Drawing tablets allow artists to create art in a whole new digital medium, and can be used in combination with pen and paper to create more effectively. If you or your kid enjoy drawing as a hobby they can be a great alternative to a sketchbook as they will allow endless practicing and learning with an easy way to undo your mistakes or change course. They are also highly portable, and provided you remember to bring your charger you’ll always have a place to sketch.
Choosing the best drawing tablet will depend on your requirements, skill level and of course budget. There are many cheap good drawing tablets that can be perfect as a gift to yourself or a young budding artist. If price is not a concern and you are not after the best affordable drawing tablets, then consider what you’ll use it for. For example, the best drawing tablet for animation will suit somebody who is happy to finish their work on a more powerful computer, and should be compatible with the most widely used animation software.
Use the quick navigation on the sidebar to skip towards the parts of this best drawing tablet guide that catch your interest. Or go straight to our top picks for best drawing tablet here.
Drawing Tablets: An Introduction
Whether you are a seasoned artist who, until now, only used pen and paper, or a parent who got tired of researching sketchbooks for beginners for their children, it is worth considering going digital. Drawing tablets are here to stay, and can change the way you express your art significantly. Unlike traditional tablets such as the iPad, drawing tablets are actually a peripheral that you connect to a computer or laptop.
Roughly, they are like a pen if you could just connect the pen to your computer and draw on the screen, changing color and thickness effortlessly. In fact, with the right software your digital tablet allows you to choose from all sorts of media: do you want to use a watercolor brush? Just choose it from the menu. Of course, a lot of this comes from the software: even the best drawing tablet will suck if you lack the right software for the job.
Most drawing software designed to support drawing tablets allow you to create your own brushes as well, or acquire them from the internet. In order to make the most of your drawing tablet it’s often a good idea to invest in a good course (Udemy is a good source). If you intend to become a professional graphic designer, game or animation artist you’ll want to learn how to use a digital drawing tablet as most work is nowadays done in this format.
Can The iPad Be Used As a Drawing Tablet? Or An Android Tablet?
One of the biggest differences between drawing tablets and regular tablets such as the iPad or other touch-screen enabled gadgets is pressure sensitivity. The drawing tablet and pen allow you to change the thickness and opacity of your lines and behave very much as if you were using a real pen (or brush or crayon for that matter). Generally speaking, a tablet won’t replace a drawing tablet any time soon.
However, an exception to this could be an iPad Pro with an Apple pencil and a suitable app, such as Procreate or Adobe Photoshop Sketch. This could compete with some of the cheap good drawing tablets in the market, but won’t cut it at a professional level and it’s not particularly cheap. However, if you don’t own a computer (which you would need with most drawing tablets) this could also be an option. If you prefer an android tablet with a pen there are also several good options, starting with the Samsung Galaxy Tab which has a lovely stylus accessory.
Best Drawing Tablet Buying Guide
Before making your final decision on which drawing tablet is best for you, you’ll need to consider the following features. Not all models include them all, but not all people need them all either. As usual, an affordable drawing tablet will usually have less features than a more expensive one but keep in mind you may be paying extra for the brand as well.
The key defining feature of a drawing tablet is the pressure sensitivity. Since pressure sensitivity reflects in the thickness of the lines, the more sensitive a tablet it the closer you can get to the real pen&paper experience. While an affordable drawing tablet will have sensitivity levels around 2048 to 4096, the higher ends ones go much higher. For example the Wacom Mobilestudio Pro doubles that with 8192 pressure sensitivity levels.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a cheap, good drawing tablet that will allow you to learn the medium… choose one that is not top of the line sensitive. You can always adjust via software, but you will get annoyed if the tablet picks too many accidental changes in pressure.
Drawing tablets come with a variety of stylus, which are similar to a smart pen. They need to be charged every so often, so if you want long hours of uninterrupted drawing choose one that has a large battery. But as with pens, you must also look at the shape and size of the stylus: it needs to be easy to comfortably grab and not so heavy it’s difficult to use.
Tips and Erasers
Most actual drawing tablets have stylus with replaceable tips and eraser tips, which you can use to create different types of art that replicate different types of media. You can choose tips that feel like a brush, or a pencil or a marker. Heck, you can even find tips that feel like a chisel! If you are an advanced artist, or want to translate your experience with traditional media straight to your new tablet, the right kind of tip is a must have. This is where something like the Apple Pencil falls short, as you can’t replace the nib.
Much like a screen, your drawing tablet resolution will reflect on how detailed your work can be. This can be measured in lines per inch or pixels per row and column. If you want to do highly detailed work, a resolution of 4000 inches per inch or more will work better.
Tilt and Rotation Support
In order to fully imitate how a pencil or marker feels in real life, a drawing tablet must have tilt and rotation support. A physical brush would create different lines when you tilt it or rotate it, and that’s what the stylus on the drawing tablet is trying to accomplish. You can accomplish a similar effect with a tablet that doesn’t support this (for example, the Apple iPad Pro) if you rotate the tablet but obviously that’s very unhandy compared with just having a proper stylus.
Connectivity And Operating System
Unless you are purchasing a machine to go with your digital drawing tablet, you should look for a model that can connect to your computer. Some use USB drivers, some are wireless. Most drawing tablets will work on both the latest versions of windows and Apple’s Mac OS but check just in case.
As above, unless you are happy to splurge in expensive software, look for a tablet that works with what you have or what you can afford. Unless you are a professional artist or graphic designer you may want to avoid tablets that require expensive software suites and stick with open source or the tablet’s own software until you learn the ropes.
A nifty addition to many drawing tablets stylus are programmable buttons. This basically means that you can configure the buttons on the side of the stylus to perform particular actions, such as switching to erase or scrolling your drawing instead of painting. A good stylus will programmable buttons will increase your output and make drawing quicker and more effective.
Best Drawing Tablet Buying Options
In our opinion, the following are some of the best drawing tablet examples available in the market. They come in a variety of prices and quality levels, but they are suitable for both amateurs and professionals without breaking the bank.
- One by Wacom, Portable, Versatile Drawing Tablet: Introduce your student to the love of learning through pen to paper feeling on this drawing pad and support homework, drawing and their creativity
- Compatible With All Software Technology: This drawing tablet can be used with Chromebook without requiring a driver but also works with any computer system and software for education and gaming
- What the Professionals Use: Wacom's industry leading pen technology and pen to paper feeling makes it the preferred drawing tablet of professional graphic designers
- Software and Training Bundle: This portable drawing pad contains a full software bundle including CSP, trials, and training for free access to learning how to best enhance productivity and creativity
- Wacom is the Global Leader in Drawing Tablet and Displays: With over 40 years in the pen display and tablet market, you can trust Wacom to help you bring your vision, ideas, and creativity to life
- Paper-to-digital ability lets you capture editable versions of your pen-on-paper sketches, completely digital from start to finish and export as raster or vector files. 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt-response and virtually lag-free tracking new Pro Pen 2 technologies
- System requirements: USB port, Windows 7 or later (64 bit), Mac OS 10.10 or later, Bluetooth, Classic for wireless connection to PC or Mac, Bluetooth LE for wireless connection to mobile devices (in paper mode), Internet connection to download driver and Software.
- The Paper Edition consists of the new Intuos Pro tablet & Pro Pen 2 combined with a detachable Paper Clip and a Fine tip (gel) Pen for sketching on paper
- Connect tablet to your Mac or PC without paper, using the Pro Pen 2 and it works as a regular Wacom Intuos Pro
- Super-slim tablet design with a more compact footprint (13.2” x 8.5”) and larger active area than previous models (8.7” x 5.8”).
- 8192 Pen Pressure Levels - A revolutionary upgrade delivering the ultimate accuracy and advanced performance; Wispy hairlines or thick strokes, precise as you intended. Online Teaching and Working - Meet all your needs for every subject with online tutoring softwares: Power Point, Wrod, OneNote, PDF... Let's work more efficiently. Use Huion for for online conference purpose,Web Conferencing, Webinars and Screen Sharing.
- New Pen - The new rechargeable PF150 pen is elegantly designed with the perfect size and weight, providing a better grip and a more natural drawing experience. You can also simply unscrew the pen stand to use the built-in nib extractor.
- Wireless connectivity gives you an amazing cable-free work experience making for a tidier desktop environment at work. 8 Customizable Shortcut Keys: New easy to use press keys to keep your favorite functions close to you for more efficiency.
- Huge Active Area -11 inch of drawing area made with high end materials giving you a large working space as well as a paper-like finish. High Capacity Battery: A 2500mAh built-in battery provides over 40 hours battery life, no need to worry the digital drawing tablet shutting down or running out of juice.
- Ergonomic Design - Curvy edges, round corners and smooth surface, Q11K’s ergonomic design aims to provide extra comfort to our customers. You can comfortably rest your arm on the edge, reducing all the tiredness caused by long working hours and let yourself concentrate on your work.
- Precision Graphics Tablet: Our professional Wacom Intuos utilizes trusted Pro Pen technology to allow for hours of image editing, illustration or design work
- Ultra-Responsive Wacom Pro Pen 2: The included ergonomic 8192 pressure sensitive battery-free pen is easy to control, giving you the familiar feel that you are used to with exceptional sensitivity
- Compact Bluetooth Design: The compact design along with touch gestures and programmable buttons give you a broad range of ways to personalize the way you work and create
- Productivity Boosters: Speed up and stay in creative flow with multi-touch gestures and get easy shortcuts with customizable 8 Express Keys Touch Ring and pen side switches
- Creative Software: Register your Intuos Pro and receive 3-months of Shapr3D, and 3-months/250GB of MASV file transfer; offer available for customers located in the Americas
We hope this buying guide helped you find the best drawing tablet for your needs and budget. Drawing tablets are a great tool to explore techniques you may not have access to at home. They are also likely to be the future of work not only for artists, but also for designers and architects, as they perform as well as traditional pen and paper design but are much more portable. So it’s a topic worth exploring if you want to expand your horizons as an artist.