Graphics Tablet vs. Drawing Tablet: Which One To Buy?
Updated: November 21,2022
Nowadays, you might be in the market for a tablet to enhance your artistic journey. Maybe you're not sure which model to buy, or maybe you just want to learn more about the graphics tablet vs. drawing tablet, as well as their pros and cons. In either case, you've come to the right place.
In this article, we will compare the two types of tablets so that you can make an informed decision about which one is best for you. We'll start by taking a look at the basics of each type of tablet and then move on to discuss some of the pros and cons of each. By the end of this article, you should have a good understanding of both graphics tablets and drawing tablets and be able to decide which one will work for you.
The Main Differences Between Drawing Tablets and Graphics Tablets
Although they might seem similar at first, these two types of tablets have visual as well as functional differences. Obviously, they both have a drawing surface that you use a special pen to draw on, they might even have some extra buttons and connect to a computer. But that’s where most of their similarities end.
The screen is what distinguishes the two and it’s only included in drawing tablets, hence they’re often called pen displays. This means you’re working directly on your digital drawing when using a drawing tablet instead of using it as a hardware input device that’ll send a signal to your computer. Additionally, when connected to a computer, drawing tablets work as an additional computer screen which you can use for pretty much any other task, too.
But the differences between a graphics tablet and a drawing tablet don’t stop there. Thanks to their screens, drawing tablets often work as completely standalone devices. These are mostly high-end pen tablets and drawing devices like iPad Pro that have internal processors and pre-installed drawing apps.
There are also some variations in the way each type of tablet registers stylus inputs, as well as different styluses for each. While both have a pressure-sensitive surface, the fact that a pen display has a screen means that you need to use a different kind of pen so as not to damage the screen. That’s why many graphics tablets tend to be more robust.
Besides stylus inputs, drawing tablets can also recognize touch commands, which is another significant difference between a graphics tablet and a drawing tablet. Using capacitive screens, artists can rely on touchscreen capabilities to manipulate their digital canvas and drawings themselves, but also to fingerpaint, if they wish.
Lastly, graphics tablets cannot work without a computer. They are hardware input devices, first and foremost, meant to give better control over the graphics application the designer is working in. Unlike their counterparts, some drawing tablets are fully standalone devices that have an internal computer and storage for all the apps and art that you create on them.
Pros and Cons of Drawing Tablets
There are some clear advantages to using a drawing tablet. First of all, the built-in screen means that you can see your work as you're creating it. This can be excellent when you're trying to get the details just right, not to mention making things a whole lot easier for artists transitioning toward digital space.
Another advantage of drawing tablets vs. graphics tablets is that a lot of them can be used without having to connect to a PC. That being said, only the best drawing tablets work as standalone units, but if you’re a digital artist that travels a lot, it’s absolutely worth investing in such a tablet.
Some drawing tablets are equipped with touch technology, providing a substantial advantage to artists used to pen and paper. Quick and easy commands, alongside intuitive image manipulation, are why many people choose pen displays over other tablets.
On the other hand, drawing tablets can be more expensive than graphics tablets. A Wacom tablet, for example, can easily cost $1,000 or more. Additionally, they tend to be larger and heavier, which can make them more difficult to transport. Finally, the fact that they have a big screen means that any damage to the screen or applying too much pressure can cause issues with the device.
Pros and Cons of Graphics Tablets vs. Drawing Tablets
We’ve already mentioned that one of the obvious downsides of a graphics tablet is that it lacks a screen. This major difference between the two also means that these devices are less prone to breaking down. In fact, most graphics tablets are extremely durable and won’t lose their pressure sensitivity features, even if you get a few dents and scratches on their surface.
The price point is also lower for a typical graphics tablet. Even if we’re not comparing entry-level devices but more advanced ones, graphics tablets are, by default, a more affordable purchase compared to their screen-clad siblings. Lastly, they’re usually plug’n’play devices that don’t require any special setup.
Another downside of graphics vs. drawing tablets is also in how they work. You’ll always have to connect your graphics tablet to a computer, and since it has no screen, you have to look at the computer screen while you work, which makes the process a bit more demanding for novices. Simply put, a graphics tablet is not a great choice if you’re a painter, as you want a device you can draw directly on.
Deciding Which Tablet To Buy
Now that we've seen how both types of tablets work, alongside the most striking differences between a graphics tablet and a drawing tablet, we’re ready to decide which one we should buy.
Of course, choosing a premium, cutting-edge device is always an option. But, at the same time, you might end up throwing money away and getting too many features that you simply won't have any use for.
So, we've created a short guide on buying a tablet and settling the graphics tablets vs. drawing tablets debate. Here are a few things you should consider before making your purchase:
- What will you use the tablet for? Graphics designers, for example, prefer screenless tablets since they only need them as input devices, while digital artists prefer seeing their art on the tablet itself.
- Do you need a portable device? If so, then a drawing tablet might be a better option.
- Do you need a built-in screen? If you do, a drawing tablet is probably what you're looking for.
- What software are you going to use? Make sure that the tablet you choose is compatible with the software you intend to use.
- How much money do you want to spend? Graphics tablets are usually on the more affordable side, with many great entry-priced models available on the market.
- Do you need extra features? For some, a standard drawing tablet won't be enough. In those cases, purchasing a device like iPad Pro or Surface Pro X would be a better all-in-one solution.
Once you've considered all of these factors, you should have a good idea of which type of tablet is just right for you.
Drawing Tablet vs. Graphics Tablet: Which Is the Best for Beginners?
If you're just starting out with digital art, then we recommend getting a drawing tablet. These devices are typically more user-friendly and come with features that can be helpful for beginners. Additionally, entry-level drawing tablets are becoming more affordable, so you won't have to break the bank to get one.
Of course, if you already have experience with graphics tablets, or if you know that you need a specific feature that's only available on a graphics tablet, then feel free to get one of those instead.
Based on our graphics tablets and drawing tablets comparison, we can conclude that the latter are typically more user-friendly and come with features that can come in handy for digital artists. While usually not on the affordable side of the spectrum, they’re devices worthy of investment for anyone that wants to get into digital art and drawing.
Graphics tablets, on the other hand, are more affordable but come with fewer features. Moreover, graphics tablets can be more difficult to use than drawing tablets, as you can't see your work on the tablet itself, but at the same time, they’re sturdier and longer-lasting.
So, which type of tablet is right for you? Choosing a graphics tablet vs. a drawing tablet really depends on your needs and preferences. Whichever you end up buying, it'll prove to be a great drawing tool.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although not the first choice of graphic designers, a drawing tablet can absolutely work for you. If you need a portable device or if you want to see your work on the tablet itself, then a drawing tablet is exactly what you're looking for. However, if you're just looking for an input device, especially an affordable one, then a graphics tablet might be a better option.
Yes, most tablets can be used as graphic tablets. However, we recommend getting a dedicated graphics tablet, as they're typically more accurate and come with features that can be helpful for digital artists. Also, styluses usually can't work on a regular tablet, so you'd need to get a special pen that'll interact with the capacitive touchscreen or a tablet like iPad Pro that has its own stylus. As for whether you should get a graphics tablet vs. a drawing tablet, we recommend reading our article above to learn more.
Yes, drawing tablets are definitely worth the investment. They're great for digital artists of all levels and can be quite helpful in terms of productivity.
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A true tech and gaming savant, Ivan has been fascinated by the digital world since the early days of gaming on antiques such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore’s beloved Amiga. Whether you’re interested in the latest PC and console gaming news, antivirus software, or smartphone reviews, or simply want to learn about the newest geeky gadgets around, we at KT have you covered, and Ivan’s likely the one we’ll ask.