What’s the skinny on the 2021 iPad Mini 6? Apple Pencil, for one
Apple has now dished out the 6th-generation iPad mini with all the main features of the others in the ever-growing iPad family.. Long gone are the days when you needed an iPad Pro to use the Apple Pencil, though the Pro still gives you considerably more processing power. But the mini is plenty powerful for gaming, running art apps, and more. Here’s some info on this interesting device that’s bigger than a phone and smaller than a full-grown iPad.
The 2021 iPad mini, with its 8.3″ (diagonal) screen, is big enough to do a lot of things on–gaming, movie-watching, video calls, and yes, sketching. It’s probably is too small to substitute for a larger one as a primary portable art studio. Many artists wish there was something larger than the 12.9.” But for those going out into the world, having this portability could make for a real gain in productivity.
You still have to shell out for the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil. So saving money isn’t the best reason to get the mini. A better reason is that you want to be able to have a small tablet to sketch or work on your art on the go, that you can then port over to a larger device when you get back to your studio. It is a fun, speedy thing that once you pick up you might not be able to put down. Its antireflective screen is easy on the eyes, though you still might want a matte screen protector that feels like paper.
As you can see in the picture, the Pencil is about as long as the length of the screen. You can stick the Pencil to the sides magnetically (thanks for the idea, Surface!).
2021 iPad mini features
The Mini 6 is similar to the iPad air. It has a Liquid Retina design that’s “all screen,” and features a Touch ID button. So almost all of that 8.3″ is good, arable screen real estate. It’s also got USB-C charging. It’s got support for 5G and has fast Wi-fi 6.
Its bezel comes in about 1/3 of an inch thick, which takes away just a little space from its 8.3” screen. It’s not exactly “all screen, no bezel,” since the bezel is slightly bigger than the larger iPad Pro’s, but that’s OK. I think it’s good to have a little area you can grip.
Basically, if you’ve already got a larger iPad Pro, iPad or Air, those all take the Apple Pencil now, the Mini is more like a light dessert. It design is sleek and updated, so there’s more visual difference with other iPads than just size. Its release price was higher than the 2019 version, the last time they upgraded the mini. (That’s actually not that long ago in Apple years, and many people use their iPads for a long, long time.)
The lowest-end model only differs in storage, at 64GB, with the priciest at 256. Unlike Android devices, Apple still stubbornly doesn’t allow SD cards, but you can always get more Cloud storage or use other storage options. 64 GB really isn’t much, though, especially if you use a lot of layers. A 128 GB model would have been a nice compromise.
2021 iPad mini specs
ios 15 Powerful A15 Bionic chip with Neural Engine LTE option Magnetic connector 2266 x 1488 resolution (a bit higher than last gen) 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and wide color 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and wide color gamut A15 Bionic chip with 64‑bit architecture 6-core CPU 5-core graphics 16-core Neural Engine 326ppi panel (same as last one) Weight under 1 lb. 64GB and 256GB Top button with Touch ID to use Apple Pay and for secure authentication 100% recycled aluminum Rounded rectangle display 500 nits brightness Antireflective display No more home button Volume buttons at top No headphone jack Comes with fast 20W charger Thickness 6.3 mm 12MP ultra wide front camera that supports Center Stage (keeps you front and center during video calls, making your audience ooh and ahh). Also, 12MP wide back camera Landscape stereo speakers 10-12 hours of battery life fast Wi-Fi 6 5G for the LTE Comes in purple, starlight, pink, and space gray
Being an inveterate Pencil-misplacer, on my iPad Pro I use a simple pen loop Velcro’d to the back, which has saved me many hours of searching for the Pencil—I combine that with a free Bluetooth-device finder app. But magnets are just fine.
The iPad mini is plenty powerful for art apps, gaming, and streaming—you wouldn’t expect less. It is a really fun thing to have, and can fit in just about any bag (not a pocket, though). While it may not be a must-have if you’ve already got an iPad Pro or other drawing device, having that extra portability might get you out sketching more and capturing those autumn colors. See the 2021 iPad mini on Amazon
Many feel the greatest gift would be for 2020 to be over! I have to concur. I don’t know about you art has gotten me through these long days. I’ve joined drawing challenges, taken online classes, and done Zoom life drawing. I’ve even gotten back into watercolors.
If your artist (who perhaps is yourself!) tends to suffer from attention-span chaos, this is a good time to take a step back and look at what would help with creative projects.
Some goodies to make an artist’s life easier can make the bitter memories of 2020 just a little sweeter both for the giver and receiver.
iPad or iPad Pro
Who wouldn’t want an iPad or iPad Pro as a gift? And now that you don’t have to spring for an iPad Pro to get use of the Apple Pencil, it’s considerably more affordable to gift this amazing art tool. (The Apple Pencil is still sold separately). We prefer the 12.9, which is the largest, for drawing, though the smaller sizes are good too.
XPPen Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition
This affordable tablet monitor has a pen that gives you 8192 levels and tilt.
LCD boards are fun for kids and all ages. (I admit I’m addicted.) There are some where you can upload your drawings from the device, and others that are simpler (such as the this one).
If you or your artist want to live a greener lifestyle, look into these cool kits from the Package-free Shop designed to lower what you throw out.
Selfie ring light
Once they know what a selfie ring light is, who doesn’t need one? This one attaches to a mobile phone and there are some you need a tripod for. Great for Zoom calls or just finding stuff you dropped under the covers while scrolling through your phone.
Rebelle 3 natural painting art program
Escape Motion’s Rebelle 3 is an art program with realistic dripping paint and other convincingly natural effects–pretty cool. For Mac and Windows (you get both when you buy the program). You can try out a demo version.
XP-PEN Star G960S review: affordable tablet with premium features
The XP-PENStar G960S is a new (as of May 2020) graphics tablet from XP-PEN. The company started in Japan in 2005 and since 2019 has been part of the HanvonUgeeGroup. In the past I have reviewed some XP-PEN display tablets. The G960S is a non-screen graphics tablet I received for review.
In a world of Wacom alternative tablets, the G960S manages to stand out with some features that are pretty hard to find in an affordable price range: tilt, and the ability to use the tablet with Android. It also works with Linux, as well as Mac and Windows. And, it lets you customize the pen to your own shortcuts, which is very unusual in an affordable tablet.
(Want to see it in the XP-PEN store before reading more? Visit the store and use coupon code Vicky960S for a $5 discount on the G960 or G960S in the US and Canada. More regions in links at the end of the article.)
XP-PEN Star line
The Star line has three models: the G960S, the G960S Plus, and the G960. The G960S Plus has the same features as the G960S but its pen has an eraser end. The G960S and G960S Plus are upgrades to the G960.
Type of tablet:
Graphics tablet (no screen) -Must be connected to computer or Android device (no wireless option) -Works with Windows 7/8/10, Mac (10.10 or higher), Linux, Android 6.0 and above
Type of digitzer: EMR Pressure levels: 8,192 Customizable shortcut keys: 4 Highly customizable pen buttons Tilt +-60 degrees Tablet can be rotated using driver to 0, 90, 180, 270 degrees Battery-free, lightweight pen Size 319.5 x 209.5 x 10mm (12.57 x 8.25 x 0.39″) Active area 9 x 6 inch (228.8 x 152.6mm)
Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz. (483g) without cable Pen weight: 1/4 oz. (8g)
Report rate: up to 230 Accuracy ±0.4mm（Center) Reading Height 10mm
Works on: Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android tablets/phones/Chromebook
The company lists these programs as being compatible: Photoshop, SAI, Painter, Illustrator, Clip Studio GIMP, Medibang, Krita, Fire Alpaca, Blender 3D, Paint X, FlipaClip, Autodesk Sketchbook, Zenbrush, Artrage, Microsoft Office.
What’s in the Box
What’s in the box: the tablet and more.
All set up and ready to draw.
Tablet Pen USB cable USB to Micro USB adapter USB to USB-C adapter 10 extra nibs (total of 11) User guide Warranty Nib remover ring
The tablet comes in a brown cardboard box with black print. It came safely packed, no issues there.
The Star G9N06s is well made, lightweight but solid. The mini-USB fits snugly and doesn’t get dislodged easily.
The tablet has four physical buttons on one side. They’re a generous size, light. They’re easy to press, and you can hear the click. There’s no wheel or on-screen keys to extend the ability to make shortcuts.
The surface is slightly matte but as it’s pretty smooth, so shouldn’t wear down the pen nib quickly. It’s not a fingerprint magnet; I tried leaving some and they just dry and disappear. That’s not to say there are zero fingerprints, but it’s not too bad. It’s less printy than tablets with smoother surfaces.
The active area is bounded by small rectangles. There’s a small bezel around the edges of the tablet, beyond the active area.
The bottom has a small rubber piece in each corner to keep it from slipping.
At about a pound, it’s easy to carry and would fit into a backpack.
It’s fine for left- and right-handed use, as you can map the tablet to the orientation you want.
The pen is nice-looking and lightweight, it’s narrow and looks like a ballpoint pen. At 8 grams, it weighs less than half of many tablet pens that have batteries. I prefer this ballpoint-like pen to the thick round pens some budget tablets have. Some might prefer if it weighed a few more grams, but I don’t mind the light weight, as it stops my hand from getting tired.
The G960S pen is light and ballpoint-pen like.
The pen is battery-free and doesn’t require charging since it’s a traditional EMR tablet. An indicator light on the tablet lights up when the pen is in use.
The pen has a plastic loop on the end you can fasten to a lanyard. However, the tablet doesn’t have anything you can attach the lanyard to, such as a fabric loop. So if you want to use the pen’s loop (totally uo to you) you could hang the pen on the wall, wear it around your neck, or find some way to affix it to the tablet.
One really unusual feature for an affordable tablet like this is you can customize the pen button as you wish. Here’s a picture of the driver that lets you do that. I almost didn’t notice this as it’s not being talked about a lot on the site.
You can program the pen button as you wish.
The list goes on much longer. I tried some and found them to work.
Unfortunately, the pen button fell off after rolling off a surface about a foot and a half high. I was able to put it back with the help of tape and it still works. I was glad that I was able to find the button!
Using the Star G960S
In this video to supplement this XP-Pen Star G960S review, I go over a sketch so you can see me drawing lines. The drawing experience is smooth and enjoyable. The lines are responsive to pressure, no blobs or lag. I don’t have to press down hard on the default pressure setting, which as you can see is about in the middle. It’s a satisfying experience with a good pressure curve. Sometimes having high pressure levels can cause too fast a change in line, but I didn’t have that issue here. It had the same feeling that I liked in the XP-PEN display tablets.
The size is an excellent one for drawing. It’s not so big that you tire your arm, nor so small that you feel cramped.
Here is a short demo of me using it with Photoshop. I’m going over a sketch but pressing harder so you can see the darker lines.
Art program testing:
You may or may not have to add each art software to your list of allowed programs–if it isn’t working right, try adding it.
To install the driver onto Mac Catalina took a bit of time. You have to go into System Preferences and allow permissions for various parts of the driver. In some cases you need to add drawing software to this too. It wasn’t difficult to install, but it was a lot of steps. This is not unique to XP-PEN; you have to do the same thing to install Wacom drivers and other software. Further, you have to add some programs to Input Monitor. It’s important to do this in Photoshop to get the pressure working.
The driver has a bar where you can see numbers that show how hard you’re pressing. This tells you if pressure is working or not, but as it doesn’t have a little window to test it in, to see the actual effect of the pressing you have to use a drawing program and canvas. You can also set the speed, and pick absolute or relative (Mouse Mode).
The driver lets you map the monitor, rotate it to different angles, and switch to left-hand or right-hand use,
You can set the four Express Keys to any options you want, the presets or your own, or you can keep the default ones. When setting the keys, it asks you to pick the application, but I found what I set worked in other art programs too. The custom commands I created were saved after restarting the computer.
You can set the pen button to many different options, similar to Wacom.
For certain programs you will get pressure even without the driver, such as Sketchbook Pro, but the driver gives you more possibilities.
Mac: I tested Sketchbook, Gimp, Krita, and Inkscape, Photoshop CC, and Photoshop Elements. (Inkscape is not on the compatible list but it does work). The OS I used is Catalina.
Initially I had some problems with the driver. They then resolved themselves, but I wanted to try to replicate them, and managed to by not plugging it into the computer all the way, then plugging it in all the way. I think this caused the driver to crash. Restarting the computer with the tablet plugged in fixed the issue. The issues were things like skips and not being able to press some buttons. So I advise that you smoothly plug it in securely.
If the tablet icon is not in the Launcher, the Mac will ask you if you want to open it when you turn on the computer.
Windows: In Windows 10 the driver is easy to install and worked great in the programs I tested–Photoshop, Gimp, SAI, and Krita. Inkscape, which is not on the compatible list, worked fine.
Android: To attach it to Android, you simply use one the included USB to Micro USB adapter. On my Android phone I tested it in Sketchbook, Medibang, and Infinite Painter. There is no driver to download and no driver is needed, so I didn’t use the Express Keys. Pressure worked well in all of these. I found it was easier to use my finger to use gestures, but not too hard to find where I was on the phone screen, which was automatically mapped to the phone screen.
USB connection to Android phone.
A pressure-sensitive doodle done with the G960S on an Android phone.
This could be a great money saver to use with a Chrome book or larger Android tablet, which would give you a larger size. There are some Android devices that come with pressure that let you draw on the screen, but most are quite pricy. If you already have an Android device and wish you could use it for art, the G960S gives you that ability.
affordability portability tilt maximum pressure levels ability to use on Android includes adapters
pen button not attached solidly some hiccups in Mac Catalina, fixable
XP-PEN Star G960S vs. Wacom Intuos Pro
You may be reading this XP-Pen Star G960S review to compare it to a Wacom Intuos or Intuos Pro, so here’s the rundown. The features are quite competitive. There are the same amount of pressure levels, similar size, and same report rate and both have freely customizable pen buttons. The size is a little smaller than the current Wacom Intuos Pro Medium and larger than the Intuos Pro Small.
The Intuos Pro has more Express Keys, a wireless option, has a more premium build, as well as some other differences such as that the Intuos Pro will work with several Wacom pens. But the Wacom doesn’t work on Android.
The Star G960S is affordable and has the main benefits of Wacom, plus offers Android use. It’s the closest I’ve seen so far to the Intuos Pro, and has more features than the regular Intuos.
This is a well-made tablet hardware-wise. The size is generous. The pen is comfortable to grip. The pressure is responsive and doesn’t have an overly springy feeling. Four Express Keys isn’t a whole lot, but it depends how much you want to use them. The tilt and Android use, and generous size make it appealing. You can also use it with Linux, though I did not test that. I like that it includes adapters for micro USB and USB-C so you can use it right away with mobile and other devices.
Its versatility is a strong point–the tilt and varied operating systems it works with. It has more of the features of a Wacom Intuos tablet than most budget tablets do; most budget tablets do not offer tilt or Android use. Like Wacom tablets, it uses EMR, which gives a high quality brush experience.
The Star G960S works especially well in Windows, with Mac Catalina sometimes posing some difficulties that restarting the computer with the tablet plugged in seems to fix. I do take off some points in this XP-Pen Star G960S review for that and the pen button. I will keep using this tablet because I like the drawing experience and the tilt sensitivity.
You can email them or post on the forum on their site.
Links and coupon code
Due to current global disruptions, the tablet hasn’t yet been listed on Amazon (as of May 2020). It’s for sale at the XP-PEN store.
If you use the code Vicky960S with this link to the XP-PEN store, you will get $5.00 off when you buy the Star G960S or Star G960S Plus. The coupon is only good in the US and Canada.
Acepen AP1060 graphics tablet review: customizable pen buttons stand out
Acepen, located in China, makes a wide variety of drawing tablets. They were kind enough to contact me and send me their AP1060 graphics tablet to review. It’s an affordable tablet comparable to the Wacom Intuos.
Graphics tablet. Opaque black tablet, draw on it while looking at screen. Works with Mac and Windows. I used it on Windows 10 and Mac Mohave.
EMR (Electromagnetic Resonance), 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
What’s in the box
Tablet, pen with nib in it, nib remover ring, 8 extra nibs, micro-USB cable, driver CD, multi-language quickstart guide
(in a rush to see more reviews and info? Go to Amazon to see the Acepen)
The tablet is solidly built of plastic. It doesn’t feel hollow. It’s not made of the most premium materials, buy it’s sturdy and has some heft. The shorter sides curve downward, while the long sides have an edge. It rests on four small rubber dots. The bottom has 8 screws. The USB port holds the connector tightly, it’s not loose (more on this later).
Acepen A1060 drawing tablet
I like the bright yellow fabric pen loop on the side, it’s easy to see. I didn’t have trouble fitting the pen into it as with some pen loops. The pen needs to go in thin side first. My package came with a driver mini-CD, but I used the one from the Acepen site.
Drawing on the Acepen graphics tablet
Size: approx. 9.5 x 14″ (57 x 40 mm)
Active area 10 x 6″
Pen loop on side of tablet
8192 pressure levels
8 customizable buttons on tablet
Pen button fully customizable
Drivers can be downloaded from Ace Pen site
Reading speed: 226
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Accuracy: +/- .01 mm
Hover distance: 10 mm
Active area indicated by four printed corners
weight 1.39 lbs.
dimensions approx 14 x 8.5 x .31″
Lightweight and thin, and doesn’t need an external power supply, only the USB cable, so very portable.
You can “rotate” the tablet in the driver so that you can physically rotate it to have the buttons on the right side, so it’s fine for left-handed people.
The batteryless pen is nice, easy to grip, and light but not so light it’s flyaway. It’s got a tapered shape and is about the size of a fountain pen. Because the pen is passive, no batteries are needed. You get 8192 levels of pressure, which is the maximum of any device on the market. There’s no eraser end.
Acepen stylus pen
Unboxing the Ace Pen 1060
The Ace Pen 1060 came well-packaged printed box. The side says 1060N (I’m not sure what the N stands for). The innards were packed safely. A quickstart booklet with different languages is included. There’s also a thank-you card with contact info for the company (card is not in my photo)
Acepen box contents
The design is attractive, with buttons along the side. and over an inch of bezel all around. I like the smooth slope of the long sides.
The first thing I noticed was the shiny surface of the tablet. That’s a removable protective film. There’s also a removable film over the black plastic strip the buttons protrude from. Once removed, that strip is sleek and shiny.
The LED light is, cleverly, a small feather that’s like the company’s logo. The fabric pen loop is a nice and useful touch that most tablets don’t offer. It’s easy to put the pen in (thinner part first), and once in, it’s snug.
The tablet has a total of 8 hotkeys, all on the tablet surface.
Installing the Ace Pen 1060 driver
Before you install the Ace Pen 1060 driver, be sure you have uninstalled any other tablet drivers you have installed. (If you’re using a tablet PC, leave the drivers that came pre-installed with your tablet PC as they are.)
I used the driver from the Acepen site rather than the included CD. The latest versions of drivers will always be online.
Installing it was simple onto both Windows and Mac. With Mac Mohave you have to remember to allow third-party programs to be installed.
The driver created an icon on my desktop generically named Tablet Digitizer. Opening it, the Windows driver had some nice color graphics with shading, while the Mac version used the more common black-and-white outline drawings.
Be sure the micro USB is fully inserted into the tablet. If it’s not, you will get a blinking LED light o the LED indicator between the buttons. The tablet’s USB port is secure, no slippage.
After installation, the driver guides you to restart. You can then connect the tablet.
Customizing the driver
Customizing the buttons worked and was very simple. You simply right-click in Windows to open a menu and choose your favorite shortcuts. You can’t customize on a per-app basis.
The LED light on the tablet goes on when the pen makes contact with the surface.
You can rotate the tablet in the driver for left-hand or other use. You can also map it to the monitor.
Like most tablets in the affordable range, there is no touch function, no tilt sensitivity, and no wireless option. Note: the company says it’s working on adding tilt.
What this tablet does offer that most in the affordable range don’t is a fully customizable pen button. You can program it to your favorite keyboard commands.
I tried some (not all) customizations with the tablet and pen buttons and they worked fine.
You can adjust the pressure from firm to light in the driver.
Fully customizable pen buttons
A few issues:
The drivers were easy to install, but on my Windows, sometimes I can open the driver without the tablet connected and other times I cannot. Another time, I had to click Run as Administrator. This hasn’t affected the functioning, but I prefer more consistency.
When I tried a working micro USB that did NOT come with the tablet, I had some connectivity issues, getting a blinking LED light (I don’t know the brand of USB). I then switched back to the one it came with and it worked again. The company has mentioned that the tablet does not always work with cables that did not come with it. They don’t sell replacements.
Obviously, if someone loses or breaks the USB, this could become a problem. So I ordered a new micro USB cable to test it. I picked this Amazon Basics micro USB, and it works fine. I now feel better knowing I can reorder a micro-USB if I need to.
Acepen offers lifetime free technical support. They seem responsive to buyer questions. They offer a one-year guarantee of products and free lifetime technical support.
Art program testing
Windows: I tried out Photoshop, Sketchbook, Krita, Paint Tool SAI, and GIMP. Got a very small lag in Photoshop. The driver was pretty sensitive in Photoshop (going from thick to thin quickly).
Like other tablets besides Wacom, you can use the Ace Pen with vector programs such as Inkscape and Illustrator but doesn’t give pressure sensitivity in Illustrator. You can use SAI vector layers with the Ace Pen if you want pressure in vector drawing.
Mac: Tested Photoshop, Sketchbook, Clip Studio Paint, Krita, Inkscape
Note: Sketchbook, GIMP, Inkscape, and Krita are all free and can be downloaded online.
On the company’s site, they list compatibility with Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, Flash, Comic Studio, SAI, Infinite Stratos, 3D MAX, MAYA, ZBrush, and more.
Drawing on the Ace Pen 1060
The size is enjoyable to draw on, big enough to not feel cramped.
The tablet surface tended to attract fingerprints and oils from my hand (the weather has been very humid during testing). The package didn’t come with a glove or cleaning cloth so you may want to get those, especially the glove.
The tablet has a very slightly beaded surface that’s pleasant to draw on, not slippery or bumpy. I do miss the rubbery feeling of Wacom Intuos Pros, but the affordable tablets never have that. The pen makes a little bit of noise but not too much.
I do wish there was some space between each button rather than having four pairs (it looks like four buttons but is actually eight), as if you hit one button you might hit the one next to it by accident. But it was easy to get used to and hit the buttons correctly.
The pen (which the company calls a Monet pen) is pretty stylish and easy to grip. It’s not too heavy or too light. The pen buttons are easy to get to. I don’t feel at all like I need a grip to help hold the pen.
User reviews and reactions
Reading other reviews, most of them are very positive about the pressure sensitivity, value, and overall experience. A few experienced issues with connectivity and drivers.
Size Value Customizability of tablet and pen buttons Mappable to monitor Ease of use Lightweight, portable generous amount of extra nibs
May not work with cables it did not come with Design of buttons could leave more space Attracts fingerprints Driver hiccuped, though no major issues
Ace Pen 1060 vs. Wacom Intuos and Intuos Pro
Comparing the Ace Pen 1060 drawing tablet to the pricier Wacom Intuos, you get a better bang for your buck with the Acepen. You get more levels of pressure and the same resolution, speed, and accuracy. The regular Intuos has 4096 levels and doesn’t have tilt either. (Again, Acepen is planning to roll out tilt).
You don’t get bundled software as you do with Wacom.
The driver for the Ace does almost as much, though doesn’t let you save commands for separate art programs or some other, small features of Wacom.
Comparing it to the Intuos Pro, which is far more expensive, you don’t get tilt, touch, wireless, or bundled software, or app-specific customization, or the ability to use different kinds of physical pens. So the Acepen is more comparable to the regular Intuos but has more pressure levels and may later get tilt.
Acepen AP1060 review verdict: good starter tablet
It’s a good starter tablet for students and can be used for professional art as well. The feature of having customizable pen buttons make it stand apart from most Wacom-alternative graphics tablets. It gives you a generous size and many of the same features Wacom has while not busting the budget. There are plenty of free art programs online you can use with it.
The USB port thing could be a problem but I’m glad I found one that works with it that I can order anytime.
I’ll continue to use this and take advantage of the high levels of pressure and customization.
A guide to the best tablets for artists in 2019 – 2020
Creating art digitally more popular among artists than ever. Why should you use one, and which is the best drawing tablet 2019 – 2020?
In this article we go over the categories of drawing tablet and pick our favorites. The categories are graphics tablets, tablet monitors, tablet PC 2-in-1s, and mobile tablets.
Why use a tablet to draw? Tablets speed up workflow. You can deliver to your client a lot faster. WIth the accurate pens, you can also take written notes. Easily sync and share your work. You can make changes to your work whenever you want. They’re an art studio you can carry around.
Reviews of 2019 – 2020 drawing tablets
The following are some capsule reviews. Check out the rest of the blog for more detailed ones. Click on the images to see more info, reviews, and to shop.
Best overall art tablet 2019 – 2020: iPad Pro
If I had to pick ONE, it would be the iPad Pro (read our review). I like the 12.9″ size. It combines portability, a powerful processor, and tilt and pressure sensitivity. With the Apple Pencil and robust drawing apps, the iPad Pro suitable for professional art. You can even use it as a Cintiq along with your Mac. And the new regular iPad also works with the Apple Pencil.
Mobile tablets ideal for illustration, design, photo editing, and digital fine art. A lot of drawing apps now offer almost as much as full Photoshop. You can paint, edit photos and video, and create graphics with the help of pen or finger. If you want to use Procreate, it’s only available on iOS. While you may also want to have a larger tablet monitor, the iPad Pro is a versatile companion.
Looking for Android? We recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. The Wacom S Pen has angle sensitivity and provides a smooth draw.
Best graphics tablet 2019 – 2020: Intuos Pro
A graphics tablet attaches to your computer while you look at the screen–this is the least costly type of tablet. You can spend from around $40 to several hundred dollars on a graphics tablet with pressure sensitivity.
The Intuos Pro offers an wide array of features including 8,192 pressure levels, tilt, customizable tablet and pen buttons, a variety of pen nibs, and great build quality. The Medium is the most popular. The Intuos is the choice of professional artists. While many prefer to draw on the screen, a generation only had screenless tablet and some still prefer them.
Why is the Intuos Pro again a pick? We think it’s the best graphics tablet 2019 – 2020 because Wacom keeps ahead of the rest.
A tablet monitor that attaches to your computer where you draw directly on the screen. The most popular one is the Cintiq (above). There are several kinds of Cintiq–the traditional ones such as the one above, and the Cintiq Pro (below), which is thin and light.
Wacom Cintiq Pro
The CIntiq Pro (above) is a good value as it has all the Wacom features while being relatively affordable. You can use a stand or VESA mount with it. If you want buttons, you will need to use the Wacom Express Key controller. The Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 have 4K screens.
The Cintiq Pro is a great tablet for those transitioning from an Intuos, for emerging professionals, and for anyone who wants great art features, affordability and portability. Larger, traditional Cintiqs are still ideal for in-studio use and still the choice of top animators.
If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 CIntiq type of experience from Wacom, check out our writeup of the MobileStudio Pro.
Less expensive: XP-Pen Artist 22E
Wacoms are pricey and there are many alternatives that cost much less and offer most of the features. We have tested a lot of these and you can check out our detailed reviews.
Wacom stays ahead of the crowd and is still the top pick of artists. With its advanced features, solid build quality, and customization, most professionals feel that a Wacom is worth the cost.
A tablet PC 2-in-1 lets you run full Photoshop and the ability to use an active pen. Once a specialized niche, a computer with a pen and pressure sensitivity is the norm now. Clamshell models let you open them all the way, while others have detachable keyboards.
This was the most difficult category to choose from, as there are now so many tablet PCs on the market. Specs and overall usability as a laptop were the main criteria for these best 2019 tablet PC picks.
The 2019 Lenovo Yoga C930 has a Wacom digitizer with a feeling of natural writing. It weighs a reasonably light 3 lbs. and boasts an aluminum body and FHD screen. (Note: I’m not talking about the Dual Display Yoga Book that has the separate E-ink display, though that’s cool too).
The Lenovo’s 12GB of RAM and long battery life make it a workhorse when running full Adobe programs. The C930 got positive press from Laptop Magazine and other publications. The included active pen garaged in a port in the back that charges it is a selling point for me.
The Surface Pro 6 has come a long way. The N-trig Surface Pen is a lot better than it used to be. It now has great accuracy, 4,096 levels of pressure, and tilt sensitivity. It even has an eraser end.
The Surface Pro 6 detaches from the keyboard to give you a dedicated drawing device. The pen even has an eraser at the end. The bright screen is a sharp 2736 x 1824 pixels, higher than the Lenovo above. It’s probably the most popular 2-in-1 and a best tablet PC of 2019.
What to look for when choosing a drawing tablet in 2019 – 2020
Size matters with tablets. Pick what you’re comfortable with. With graphics tablets that have no screen, medium is the most popular. Small can be confining when drawing, and large can tire the arm and take up a lot of space. The best drawing tablet 2019 – 2020 is a comfortable one.
With tablets with screens, large, 27″ sizes can be a joy to draw on. Rather than positioning the tablet monitor upright, aim for a 30-degree angle, so that you don’t tire your arm. Even a smaller, 13″ tablet monitor can be used for professional work.
Most tablets with screens still have HD resolution. Affordable tablet monitors have a wide variety of resolutions from fairly low to HD. Some tablet PCs and the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 offer 4K.
The digitizer is a layer under the tablet surface. There are several type of digitizer including EMR (electromagnetic resonance), ES (electrostatic) N-trig, and Synaptics, as well as some lesser-known ones, and the iPad Pro has its own kind. The way the pen makes contact with the screen affects accuracy. Most graphics tablets and tablet monitors use EMR.
You want a pen that’s accurate, comfortable to use, not too heavy, and offers good pressure sensitivity. The maximum now is 8,192 levels, but the numbers aren’t all that important. If you’ve got a tablet with 4,096, 2,048 or 1,024, you will be fine.
Some pens are batteryless because the charge comes from the contact with the screen. Other pens have batteries and a few have cords. Batteryless pens are lighter and more convenient. Some battery-free pens are hollow and others have a bit of heft that may make it easier to draw. I usually weigh them and I think the sweet spot is 16 to 18 grams.
Some tablets offer tilt sensitivity which gives a natural-feeling drawing experience. Tilt means that the way you hold the pen will affect the appearance of the line. The best drawing tablet is one with tilt.
Some pens have eraser ends. Wacom pens for the Cintiqs, MobileStudio Pro and Intuos Pro let you customize the buttons to many commands.
With most affordable tablets, the pen buttons have fewer customization options and most of the affordable tablets don’t offer tilt. Wacom’s Pro line has tilt. Wacom Intuoses also offer a wireless connection option and the CIntiq has a controller to program keyboard shortcuts.
The surface of your tablet affects your drawing experience a lot. Wacom has a more paperlike surface, whereas the iPad and most Wacom alternatives have smooth glass. Using a matte screen protector can help you get some tooth, which many artists enjoy. Some screens are too glossy and slippery. A matte screen protector can help with those.
The driver is software. You download the lastest ones from the company’s Web site. Drivers let you program buttons to pick your favorite keyboard shortcuts, such as Photoshop commands. This saves you time. Some people get great mileage from customizing commands while others might choose to not use them. But everyone has to download the driver to get the tablet to work. Drivers for computers will not also work on mobile devices.
You want something durable with connectors that aren’t loose. Less expensive products are often made of plastic, which is less desirable, but usually acceptable.
Programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator are thirsty for processor power, and the files they create can be large.. So, you’ll get best results with a computer that has at least 4GB of RAM (preferably more). It also should have an i7 processor (you can get away with an i5 for light use).
How we help you find the best art tablet for your needs in 2019 – 2020
The best drawing tablet in 2019 – 2020 is one that helps you create art without wasting time on things that don’t work. My decades of experience have helped me test and recognize the tools that give the best results. I receive tablets to review. I’ve also tested many a tablet at CES. I keep up with industry developments to bring you a go-to place for 2019 – 2020 drawing tablet reviews and news.