The Best Drawing Tablets in 2017

By Gabriella Germano

"Red" - Gabrielle Germano with Intuos Draw

I think you'll agree with me when I say:

Choosing a drawing tablet can get confusing. So many variables and contradictory claims.

It doesn't have to be.

After months of research, hands-on experience and talking with other professional artists to define what is the best drawing tablet? Certain patterns emerged. Most artists with smaller surfaces want bigger surfaces and the most universal problem? Drivers.

Dodging both those issues we conclude your best bet is the  Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium.

wacom intuos pro medium black
  • Optimal size
  • Quality hardware and drivers
  • Feel like paper
  • 8192 pressure Levels

But...
The price or functionality isn't for everyone. Maybe you need less?

For the beginner or the person interested in drawing comics, I'd recommend any graphic tablet with 1024 pressure levels. You simply don't need more, it's affordable and you'll get quality. A popular choice would be the Intuos Draw.

You may be wondering:
What about the professional?

I don't need to tell you that the professional needs speed. To increase productivity you want a screen you can draw on.

You have 3 choices:

  1. Portable tablet like the Ipad, Surface Pro or MobileStudio Pro.
  2. Budget Cintiq alternatives like the XP-Pen Artist 22.
  3. Expensive graphic monitor like the Wacom Cintiq 27QHD.

Generally high end tablets like Ipad Pro and Surface aren't ideal for drawing. They either lack the computational power for some programs like Photoshop or they don't have the full range of features a proper drawing stylus would have, or both. They are not serious drawing tools meant for high end art, animation, photography etc. Cintiq budget choices can have low quality or driver issues. But that doesn't mean Wacom is immune to low quality issues. The original Cintiq Companions were defective and that's the reason they were discontinued.

Our Favorite Drawing Tablets In-Depth

1. Intuos Pro Medium

wacom intuos pro medium black

The Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium feels great to hold. Comfortable weight and so much drawing area you can smush your face against it. 

Unlike cheaper alternatives from other companies the surface feels like paper and not glass.Not to forget, it also has a wireless set included, which is handy for slouching while drawing or some Netflix and chill during those days when you just can't be bothered move.

Unlike cheaper alternatives from other companies the surface feels like paper and not glass.
Not to forget, it also has a wireless set included, which is handy for slouching while drawing or some Netflix and chill during those days when you just can't be bothered move.

From grand landscapes or portraits of old monarchs to the next big manga. This is a graphic tablet that can do everything. The new model beats every other drawing device in this price range with 8192 pen pressure levels. While keeping all the proprietary functionality of the Wacom brand.
Suitable for: photo manipulation, high resolution art, comic art, animation. Anything really, although for 3D animation you might want a desktop computer and graphic monitor.

PROS

  • 8192 Pen Pressure Levels
  • Wireless Included
  • Stylus tilt and rotation 
  • Size
  • Price

CONS

  • No Screen

2. Intuos Draw

wacom intuous draw

This is the cheapest drawing tablet I would recommend anyone. Low cost but with the quality of the Wacom brand. This was my first drawing tablet and although, you can draw marvelous paintings with it. I was still unhappy with the size and having to zoom in and out as often as I did.

It does not have a lot of extra functionality, which you might argue you might not need.

It's simple and good for drawing but lacks some extra functionality such as an eraser at the end or high resolution pen pressure. That in my opinion is part of the bigger appeal digital drawing has. Since Huion offers a larger tablet with more pressure sensitivity with the only downside being a rechargable pen and potential driver issues. I'd risk it.
Having said that, it's perfectly fine for drawing. What's more important to you? Security or better functionality? As a gift for a loved one go with the Intuos, but if you're willing to go through some driver issues for a better tablet check out the Huion H610 below.

PROS

  • 1024 levels of pressure
  • Wireless Potential
  • Wacom Pen

CONS

  • 8.25"x6.7" surface area
  • No Eraser
  • No Multitouch

3. Huion H610 Pro

huion h610 pro review

Your first concern when choosing the right device is your budget. Knowing that we want the best for the least amount of cash.

Our main concerns are pen pressure sensitivity, active drawing area and price. Now the Huion H610PRO is cost efficient with almost all the bells and whistles you'd only see on pricier Wacom tablets.

Note that the Huion H610 Pro does not have pen tilt, multitouch nor pen rotation and you cannot add wireless functionality. These things and a drawable screen are what separates the Huion from it's high-end Wacom counterparts.

Luckily they don't really matter. For doodlers and people just getting into art, Huion is worth it considering because of the price at such power. If you want more information then check out our review.

PROS

  • 2048 levels of pressure
  • 10" x 6.25 '' drawing surface
  • Rechargable pen, no battery.

CONS

  • No multitouch
  • No wireless set

4. Intuos Pen 'n Touch Small

intuos pen and touch small

The best drawing tablet for beginners is not easy to define. But those who want the security of a strong brand I'd recommend the Intuos Pen and Touch Small.

The Intuos Pen and Touch is nearly perfect as a cheap drawing tablet. Although a bit more expensive than the Intuos Draw. Most artists agree that a bigger active area is the most important feature of a digital drawing pad. There are of course the odd few who are perfectly happy with their small drawing area but I tend to believe that might be because they simply can't imagine better.

The EMR stylus does not require a battery nor recharging. It has 2 buttons that function like the right and left click of your mouse. But it lacks an eraser. The tablet will function with most operating systems and drawing software. For more information check out my review.

PROS

  • 1024 levels of pressure
  • Multitouch
  • Wireless Potential
  • Size

CONS

  • No eraser
  • No tilt or rotation

Best Graphic Monitors 

Drawing on a screen is an experience worth buying. If digital art is your bread and butter then sooner or later you will want to try out a screen. The main advantage of a monitor tablet is the increase in productivity and being able to see what you draw without the disconnect.

If your primary income is from artwork then one of these is something you really need to consider. Time, after all, is money.

5. XP-Pen Artist22 Graphic Monitor

x-pen ips graphic monitor

This is my main recommendation outside the Wacom family or the alternative Microsoft or Apple products.

Color calibrators say it's on point as you would expect with IPS.

Rechargable pens are only a minor flaw and won't actually run out fast enough for you to be annoyed by it.

The only true downside would be the lack of multitouch but the need for that varies from person to person. It's reasonably priced, it's got plenty of drawing space. It's high definition and it has the second highest pen pressure levels. I think it's the perfect budget choice.

PROS

  • 2048 Pressure Levels
  • Full HD resolution
  • IPS Monitor 
  • Near perfect viewing angle
  • Tilt sensitive stylus

CONS

  • Rechargable pen
  • No multitouch

6. Cintiq 13-inch HD Touch

cintiq 13

The main advantage of a monitor tablet is the increase in productivity. When compared with a graphic tablet such as one of the Intuos Pro series, it does not have have any other advantages.

Now you might be wondering what's with the price tag? Or what do you get if you buy an expensive Cintiq instead of budget choice like Yiyinova?

The main value is in the close to perfect viewing angle, the surface feel, the anti-glare and the quality of the color. All of these things are really up to your preference, do you care? Do you have another monitor for color reference? If you can live without these, then by all means, opt for a budget choice like Yiynova. However, if you are still interested, check out our review for the Cintiq 22 HD Touch.

PROS

  • 2048 Pressure Levels
  • Multitouch
  • IPS Monitor 
  • Multitouch
  • Perfect Viewing Angle (178° degrees)
  • Full HD 1080p
  • Pen Tilt and Rotation

CONS

  • Expensive

Best Tablet for Drawing

You have 4 choices. OS X, Win, Android or Win (Wacom). The Samsung Android tablet is the cheapest and is arguably the most cost efficent in terms of the power. The S pen that has the same exact functionality of a Wacom Pen without the tilt.

But the amazingly cheap price comes at a cost and you see this in resolution, computing power and material cost. The best tablet for full Photoshop would be the Wacom Mobilestudio Pro or the Cintiq Companion. 

7. iPad Pro 9,7 in

ipad pro

It looks and feels good. I really wish that I was not biased against Mac operating systems. I've said this before and I'll say it again the quality of your work is not determined by your equipment.

But Apple has made something great and functional for an acceptable price. They've handled palm rejection, they have introduced competative pressure sensitivity and with software like Procreate drawing will be a sweet experience.

They've created a truly beautiful drawing tablet that's equally useful in its function. I will not say that this is a replacement for a purist tool like the Cintiq Companion 2. Because you can not run a full version of Photoshop on this and the color might be a bit cold for some of you.

This is the best tablet for drawing if you look at price, functionality and quality.

PROS

  • 2048 Pressure Levels
  • Multitouch
  • Full HD 1080p
  • Pen Tilt

CONS

  • Rechargable Stylus
  • Expensive
  • No full Photoshop

8. Galaxy Tab 10.1 with S PEN

samsung-galaxy-tab-10-1-review

The S-pen does not need recharging or a battery. Perfect for entry level comic drawing. I would suggest that you do not buy if you're looking for more complicated work.

But if you're looking for a simple sketching tablet then the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will do the job. It's the best budget tablet for drawing. A big plus is that you can watch movies, play simple games, read email and do simple work while not breaking your bank. My review.

PROS

  • 2048 Pressure Levels
  • Multitouch
  • Android
  • Price

CONS

  • No stylus tilt
  • No stylus rotation

9. MobileStudio Pro 13/16

wacom mobilestudio pro

This is the new flagship portable tablet from Wacom. The 2nd Gen of the Wacom Cintiq line.
Quite quiet compared to the older model. No disconnect between where the pen touches down and where the dot or mouse appears on the screen. Parallax as it is otherwise known.

The high pressure levels are great. Much less switching between brushes when going from grand strokes to more light strokes.

Rectractable pen tip is a bit off putting but you get used to it and it actually helps with my work. It's perfect if you travel a lot and really need get more out of your time away from your desktop set up. Then it's definitely worth getting because you'll be able to use Photoshop or ZBrush for any demanding job you might have for it.

If you don't travel and you don't have much downtime that could be used otherwise productively, then I'd say get a cheaper tablet like the Ipad Pro 9.7 or the Galaxy Tab A  for simple sketching. Later improve your work on your desktop.

PROS

  • 8192 Pressure Levels
  • Multitouch
  • IPS Monitor 
  • Multitouch
  • Perfect Viewing Angle (178° degrees)
  • Full HD 1080p
  • Pen Tilt and Rotation
  • Near 0 parallax

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Considering the price I'd rather get a graphic monitor than a 13 or 16 inch tablet

10. Surface Pro

microsoft surface pro 4

Now I might be a little bit biased. The Microsoft Surface Pro series is hands down the slickest combination of design, power and functionality in recent years.

The only downside I've noticed is that the pressure curve could be better. I would not recommend it for hardcore artists. If you do demanding work then the n-trig stylus will not be the best choice for you. Even with the latest Surface Studio the n-trig stylus still has some smooth operating problems like unwanted strokes appearing. And the pressure levels not working as you would experience on a Wacom model.

I'd consider buying this if you need more power than the Apple Ipad Pro can provide to run full Photoshop.

This is the high-end non-Cintiq Pro solution, that although not perfect, gives you a lot of wiggle room in terms of cost, function and power.

PROS

  • 2048 Pressure Levels
  • Multitouch
  • Can run full Photoshop
  • Fully functional computer

CONS

  • Battery powered stylus

11. Surface Studio

surface studio

The Microsoft Surface Studio was the highlight of late 2016. I suspect it will continue to be a dominant high-end pick for 2017.

The only true competitor to this is the current Wacom flagship models Cintiq 27QHD Touch or Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16.

MobileStudio being portable with 8096 pressure levels while the other 2 do not. The huge screen and being able to interact with the desktop via touch gives in addition to mouse or keyboard makes the experience much more immersive. It also supports palm rejection which means lefties will also have a fun time with this.

However as an artist you might find a few complaints. In some programs before your pen touches down the software will register it as a stroke. Which you might consider a deal breaker. The pressure sensitivity is still not as good as it is on a Cintiq. Not as smooth and might occasionally lag behind.

Also important to note: the infamous Surface Dial will only work with programs that support that function.

Overall, it's beautiful, powerful, functional but not perfect. Nothing ever is.

How I choose

I know what artists need and like.  Knowing that, combined with my hands-on experience, I make my choices to make sure that everyone gets what they want and the things they don't even know they want.

Budget is a concern for most people and knowing that I generally try to offer the best bang for the buck.

If the minimum requirements I recommend are not met in a product it generally does not get mentioned in this post.

Features explained:

How does pen pressure sensitivity work?

pen pressure sensitivty on a graphic tablet

When is high pen pressure level important? It's important when you're working on HIGH resolutions. If you're making a poster for a billboard or a grand portrait for the Queen of England then that's when you want the absolute highest pen pressure. However if you're a comic book artist then you will probably not need to impress anyone with high resolution pictures. Which means you should get whatever tablet you like.

The picture above is a demo of pen pressure levels at 1,024 in Photoshop Illustrator. As you can see it allows you to change the width of the lines you draw by just adjusting the pressure you apply with your pen.

The higher the sensitivity the better the responsiveness of the graphic pad. The greater your control, the greater the detail in your work.

Contrary to popular belief pen pressure sensitivity is not an important factor to consider when buying a graphic tablet. Pen pressure levels normally come in 256, 512, 1,024, 2,048 levels and now in 8096. The bigger the better, however realistically, with proper software, you will not notice the difference much because it's just not humanly possible to draw with such precision.

What's an active area?

active area

Note that the comparison is symbolic and does not reflect real life. Having a larger active area will make it easier for you to draw in sharper detail without having to zoom into your work. A large active area combined with high pen pressure sensitivity will make your digitizer and screen feel like you are drawing naturally with a pen or brush.

Of course, the stroke or dot size on your screen depends also on your brush size that's set in your image editor (photoshop, manga studio etc). The Huion H610 Pro and Wacom Intuos Pro Medium have the perfect overall size for a school bag or a briefcase.

If you are looking for a super accurate feel between your drawing pad and the screen choose a bigger drawing area combined with higher pen pressure levels.I urge you to choose a tablet with a larger active area. Having more drawing surface will impact your experience specifically if you're used to large strokes.

Pen tilt/rotation

The cursor rotates as you twist the pen in your hand just like a real brush would.

Touch Feature
Meaning does it react to your fingers or palm? Some love it, some don't. Often hand sensitivity can be turned off or switched for left-handed users.

Wireless
Pens are wireless however the tablets are commonly connected via USB. In order to get a wireless function, you need to buy the wireless set.

Eraser
Some people like having an eraser on the other end. Some pens that come with tablets have that functionality, some don't. Check our drawing tablet chart for more info. You can also buy an independent Wacom pen with an eraser if you wish.

Express Keys
If you're a serious artist express keys will matter because you can add functions to them for quicker access.

Pen Response Time
Reality is that the human eye cannot distinguish between such fast speeds in most cases. Don't give it thought.

Resolution
Much like with PRT the difference between products is not big enough to warrant concern.

Frequent Questions and Answers

Does the graphic tablet work on Mac or PC?

Yes, it does. We know that no company is going to exclude a big market share such as the Windows or Mac. Seeing how most modern digital tablets offer support for either operating system there is no best drawing tablet for Mac or PC. It all boils down to how much you want to pay. What qualities are important to you and what not.

Are Wacom tablets compatible with Linux?

Yes. Since 2011, most Linux distros offers support for Wacom graphic tablets. For more information about setting up the drivers go to the Ubuntu Help Center.

What about wireless?

All Intuos Styluses function without batteries and do not need to be recharged. However, Huion tablets have different conductivity and function with a rechargeable battery. The Huion 610 PRO does not have wireless functionality. Every newer Intuos has wireless functionality if you buy the extra equipment required.

Multitouch, palm rejection concerns or being left handed

It's possible to turn off skin sensitivity and force the tablet to react to only the stylus. Sometimes it's also possible to switch the tablet into left-handed mode.

Accessories and replacement parts

Most products we endorse come with accessories and replacement parts. Generally, the pen tips last a very long time and they won't be an immediate concern. Basic USB cables and driver CDs for establishing a connection included.

Brand history who to trust and who not?

Among graphic tablets Wacom, Huion and Panda City are the primary players in the market. Wacom being the industry leader and Huion the underdog. Do not let Wacom holding the majority of the market, however, push you off from buying a Huion product.Companies such as Turcom and Monoprice are actually just rebrands of Huion. Another company to consider is VisTablet, much like Huion they are affordable but they not might have all the functionality that's present in Wacom Pro products. Other graphic tablet companies.

Problems with drivers

Generally, driver problems are not the manufacturers fault. Commonly it's actually the customer who refuses to follow the guidelines specified in the manual and then thinks he or she got a faulty product.

Wrapping it up

In most cases you should always aim to get a medium size drawing tablet. A few extra key functions would be nice as well for quick access to an eraser or some other primary tool you use in your craft. Pen and Touch are always handy (pardon my pun) and it's always possible to turn off Touch sensitivity.

If you have money to spend go for a Wacom product if not choose Huion and don't worry about the price. Huion is delivering value. Ideally we would like to see Huion gain a bigger market share forcing Wacom to adjust and offer lower prices to in order to compete with Huion. Regardless of the product, you'll be able to draw amazing things.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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