Every artist needs tools to express themselves, be it pencil, pen, or brush. However, with the age of digital everything upon us, much of the art we can now see is produced on computers. Some masters are skilled enough to use a mouse to draw, but this is counterintuitive at best for most people and often lacks that finesse or precision we all want. Thankfully there are ways to mimic that kind of artistic detail with graphic tablets or pen displays. Our review will cover all the different types and find the best drawing tablet for your needs.
- Textured surface and EMR pen
- Best-value pen display
- Anti-glare matte screen
Wacom Intuos Pro
Wacom continuously sets the industry standard for the best graphic tablets. Whether you are a beginner, or an experienced graphics designer proficient with drawing tablets, you won’t make a mistake with the Wacom Intuos Pro, which also comes in three sizes.
This tablet takes all the perks of the Wacom Intuos and kicks them up a notch, even though they have similar hardware. The Pro version has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, which is twice as much compared to the regular version, providing smoother transitions between different levels of opacity. That kind of sensitivity also helps with realistic handwriting, and you can easily see the fine-tuned precision the best Wacom tablet brings to the table.
The first upgrade from the regular version is the “Touch Ring.” This Pro feature lets you smoothly toggle between four different options that you can set yourself, like scrolling, rotating the canvas, zooming in/out, changing brush size, or the active layer. Next to the Touch Ring, you can find customizable buttons as well. Large and medium models have eight, while small has six buttons that you can use as additional shortcuts.
However, you’re not tied to the radial menu for manipulating your canvas: The Intuos Pro computer drawing pad’s multitouch feature can easily position your drawing. A switch on the tablet side enables or disables this option, depending on your preference.
You can connect the Wacom Intuos Pro to your computer with a USB-C cable or via Bluetooth. While the cable provides a high-speed connection, there is no input lag to stop you from using Bluetooth, and no wires will get in your way if you do.
The pen you’ll get is the Wacom Pro Pen 2 – an EMR model that doesn’t require charging with this digital drawing pad. It has a rubber grip and sits comfortably in your hand. There are two switches on its side to which you can map certain functions, too. The pen holder allows you to easily remove the pen nib and change it while also doubling as excellent storage for the nibs. The staple Wacom pen eraser is another fun feature you can expect. The pen and tablet support tilt detection and work flawlessly for both wireless and USB connections.
The available working areas on the Wacom Intuos Pro will easily accommodate any user. The largest version is usually the best drawing tablet for artists, but if you’re more of a recreational user, the smaller versions might work too:
- Small – 6.3” x 3.9”
- Medium – 8.7” x 5.8”
- Large – 12.1” x 8.4”
The work area sizes correspond to paper sizes – the A6, A5, and A4 formats, respectively. The Wacom Intuos Pro also has a “Paper” capacity for digitizing work you drew on paper, which is excellent as an in-between step to get used to drawing with a screenless tablet. The supported resolution of all Wacom Intuos Pro models is 5080 LPI.
Without a doubt, the Wacom Intuos Pro is the best drawing tablet for PC users. While on the pricier side, it’s a one-time investment for a device you probably won’t have to replace in a very long time – the thousands of graphics designers, artists, and other professionals who use it say as much.
Apple iPad Pro
Last-gen tablets for drawing like the Apple iPad Pro sound like heaven for artists: The option to see your image directly while you draw it is excellent for anyone preferring a hands-on approach to digital artistry. With the iPad Pro, you also get all the functionality of the best tablet computer on the market and the apps directly developed for iOS to deliver the best drawing experience in that working environment.
You will have to purchase the Apple Pen to unlock the full spectrum of features that make the iPad Pro the best tablet for drawing. While Apple doesn’t disclose pen pressure sensitivity, it obviously provides incredible results. You will have to use the 2nd generation of the Apple Pen since it has undergone changes compared to the previous model. Third-party pens have input lag compared to the Apple Pen, so we wouldn’t recommend using them.
Unlike Wacom EMR pens, the Apple Pen does need charging, but you can do so easily, as it sticks to the iPad and charges wirelessly. However, the pen and screen do not have the same level of traction pen and paper do. That’s why some users use their drawing tablet with screen protection that has a matte surface to help recreate the texture of paper.
The most significant advantage of the iPad as a drawing tablet is its highly optimized mobile platform for producing high-quality imagery. The Liquid Retina Display looks fantastic, and, as expected from Apple, everything runs without a hitch on both display sizes (11” and 12.9”).
A whole range of apps from the Adobe Creative Cloud is available for iOS, and Adobe Fresco works like a charm to deliver the realistic painting experience it promises. The best drawing tablet with a screen blends technology and traditional painting methods by using live brushes. They act like real watercolors or oils on canvas, and painting feels like something from a dream or a science-fiction film. You also have many other apps packed and ready, like Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketchbook, Inspire, etc.
We would wholeheartedly recommend using the Apple iPad Pro to anyone looking for mobility, drawing directly on the screen with a great range of dedicated apps, and a highly optimized experience. Other good drawing tablets come nowhere near the iPad’s breadth of functionality, and its price reflects that, too.
XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro
XP-Pen’s Artist 15.6 Pro model is an exciting product for an affordable price. This drawing tablet is meant for artists, hobbyists, and beginners who need a top-performing and relatively cheap drawing tablet with a screen.
The working area of 13.55” x 7.62” is on the large side compared to most standard devices out there. The full HD screen – i.e., with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels – has a wide visual angle of 178 degrees. The anti-glare matte drawing surface offers excellent traction reminiscent of paper.
Similar to the Wacom Intuos Pro, you have a multifunctional radial menu button with eight customizable keys next to the working area. The power button is on the side of the tablet, right next to the brightness-adjusting keys.
This affordable choice for the best screen drawing tablet includes a stylus, and the experience it offers is on par with the rest of this tablet’s excellent features – drawing with it feels perfect. It has excellent pressure sensitivity and can detect 8,192 different levels of pressure. The battery-free EMR stylus can accommodate 60 degrees of tilt, and the drawing resolution is 5080 LPI. You’ll also get a pen case with spare nibs, and you can use the cap as a pen holder.
Such a trove of included accessories isn’t the standard for drawing tablets with screens, but XP-Pen stepped up its game. The three-in-one USB cable can be used to connect the tablet to your computer, and you’ll also get power converters for different outlet types for traveling artists. The device itself is quite portable and thin (from 11mm to 12.6mm), so you can easily take it on the road with you. Another thing to appreciate is that the tablet includes a stand and a drawing glove. Once you buy it, you’re set to start drawing.
For prospective artists just looking for the best cheap drawing tablet with a screen, this is a more affordable solution than the iPad Pro.
Microsoft Surface Book 3
If you think a laptop/tablet hybrid sounds impressive, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 is perfect for you. Microsoft has packed some pretty powerful hardware into this device, and even though it’s far from the best affordable drawing tablet on the market, the Surface Book 3 has plenty to offer for its price tag.
The Surface Book 3 comes in two sizes, with a 13.5” or 15” display, providing a work area for drawing on par with any larger drawing tablet model. The top-performance models have i7 10th-gen Intel processors, a 2 TB SSD, 32 GB of RAM, and NVIDIA’s RTX 3000 series graphics. These are premium components for gaming laptops, but if you need something more affordable, there are less pricey versions available for those who don’t need that level of performance. No version of the Surface Book 3 is a cheap drawing tablet, however, as this is still a multifunctional device.
To use it as one, though, you need the Surface Pen, which is purchased separately. The tablet’s pressure sensitivity is 4,096, which gets the job done just fine, although it’s below par for digital artists. The rubberized pen tip creates friction when pulled across the display’s glossy surface for better control, and the button on the pen’s other end can be used as an eraser. Using the Surface Book 3 as a drawing tablet with a pen feels natural, as the pen tip is close enough to the screen, without a thick protective glass surface in between.
With a full-fledged computer as your drawing platform, you have an excellent selection of software at your disposal. Still, the sensitivity being what it is, drawing straight lines in specific programs like Photoshop can turn out a bit shaky, while faster strokes end up much smoother. This doesn’t occur in all drawing programs – Adobe Fresco gives seamless results, for example.
As an all-in-one solution for working on a Windows platform, the Surface Book 3 is the best portable drawing tablet, especially if you don’t mind the high price point. It will handle image and video editing, gaming, drawing, and other tasks on par with any other powerful laptop.
Huion Inspiroy H640P
For folks that want to test out if drawing tablets are for them, the Huion Inspiroy H640P offers excellent performance and won’t break anyone’s bank, making it the best drawing tablet for beginners.
The first thing that pops out when you see Huion’s tablet is the sleek and light design. It weighs just 277g, and it’s just 8-mm thick. You can see the 6.3” x 3.9” work area is marked out by the dots in the corners and has six programmable keys next to it. The tablet’s surface is textured enough to provide traction with the pen. It also has four rubberized feet, so it won’t slip from under your hands while you draw.
Most impressively, the Huion Inspiroy H640P has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity that other drawing tablets for beginners don’t have. It matches the best devices on the market, and the pen resolution is exceptional at 5,080 LPI, allowing for precise and detailed drawing. The Huion Inspiroy can detect the pen from 10 mm above its surface, too – one of the best reading heights out there.
The pen is an EMR model, so you won’t have to charge it. The two buttons on its side function as the right and middle mouse buttons, and the ergonomic design includes a sturdy rubber grip. The pen performs admirably, as well, easily making the Huion Inspiroy the best starter drawing tablet on the market. Spare drawing nibs are stored in the stylus holder, and there’s a small slot for easy pen nib removal on its bottom.
Huion’s drivers are available on the manufacturer’s page so that you can customize and calibrate your device. We especially liked that you can adjust the “pressure curve” to your taste. The tablet is easily connected to your computer or phone with a micro USB cable and requires no additional power source. On the downside, there are no multitouch or tilt functions, but this shouldn’t bother beginners.
All in all, the Huion Inspiroy H640P provides fantastic value as the best beginner drawing tablet. We would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to try digital drawing; its high-level performance and compact design make it a perfect spare drawing tablet for professionals, too.
Our review covers the various drawing computers and their peripherals to find the best tablet for drawing. Depending on your drawing needs, some might be more accommodating than others. Variety is the name of the game for these devices, as there are graphic tablets, pen displays, and tablet computers that can be used for the same purpose.
These are old-school tablets for graphic designers. This screenless add-on consists of a flat drawing surface and a stylus, while the image is displayed on the computer screen. This detachment can feel a bit strange for novices and requires some practice to improve hand-to-eye coordination.
A pen display is a drawing tablet with a screen, so you draw on it directly. Thanks to a flat-screen monitor that reacts to pressure from the stylus, it gives a more natural drawing experience, as hand movement doesn’t feel detached from what is going on the screen.
You can simply transform devices like the Microsoft Surface Book and tablets with Android and iOS into drawing tablets by downloading an app and using your fingers or a stylus. Manufacturers often produce specialized styluses for these tablets that further improve user experience.
The pressure the pen applies on the drawing surface controls line opacity and thickness, and the best digital drawing tablet will be very sensitive to these changes. Most often, an average user will be just fine with 2000 levels of pressure sensitivity. However, more advanced models have better sensitivity, with 4000 levels being the standard, and some even detecting over 8000 levels of pressure. Producing a smooth gradient is key for a realistic drawing experience, so even cheaper models can now be expected to meet these needs admirably.
Depending on the tablet’s software integration, you may experience input lag while drawing. The best drawing tablet shouldn’t have any, but even if you opt for a lower-grade option, there are multiple ways to optimize performance and run smoothly.
Regardless of your requirements, but particularly if you need a tablet for professional use, having a higher resolution on your drawing tablet will be necessary. This means you’ll have an elevated number of lines per inch (LPI) available, which directly influences the sharpness of detail you can draw in your active area.
Moving your drawing with scrollers is convenient since moving it with your pen or fingers may mess up your image, leading you to spend more time fixing your errors than drawing.
Wireless or Wired
A regular drawing pad for a PC usually has a USB cable, while the best devices offer both. Wireless connectivity is quickly becoming the standard for many devices, but having the option to use a cable has its perks, like reducing latency.
Because model variety has grown so significantly in recent years, there are price options on both ends of the spectrum. We will check out devices from all categories and find the best value-to-price ratio.
Active Work Area
The active area is the tablet’s available drawing space, and the size you need depends on what you intend to produce. You might find a smaller tablet for drawing more convenient to fit in your workspace, but having a medium or larger tablet is preferable for detailed graphics work. The larger the drawing area you have, the more precise hand movements you can make.
Screen or No Screen
Choosing between a flat surface or screen to draw on will mostly depend on your personal preferences and level of experience. There is a noticeable price difference between these two tablet types, and if you find screenless options comfortable to work with, you’ll probably save a decent amount on your purchase. Drawing tablets with a screen are closer to drawing on paper or canvas and make for a less detached experience, but they hike up the price.
Tablet pens – also known as styluses – also vary depending on the manufacturer. They can be battery-powered, rechargeable, and EMR pens. The data that pens transfer to your computer contains information about pressure, tilt, and pen position.
Battery-powered styluses are the bulkiest of the three, as they need extra space to fit the batteries, and you should always have some spares ready. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use the digital drawing tablet until you replace them.
Rechargeable styluses are slimmer compared to their battery-powered counterparts, more comfortable to use, and charging them works the same way it does for phones and laptops.
EMR styluses were originally patented by Wacom, and they are a much more elegant solution than both battery-powered and rechargeable pens. Battery life and charge capacity degrade over time, too. EMR styluses offer more precise performance and consistent output, producing perfect pressure on the tablet surface. They make all this magic happen via electromagnetic resonance. The digital art tablet surface contains a wire grid that produces an electromagnetic field. The copper coil inside the stylus picks up the EM waves and converts them into electricity, similar to how wireless chargers work. The pen then returns the electromagnetic wave to the drawing tablet, and this exchange maintains the pen’s charge and sends its data to the tablet.
Drawing tablets usually have buttons that you can bind as shortcuts to the most commonly used functions to improve your workflow and save time.
The best tablets for drawing have a handy multitouch option. It allows the user to move the image or model, rotate it, pinch to zoom in or zoom out. Having a hands-on approach to your drawing canvas or grabbing the model you are working on helps speed up the drawing process immensely.
Tablets that have tilt recognition allow for more creative control. Depending on the pen angle, you can create different types of strokes and variations in line weight. Of course, the pen has to support this function, and those that come with the best tablet for artists do.
Top 5 Drawing Tablets
- Wacom Intuos Pro – Best Overall
- Apple iPad Pro – Best for Portable Drawing
- XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro – Best Pen Display
- Microsoft Surface Book 3 – Best for Multifunctional Use
- Huion Inspiroy H640P – Best for Beginners
Are drawing tablets worth it?
Professional graphic designers and artists find the drawing tablet an essential tool that speeds up the drawing process and makes it more intuitive and enjoyable.
What is the difference between a graphic tablet and a drawing tablet?
The most significant difference is that a graphic tablet doesn’t have a screen, and you need to connect it to a computer. A drawing tablet will have a screen on which you can draw directly.
What is the best drawing tablet?
Finding the right drawing tablet will depend on your requirements. Our review covers pen displays, drawing tablets, and graphic tablets suitable for both beginners and professionals, so you will definitely find the appropriate device.