Whether you are an experienced artist or are just getting started, it can be overwhelming to research new accessories and tools to hone your trade.
New generations and styles are coming out all the time, and it is hard to keep up with the best. Or, maybe you know that Wacom is top-tier, but you aren’t ready to invest all of your money as of yet.
Thankfully, because there are so many new tablets coming out every year, that also means there are a lot of good tablets to choose from. There are the expensive ones that have everything you may need, but there are also some far cheaper ones that will work for most artists.
Keep reading to learn more about the best drawing tablets and my reviews of them.
What Is the Best Drawing Tablet
I remember getting my first Tablet to this date, it was a very big and significant moment in my life, you can compare it to a chef getting his first professional knife, or to a boxer getting their first gloves.
After getting my first tablet my work quality tripled the least to say, from sculpting with a mouse to sculpting with a drawing tablet is a feeling I can never describe to you, you suddenly feel like an artist every you start enjoying every stroke that you do.
When it comes to drawing tablets, there are two kinds. There are the ones that connect to a computer and act as secondary tools, and there are fully independent ones.
Because the ones that connect to a computer are more common for professional artists and allow you to do more, those are the ones we will be talking about today.
However, here is a list of top drawing tablets of both kinds if you want to decide for yourself which options may be the best.
1. Wacom Intuos Pro
My first Tablet was indeed a Wacom, Wacom has been a great brand for digital drawing for a while now, easily taking the lead in the industry, and the Wacom Intuos Pro is no different. It is easy to set up and feels almost like the real thing with a textured screen, and a realistic pen.
It comes in multiple sizes, so you can pick a screen that works best for your needs and the space in your work area. The largest is 16.8 X 11.2 X 0.3 inches. The medium one is 13.2 X 8.5 X 0.3 inches.
The smallest is 10.6 X 6.7 X 0.3 inches. Of course, some of these dimensions include the border, the keys, and a touch ring, so the actual area of the screen is quite a bit smaller. (I don’t really recommend getting the largest one you don’t need that much space )
The tablet isn’t like a normal tablet. Instead of the screen having a display, it is just a black pad. It isn’t like a larger smartphone with its own apps and software. Wacom’s tablets are designed to be used with computers. It is simply a drawing area to allow you to draw realistically instead of with a mouse and keyboard.
However, as an improvement from other generations of Wacom, it does allow you to unplug from the computer. With its Bluetooth option, you can sit back and draw instead of having to take up precious disk space or be chained to your desk. You will want to keep a monitor or screen of some sort close by, however, so that you can actually see what you are drawing.
In addition to the tablet, you also get a pen and a pen stand, along with some replacement nibs. (btw the nibs are on the bottom of the pen stand, just rotate the base of it and you can see them inside)
The pen itself also has many features. Not only does it have high precision and accuracy with over 8000 pressure levels, but it has tilt support and an eraser, and the pen doesn’t need batteries or to be charged.
Wacom Intuos Pro Key Features:
- Pen that feels like a normal pen
- Very natural drawing feel
- 8,192 levels of pressure
- Comes in multiple sizes
- The tablet is lightweight and portable
- Comes with a touch ring and express keys for easy shortcuts
Wacom Intuos Pro User Experience:
This is one of the best drawing tablets out there. While it doesn’t feel perfectly like a pen and paper, it is close and allows one to draw with the same skill that they would on traditional materials.
While the pens do wear down, it takes a lot of work. If you are actively drawing every day, about two nibs a year will be what you go through. One thing to note is that you will want to replace the nib sooner than you think.
The nibs can wear down enough that they are almost flat with the pen, which can lead to them being almost impossible to get out.
The tablet seems almost perfect to use with most common software like Photoshop and Adobe, and the transition from using them with a mouse and keyboard to with the tablet is intuitive.
Wacom Intuos Pro Cost:
For the small one, you can expect to pay around $250. The medium-sized tablet is closer to $310, and the large one is usually just under $500.
What I Like/Dislike About Wacom Intuos Pro:
- The pen sensitivity is one of the best
- Drawing is fluid and smooth
- Can be used wirelessly and wired to a computer
- The pen can be set up to personal preferences
- Lightweight and can fit in your bag (if you pick the small or medium)
- The space for drawing is relatively small
- Has a relatively short battery life
- Can be hard to switch out and access nibs for the pen
- The pen stand needs work
Wacom Intuos Pro Scoring:
This Wacom Intuos Pro tablet gets a 9.5 out of 10. It could use some work with the pen. It wears down fairly fast and replacing the nibs can be difficult.
They also break fairly easily, The pen stand could also use some work, both to hold the pen and to get to the nibs. The tablet itself is pretty good and definitely a favorite. It also works well with most common drawing software.
2. HUION KAMVAS Pro 16
If you like to support competition between businesses, HUION’s KAMVAS Pro 16 is an excellent alternative to the lineup of Wacom products that have dominated much of the digital art industry for years.
This is mostly because the KAMVAS Pro 16 hits a lot of the key functionality artists desire in a Wacom tablet but for a much lower cost.
Unlike the Wacom Intuos Pro above, the KAMVAS Pro 16 is a display graphics tablet, meaning that the surface you draw on is also the surface on which you will see your finished product. This does not mean that the drawing tablet is standalone, however, and you will still need to connect it to a laptop or desktop to be able to use it.
Also, one downside why I don’t like these screen tablets is the back pain related to it, you always have to lean forward on it rather than on the Intuos you just place it where ever you want and keep looking at the monitor, one solution lots of my artists’ friend do is get a desk arm like this, so you can bring the tablet to you and draw, this solves the back pain issues.
HUION KAMVAS Pro 16 Key Features:
- Laminated, anti-glare 15.6-inch screen
- 6 programmable hotkeys and a touch bar for increased creative efficiency
- Standalone pen with up to 60-degree tilt functionality and 8,192 levels of pen pressure
- Thin and lightweight construction for taking on the go
- 120% sRGB with 16.7 million colors for greater color accuracy
HUION KAMVAS Pro 16 User Experience:
Using the KAMVAS Pro 16 is almost effortless thanks to the etched screen that provides just enough resistance to your pen strokes that it feels like you are writing on a papery surface.
Being able to see what you are drawing on the surface you are drawing it on makes it feel even more intuitive than other tablets that simply transmit the input to a dedicated monitor.
The tradeoff, though, is that your screen can get cluttered with the user interface of the artistic software of your choosing. This leaves you with less space actually committed to drawing.
Some people say that the power button is inconveniently located since it is positioned with the rest of the hotkeys and could be pressed by accident but that seems to be a personal preference. After a few hours of work, the tablet does feel a little warm to the touch but nothing unbearable.
HUION KAMVAS Pro 16 Cost:
The KAMVAS Pro 16 tablet is an excellent choice as far as getting the most for your money, especially for a drawing with a graphics display. On the official HUION store, the product lists for a full $469 without a stand, and $499 with a stand.
While they offer sales from time to time that brings the price down, you can find the same drawing tablet on Amazon through the official HUION store for $299.
What I Like/Dislike About HUION KAMVAS Pro 16:
- Affordable, quality alternative to Wacom products
- Hotkeys are convenient and can be customized to individual preferences
- Superb color range and the default configuration is almost accurate out of the box
- Doesn’t come with a stand in some listings
- Company customer service can be reluctant to assist with issues
- Pen accuracy seems to vary depending on where you draw on the tablet
HUION KAMVAS Pro 16 Scoring:
A 9 out of 10 is a justifiable score for this tablet. The HUION KAMVAS Pro 16 is by no means perfect but it does several things that comparable Wacom products do at a much lower price point. If you really cannot get used to drawing on a non-display tablet, this is a budget-friendly option.
3. Wacom Cintiq Pro 16
The Wacom Cintiq 16 is one of Wacom’s tablets that actually has a display. Instead of just being a blank area for drawing, it can act as a second monitor. It does still have to be connected to a computer of some sort to work, but it allows you to see what you are doing on the screen a bit better.
This gives you several benefits. Not only does this mean you can directly see what you are working on while on the tablet, but you can duplicate the screen if you want to make it easier to see, on a larger monitor, or have a second screen for references and guides.
One huge downside though is that these tablets are expensive. Instead of just being a couple of hundred dollars, this drawing tablet ranges in the thousands.
Again it’s better to get a desk arm like this, so you can bring the tablet to you and draw, this solves the back pain issues.
It is well worth the cost though. It connects directly with your computer to reduce lag and allows for smooth and accurate drawings with over 8,000 points of touch precision and tilt support. It also has pressure support, allowing you to increase thickness by increasing pressure, just like you would with a traditional paper and pencil.
The buttons on the back of the tablet provide you with quick access to the features you use most. Quickly switch to erasing, a new pen, or a different sheet with just the press of a button. This saves users a lot of time.
Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 Key Features:
- Enables pen and finger touch so you can rotate your picture around easily
- Shortcut buttons on the back
- Etched glass for reduced glare and a more realistic feeling
Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 User Experience:
Setting up the tablet is quick and painless. You can connect the tablet to your computer with a USB-C connection or a USB and Displayport connection. Everything in the box is set up with clear instructions and labels.
Even the keys and shortcuts are easy to set up and configure. Many customers that said they expected to never use the buttons ended up enjoying them.
The tablet also works intuitively with most major artistic software including Photoshop, Maya, Clip Studio, and more.
Some people even use this tablet for multiple purposes, including playing games and as a touchpad like the ones on laptops, so while the cost is expensive, if you are creative and use it a lot, you can get your money from it.
Some people mention they get tablets with defective pixels, but they are hard to see and the Wacom can be replaced with a new tablet free of charge in these cases.
Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 Cost:
We’ve talked about the high cost, but how high is it actually? The 16-inch Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 with pen and touch acceptance is just under $1,600. This is just for the screen and pen, and not for anything like a display stand, or a pen holder.
To some, this price can be steep, but it can also be well worth the cost for those that will use it often.
What I Like/Dislike About Wacom Cintiq Pro 16:
- The pen is top tier
- There are plenty of shortcuts and buttons
- Etched glass drawing surface to mimic paper textures
- The design is sturdy
- Works with most standard software
- The screen is a little small
- A lot of wasted space on the tablet that could be used for screen
- It has to be wired to the display
- The price is steep
- May not be intuitive for Mac users
Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 Scoring:
Because of the cost, we had to drop the scoring of this tablet down to an 8 out of 10. While it works well, there have been a few complaints about it arriving with dead pixels. It can be replaced for one functioning more, but for $1,600, this is a frustrating process.
At the cost, this tablet is more for people using it as a job, and not just a fun hobby, which is why we must bring the score down some.
4. XP-PEN Artist 12
If you want a drawing tablet that is more for beginners and cost-friendly, the XP-PEN Artist 12 is a good choice. It works like the other drawing tablets on this list, where it has to be plugged into a computer to work. It does have a display screen, but still needs a constant connection to a computer to work.
It connects to a computer via a USB-C cable. If your computer isn’t up-to-date enough for a USB-C to a USB-C connection, there are adaptors out there.
The tablet is designed to work with almost any computer and computer operating system. On top of the main two, Windows and MacOS, it also works with Android, Chrome, and Linux.
XP-PEN Artist 12 Key Features:
- Very minimal
- Works with any other OS system
- Works with almost any software, including GIMP, Krita, Adobe, and MediBang
- Buttons on the side for quick settings
- Contrast of 1,000:1
XP-PEN Artist 12 User Experience:
Despite being fairly cheap, this tablet is built sturdy. It connects to almost any software and OS system without a problem, and setting up the whole system is easy.
While experienced users may want something bigger or with more features, those getting started with drawing, or kids that are interested in drawing, this tablet may be a great first tablet. It allows you to work accurately with touch precision and high contrast and accurate colors, and you can work with some of the most common software for drawing without any issue.
In the past, these tablets had a bad reputation for being poorly made and lacking many features, but with every generation they get better. This generation of XP-PEN tablets is now a big contender in the game.
XP-PEN Artist 12 Cost:
This tablet frequently goes on sale, and you can find bundles where it is sold with a display stand. However, the tablet tends to have an average price of $220.
What I Like/Dislike About XP-PEN Artist 12:
- High-quality materials
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Reduced glare and adjustable brightness
- Mimics the feel of pen and paper
- 127% sRGB color accuracy
- Easy-to-use express keys with bumps for easy pressing without taking your attention away from the screen
- Can be used left and right handed
- The tablet is pretty small and doesn’t save you that much compared to their other, larger, models
- Can have some wobble on slower lines
- 1080p resolution, no 4K display
XP-PEN Artist 12 Scoring:
This tablet has a rating of 7.5 out of 10. While it works fine, it is missing some of the features of a more expensive tablet, and the small size can really hamper some artists.
The company has made vast improvements to its software and continues to grow with every generation, which makes them now a powerful contender.
Best Drawing Tablet FAQs
What Drawing Tablet Should Beginners Get?
It depends on how much use you want to get out of a drawing tablet. If you are only interested in dabbling here and there, you might want something that has functionality outside of a drawing tablet like the iPad Air or a Microsoft Surface Pro 8. One of the most affordable but quality options is the HUION H420 costing between $20 and $25.
Are Some Drawing Tablets Better For Certain Jobs Than Others?
You can use any drawing tablet for any job but some are better suited for certain workflows than others. The XP-PEN Artist 12 is a prime example of a drawing tablet that is ideal for animators thanks to its decent screen size and hotkeys for efficiency.
Does The Wacom Intuos Pro Come With Extra Pen Nibs?
Yes, the included pen or pen stand will have a few replacements for when you wear out the first nib.
Can Left-Handed People Use the Wacom Intuos Pro?
Yes, you will just have to configure the settings so that the tablet knows you are left-handed.
Is The Wacom Intuos Pro Compatible With Windows 10?
Yes, Windows 10 is the most common version of Windows right now and the Intuos Pro is compatible with it.
That’s the list of some of the best drawing tablets out there. While there are some designed to be fully used on their own, most artists enjoy being able to use computer-based software with the ability to draw like a tablet, making these four the most common.
Wacom is still the leader in drawing tablets, but that doesn’t mean they are the only option. Try out some of the others on this list if you don’t need a top-tier Wacom and want to save a bit of money.