Which drawing tablet is best?
Whether you’re a visual artist moving into graphic design or you just want to bring your illustrations to life in the digital realm, a drawing tablet is a great purchase. These devices let you draw directly on the screen with a stylus, giving you the opportunity to convert your drawings into image files, apply digital effects or experiment in new styles.
When shopping for a drawing tablet, the most important details to look for are responsive surfaces and high resolution. The Wacom Cintiq 16 is an excellent choice for its screen sensitivity and ergonomic design.
What to know before you buy a drawing tablet
Screen vs. screenless
A common debate among digital artists is whether a drawing tablet with a display screen is inherently better than a screenless one. A tablet with a built-in display is considerably more expensive but gives you better control and visibility. A screenless tablet is more durable and affordable but is typically smaller and requires the artist to constantly look at the computer screen instead of their drawing hand. While it’s ultimately a matter of personal taste, it’s worth considering both options before making your purchase.
Perhaps the most important detail to consider when choosing a drawing tablet, pressure sensitivity determines how accurately and quickly the tablet will follow the progress of your drawing. Most tablets can distinguish between 1,024 and 2,048 degrees of pressure applied by the stylus, while some high-end models can recognize nearly 10,000 levels of pressure. If you prefer to forgo the stylus and illustrate with your fingertip, look for a tablet that features touch capability.
As opposed to the overall size of the tablet, the active area is the part of the surface or screen where you can draw. When checking for product dimensions, confirm the size of the active area first. The active area size should correspond with the tablet size in a practical way. For example, a large tablet isn’t particularly useful unless it also has a large active area.
What to look for in a quality drawing tablet
A tablet’s stylus should be comfortable and light so it feels like a natural extension of your hand. Some styluses are connected to the tablet via a wire, making them harder to misplace, while wireless styluses are usually battery-powered and allow for increased freedom of movement. Some models use EMR technology to wirelessly send electromagnetic waves from the stylus to the tablet. This means that the EMR stylus requires no batteries and sends information quickly and accurately.
Resolution and tablet size
For display tablets, the resolution is measured in LPI, or lines per inch. A higher line per inch means better resolution and usually corresponds with the overall size of the tablet’s screen. The bigger the screen, the higher the resolution. Even if you don’t opt for a tablet with a display screen, a larger tablet is typically going to indicate a larger active area for your illustrations. If you’re looking for portability, however, smaller tablets are often optimized for this purpose and can be taken almost anywhere.
Most simple drawing tablets connect via USB, but many models with a display screen connect with an HDMI cord. Depending on the size of your desk or work area, a long cord might be required. Alternatively, some high-end drawing tablets have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities.
How much you can expect to spend on a drawing tablet
The price of a drawing tablet can vary dramatically from around $50 for a simple screenless tablet to over $400 for a professional model. Professional-level tablets measure at least 2,000 degrees of sensitivity and can offer a screen resolution of 5,000 LPI or higher.
Drawing tablet FAQ
Do drawing tablets come with software?
A. You’ll usually need to install a driver onto your computer before the tablet can be used. A download link or installation disc is typically packaged with the tablet. Once that’s installed, you’re free to start using your tablet on the image editing software of your choice.
Can I buy a replacement stylus for my drawing tablet?
A. Most brands sell stylus pens that can be purchased separately if yours ever wears down or breaks. If the nib (the rubber tip of the stylus) is broken, you can also save money by buying replacement nibs.
What’s the best drawing tablet to buy?
Top drawing tablet
What you need to know: This professional-level display tablet recognizes 8,192 degrees of pressure on a vibrant HD screen.
What you’ll love: This tablet is available in two sizes and is loaded with features. The large active area, tilt recognition and anti-glare screen mean you’ll capture accurate illustrations every time.
What you should consider: It may be too pricey for many aspiring artists and hobbyists.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top drawing tablet for the money
What you need to know: Durable, portable and precise, this screenless tablet is a solid choice for beginners.
What you’ll love: This tablet is available in two affordable sizes and can connect to any computer with a USB port. It also uses an EMR stylus.
What you should consider: The tablet has a small active area and lacks buttons for additional control.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Versatile and boasting a sleek, ergonomic design, this high-end screenless tablet has a multi-touch surface and Bluetooth compatibility.
What you’ll love: The tablet has three size options, an EMR stylus and up to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. It also comes with a free download of premium image editing software if you register the tablet online.
What you should consider: Some users say that the nibs on the EMR stylus wear out quickly.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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