The 10 Best Drawing Tablets 2017

Digital art is not for everyone. It takes character and hard work. But if you are so inclined, then in this article you will find gathered the best tablets for drawing.

After reviewing hundreds of drawing devices, certain patterns emerged: most artists with smaller surfaces want bigger surfaces and the most universal problem? Drivers. Dodging both those issues, I conclude your best bet is the Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium

By Gabriella Germano

"Red" - Gabrielle Germano

Great Drawing Tablets with Screen

The S-pen does not need recharging or a battery. It's a capacitive stylus which you could replace, if you so desired, with something prettier. Unfortunately, also no pen tilt or rotation, this is to be expected with lower cost tablets. Not even the Surface Pro nor the iPad Pro have those features mastered. Also don't expect this to be a digital art workhorse. Do not buy it, if you're looking for more complicated work with high resolutions or details. Frankly, no traditional tablet other than the Wacom MobileStudio Pro can. 

samsung-galaxy-tab-10-1-review

Regardless, for someone who wants to do it all - draw comics, do simple sketches, write notes, email, watch movies and surf the web - the Tab 10.1 is perfect. It's relatively low cost which is amazing when you look at the Super AMOLED 1920x1200 pixel display and 1.6GHz octa-core  running it. Solid 3GB of RAM which isn't a lot but considering again all the power in this neat package, we'll take it. I think it's the most bang for buck tablet on the market right now. If you aren't convinced you'll be surprised that it also boasts up to 13 hours of battery life

It looks and feels good. At 9.7 inches and an impressive 2048 x 1536 resolution the crystal cool display is stunning. Although I complain about Apple products being constantly overpriced. They've found a good middle ground between capitalism and a quality product this time. They've handled palm rejection (multi-touch). Great affordable alternative for Apple fans.

ipad pro

And they have introduced competitive pressure sensitivity (although they haven't specified what it is).
Artists comment that they still prefer the Wacom stylus experience but that's to be expected with a company that's been in the business for so long. With drawing software like Procreate drawing will be a sweet experience since it let's you adjust the pressure curve to your liking. The only real downside to the Ipad Pro is the fact that the stylus, much like the Surface Pen, has to be recharged. Not too often and they don't charge long but still a downer. Not to forget the stylus also has pen tilt.
Last but not any less important: don't expect this machine to be able to run full Photoshop. You'll be disappointed. Because this machine is not meant to run anything too challenging. Unlike the Surface Pros and the Wacom tablets. 

3. MobileStudio Pro 13/16 - The Best in the World

This is the new flagship portable tablet from Wacom. The spiritual 3rd generation of the Cintiq Companion. Which was discontinued since the Cintiq Companion 2 was defective. Quite quiet compared to it's peers but not as quiet as the Ipad Pro.

wacom mobilestudio pro

No disconnect between where the pen touches down and where the dot or mouse appears on the screen. Practically, no Parallax as it is otherwise known. This is the new flagship portable tablet from Wacom. The spiritual 3rd generation of the Cintiq Companion. Which was discontinued since the Cintiq Companion 2 was defective.
Quite quiet compared to it's peers but not as quiet as the Ipad Pro. No disconnect between where the pen touches down and where the dot or mouse appears on the screen. Practically, no Parallax as it is otherwise known.

The high 8192 pressure levels are great. Much less switching between brushes when going from grand strokes to more light strokes. Due to the impressive 13 or 16 inches of size, larger than any other conventional tablet, you'll spend very little time zooming in and out. Stunning depth of vision with a high resolution of 2560 x 1440 and borderline perfect color quality of 96% Adobe RGB.

Retractable pen tip is a bit off putting but you get used to it and it actually helps with my work. Pen tilt, rotation and multi-touch as usual. It's great if you travel a lot and really need to get more out of your time away from your desktop. Otherwise a graphic monitor with even more diagonal space might be a good idea. Accommodates you if you're left handed. Suitable for anything but not perfect.

Now I might be a little bit biased. The Microsoft Surface Book series is hands down the slickest combination of design, power and functionality in recent years. 4096 pen pressure levels and multi-touch. Capable of running full Photoshop, unlike the Ipad Pro. Just a fair warning though just because it can doesn't mean it's meant to. 

surface book

Have reasonable expectations. You won't render a 3D animation movie on this baby alone, you could in theory but you wouldn't want to. It's not the best device for artists. I've noticed that the pressure curve could be better. 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 operating problems like unwanted strokes appearing. And the pressure levels occasionally malfunctioning, as you would not experience on a Wacom model. The stylus also needs recharging but unlike the Surface Pro it comes included with the book.
This is the high-end non-Mobilestudio Pro solution, that although not perfect, gives you a lot of wiggle room in terms of cost, function and power.
I'd consider buying this if you need more computational power than the Ipad Pro 9.7 and don't mind the extra cost. The 13 inch display is also great for artist with a more serious bend.

4 Great Graphic Tablets

The Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium feels great to hold. Comfortable weight at 1.5 pounds and so much active area (A5 paper size) you can smush your face against it. The drawing surface is course like paper.

wacom intuos pro medium black

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 like pen tilt and rotation.

Suitable for: photoshop, high resolution art, comic art, animation. Anything really, although for 3D animation you might want a desktop computer and graphic monitor. 

I'd argue that the Huion 1060 Plus is the best drawing tablet for beginners under 100$. It features a 10 x 6.25 inches active area which is 20% larger than the competing Intuos Draw. It also has 2x more pen pressure at 2048.  On the downside the stylus needs recharging.

huion 1060 plus

The price, although slightly more, is insignificant considering the time you'll save and the functionality the tablet brings which will last you quite long into your professional career. If you are tech savvy I recommend you get the Huion 1060 Plus over the Intuos Draw. However if you don't feel comfortable troubleshooting drivers and want something that just works then get the 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 still draw beautiful paintings with it, I was still unhappy with the 8.25 x 6.7 size as an artist. It also lacks multi-touch. It does not have a lot of extra functionality like pen tilt or rotation.

wacom intuous draw

The tablet only registers up to 1024 levels of pressure which is good enough for most artists. But if you're doing commercial work that's going on a billboard or TV you will need a higher pressure tablet to accommodate the higher resolution demands.
It also lacks an eraser at the end, which isn't that important, more like a vanity perk.  Since Huion offers a larger tablet with more pressure sensitivity with the only downside being a rechargeable 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? Suitable as a gift for a loved, but if you're willing to go through some driver issues for a better device check out the Huion H610 below. It's also a great option for teachers who want to make their own video study material, as it's a great low cost device for taking highly accurate notes.

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. What separates the Pen and Touch from the Draw is mainly the presence of the multi-touch feature. It is the same device in all other aspects.

intuos pen and touch m

Although a bit more expensive than the Intuos Draw.  Like with the draw, I recommend you get the medium if you can afford it because size really matters in this case.
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 our review.

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. These are the devices you should prefer for high resolution illustration, art, 3D modeling, animation work, architecture or graphic design. Anything professional really. 

9. XP-Pen Artist22 Graphic Monitor

Among the Cintiq alternatives this is one of the more solid choices. Although none are perfect and even Wacom gets it wrong sometimes (Hint: Cintiq Companions are no longer produced). Color calibrators say it's on point as you would expect with an IPS display.

xp 22 ips monitor

178 degree near perfect viewing angle and FULL HD resolution. Rechargeable pens are only a minor flaw and won't actually run out fast enough for you to be annoyed by it. Strong 2048 pressure levels without pen tilt or rotation capability. Which although not the highest nowadays is still very competitive. The only true downside would be the lack of multi-touch 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 a great budget choice for those who can't afford a Cintiq.

The main advantage of a monitor tablet is the massive 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. The main value is in the close to perfect viewing angle, the surface feel, the anti-glare and the quality of the color.

cintiq 13

Most importantly speed on one of the best drawing devices on the planet. All of these things are really up to your preference, do you care? Do you have another monitor for color reference? If not you need it. Being able to draw on a screen directly brings a lot of joy you might have forgotten as you've grown up. This graphic monitor will bring back that childhood joy.

With a Intuos Pro 2 stylus it also supports up to 8196 pen pressure, pen tilt and rotation. No need to recharge or change the battery.

How we choose:

  • Software compatibility - All of these devices work with most common software solutions this includes but is not limited to: Photoshop CC, Paint Tool Sai, Artrage, CAD etc. If they have the hardware requirements for it. Full Photoshop and CAD software are generally much more demanding than simpler drawing programs.
  • PC and Mac compatible - ​All of these machines work with PC and Mac although, in some cases some things might work better with PC or Mac. This is generally a very rare case so don't worry about it.
  • Good value for your money - I don't recommend a lot of products because they have bad customer support or they ask too much for the hardware. I try to balance out every aspect from quality to brand to customer support.

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.

Multi-touch, 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 just the manufacturers fault. It's not uncommon for the customer who refuses to follow the guidelines specified in the manual and then thinks they got a faulty product. Although even Wacom has occasionally messed up.

Wrapping it up

In most cases you should always aim to get a medium size drawing tablet. At least around 10 inches. This is really important if you're getting a regular drawing tablet with a screen. You don't want to zoom in for details, having a larger resolution and a larger screen helps with that. Having a pressure sensitive stylus helps with that. 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.

wacom intuos pro medium black

If you have money to spend go for a Wacom product like the Intuos Pro Medium if not choose Huion and don't worry about the price.  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 device, you'll be able to draw amazing things if you just have the guts to go for it.

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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