best drawing tablet

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

  • 849
    Shares

Best drawing tablet: a guide for artists of all levels

You may 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. Tablets for Artists is here to help you find the best drawing tablet for your needs.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or professional, we can make expert recommendations. We’re artists who have used drawing and graphics tablets for over a decade. We do hands-on testing and research. We attend conferences and follow developments in the tablet and digital art world.

TOP TABLETS FOR ARTISTS 2017

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
xp-penartist22e-box
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
lenovoyoga720-15-tabletpc lenovo yoga 720
High-powered laptop with Wacom Lenovo Active pen (4096 levels). and dGPU optionRead our review Check Price
(Best Buy)

Lenovo.com
Lenovo Ideapad Miix 720
miix720review Lenovo Miix 720
Detachable tablet makes it ideal for drawing. Lenovo Active Pen. (note: Miix 720 is the same as IdeaPad Miix 720)Read our review Check price
Microsoft Surface Pro (new June 2017). i7 recommended.
newsurfacepro5
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). 10.1" HDRead our review

Check price
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 with S Pen
Samsung Galaxy Tab-S3-with-S-Pen
Android portable tablet. 9.7" Super AMOLED screen; HDR; Refined S Pen; optional keyboard accessory. Check price

The table contains links to our thorough drawing tablet reviews. These are our top choices for the best tablets on the market. They include graphics tablets, mobile tablets, and pen display tablets. We also cover the best tablet PCs for artists.

Graphics tablets are digital drawing pads you attach to a Mac or PC. Pen-display tablets, or tablet monitors, have screens. You also attach these tablets to a Mac or PC. Tablet PCs are full computers you can draw on. Mobile tablets are tablets such as the iPad.

The good news is there are enough art-capable tablets to cover every budget. Even cheap drawing tablets offer the same basic functions as the pricier ones.

Are you a beginner? None of these tablets has a big learning curve, but you might want to start out with a graphics tablets. We’ll go into the best tablets for beginners.

Wacom and other brands

Wacom dominates the digital drawing pad market. But they’re not the only game in town for computer drawing pads. I’ve gotten to test a lot of other brands to bring you first-hand experience.

best drawing tablet

Best graphics tablet 2017

What makes the best graphics tablet in 2017? Size, stylus pen accuracy, and pressure sensitivity all factor in. Functions such as Express Keys that let you program shortcuts are also important. So is build quality and ease of driver installation.

Wacom Intuos Pro Medium

Wacom refreshed its Intuos Pro lineup for 2017. Intuos graphics tablets offer tilt sensitivity, advanced customization, and programmable pen buttons.

Our favorite is the Intuos Pro Medium. It’s the most popular model among artists, photographers, and designers. The Intuos Pro lets you exercise the most creative control. You can customize the shortcuts for each individual app.

The Wacom Intuos line’s former name was Wacom Bamboo.

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

best graphics tablet

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.

Best graphics tablet: Intuos Pro Paper Edition

If you want to draw on paper, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition may be the best choice. You can use a gel pen, ballpoint pen, and Wacom may release a real pencil. An app digitizes your art. Under the paper is a regular Intuos Pro. The Intuos Pro Paper Edition is the best drawing tablet without a screen.

digital drawing tablet -intuos+Pro+Paper

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.

 

Best affordable graphics tablet: Huion H610 Pro/Pro Plus

 

huion-h610-pro-review

Huion 610 Pro

As a budget pick, the Huion H610 Pro or Pro Plus 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 Pro Plus has 12. The EMR driver gives you a springy, responsive drawing experience. It’s a very affordable computer drawing pad that’s well built.

Though it lacks tilt sensitivity and you can’t customize it 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 tablet monitors

A pen-display tablet or tb 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. The Cintiq is the best tablet for artists in the animation industry and the all-around best tablet monitor.

Top tablet monitors (pen display tablets)

Using a pen-display tablet almost feels like painting on canvas. Professional animators at companies such as Disney use large Cintiqs. The Cintiq is the best tablet for art. It’s also the top tablet for animation and the all-around best tablet for artists.

Best tablet monitor: Wacom Cintiq HD Pen and Touch

The Wacom Cintiq is the most popular in pen-display monitors. The Cintiq offers extensive controls, tilt sensitivity, and 8,192 pressure levels. It has a rotating stand. 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’s patented digitizer is so sensitive it requires very little weight to make a mark.

This Cintiq 27HD Pen Touch (below) has to attach to a computer. The computer can be a laptop or desktop running Windows, OSX, or Linux. Cintiqs range in size 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 uses palm rejection to sense which is your hand and which is the pen.

Cintiq 22HD tablet monitor

Artist drawing on Wacom Cintiq 27HD

Cintiqs are powerhouses. But they are heavy, some over 20 lbs. They allow you to 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.

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

 

Cintiq 13HD: smaller size, same art features

cintiq 13hd tablet with screen

Wacom CIntiq 13HD with pen. Image courtesy Wacom

 

computer drawing pad

Artist drawing on Wacom Cintiq 13HD. Image courtesy Wacom

Click for our Wacom Cintiq 13HD review.

Recent developments for Wacom include the Cintiq Proand MobileStudio Pro. The Cintiq Pro is like the 13HD and also comes in 15″ and will soon come in larger sizes as well. 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. It’s thinner and lighter than the older Cintiqs.

Top affordable tablet monitor: XP-Pen Artist 22E

xppen22e review tablet monitor

XP Pen 22E tablet monitor

My favorite pick so far in budget tablet monitors is the XP-Pen Artist 22E. 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. This is my top pick for best drawing tablet on a budget.

Wacom alternative tablets bring a large screen to those on a budget. Good ones we’ve reviewed include the Yiynova MVP22U and Ugee 2150 .

Artisul, from Taiwan, makes pen display tablets in 10″ and 13″ sizes. They have great build quality. Artisul’s drivers are straightforward to install and use.

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

Best mobile tablets for artists

Portable tablets are great travel companions. You can draw, write, type, and share. They can serve as cameras, phones, and navigators. They are good digital sketchbooks. Many illustrators use them for professional work as well.

Best mobile drawing tablet: iPad Pro

We love the iPad Pro, especially the 12.9″ because of its size. The tilt-sensitive Apple Pencil is an excellent stylus for drawing. It even lets you use the side of the tip to do shading. This is the best drawing tablet in the “convenient” category if you also have a Mac, since you can sync everything. The new 10.5″ is also a good size.

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.

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.

The new iPad Pros for 2017 have improved color.

We’ve picked this because of iOS and that some of the best art apps are only made for iOS, not Android. However, if you go with Android, you will still have your pick of a lot of top art apps.

Apple Pencil: excellent drawing stylus

Steve Jobs did not like tablets at first, though he changed his mind and put out the iPad. But even then, he didn’t like the idea of a stylus. Things have changed. The Apple Pencil is one of the best drawing styluses. It has tilt sensitivity and lets you shade with the side.

When you use the Astropad app with the iPad Pro, you can use the iPad Pro to input your art into a Mac computer.

 

ipad pro

iPad Pro 12.9″ with Apple Pencil
Top pick for best affordable Android tablet for drawing: Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen

Best Android tablets for art

Top affordable Android drawing tablet: 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 the best Android tablet for drawing, and it now has an HD screen. It’s our affordable pick in this category. You can get a larger Wacom EMR pen for it if you choose. It’s the best tablet for artists who want portability and affordability.

The pen, called the enhanced S Pen, works at different angles. You can add a keyboard case.

Many mobile art apps allow you to work in layers and with high-resolution files.

samsung galaxy tab a s pen 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen. Image courtesy Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: Powerful Android tablet for art

TheSamsung Galaxy Tab S3, which came out in 2017, has higher specs than the Tab A with S Pen. The pen, called the refined S Pen, has 2048 levels of pressure. It has full tilt sensitivity, a fatter barrel (more comfortable than the old, thin one), and a thinner, .07mm tip. You can add the optional keyboard case that’s made for this tablet.

The tablet is one of the best Android tablets. It has 4GB RAM, 2048 x 1536 Quad HD resolution, an AMOLED display and rich HDR color (it’s ready for HDR video, too). Like the Tab A, it has an SD card slot.

It’s more powerful than the Tab A. It’ s the latest Samsung in this vein and one of the best Android tablets for drawing. It’s comparable to the iPad Pro.

See the Galaxy Tab S3 on Amazon

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab-S3-with-S-Pen

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 with S Pen. Image courtesy Samsung

 

Staedtler Noris Digital Samsung Pencil

Staedtler Noris Digital Samsung Pencil

Staedtler Noris Digital Samsung Pencil

This accessory is longer than an S Pen and looks like a Stadtler pencil, even has some wood. If you need an extra S pen or Wacom EMR pen, it’s a good pick, even if you’re on a budget.

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

The Lenovo Yoga Book has a unique design. It combines a graphics tablet and touchscreen. It comes in Windows and Android. Its Halo keyboard doubles as a tablet surface and flat, lit-up keyboard. When in keyboard mode, letters will show.

You can place paper on the surface and draw with a real ink pen. Your drawing will appear in real time. The tablet can also be an e-reader or media device. 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. This is a great drawing tablet for carrying around and travel. The sensitive Wacom digitizer allows you to express your creativity with accuracy. I recommend using a larger Wacom pen than the S Pen (please read our Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen review).

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. 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 “http://www.tabletsforartists.com/galaxy-tab-a-with-s-pen-review-affordable-drawing-tablet/”>Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen review

Best Windows tablet PCs for drawing 2017

See our article where we go over 10 laptops and 2-in-1s.

The best tablet PCs for drawing are complete art studios. They have active pens and work with full Photoshop. You draw right on the screen.
You need to take 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. Some tablet PCs now have tilt sensitivity.q
You may find a tablet PC to be the best drawing tablet to buy.

Top tablet PC pick: Wacom MobileStudio Pro

Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro is the snazziest of all the drawing tablets. This all-in-one slate packs a lot of power. It has 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 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.he MobileStudio Pro supplants the Cintiq Companion 2.
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. 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.

Best tablet PC detachables

A detachable tablet means the keyboard can, which has advantages for drawing. It also means you can use it as a regular laptop with attached keyboard.

The latest Surface Pro, sometimes called the Surface Pro 5, has a pen with 4096 levels and tilt. See our article on the new Surface Pro 5 2017.

The PC laptop comes in several configurations, up to an i7 with a discrete graphics card.  This tablet is popular among artists. The new keyboard is covered with Alacantra, a fabric that’s easy to clean.

 

Best detachable tablet PC: Surface Pro

 

newsurfacepro5

 

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’s a best drawing tablet PC for those who want a lot of power. But the pen doesn’t have the pressure sensitivity of the most recent N-trig pens.

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 with a screen that swivels or bends back. You can lay it flat with the screen facing up. We like the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga.

Right now, the ThinkPad Yoga 720 with its dGPU and 4096-level Wacom ES pen is tops on our list.

yoga 720

Lenovo Yoga 720

Several Lenovo ThinkPad Yogas have Wacom pens and are powerful and rugged computers with comfortable keyboards.The Yoga line folds into various modes: tent, stand, laptop, and tablet. In terms of power combined with affordability, this may be the best drawing tablet PC right now.

Quality budget 2-in-1: Surface 3

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

The new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 with a Wacom AES pen, and the Dell Latitude 2-in-1, are recent offerings from Dell.

(Most tablet PCs offer full-size ports, while portables have micro USB. If you’re looking for a tablet with a full USB, check out our article about tablets with full-size USB ports. Some lack art features.)

Tablet PCs with dGPU (discrete graphics)

A dGPU speeds up graphics rendering. That’s 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 dGPU.

The ThinkPad Yoga 720 has a dGPU. So does the older 1st gen. ThinkPad Yoga 14.

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

Best drawing tablet for beginners

If you’re getting your feet wet, it may be wise to start with a graphics tablet (with no screen). That’s the least expensive type of tablet.

Best tablet for beginners: Intuos Draw

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. If you want touch, try the Pen & Touch version. See our detailed Wacom Intuos Draw review.

intuosdrawtablet

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 it’s not difficult and you don’t have to use these features.

It’s best to start with a simple drawing program. ArtRage or Sketchbook Pro are intuitive. You can work your way up to Photoshop.

Best tablet for photo editing

Best pen tablet for photo editing: Intuos Pro

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

Using a pen to edit photos is better than using only a mouse or trackpad. Some photographers prefer a small tablet size. 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.

Tablet PCs such as the Surface Pro are ideal for on-the-go editing. You can use Photoshop and Lightroom. Wacom tablet PCs with their Adobe color gamut are also excellent for photographers.

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 a drawing tablet

Before you buy a drawing tablet, 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 ? (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. A digital drawing pad without a screen has the digitizer under the surface.

Nearly all artists need pressure sensitivity. Pressure sensitivity means the harder you press down, the thicker your line gets. In this way it’s like using a pencil on paper. In some programs, you can also control opacity with pressure.

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. The computer can distinguish between touches from your hand and from the pen. That way you don’t make a mark with your hand while drawing with the pen.

Multitouch is the ability to use gestures such as zoom, pan, and navigate by using two or more fingers. More art software is being 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.

 

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. It attaches 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 the best drawing tablet for beginners or those on a budget. If you 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 you 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 the screen.

What about the regular iPad?

The non-Pro iPad runs iOS. It does not have pressure sensitivity.

You can use a pressure-sensitive stylus with it, such as the Jot Touch. (Read about best iPad styluses for drawing .) Or you can find workarounds such as adjusting the opacity of each layer. But you are better off with an active digitizer.

The regular iPad is not the best art tablet for the majority of users. The iPad Pro is better.

3D sculpting with a pen

You can also use tablets 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 artists who do 3d as a hobby. It comes with software for 3D sculpting.

Trends in drawing tablets

Trends right now include real-world elements, such using real pens and markers. There’s also stronger 3D program support. We see innovative input devices such as the Microsoft Surface Dial. Developers are working on optics, such as using the screen to scan and manipulate 3D objects.

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

All kinds of artists use drawing tablets. Illustrators, designers, cartoonists, and architects are among them. You can use them for crafts, DIY, and even note-taking and music editing. They’re excellent mouse replacements that are easier on the wrists.

Digital Drawing Tablet Brands

Wacom (pronounced Wah-kem) dominates the market. Their Intuos and Cintiq line are tops in functions and quality. The Intuos and Intuos Pro line is the best graphics tablet brand. The Cintiq pen-display is the top tablet with screen.

Wacom offers pressure sensitivity in Adobe Illustrator. Wacom is the best digital drawing tablet brand.

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

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

5 types of drawing tablet infographic

5 types of drawing tablet infographic

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

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).

Tablet digitizers

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 give different drawing experiences.

Best digitizer for art tablets: EMR

EMR, or Electromagnetic Resonance, offers the most sensitive, highest resolution, natural-feeling, 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.”). Wacom has a a patented EMR.

A lot of the more affordable tablet brands use digitizers that are also EMR. The feeling is a little bit different.

Apple iPad Pro

Apple doesn’t release info about levels of pressure sensitivity. But the Apple Pencil is very sensitive and accurate. It 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

Newer tablets that use Wacom have Wacom Active Electrostatic Solution. This is also called Wacom ES or Wacom AES. The pen styluses need charging via battery, USB, or charging port. AES is nearly as sensitive as EMR.

N-trig digitizer

Microsoft’s Surface line uses N-trig. (The original Surface Pro 1 and 2 used Wacom EMR). The Vaio Z Canvas also uses N-trig.

N-trig DuoSense pens take a battery. They use 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.

The newer e N-trig pens are comparable to Wacom’s. The older ones were less accurate and sensitive. With the advent of the new Surface Pro “5 “and the new Microsoft-Wacom pen, they are almost on par.

Wacom EMR is still the best drawing tablet digitizer. It’s batteryless and has 8192 levels. Cintiqs, the MobileStudio Pro, and Intuos graphics tablets all have EMR.

In our drawing tablet reviews we tell you what type of digitizer each tablet has.

Synaptics digitizer

Synaptics is a less popular type of digitizer in 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. The computers using it can be high- quality.

Other digitizers

Wacom competitors use EMR drivers made by or based on drivers made by the company UC-Logic. Some use or incorporate expired Wacom patents. These include XP-Pen, Ugee, Hanvon, Atmel, and more. These provide an excellent, responsive drawing experience.

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. The best drawing tablet has a smooth curve that doesn’t leave blobs.

Initial Activation Force

This refers to the amount of pressure needed to make a mark. Wacom EMR requires the least pressure.

Tilt and rotation sensitivity

The best drawing tablets have pens that get natural tilt sensitivity (angle detection). Wacom Cintiqs and Intuos have this, and so does the iPad Pro. Samsung’s S pen products have it. The Lenovo Yoga Book offers 100-degree tilt sensitivity. Rotation sensitivity worked with the older Cintiqs using the ArtPen.

Best drawing tablet art software

The Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop and Illustrator, are the most popular. So are Clip Studio Paint, Sketchbook Pro, CorelDraw, and ArtRage. Gimp is a free program that’s like Photoshop, while Inkscape, also free, is like Illustrator.

In mobile apps, Procreate for iPad/iPad Pro is a favorite. For 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 what type of tablet to buy. That is a difficult choice.  A mobile operating system won’t be able to run desktop Adobe programs such as Photoshop.

A Cintiq or other tablet monitor will give you a satisfying art experience. You can draw on a large screen. But they are not portable. A large screen makes a big difference. If you prefer to sit on the couch, the best drawing tablet could mean something portable and small.

If you don’t want to deal with attaching your tablet to a computer, a tablet PC may be the best 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 large, the Microsoft Surface Studio is a big 2-in-1 with very high specs. There’s also 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 best 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 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.

Everyone from doodler to pro can find the best drawing tablet for their needs and budget.

Click here for a closer look at the 2017 art tablets.

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. You can draw, paint, design, sketch, edit, doodle, and share. 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.”

end of Best drawing tablet for you

arttabletcomparisonchart

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

history source: Wikipedia

 

Summary
Best drawing tablets: a complete guide
Article Name
Best drawing tablets: a complete guide
Description
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.
Author
Publisher Name
Tablets for Artists
Publisher Logo

(Visited 43,915 times, 166 visits today)

207 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *