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.
Less expensive pro level:
Want something less expensive? Read our review of the Huion 610Pro V2.
Best inexpensive small tablet
While this is a bit small to work on large artwork, if you want to draw or edit small or need a signature pad, we liked and reviewed this ultrathin Veikk.
Read our article on how to choose a Wacom graphics tablet.
Best tablet monitor 2019 – 2020: Wacom Cintiq and Cintiq Pro
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.
Best tablet PC 2-in-1 2019 – 2020: Lenovo Yoga C930
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.
Other top pick: Surface Pro 6
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.
Want something easier on the wallet? We feel you. Check out our post on cheap drawing tablets.
See this year’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for digital artists