Most artists find out at an early age that they have the creative gene. Doodling on papers, on the back of notebooks and breaking out the paint brush are all early signs of an artist. Somewhere down the line, the physical “paintbrush to canvas” turns into computer programs and mouse clicks. But there will never be anything that can replace drawing with a pen, pencil or paintbrush using your own hands. For the artist in the digital era, drawing tablets seamlessly merge the physical creative world with the digital one.
In this post, we’ll help you select the best drawing tablet for your creative needs, whether you’re looking for a cheap tablet for sketches or a top-rated tablet designed for professional artists.
What Is a Drawing Tablet?
These high-tech tablets are slightly different than the everyday tablet we use to watch movies and read the news, offering a more sensitive screen with features geared towards drawing. However, there are actually three distinct types of drawing tablets to consider.
You’re already familiar with traditional tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. The best tablets offer enough pressure sensitivity and processing power to double as drawing tablets, and they can be a great all-in-one solution for creatives.
Drawing monitors like the high-end Wacom Cintiq Pro offer a highly sensitive touchscreen monitor, so you can watch your creations appear in real-time on a gorgeous 4K display. Finally, there are also drawing tablets, which look more like high-tech mousepads at first glance. These devices offer a pressure-senstive drawing surface, and your work is inputted into a program on your monitor or tablet as you draw. Because they lack an onboard monitor, the best drawing tablets, like the XP-Pen Deco 01 V2, are much more affordable than most tablets.
How We Chose the Best Drawing Tablets of 2020
Whether you’re a professional graphic designer, someone who’s just starting to draw or anywhere in-between, going digital with a drawing tablet is a major upgrade. When buying a drawing tablet, you’ll want to look for a few key features:
This is arguably the most important factor in purchasing a drawing tablet. Pressure sensitivity means the range of pressure the tablet can recognize; higher sensitivity means the more you can control the line thickness with the amount of pressure you put on the pen. Obviously, the more sensitive drawing tablets are, prices go upward. Entry-level drawing tablets offer around 4,000 levels of pressure, so that’s a good baseline to seek.
Although this is pretty self-explanatory, it is worth mentioning, if you are going to be taking your drawing tablet with you everywhere you go, you’ll want to find something lightweight and portable. A tablet like the Sufrace Go 2 weights only about a pound, while the XP-Pen Artist Pro 12 is incredibly slim.
Size also relates to your work area. Some drawing tablets have a large area to write — 10 or more inches — while some have six inches or less. If you want more room to write or draw, consider going with a larger surface or display size. We picked a variety of sizes for you to choose from.
Just because you pick up a new drawing tablet shouldn’t mean you need to compromise on the drawing software of your choice. The best drawing tablets like the ones below work with a variety of software programs like Photoshop, Corel and others, so instead of learning a whole new program, you can just get to drawing.
Price can be tricky with drawing tablets, as they range from $20 all the way to $2,000. There are many factors contributing to this discrepancy, but generally, pick a price-point that reflects your skill and need. If you’re a professional designer, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a top-of-the-line drawing tablet. Alternatively, if you’re just getting started, there’s no need to spend more than $100.
The Best Drawing Tablets For Sale Right Now
There’s a wide variety of drawing tablets you’ll find below. You’ll even see what you wouldn’t think of as a “drawing tablet” like iPad and Samsung Galaxy S6, but when you pair them with a stylus, these actually become a great tool for visual artists. So whether your budget is big or small, or your skill level is expert or beginner, you’ll find the best drawing tablet for your needs below:
1. XP-Pen Artist Pro 12
There are a few slight tweaks that make the XP-Pen Artist Pro 12 slightly more user friendly than the cheaper Artist 12. For starters, the touch bar was replaced with a red touch dial that provides more accuracy and control. The display is also approved upon with a 178-degree viewing angle. And the Pro supports up to 60-degree angling with the stylus for more hands-on control and less adjusting your software for the right brush strokes. These extras only cost $50 more, too.
2. XP-Pen Deco 01 V2 Drawing Tablet
The XP-Pen Deco 01 V2 is affordable and ideal for online learning. It has a big 10 x 6.25 inch work space providing plenty of room to draw or write. It works in both portrait and landscape orientation which is useful depending on what you are working on. You might want to use portrait when you are working on a math problem in MS Word, or landscape when you are making edits in Photoshop. Speaking of, when you’re using the stylus, it can tilt 60 degrees so you can be more interactive with the pen and less with the software.
3. Wacom Cintiq Pro 24
In the digital art world, Wacom’s Cintiq Pro is the crème de la crème of drawing tablets. It boasts an incredible 24 inch, full 4K display with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, making it the best screen you’ll find anywhere. This means clear, virtually lag-free drawing and designing, and freedom to make whatever you want. For professional artists, you won’t find a better option anywhere. The best drawing tablets don’t come cheap, and this device has everything creators could want.
4. Microsoft Surface Go 2
When you pair the Surface Go 2 with the Surface Pen (sold separately), you get a portable and pressure-sensitive graphics tablet. With 4,096 pressure points on the Surface Pen on a 10.5-inch touch screen with 1920 x 1280 resolution, you get more control and better visuals, which make for cleaner lines and better drawings. And you can use your choice of artist software such as Photoshop or Corel Painter and others. On top of all that, when you don’t feel like drawing, you have a tablet with full laptop power at your disposal. In short, this is a great all-in-one solution for artists on the hunt for the best drawing tablets.
5. XP-Pen Artist 12
If you’re looking for the best drawing tablets with screens, one of our overall favorites is this XP-PEN Artist 12. It’s simple and reasonably priced at $200, but still has some premium features to keep a professional in business. The device boasts the highest pressure sensitivity possible with 8,192 levels, an elegant, handy touch bar on the side and a crisp HD display. Pick up one of these for any artistic job, drawing hobby, or as a great gift for any artistic soul in your life.
6. iPad Pro
BEST FOR MULTIMEDIA
iPad Pro is about as powerful as a tablet can get. And when you pair it with an Apple Pencil, or an Apple Pencil alternative, you can really create some artistic magic with it. The liquid retina true tone display looks absolutely incredible on both the 11 inch and 12.9-inch models and provides the clarity to see every detail in your drawings. It’s compatible and powerful enough to run major editors like Photoshop, so no need for an additional computer. And it’s small enough to bring with you wherever you go. iPad makes a strong case as a drawing tablet.
7. Wacom Intuos S
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
With a dot grid to help beginners draw straight lines and keep things to scale, along with a textured surface that feels like pen to paper, the Wacom Intous S is a great choice for entry-level graphic designers. The 6 x 3.7-inch drawing surface provides 4,096 levels of pressure which is plenty for a beginner to have complete control, but not overly sensitive to become overwhelming. It comes with Corel AfterShot and Corel Painter Essentials 6 so beginning artists can get right to work.
8. Galaxy Tab S6
BEST FOR ANDROID USERS
While you might not get the pressure sensitivity from a tablet like the Galaxy Tab S6 as you would, say, the Arist Pro 12, the Tab S6 does allow you to draw and create using the illustration software of your choice but also provides the extras of one of the best tablets available. Sticking with its creative strengths, the S-Pen not only allows you to draw, but you can also remotely snap pictures and control movies. And when you’re done, it magnetically snaps to the side of your tablet to charge.
9. XP-Pen G430S
If you’re new to drawing tablets, digital art or just art in general, you don’t have to risk dropping hundreds and then realizing digital art isn’t for you. This tablet (also from XP-Pen) costs just $20, and while it’s not prepared for serious art, it’s fantastic for messing around with and learning the craft. Plus, it comes very highly-rated with over 400 reviews and 4.3 stars.
10. Huion H420 Drawing Tablet KIT
There are a few accessories that upgrade the drawing tablet experience, and this bundle has them all. This affordable tablet from Huion includes cleaning supplies, anti-fouling gloves, pen tip replacements and more. You get all this for under $30, making it another great option for beginners or gifting.
11. Huion Inspiroy H640P
Looking for a compact yet professional tablet? Go for this thin, 6.3”x 3.9” Huion Inspiroy. It’s a clear upgrade from the Huion tablet above thanks to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, a battery-free stylus and android compatible for drawing on-the-go. It’s a good beginner tablet, but can also be used as a back-up or traveling tablet for professionals.
12. GAOMON PD1560
If you’re looking to step-up your drawing tablet game without breaking the bank, go for this Gaomon PD1560. It has an onboard HD monitor, 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, and a large 15.6-inch workspace. The device also features an adjustable arm stand for the perfect angle, making it highly ergonomic. It’s great for professionals, but if digital art is a just hobby, then this is still a serious upgrade. This is also one of the best drawing tablets for students thanks to its user-friendly features and affordable price. Finally, left-handed users can access leftie mode so they’re not left out of the fun.