eraser “brush” in your art software.

          Reply
          1. Emily

            I made a huge mistake a placed my order before reading your response! I do not like the Samsung Galaxy tab 3, even just the way the screen looks is strange and makes my eyes hurt somehow. I’m planning on returning it and looking into other cheaper options. I was looking at some earlier comments and I was wondering if you still recommend the Toshiba Encore 2 Write? There is a cheaper version without the “Write” bit in the title but I’m assuming that means it’s without all the features that make it a great drawing tablet?
            Thanks again so much for your time!

          2. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

            Oh! sorry about that. Perhaps you can adjust the settings to turn the brightness down. Or type “blue light filter” into the Google Play store and download one of those apps, they will make the screen easier on the eyes by taking out the blue light. Yes the Encore 2 Write is good. You are correct, if you get the one without the Write, you will not be getting the drawing features. Maybe also consider the Galaxy Tab A with S Pen, which is pretty affordable.

          3. Emily

            Hi,
            Do you know if all iPads have pressure sensitivity and/or palm rejection? the cheapest one is the iPad mini 2 but I can’t find this information. thank you for helping me so much!

  3. Ariana

    Im a artist who likes to get her hands with the art and pressure sensitivity is a big deal to me, i am on the go alot and need something that has a sturdy travel quality with long lasting battery and pen sensitivity to it. ive had a bamboo tablet that has no screen and very drable but sadly i think a charger peice is going to be costly to replace. also the length of it was fine for me and i enjoyed having something physically to draw on while looking at another screen but the sensitivity of some of the buttons that where on the tablet itself like quick shortcuts would sometimes get in my way. id like to think that a tablet with a screen would be an option however im not sure about which one and what kind of programs i can fit into the storage (or might even come with it already, is that an option too?) without having the system slow or cause any problems. i was wondering if there might be any suggestions that might fit the universal tablet i might be searching for. my birthday is comming up soon so im hoping to ask for it as maybe a present or even save up for the said tablet. please help soon

    Reply
    1. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

      Hi, it would help if I could know your budget, and which programs you want to use. For being on the go, something like the iPad Pro or Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen or Galaxy Note are all good choices. These run apps that you can download from the tablets. The storage should be ok for the apps, you can keep large art files in cloud storage or an SD card (except iPad Pro does not have an SD slot, but you can buy the Pro with different amounts of storage, or use Cloud storage or sync files to your computer). If you want to run full desktop programs like Photoshop then you’re looking at a Windows PC type of tablet or laptop such as Surface Pro 4. All the tablets on this site have pressure sensitivity. Let me know if you have more questions.

      Reply
  4. Kathy Engelhard

    Thank you for this great website for artists. I can’t find a mega laptop that is 15″ or so
    that has a NVidia 980 GPA, 970 GPA or 780 GPA and works with a pen…
    I7 CPU at least 16GB RAM. 2K would be the icing on the cake.
    I want to draw in Toon Boom Harmony Premium 14 and do all kinds of video and image
    editing. And, I want to sit on the couch and draw.
    Thanks again.
    Kathy

    Reply
    1. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

      Hi, unfortunately, to my knowledge there is nothing quite as powerful as that in that size, wish there were. There are some without the discrete graphics, and some that have it but are just touchscreen (not pressure sensitive). The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14 (gen. 1) is closer as it has the graphics, but the screen is smaller and it’s i5. If you could go even smaller, the Vaio Z Canvas might be good for you. Dell Inspiron 15 7568 and HP Spectre x360 15 are the right size but integrated graphics (less powerful than the Vaio’s). Sorry!

      Reply
      1. Madge

        Hello-

        There is a very recently released convertible laptop that fits most of those specs- the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. (i7, NVIDIA 940, 16GB RAM, 15.6″). I purchased it with the intent of digital design programs and thus far, the graphics are great, and the only problem has been finding a pen that works. (The model has only been out a few weeks so the hunt for all the specs is still going on but it is a touchscreen with the RAM and discreet graphics. I’ve yet to figure out if it is wacom enabled, as I am new to the whole stylus world and it’s hard to understand, plus the computer sales guy said it might not be). I think for people whose primary need is the discreet graphics, it might be something to look in to! I’ve had mine a few weeks and am very happy with it using photoshop and lightroom. (The pen hunt is still on, though, so if anyone here has found something for it…)

        Reply
        1. tablet@tabletsforartists.com

          Hi,
          No, that doesn’t have an active-pen option. Most computers don’t, if you want that you really have to pick one ahead of time. You can use a graphics tablet or tablet monitor with it though, or you can get pressure sensitivity via Bluetooth with some apps. This article about iPad drawing styluses has some that can be used on Windows too along with the apps. You can also use any regular stylus without pressure if that’s of use.

          Reply
  5. Sam

    Hey hey. I have a Yiynova MSP15, and it did the job for a good few years until the backlight died. I managed to replace the backlight, but messed up the screen in the process. Whoops! It still works as a non-monitor tablet but the itch to have the screen back has never gone away.

    I thought I would go for the Surface Pro 4, but I now think I want the Cintiq Companion 2. Because I want a drawing tablet first, and a portable computer second. I wouldn’t have to have the latest and greatest to guarantee the CC2 would last me many many years (in theory) because my desktop is a gaming PC that can handle pretty much anything. 3D art, 2D, lots of layers, animation, no sweat. Being able to take it with me to get basic work done away from the desk would be a nice little bonus–a bonus I’d probably use almost every day, but still just a bonus–while my main computer would do all the heavy lifting. So, a peripheral tablet with its own computer in it is very appealing to me, and a few of the complaints about it like the battery life and screen brightness don’t matter that much to me. The price is no deterrent, since I was thinking I’d have to get a $1600 Surface just to make sure it would last a long time, and, well, it’s not for casual use.

    But I can’t find any reviews from people using it the same way I would. They all talk about it as a standalone device and how it compares to others. I need to know if there are any problems connecting it to a PC. I bet I can trust Wacom to make a top-tier tablet monitor, but you never know. I also want to know if there are any other tablets out there that can be used both as tablet monitors and as standalone computers.

    It’ll be about a month and a half before I make a move, so I want to make sure I spend it deciding to make the right one.

    Reply

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