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.
- Compatible with Corel Painter, CorelDraw, Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, Macromedia Flash, Comic Studio, SAI,Paint tool sai, Infinite Stratos, 3D MAX, Autodesk MAYA, Pixologic ZBrush and other major graphics applications.
- Function as the cursor and the board as the screen, when you move the pen to the corner of the board, the cursor on your screen moves to the corner of said screen, etc.
- Pen scrolling – You can scroll documents and Web pages by pressing the middle button of the digital pen over the tablet’s working area. (Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/Win7/8/10 and Mac OS 10.8.0 or above. )
- Three express keys - such as close current page, save current page.
- USB interface, Plug & Play- don't need to install external driver, very convenient
- Certified Works with Chromebook: The only drawing tablet that is certified to work with Chromebook for students, teachers and creators, One by Wacom is simple to use and set-up for any project
- Advanced Electro-Magnetic Pen Technology: Bring Your project and presentations to life with precision with pen technology matching your movement with precision for control and accuracy
- Natural Pen Experience: The included ergonomic 2048 pressure sensitive battery-free pen is responsive and easy to control, giving you the familiar pen-on-paper feel for drawing and creating
- Register your tablet to receive Education Software: Kami App (6-Months), and 3-months of Explain Everything, Pear Deck, & Limnu as well as Foxit PDF Editor for Education.
- Creative Software: Register your One by Wacom and receive a 3-month trial of Bluescape.
- 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”).
- 【11 x 6.87 Drawing Table】 The working area is large enough to easily set various modes.
- 【2.4 GHz Wireless Graphic Tablet】 Support wireless or cable-free operation thanks to the built-in 2500mAh lithium-ion battery. Drawing Board can be used without being connected for about 40 hours. It can also be used by wire.
- 【8192 Levels of Drawing Pen】 8192 Levels of pressure sensitivity advanced and better performance in drawing lines. Light weight and good to hold. 2 pen buttons can set functions as you like. New designed pen holder allows to place the pen vertically which better protect the pen from dropping down. 8 extra replacement pen nibs are inside the pen case
- 【8 Customizable Shortcut Keys】 8 customizable shortcut keys design to increase work efficiency, save time and thereby improve work flow. Art tablet suitable for both left-handed and right-handed users.Press key lock design to lock/unlock the express keys. Easy to operate, very suitable for novices, students, painters, designers and video editors.
- 【Multi Compatible Drawing Tools】 Supports Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.12or later and Linux(Ubuntu). Designed for playing OSU! Game, digital drawing, painting, sketch, sign documents digitally, compatible with Microsoft Office programs like Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and more. Create mind-maps, draw diagrams or take notes. Nice choice for for distance education and web conference, online meeting or teaching.
- 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.
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