I’m sure you will agree with me when I say, finding the best drawing tablet for your needs is no easy task.
In fact, there are so many things that go into choosing a tablet: The screen size, resolution, pressure sensitivity, the software you already use and so much more. Not to mention all the brands! Do you go with the industry standard Wacom or something cheaper like Huion or Ugee?
Bottom line: Choosing the right drawing tablet is a very personal choice.
In this guide, I’m going to show you how to choose the perfect digital drawing pad for your needs. At the end, I will also include my recommendations based on what you are looking for.
Full disclosure: To be completely transparent with you, I have not had the chance to physically use all of these tablets. However, I have scoured the internet reading hundreds of reviews, and talking to other artists. Below I have included a short summary of what I have found to help you in your decision.
Are you completely new to the world of digital art?
To find the right tablet for your needs, it is important to understand the different features.
Below you will find a quick definition of the standard features on a digital drawing pad.
A stylus pen is a pen shaped device that is used when drawing on your tablet. A digital pen for drawing often includes function keys, nibs, and erasers.
Pen pressure is how sensitive a pen is to the pressure applied to the active area. It allows you to draw subtle variations in lightness or darkness.
Pen response time, also known as latency, is the time it takes between moving your pen on the screen, and when the stroke is updated to the tip position on the screen.
The active drawing area is the area on the tablet that you can draw on.
When drawing on a graphics tablet, the stroke doesn’t always appear directly under the pen as viewed by the user. Parallax is the distance between your pen tip and where the stroke appears on your tablet’s screen.
Express keys, also called Hotkeys, are built in buttons that allow you to set up short cuts for common key commands. Often these are customizable, however, sometimes they are not. Be sure to check.
Tablet resolution, measured in LPI (Lines Per Inch), tells you how many digital lines fit into one inch of the tablet’s physical screen. The higher the LPI, the greater detail and sharpness of your image.
Nibs are the part of a digital pen that touch the surface of your art tablet. You have the main type of nib, which tells the tablet you are drawing a mark, and an eraser nib, which informs your tablet to erase whatever you are touching.
The feel of how the pen moves over the surface of a tablet is important to many artists. Some tablets feel silky smooth when drawing, others feel more like the texture of paper. It all comes down to personal choice.
How much you are willing to pay will determine what drawing tablets are available to you.
It can be scary looking to throw a large chunk of money at a graphics tablet, particularly if you haven’t used it before.
Keep in mind: there are cheaper options, but not necessarily better.
Art supplies are something you want to spend a little more money on for a quality product. The last thing you want is to buy a second rate tablet, only to find six months later that it is falling apart.
If you find a cheaper option that has the features you are looking for, always check reviews. Many review sites will also include reviews from people who have had their pen tablet for over a year.
If you can’t find a quality product that offers what your need, then I would recommend waiting that little bit longer and get a good one.
The active drawing area is the area on the tablet which you can draw on.
The size that’s most comfortable for you all come down to personal taste. It often depends on the type of work you do and the amount of money you are willing to spend on a new tablet.
Small sized tablets, like the Wacom Intuos, offer affordability and more portability. They are excellent for beginners, or students on a budget. If you have a smaller working space, then a smaller tablet is excellent.
However, if you are use to drawing on larger surface areas, small drawing tablets can often feel constrained.
Medium sized tablets, like the Wacom Cintiq 13HD or Huion H610 Pro, are excellent for artists who value the natural feel and movement of a larger workspace. If you do illustration and digital painting, then a larger tablet will allow for a more fluid movement of the hand.
The other benefit of medium drawing tablets is they can easily sit on a desk without taking up too much room.
Large drawing tablets, like the Huion Giano or Wacom Cintiq 22HD, are ideal for people who are use to larger canvases. I tend to draw from the shoulder, so having a larger work area is perfect for me.
I find it much more natural to draw illustrations and designs working on a larger screen than on a smaller tablet.
The only downside is with the big screen size comes the big price tag. It also will take up a fair chunk of your desk space. However, if you are an avid drawer or a professional digital artist, then big screens are a must.
There is a huge range of pressure levels depending on which tablet you use. Standard tablets can have 256, 512, or 1024 pressure levels.
Modern tablet’s specifically made for digital art now come with 2048 pressure levels. The top of the range tablets such as the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro has 8096 pressure levels – perfect for a full-time art professional.
Why is pen pressure important? The pressure-sensitivity controls line thickness, transparency, and even color. The higher the pen pressure level, the more responsive and natural your tablet will feel when you are using it.
So what pen pressure would be best for you? Most standard drawing tablets come with 2048 levels in pressure sensitivity. This is excellent, whether you are a beginner or a professional.
I wouldn’t too much about it unless you are specifically looking for something with a high pen sensitivity.
Pen tilt is how much sensitivity your pen has to sensing the angle between your stylus and the tablet. It enables you to create natural-looking strokes using an application that supports tilt-sensitivity.
Most pens will have tilt functions. Depending on how your drawing, or the kind of work you are doing, be sure the check the range your pen will sense.
If you plan to use your tablet for drawing, then most drawing styluses should be okay. If you do calligraphy or like to use a palette knife effect, then the range of tilt (and rotation) will be necessary.
Pen rotation allows the pen to sense when you are turning your pen. It is not a standard feature for a lot of styluses, so you might need to buy an advanced pen such as the Wacom Art Pen.
This functionality is recommended only if you are doing art that requires that high level of control.
There are four things I ask at when determining whether I drawing device I get will be any good. They are:
The main way to answer these questions is to check reviews online. If you have a particular tablet you are interested in, but still have questions, you can read those reviews to find out.
Alternatively, you can post your question on forums (or in the comments section below). Someone who has that tablet will answer it for you.
Wondering what the main differences are between a drawing tablet and a graphics tablet for drawing? Unsure which one is better for you?
There are many pros and cons of each type of tablet.
Below we have included a short overview of each.
If you are new to digital drawing or are on a budget, then a standard drawing pad will be more than enough.
Suitable for: Basic photo manipulation, comic art, digital painting, and animation.
If your primary source of income is from your artwork, then it is worth investing in a graphics tablet for digital painting.
Suitable for: Anything. High-end photo manipulation, high-resolution Artwork, 3D animation and much more.
If you have been searching around, you have likely discovered there are dozens of drawing tablet brands! Depending on who you ask, many people will have entirely different opinions on the same brand name.
So how do you know what brand is best?
Below is a summary of the more popular drawing tablet brands.
Founded in 1983 Wacom is the industry leader in drawing tablets. They have a broad range of excellent products.
While their products are slightly more expensive, the quality of their products is excellent. There is a reason they are the go to drawing tablets for most industry professionals.
With excellent world wide customer support, Wacom is a great brand for beginners and professionals alike.
Huion is popular among many artists for their range of well-priced quality products.
They are often considered one of the best Wacom alternatives due to the cheaper price tag of many of their drawing tablets.
Ugee products are excellent for what you get. Many of their products forgo the bells and whistles other tablet providers include to focus on refining the core elements of a drawing tablet. As a result, their tablets are considerably cheaper.
The only feedback I have for Ugee is to improve their limited customer support. Ugee is only contactable via an email address on their website. I personally like to call and get issues sorted over the phone.
XP-Pen is the new kid on the block. Founded in 2005, XP-Pen has quickly established themselves to be one of the top suppliers of drawing tablets.
Their product range is excellent and good quality. They have call centers in China, Taiwan and the US and their customer support is quick to respond via email.
Wacom, Huion, Ugee and XP-Pen are some of many brands who create tablets specifically for drawing.
However, many all-purpose graphics tablets, can also be good if you are new to drawing:
If you are new to digital drawing and already have one of the above, then they are excellent alternatives. While, many of the sketching apps might not have all the bells and whistles, it will provide a good introduction to drawing on a tablet.
If you have a new digital tablet, you may occasionally encounter unexpected problems.
Fortunately, many of these issues can be easily fixed or avoided altogether.
Below we mentioned the common issues you can have with a new tablet, and how you can avoid any unnecessary headaches.
A driver is a group of files that enables your tablet to communicate with your computer's operating system.
Drawing tablet drivers are notorious for not working properly, or difficult to install, when you first get your new toy.
To avoid frustration and disappointment, here are some tips to make sure your drivers work correctly the first time.
If you still can’t get your tablet to work properly, then it is a good idea to call up customer support.
Unfortunately, not all graphics tablets are compatible with all computers. The last thing you want is to get your new digital sketch pad, and find out it won’t work on your computer!
While most graphics tablets will work on Mac or PC, it is important to double check compatibilities. There is no best drawing tablet for Mac or PC. It all comes down to what you want, and how much you want to pay.
If you use Linux, you will need to double check whether your drawing tablet will be compatible. The good news is, since 2011, Wacom has been compatible on Linux operating systems.
If you have an older computer, you might run into some issues. Some newer drawing tablets might not be compatible with older operating systems. In my suggestions below, I have included which operating system each drawing tablet is compatible with.
Some higher end graphics tablets will required newer graphics cards to utilize all of their features. For example, the Wacom Cintiq 27QHD requires a graphics card that supports Displayport to get the full spectrum of colors available on the pen tablet (Yes, it’s a beast!).
These details can be found on the each brand's website. Many sellers will also included each tablet’s specification on their sales page, so be sure to look carefully.
Once you computer and tablet are correctly set up and talking to one another, then you will need a digital painting program to really exploit the full capabilities of your tablet.
There are 100s of drawing applications out there, so listing which tablet is compatible with which application is a mammoth task.
Most drawing tablets will be compatible with popular drawing software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Painter and Autodesk. If you use any other software, be sure to check that it is compatible with your new drawing tablet.
If you cannot find the information, you can always email the tablet provider or brand.
By this stage, you have everything you need to pick the right tablet for your needs.
But where do you start?
As it turns out, after a ton of research and testing, I've put together a short list of the top drawing tablets available.
Here are my 5 favorite drawing tablets of 2017:
Simple To Use & Affordable - The Best Drawing Tablet For Beginners
Colors: White & Blue
Express Keys: 4
Touch Screen: No
Available Sizes: Small (6" by 3.7" Active Area)
Includes: Art Rage Lite Drawing Software
OS: Windows (7 or newer), Mac (10.8.5 or newer)
The Wacom Intuos Draw is an excellent tablet for beginners. Learning to draw on a tablet can be challenging; however, the Intuos Draw is simple to use and provides an excellent user experience.
This tablet is compatible with both Windows and Mac. Whether you enjoy creating highly detailed masterpieces, touching up images, or creating the next big manga, this drawing can be used with most major creative programs.
Don’t have any drawing software? Don’t worry; the Wacom Intuos comes with a free drawing pack, online tutorials, and ArtRage drawing software.
If you are completely new to digital art and want a quality tablet at an affordable price, then the Intuos Draw is a great option.
This Tablet Is HUGE!!! The Best Large Tablet Available
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Express Keys: 12
Price: Low $$$
Active Area: 13.8" x 8.6"
OS: Windows 7, 8, 10, XP & Mac 10.8.0 or above
Wireless & USB Mode: Yes
Huion has created one of the largest drawing tablets on the market. A lot of larger tablets often have a problem with lag; however, the larger size of the Giano does not limit drawing speed.
The tablets service is smooth, allowing for swift and effortless strokes. It feels very much like drawing on a large sketchpad, encouraging good drawing habits.
The Huion Giano is budget-friendly and an awesome deal for someone looking for a huge drawing area.
Great Price & Large Drawing Area - Best Digital Drawing Pad For Casual Artists
Resolution: 4000 LPI
Express Keys: 16
Size: Large (10" x 6" drawing area)
OS: Windows 7, 8, 10, XP, Vista & Mac OS
Customizable Buttons: 8
The Ugee M1000L is excellent for the casual artists who enjoy a larger drawing area. If you are use to drawing on paper, then the feel of the stylus on this tablet will be very comfortable for you. The pen sensitivity is excellent with no noticeable lag.
If you like to customize your tablet to suit your needs, the M1000L comes with 16 express keys and 8 customizable buttons. It is easy to set up and start using.
The only downside is the USB cable is attached directly to the tablet. This could cause issues if the cable becomes faulty, essentially rendering your tablet useless.
However, the Ugee M1000L offers excellent value for money. If you are a casual artists or a beginner looking for a larger drawing tablet, then you will be thrilled with this tablet.
Excellent Build Quality & Reliability - Great Digital Drawing Tablet
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Drawing Area: 10" x 6.25"
OS: Windows 7, 8, 10, XP & Mac 10.8 or above
Customizable Express Keys: 8
The Huion H610 Pro is an impressive tablet. It is well built yet light and slim with an easy to use button configuration. The drawing surface has a matt finish and feels like you are drawing on a smooth paper surface.
A small detail we appreciated was the 4 replacement nibs kept in the based of the stylus holder with a metal nib remover. It is this attention to detail that sets the Huion H610 Pro apart from similar priced sketchpads.
One very minor issue was the interface for the driver installation. It is not the most user-friendly. However, once it is set up, the drawing tablet works perfectly.
If you are looking for a reliable, sturdy and affordable drawing tablet, then the Huion H610 Pro is great.
Compact Design & Great Battery Life - The Best Wireless Drawing Tablet
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Drawing Area: 8" x 5"
OS: Windows 7, 8, 10, XP, Vista & Mac 10.7 or above
Customizable Touch Keys: 6
One thing I love about the XP-Pen Star 05 is it is smaller than the Wacom Intuos Pro, but the drawing area is significantly bigger! Its design is compact and slim. No space is left unused.
The combination the Star05’s built-in lithium battery (up to 14 hours of battery life) and it’s wireless USB capability makes it one of the best wireless tablets for the money.
However, one of the biggest issues we found was the placement of the touch keys. Depending on how you hold the tablet, your palm could potentially brush these keys and activate them. It is not a huge issue, but it is something to be aware of.
This tablet is small, lightweight and perfect an artist on the go. If you are looking for a wireless tablet (without breaking the bank), the XP-Pen Star05 is excellent.
Are you looking for a drawing tablet with a screen?
We've gone ahead and found some of the top display tablets around.
Check out our top 5 favourite graphics tablets of 2017:
Top Graphics Tablet For Functionality, Quality & Reliability
The Wacom Cintiq 13HD feels like you are holding a sketchbook. It is perfect for propping on your lap while at your computer desk, making it easier to get used to if you have never used a graphics tablet before.
If the size is too small for you, the Cintiq also comes as a 22” screen and a monster 27” screen. Each size also has the option to have multi-touch capabilities.
The only down side to the Wacom Cintiq is the price. For what you get, it is on the expensive side. However, Wacom tablets are the go-to brand for most digital artists and for a good reason. Wacom is known in art circles to be the top choice for functionality, quality, and reliability.
If you want a high quality and reliable graphics tablet, then the Wacom Cintiq range is a good choice.
Great Quality & Value For Money - Best Cintiq Alternative
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Display Area: 476.64mm x 268.11mm
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10 & Mac OS
The Ugee 2150 is an excellent alternative to the Wacom Cintiq. It is incredibly easy to set up and get going. The detail of the monitor is excellent, and very responsive, especially for the price.
Do you tend to be heavy handed when drawing? You will be happy to know that the stand is very sturdy with little movement in the base.
The 2 pens that come with the tablet are very responsive, feel great and have great battery life.
The main standout is its value for money. The price you pay for what you get is excellent, making it one of the most affordable Wacom Cintiq alternatives.
Cheapest 22 Inch Graphics Tablet
Active Area: 476.64mm x 268.11mm
OS: Windows & Mac
The XP-Pen Artist 22 is a great graphics tablet for anyone looking for a reasonably priced graphics tablet. The screen is crisp and looks great.
The Artist 22 has great pen responsiveness and parallax. The two pens you get with your tablet are solid and feel comfortable to use.
One of the most notable downsides of this tablet is the mount. It is flimsy compared to other tablets, particularly if you are heavy handed when you draw. However, if you have a desk mount, the tablet is compatible with VESA mounts (I recommend buying longer cables if you chose to use a VESA mount).
However, the upside is the price. For what you get, the XP-Pen Artist 22 is one of the cheapest graphics tablet on the market.
Great Desktop Graphics Tablet
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Display Area: 476.64mm x 268.11mm
OS: Windows 7, 8, 10 & Mac 10.8.0 or later
There is no doubt about it; the Huion GT-220 is big. The 21.5” tablet monitor has excellent resolution, colour, and performance for it’s size. Version 2 of the GT-220 has seen an update of the firmware making it more stable than the original GT-220.
The main thing that could be improved upon is the pen. The pens precision and response time is great; however, it doesn’t have an eraser nib or support tilt recognition.
While it is not portable like the Wacom Cintiq 13HD, it’s a lot cheaper option and works great as a desktop graphics tablet.
Great Graphic Drawing Tablet For Casual Artists
Display Area: 302mm x 192mm
OS: Windows XP, Vista,7, 8, 10 & Mac 10.8.0 or later
The Ugee HK1560 is a great tablet for the casual digital artist. The combination of a vibrant quality screen, with super responsive pens, makes an excellent graphics tablet for someone looking to upgrade from a standard drawing tablet.
There are some issue when it comes to the display. In some cases, banding can occur with color gradients. The image can come off as ‘stripy’ rather than a smooth blend.
This is no big deal if you are doing comics, 3D or ink style drawing; however this is not ideal if you are a professional artist. Casual digital artists likely won’t find it a big deal.
While it does have some very minor glitches, Ugee will likely fix these quickly. If you are looking for an inexpensive and highly responsive tablet, the Ugee HK1460 is worth checking out.
Let us know in the comment section below.