Digital drawing tablets have become indispensable tools for creatives of all types. From fine artists and illustrators to architects and animators, these tablets allow you to digitize and enhance your drawings and illustrations with ease.
Compared to traditional paper sketching and painting, drawing digitally provides some major advantages. You can easily undo mistakes, work in layers, copy and paste elements, adjust the size and angles of lines and shapes, and employ a wide array of digital brushes and tools not possible on paper. Your artworks can be easily exported and shared in high resolution digital formats, and you save money on supplies over time.
But with so many drawing tablets now available, how do you determine which one is right for you? This guide will walk you through the key factors to consider when choosing a digital drawing tablet with stylus. We’ll also showcase the top 5 graphics tablets on the market perfect for artists, designers, students, and hobbyists. Let’s get started bringing your digital creations to life!
How to Choose the Best Digital Drawing Tablet for Your Needs
There are a few main types of digital drawing tablets to choose from, each with their own pros and cons:
- Graphics tablets without screen – The most affordable option. You draw on the tablet surface while looking up at your monitor.
- Graphics tablets with screen – Allow you to draw directly on the screen for a more natural, accurate feel.
- Standalone pen displays – Function as a secondary monitor you can draw on. Offers largest screen real estate.
No matter which style you choose, here are the key factors to consider when selecting a drawing tablet:
Size of Drawing Area
The size of the tablet’s active drawing area determines how much room you have to work. Consider the type of work you’ll be doing and your portability needs.
Larger surface areas allow you to make broader strokes and work on bigger projects more comfortably. But they are less portable for travel or working on the go.
Common digital drawing tablet sizes include:
- Small – 4 x 6in or 5 x 7in (good for note taking)
- Medium – 6 x 8in or 8 x 6in
- Large – 8.5 x 11in or larger (approaching size of standard piece of paper)
For drawing intricate illustrations, a small or medium size is likely sufficient. If you plan to work on large detailed artwork or need room for big arm gestures, a large surface is better suited.
Screen vs No Screen
Non-screen tablets require you to look up at your computer monitor while you draw on the tablet. Screen tablets allow you to draw directly on the surface, providing a more natural, accurate feel.
However, screen tablets cost significantly more than non-screen versions. If you’re on a tight budget, a non-screen graphics tablet can still be very capable for creating detailed digital art.
Pressure sensitivity allows your lines to vary in width and opacity based on how hard you press down. This mimics the way you would draw with physical media.
Most modern graphics tablets detect pressure levels ranging from 2048 up to 8192. More levels allow for greater nuanced variation in your strokes.
Higher end tablets boast even more enhanced pressure capabilities, like detecting tilt angle and orientation for more lifelike shading techniques.
Input lag or latency refers to the delay between making a stroke on your tablet and seeing it appear on screen. Too much lag can really interrupt your workflow and drawing precision.
For a smooth, natural feel, you want a graphics tablet with very low input lag – 5ms or less is ideal. Higher lag becomes noticeably disruptive.
Pen & Stylus Comfort
Consider the weight, thickness, and overall feel of the pen or stylus. Is it comfortable rested between your fingers for extended periods?
Many pens don’t require batteries or charging. Wireless Bluetooth pens provide more freedom but may need occasional charging.
shortcut buttons on the stylus can save you time accessing commonly used functions without reaching for your keyboard.
Wired vs Wireless Connectivity
Wired tablets connect to your computer via USB cable. This ensures reliable connectivity with no lag or interference. But wires can limit the range you can draw from.
Wireless tablets connect via Bluetooth, giving you more workspace flexibility. However, you may experience occasional connectivity issues or need to recharge the device.
For most artists, the wire does not impose a major restriction on workflow. But wireless freedom can benefit certain multi-display or mobile setups.
Make sure to verify the drawing tablet is compatible with your computer’s operating system and the artwork applications you plan to use.
Most major graphics programs play nicely with the popular tablet brands. But some niche software may have limitations.
Graphics tablets span a wide range of budgets – from $100 to over $1000 based on size, features, and accessories.
Basic non-screen tablets can often be picked up for under $200. Screen tablets usually start around $400+ and go up from there.
Determine how much you’re willing and able to spend. You don’t need to splurge on the most expensive pro model to get excellent digital drawing performance.
Popular Trusted Brands
Some of the top names in graphics tablets include Wacom, Huion, XP-Pen, Parblo, and Gaomon.
These companies reliably produce high quality tablets suited for everyone from beginners to advanced professional artists. Focus on the specific features that fit your needs and budget.
With these factors in mind, let’s look at 5 of the best digital drawing tablets available today.
Top 5 Digital Drawing Tablets for Artists, Designers & Students
1. Wacom Intuos Pro Digital Graphic Drawing Tablet
The Wacom Intuos Pro line exemplifies why Wacom is the leader in digital drawing tablets. Creative professionals around the world trust these tablets for their exceptional performance and reliability.
- Large active drawing area up to 13 x 8.5 inches
- Slim and lightweight design for portability
- Pressure sensitivity up to industry leading 8K levels
- Anti-glare etched glass surface provides tactile texture
- Wireless Bluetooth connectivity
- Provides an incredibly natural and smooth drawing experience
- Excellent pressure sensitivity capabilities detect subtle variances in pen pressure
- Customizable ExpressKeys allow you to shortcut your most used functions
- Fully compatible across Mac, PC, and Android operating systems
- More expensive than comparably sized non-screen tablets
- Drawing surface can wear down nibs quicker than some other tablets
Best for: Professional digital artists, illustrators, designers looking for advanced features and customizability. Worth the premium price for those who rely on these tools daily.
2. Huion Inspiroy H640P Graphics Drawing Tablet
With its compact size and affordable price, the Huion Inspiroy H640P is a great entry-level graphics tablet for beginners.
- Generous 6 x 4 inch drawing surface
- Battery-free pen with 8192 levels of pressure
- 6 customizable express keys
- Battery-free EMR pen technology
- Excellent value for the price compared to pricier options
- Good pressure sensitivity for stable, smooth strokes
- Reliable wired USB connection to computer
- Smaller drawing area limits your ability to make broad strokes
- Lacks advanced features like pen tilt/orientation detection
Best for: Beginners looking for a quality budget-friendly non-screen graphics tablet to start digital drawing.
3. XP-Pen Artist 12 Pro Digital Drawing Monitor
For artists wanting to draw directly on screen, the XP-Pen Artist provides vibrant colors and excellent sensitivity at an attainable price point.
- 11.6 inch HD IPS monitor with 1080p resolution
- 120% sRGB and 78% Adobe RGB color gamut coverage
- Battery-free passive stylus with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
- Supports 60 degrees of tilt function
- Drawing directly on the smooth color-accurate screen provides natural experience
- Pressure sensitivity captures subtle variations in pen pressure
- Large screen workspace for immersive digital art creation
- Lacks wireless connectivity, must connect via wires
- Only 60 degrees of tilt function (some tablets offer full 360 degrees)
Best for: Artists wanting excellent color representation and smooth pressure sensitivity when drawing on screen. Provides an expansive digital workspace.
4. Parblo Mast10 Digital Pen Display Graphics Monitor
For artists on a budget, the Parblo Mast10 provides a responsive battery-free stylus and vibrant IPS screen at an attainable price point.
- 10.1” HD IPS display for good color and viewing angles
- Battery-free stylus with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
- Supports 60 degrees of pen tilt function
- 6 customizable express keys
- Cost-effective digital monitor for drawing directly on screen
- Provides good pressure sensitivity for realistic strokes
- Eye-saving anti-glare HD resolution
- Smaller 85% NTSC color gamut compared to more advanced displays
- Lacks wireless connectivity
Best for: Budget-friendly digital drawing monitor for hobbyists and casual users who don’t need robust professional features.
5. Wacom Cintiq 16 Drawing Tablet
For professionals needing a spacious digital workspace, the Cintiq 16’s expansive 15.6” display delivers gorgeous visuals paired with Wacom’s renowned pen performance.
- 15.6″ full HD 1080p screen workspace
- 72% NTSC color accuracy
- Wacom Pro Pen 2 with 8192 levels of sensitivity
- Multitouch gestures supported
- Foldable smart stand
- Large high quality screen provides ample room for detailed digital art
- Excellent pressure sensitivity captures every subtlety in your strokes
- Intuitive touch gestures speed up common functions
- Very expensive, highest budget investment of these options
- Lacks wireless connectivity
Best for: Professional illustrators, concept artists, animators seeking top-end responsive pen performance on an expansive digital canvas. Worth the premium price for dedicated creatives.
Frequently Asked Questions About Digital Drawing Tablets
How do I get started on a new digital drawing tablet?
Install any required drivers, set up your express keys or shortcuts, arrange your workspace layout, and adjust pressure sensitivity in your drawing program. Try some practice strokes to get a feel for the tablet’s capabilities before jumping into major projects. Watching online video tutorials can help you quickly master the transition from paper to digital.
What drawing/painting programs work with these tablets?
The most popular graphics tablets work with leading programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Clip Studio Paint, Corel Painter, Krita, Rebelle, Medibang Paint Pro, and many others. Always check individual tablet and software compatibility before purchasing.
What types of work can I use these tablets for besides just drawing/painting?
Digital drawing tablets are extremely versatile tools. In addition to digital art, they’re great for graphic design work, digital note taking, annotating PDFs and e-books, e-signatures, editing photos and video, UI design, architectural drafting, cartooning, and more.
How durable are these tablets for regular use?
Most quality graphics tablets are built to withstand years of steady use. The main areas to be careful of are the pen nib tip, which wears down over time, and the drawing surface, which can show signs of scratches or wear with excessive pressure. Avoid hard or abrasive textures damaging the surface.
Do I need to be good at traditional drawing to use a graphics tablet effectively?
Not necessarily. While some basic drawing skills help, graphics tablets can be a great tool for learning to draw as well. The key is developing solid hand-eye coordination skills. Digital drawing allows you to easily correct mistakes in ways not possible on paper.
Choose the Digital Drawing Tablet That Unlocks Your Creative Potential
In conclusion, there are excellent graphics tablets today for all types of artists, designers, students, and hobbyists at every skill level and budget. The key is identifying your particular workflow needs, art style, and budget to select the right tablet for fulfilling your creative potential.
If possible, try to experience the drawing tablets firsthand in retail stores to get a hands-on feel for the size, pen grip, pressure sensitivity, and overall comfort. But with these tips and top recommendations, you can confidently choose a digital drawing tablet that ushers your artwork into bold new frontiers. Now pick up your pen, get inspired, and start creating your digital masterpiece!