The best drawing tablet: digital drawing tablets for artists
Tablets for Artists is here to help you find the best drawing tablet for your needs and budget, whether it’s a tablet with a screen or without.
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TOP TABLETS FOR ARTISTS 2018
|Wacom Cintiq 13HD Pen & Touch||Cintiqs go up to 27". Top brand with the most features, including pen tilt/rotation sensitivity.||Read our review|
|XP-Pen Artist 22E tablet monitor||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|
|Wacom Intuos Pro Medium (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.
|Huion 610 Pro||Popular, affordable Wacom Intuos Pro alternative.||Read our review|
|Wacom MobileStudio Pro ||Two sizes, 13 and 16. 3D camera option. Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 levels.||Read our review|
|Lenovo Yoga 720|
lenovo yoga 720
|High-powered laptop with Wacom Lenovo Active pen (4096 levels). and dGPU option||Read our review|| |
|Lenovo Ideapad Miix 720|
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|
|Microsoft Surface Pro (new June 2017). i7 recommended. ||Windows 2-in-1 for art, notetaking, general. New pen has tilt and 4,096 levels.||Read our review|| |
Amazon International link
|Apple iPad Pro||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
|Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen||Android portable tablet. Great size & value. Wacom S pen; you can also use a larger Wacom pen on it (more info in review). 10.1" HD||Read our review|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 with S Pen||Android portable tablet. 9.7" Super AMOLED screen; HDR; Refined S Pen; optional keyboard accessory.|
The table contains links to our thorough drawing tablet reviews. We review all types of tablets you can draw on. They include graphics tablets, mobile tablets, and pen display tablets, and tablet PCs.
Graphics tablets are digital drawing pads you attach to a Mac or PC. They are usually considered the best tablet for beginners, as some are inexpensive and simple to use.
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 for artists offer the same basic functions as the pricier ones.
Children are natural artists, so we’re also reviewing best tablets for kids.
Digital drawing tablet brands
Wacom dominates the digital drawing pad market. But they’re not the only game in town. I’ve gotten to test a lot of other brands to bring you first-hand experience.
Best graphics tablet 2018:
What makes the best graphics tablet in 2018? 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. A computer drawing pad can be simple to complex.
Wacom Intuos Pro Medium
Wacom refreshed its Intuos Pro lineup for 2018. 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 tablet.
The Intuos line also includes lower-priced Intuos tablets such as the Draw.
Our no. 1 pick: Intuos Pro Paper Edition
If you want to draw on paper, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition may be the best drawing tablet. 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. 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. Mediums are the best tablets for sketching. 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. For editing photos, a small size is often the best drawing tablet.
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.
Best affordable graphics tablet: Huion H610 Pro/Pro Plus
As a budget pick, the Huion H610 Pro or Pro Plus is my top choice in budget graphics tablets. 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.
Though it lacks tilt sensitivity and you can’t customize it per app, the build quality is good and it works well. The driver can be a little tricky to install for some. The Huion doesn’t come with art software, but there are a lot of free and inexpensive art programs available. It’s a good cheap drawing tablet for PC or Mac. I have written a detailed Huion H610 Pro review here.
Top pen display tablet monitors
A pen-display tablet or tablet monitor gives you the most freedom in drawing and almost feels like painting on canvas. These are very desirable.
Best: Wacom Cintiq HD Pen and Touch
The Wacom Cintiq is definitely a best drawing tablet. It’s the most popular in direct drawing tablets. They have to be attached to a computer–desktop, or laptop, Mac or PC. 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 makes it one of the best tablets to draw on because it has a bit of tooth and thus feels closer to paper than the surfaces of other kinds. Wacom’s patented digitizer is so sensitive it requires very little weight to make a mark.
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.
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.
Here’s a 22″, 18 lb. Cintiq 22HD Touch. Artists and animators at studios such as Disney use Cintiqs. On a professional level, a Cintiq is the best drawing tablet for animation and digital painting. But you can do animation on any of these tablets.
We also like the XP-Pen Artist 22E. Click for review.
Cintiq 13HD: smaller size, same art features
Click for our Wacom Cintiq 13HD review.
Recent developments for Wacom include the Cintiq Pro and MobileStudio Pro. The Cintiq Pro is like the 13HD and also comes in 15,” and 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
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 a large, cheap drawing tablet with screen in this category.
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.
Top 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 and even with only apps, they can be the best drawing tablet you can carry. Many illustrators use them for professional work as well.
Our pick for mobile drawing tablet: iPad Pro
We love the iPad Pro, especially the 12.9″ because of its size, but the 10.5″ is also reasonably large and a bit easier to slip into most bags. If you also have a Mac, you can sync everything. When you use the Astropad app with the iPad Pro, you can use the iPad Pro to input your art into a Mac computer.
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 excellent has both angle and pressure sensitivity and even lets you shade with the side.
Art 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. The new iPad Pros for 2018 have improved color.
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.
The non-Pro iPad does not have angle or pressure sensitivity. But there are some styluses that can still get pressure sensitivity on any touchscreen. For more info, see our article about the best styluses for drawing
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.
See the Galaxy Tab A with S Pen on Amazon.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: Powerful Android tablet for drawing
The Samsung 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 it.
The S3 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.
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.
OK, what’s the best 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).
Windows tablet PCs for drawing 2018
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.
Top pick for best drawing tablet: 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 PC for drawing, 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.
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
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 official name is simply Surface Pro).
It comes in several configurations, up to an i7 with a discrete graphics card. The new keyboard is covered with Alacantra, a fabric that’s easy to clean.
Microsoft Surface Pro
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
We like the Vaio Z Canvas in this category, with the Microsoft Surface Pro line close behind. These, as well as the Surface Book, are Windows tablet PC 2-in-1s with detachable keyboards. The Vaio Z Canvas is so powerful you can edit video without a hitch. It’s as powerful as a desktop. It has some art-centric features in the on-screen commands.
It has Core i7-4770HQ with Iris Pro 5200 graphics and a fat 128MB L4 cache. Its Intel GPU gets is as strong as a discrete GPU.
Best tablet PC convertible: Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga line
A convertible tablet is a laptop 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.
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 PCs right now.
(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. If you want power and portability, a PC with dGPU may be the best drawing tablet.
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 tablets for beginners
If you’re just getting your feet wet, it may be wise to start with a graphics tablet (with no screen), either one of the simpler Wacoms or a different brand.
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 Wacom Intuos Art Pen & Touch version. See our detailed Wacom Intuos Draw review.
When people talk about the best drawing tablet for beginners they generally mean price and ease of learning it. But 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.
Before you buy
Before you buy, 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 drawing tablets feel the most natural to use the pen on. What’s beneath the screen has a lot to do with this.
There is an active digitizer under the screen. The digitizer picks up signals from the pen. 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. And in some programs, you can also control opacity with pressure.
Tilt sensitivity or angle detection. Pens with these are more natural feeling and mimic a real-life drawing tool.
You also want good pen accuracy. “Parallax” is the name for the little gap you may see between your pen and line. You want that to be as small as possible.
And, you want no lag time (also called latency) between when you touch the pen to the tablet screen or surface and when you see your line.
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 lets you use the tablet as a trackpad or mouse as well.
Palm rejection is important. The computer should 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. Some tablets don’t have multitouch, so in those cases, palm rejection is not a concern.
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 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.
Infographic: digital art tablets at a glance
This infographic may help you figure out the best art tablet for your needs.
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.
The digitizer plays a large role in whether or not something qualifies as a best drawing tablet. The more accurate and sensitive, the better. However, 1024 levels of pressure is generally enough.
Best: EMR digitizer
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.
The very top drawing tablets (besides iPad Pro) use EMR. Whether or not Wacom EMR is better than other brands’ EMR is a matter of personal preference.
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.
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 or 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 N-trig pens are almost (but not quite) as sensitive to Wacom’s. The Surface Pen now has a high degree of pressure sensitivity and also tilt, and lets you shade with the side.
In our drawing tablet reviews we tell you what type of digitizer each tablet has.
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.
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.
Drawing with the active pen
The following are different aspects of digital drawing. The first two are elements of the drawing experience.
The pressure curve refers to how hard you press to get your lines to a certain thickness or opacity. It’s an adjustable setting. A good 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
Wacom Cintiqs and Intuo Pros have this, and so does the iPad Pro, Samsung’s S pen, and the newer Surface Pens. The Lenovo Yoga Book offers 100-degree tilt sensitivity. Rotation sensitivity, or barrel roll, worked with the older Cintiqs using the ArtPen.
Digital art software for tablets
Any artist electronic tablet works with just about all art programs, such as Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop and Illustrator. A lot of software has tablet settings you can adjust. Gimp is a free program that’s like Photoshop, while Inkscape, also free, is like Illustrator. There’s also good digital animation software for beginners, such as Anime Studio.
In mobile apps, Procreate for iPad/iPad Pro is a favorite. For iOS and Android, Sketchbook, ArtRage, and Infinite Painter are all fine programs.
Digital art advantages
Creating digital art doesn’t mean you have to stop using traditional media. Even the most expensive tablet or art software 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 for illustration and design usually require files to be delivered digitally.
Here’s an introductory video by Wacom about using the Intuos.
Tablets for artists are fun, fascinating tablets and a must-have for creative workers. We have created this site to help you find YOUR best drawing tablet to draw, paint, design, sketch, edit, animate, doodle, and share. We’ve strived to make our drawing tablet reviews as helpful and thorough as possible. We look forward to seeing new products for 2018.
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Tablets are a great way to make art that’s “pretty as a pixel.”
end of Best drawing tablet for you
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