The Best Digital Art Drawing Tablets for Artists

Picking out a drawing tablet can be tricky, there’s so many options on the market and it’s not always readily apparent which of them best fits what you want to do.

Whether you’re an aspiring doodler on a tight budget or a professional graphics designer in the big leagues, there’s definitely something out there for you. We’ve brought together some of the best for your judgement.

Read on and we’ll help you make sure that you get the tablet that will let you take your digital art to the next level.

Lisa Smith, Author SharperThePoint
Lisa Smith

Best Digital Art Drawing Tablet

ImageNameActive Area or Screen SizeDisplay TypeStylus
Wacom Intuos Pro Medium Paper Edition8.7” by 3.9” Active SurfaceOn Device, Has Clip to Hold PaperWacom Pro Pen 2
Wacom Cintiq 13HD Interactive Pen Display13.3” ScreenFull Color at 1920 x 1080 pixelsWacom Pro Pen
Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 1313.3” ScreenFull color at 2560 x 1440 pixelsWacom Pro Pen 2
iPad Pro 9 and Apple Pencil9.7” ScreenFull Color at 2048 x 1536Apple Pencil(purchased separately)
Wacom Bamboo CTL4715.8” x 3.6”On DeviceBamboo Stylus

Overall Best Drawing Tablet

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Wacom Intuos Pro Medium Paper Edition

It’s no secret among artists that Wacom makes the best digital art drawing tablets around, and if you’re looking for the perfect balance of features, price, and functionality then the Wacom Intuos Pro is probably your best bet. We’ve chosen the Paper Edition as well in order to showcase a few extra features that many will find themselves enthralled with.

This drawing tablet features 8192 levels of sensitivity when using the Wacom Pro Pen 2, making it as close to drawing on paper as you’re likely to be able to get. Even better, the Paper Edition actually has a clip so you can do your sketch on the paper while you’re transferring it to a digital format. This will allow you to end up with both versions of the drawing without any hassle.

1-Wacom-Intuos-Pro

It will also allow you to store your drawing on the device itself, then open it in a digital format on both Mac and PC for later alterations that you want to make with software. Of course, if you prefer to work digitally then you can work with the device straight through your computer.

You can set up different hot keys in order to speed up your workflow, something which both professionals and amateurs can appreciate. Unfortunately this is only available for keyboard shortcuts, so some functions will still have to be done using your mouse or touch pad.

It comes with both the Wacom Pro Pen 2 and the Wacom Finetip Pen right out of the box, giving you a wide variety of options without having to spend any additional money on accessories.

It’s not the most advanced drawing tablet out there, but overall you’ll find that it’s suitable for both amateur and professional use and is available at a modest price.

Pros
  • Cheap
  • Comes with a superb stylus
  • Can store drawings without being attached to a device
  • Hot keys
  • Built in Bluetooth connectivity
Cons
  • Surface is rough on stylus nibs
  • Bluetooth connection can be problematic

Best Drawing Tablet for Artists

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Wacom Cintiq 13HD Interactive Pen Display

The main flaw of most digital art drawing tablets is the need to switch between devices, or having to watch a device different than the one you’re drawing on. If you’re willing to spend a little bit of extra money to make your experience a whole lot smoother, then the Wacom Cintiq 13HD might be exactly what you’re looking for.

The Wacom Pro Pen comes with it, and allows for 2048 levels of pressure and tilt sensitivity. This allows you to make some surprisingly versatile pieces in your preferred medium, since you aren’t limited to using only the tip of the stylus.

Like most of the high-end Wacom products, it also has customizable shortcuts and a rocker ring to allow for increased workflow efficiency. This is vital for those who produce art for a living, as people who do any kind of computer work know that workflow isn’t just a buzzword but can mean hours of difference in finishing a project.

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The display is 13.3” with a 1920×1080 pixel resolution. You’ll be able to watch your drawing come to life with no lag while wielding your stylus. This is ideal for those who can’t quite get used to the “disconnect” between drawing on device and having your design appear on another.

It also comes with a three position display which makes it easy to use your new tablet however you want.

For the professional artist, the Cintiq is nearly impossible to beat.

Pros
  • Large screen
  • High resolution allows for fine details
  • Lightweight for its size
  • Built-in stand for ease of work
  • Built in shortcut buttons 
Cons
  • Not very portable
  • Requires an HDMI port
  • Cord shouldn’t be allowed to drag due to it’s weight

Best Drawing Tablet for PC

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Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13

When it comes time to get to serious artwork, many artists will find that they want a solid drawing space with some dedicated hardware. Many digital artists also prefer to work with 3D mediums and it can be hard to find a digital art drawing tablet which easily allows this.

That’s where the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13 comes in. It’s much more advanced than most of Wacom’s products and maintains the integrity of the brand at the end of the day. It’s also outside of the price range of most amateurs, but the dedicated artist will find it to be a constant companion from the time it arrives on their doorstep.

The hardware in the device is impressive, it features an Intel iCore i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD right out of the box. This is enough to run nearly any application you might want to run, whether it’s CAD, Adobe Illustrator, or even your chosen 3D design program. It runs on Windows 10, as well, which is an ideal operating system for mobile applications.

The 13” display comes in at a surprising 2560×1440 pixels, rendering it super clean so you can see your work in minute detail.

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By condensing the software and hardware into one package, you’ll find that your workflow is super-efficient and you can also add a wireless keyboard to get some extra functionality out of the tablet.

One of the best parts of this drawing tablet, undoubtedly, is that it has the ability to capture 3D scans built right into it. This is a huge advantage for those who love to work on three dimensional art.

It’s expensive, don’t get us wrong, but for the professional artist who prefers Windows it’s an ideal solution and the efficiency of the device will soon be paying dividends as you find yourself working cleanly and smoothly without having to switch devices.

Pros
  • Windows 10 enabled
  • 3D ready
  • Lightning fast
  • Amazing accuracy
  • Powerful processor can run almost any Windows graphic design program
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • No stand 

Best Drawing Tablet for Mac

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iPad Pro 9 and Apple Pencil

This is actually combination of two different, high-quality Apple items. The iPad Pro 9 is actually a pretty impressive piece of hardware all on its own, but combined with the Apple Pencil smart stylus and the right software, you actually end up with a highly portable, professional quality drawing tablet.

Like all Apple products, this one comes at a high price, but what you get in return is well worth the cost. Many designers who prefer Mac products and want to be able to draw without attaching their tablet to a computer have made the switch. It’s certainly not prohibitively expensive, especially considering the wide range of uses.

Of course, here we’re mostly interested in how it will perform as an artist’s tool. The screen size of the tablet is an impressive 9.7” which gives you a pretty good area to draw on while still being highly portable. The resolution comes out to a clean and crisp 2048×1536 pixels as well.

Apple-Pen

The Apple Pencil was designed both to be highly pressure and tilt sensitive and to provide minimal latency while you’re working. This means that the screen will react almost instantly while you’re drawing on the pad.

Overall, this is one of the best combinations around without going for a super expensive dedicated device. It’s fantastic for both professionals and amateurs, and allows you to stick with your favorite brand without making any significant sacrifices.

Pros
  • Apple Pencil is accurate and designed for quick response time
  • High resolution display
  • Functions well as a high-end tablet in addition to artistic capabilities
  • Can work with LTE connection
  • Apple pencil is extremely fast charging
Cons
  • Stylus must be purchased separate from tablet
  • Smooth surface on the iPad Pro can feel unnatural to some artists

Best Cheap Drawing Tablet

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Wacom Bamboo CTL471

Surprisingly, the best option if you’re trying to keep within a tight budget might just be another Wacom product. The Wacom Bamboo CTL471 is respectable enough to get nearly anyone into digital art, although it obviously lacks some of the features of devices which can run up to ten times its price.

This drawing tablet is designed to be wired directly to the computer, although there is an accessory available which will allow you to convert it to wireless. Like all Wacom devices it’s compatible with pretty much all operating systems and a wide variety of different software as well.

It’s definitely not huge, coming in at 5.8”x3.6” of active space and many might find it a bit too small for their tastes. The stylus is remarkably accurate, however, and if you don’t mind the tiny drawing space you’ll definitely be pleased with the quality of your drawings.

This is definitely an older model, if you’re running anything above Windows 7 or if you’re running a Mac you’ll have to download the appropriate drivers from their website. This isn’t much of a hassle, but for anyone with newer hardware it is something to keep in mind.

This is a pen only drawing tablet so you will have to move to your mouse or touchpad on a laptop or tablet in order to zoom in or rotate the digital canvas you’re working with. It also lacks the keyboard shortcuts which are standard on higher end Wacom products.

The important thing with the CTL471 is that the basic drawing function is completely intact and still comparable to much more expensive products.

If you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to get into making digital art, the Wacom Bamboo CTL471 is exactly what you’re looking for. Even if you’re just exploring these devices the low cost and high-quality is a small enough investment to let you know if you truly want to get into using one instead of traditional media.

Pros
  • Super cheap
  • Comes with a good stylus
  • Reversible orientation
  • Highly portable
  • Easy setup
Cons
  • Small size can be hard to use
  • Screen isn’t super tough

Picking Out the Best Drawing Tablet for You

There’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to picking out a drawing tablet. The best way to pick one out is to visualize what you’re planning on doing with it. There’s a wide variety of them out there and they come with different specifications. Some are better for photo manipulation than drawing, for instance.

Types of Drawing Tablets

There’s not much debate on what makes a drawing tablet, but there is a wide variety of different devices available.

Graphics tablets are the cheapest and the most readily found. These will need to interface with a device for you to see your drawings, although some of them can save data so you can transfer to your computer or favored tablet later. They are quite respectable in their capabilities, especially for the price you’ll end up paying, and are probably the best option for most people.

The main problem with them is the fact that you’ll have to split your attention between the devices in order to do your best work. This causes a lot of problems for some people, but if you can get used to it you can do some pretty amazing work without ever having to spend more than a few hundred dollars on your equipment.

Slate tablets allow you to draw directly on the screen. This includes devices like the Wacom Cintiq or the Apple Pencil and Apple Pad Pro combinations. They’re favored by a lot of people, since they replicate the drawing more closely than a standard graphics tablet can.

They also tend to be multifunctional devices and the best of them will run their own operating system and allow you to do far more than just draw on them. While this is a huge advantage, you’ll end up paying a premium for the extra capabilities as well as the more advanced possibilities of the artwork you can create while using one.

Tablet monitors are enormous and primarily used by professional artists. The larger versions of the Cintiq would fall into this category. Think of them as a stand-alone slate tablet, they’ll generally have a stand and aren’t anywhere near as portable as their smaller counterparts.

They start at about 10” and can go up to an impressive, and expensive, 27” or so. If you want the closest feeling to using a large canvas or sheet of paper, however, one of these is definitely worth the investment.

Tablet PC 2-in-1 combinations have a detachable keyboard and allow you to draw directly on the screen. They’re quite expensive, since they’re essentially a specialized laptop in and of themselves and are best for those who plan using them for work in a field where both graphics and other elements need to be present.

You’ll usually need to make the purchase of a specialized stylus in order to use them properly for artwork, since the screens don’t generally have the same degree of digitization that you’ll find in dedicated devices.

Convertible tablets are powerful, expensive devices which have a touchscreen and do not detach from the keyboard. They’re especially useful for those who need a work laptop when their job includes artwork as well as needing to use a standard mouse and keyboard combination frequently.

Those that are good for drawing, however, are often quite expensive and if it’s just artwork that you need it for you’re better off investing in a dedicated device.

 

Picking Out the Best Drawing Tablet for You

 

Active Surface

While leaps and bounds have been made with modern low-to-no latency styluses with tilt detection and pressure, a dedicated surface which is highly sensitive can provide you with even more accuracy than you’d normally be able to achieve.

The size of the active surface is an important consideration for most artists, especially with graphics tablets. If you tend to draw small anyways you’ll be fine with a smaller screen, otherwise you’re going to find yourself zooming in and out quite a bit in order to add fine details to your artwork.

One of the main reasons for Wacom’s popularity is the fact that many of their products also mimic the feel of lightly grained paper. This makes for a drawing experience as close to the real thing as possible, since paper is rarely completely smooth. Others don’t mind the smooth surface, of course, so it’s really a matter of personal taste.

There are also some other things to take into account when it comes to the more technical aspects. The reporting rate is probably the most important of these and the easiest to understand for those who aren’t technophiles. A higher reporting rate means it will report more data at a time, making latency less of an issue.

The surface resolution is equally important. The higher the resolution, the finer the details you’ll be able to produce without having to zoom in further. This means an increased workflow efficiency, and on drawing tablets where you’re drawing directly it also means a better display.

Don’t forget to check if your device can utilize finger commands. This can make your workflow much more efficient since you won’t have to manually zoom in with the mouse when you’re working. Instead, if you find that you want finer details you can simply use your fingers.

If you have touch capabilities you’ll want to make sure that it also has palm rejection. Palm rejection will make the surface ignore your hand while it’s on the tablet, otherwise you may need to purchase a specialized glove.

Software Capabilities

If you already have a favored software program, it’s a good idea to make sure that your digital drawing tablet will be able to work with them. Usually a quick Google search will tell you, otherwise you may want to check message boards associated with the program.

For the most part, compatibility is far less of an issue than it used to be. Wacom tablets are renowned for their ability to connect with nearly any software and there are usually different options available when you purchase one which will allow you to also gain access to software specifically designed for what you’re planning on doing.

This becomes more of an issue if you choose to go with an off-brand. Just double check before you make your final purchase if you heavily favor one program already.

Connection Type

There are a couple of different types of connection which you will find available for graphics tablets as opposed to dedicated devices.

Bluetooth or wireless are generally more highly regarded, since you don’t have to physically connect the devices with a wire. This means you can set your laptop up on a table and kick back on the couch without having to keep track of the connection to avoid tripping over it or accidentally unplugging the device.

Many wired devices can be accessorized to achieve this, so if you’re stuck on a cheap wired drawing tablet you should definitely take a look and see if you can expand its capabilities to include being wireless.

 

Artist Checking Software Capabilities

 

The Stylus

The stylus is another huge factor. Most dedicated drawing tablets will come with one, and they’re a crucial part of the whole process. Some manufacturers are quite open about the specifications of their devices while others basically list their capabilities.

For the most part, you’ll always receive a stylus appropriate to the price level of your new drawing tablet.

It’s also important to take into consideration the fact that some are rechargeable while others will need their batteries changed. Unlike a normal stylus, which is essentially just a point of contact for a touch screen, drawing styluses incorporate quite a bit of electronic technology.

The most important things to consider are the physical size of the point, the finer it is the better you’ll be able to work out fine details and the pressure and tilt capabilities.

Not all drawing styluses have tilt capabilities. For those who prefer mediums like paint and want to use a digital version of them this is a no-go. Those with this technology will allow you to tilt the stylus to make wider lines.

Pressure capabilities are equally important, and possibly more so for those who prefer traditionally lined mediums like pencils and pens. Essentially, the higher the number is here the more different variations you can receive depending on how hard you press with your stylus. This allows you to make darker and lighter lines depending on how hard you press.

Putting it All Together

Once you’ve decided on what you’re going to use your tablet for, it’s pretty easy to pick one out that’ll work perfectly.

For drawing you’ll want a grained texture and quick response time. As long as you have that, you’re in good hands and the rest is simply up to how much you’re willing to spend. Keep in mind that Wacom art tablets always have a textured surface, even those where you’re drawing directly on the surface and that makes them ideal for this purpose.

For photo manipulation a direct draw surface and a camera are ideal. This way you can take your pictures and edit them using the same device, which makes things pretty easy for you at the end of the day.

For simply writing, go with what you can afford. The above qualities aren’t as important, it’s simply a matter of whether you want to write directly on the surface or if you’re okay with having to connect to another device to take notes.

Then, factor in your budget and you’ll be well on your way to making the right choice for your brand of artistry

Conclusion

Picking out the best digital art drawing tablet can be something of a chore, on par with picking out any advanced electronic device. Truth is, however, once you’ve invested in one of them you might just have found the perfect companion to taking your art to the next level.

With the wide variety of products available on the market, one of them is sure to serve nearly anyone’s purposes. There’s no point in waiting, make the jump now and step into the digital future of art.

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