If you are hoping to start getting your illustrations and animations online, but don’t want to resort to close up filming or dodgy photographs of your work, then it might just be time to invest in a drawing tablet.
Drawing tablets are great – imagine a canvas that’s connected to your PC, allowing you to sketch, paint and draw directly into your computer’s software, all with full digital emulation of the different tools you are using as you work – the brushes act like brushes, the pencils act like pencils, and the list goes on.
But if you are new to the world of computer illustration and are wondering what exactly to go for when it comes to computer animation, don’t worry – here are a few of the best drawing tablets on sale right now!
Before I jump into the different recommendations, let’s talk for a moment about how a drawing tablet actually works, and how they can connect with your computer. Feel free to skip this section if you just want to know the best drawing tablets out there.
So, there are two main ways in which a drawing tablet works, and the first is really simple. Some drawing tablets (and I’ll mention which in this list) work just fine as a computer on their own – these tablets are literally mini PCs, and you are just as able to draw on them as you are able to boot up an internet browser, Netflix, your email or anything else you might like to get up to on a PC.
The obvious advantage here is that you aren’t locked to your PC or laptops location when it comes to drawing, so you can wander away to your comfiest chair, sofa, out into the garden, or a park – wherever you want, and your drawing tablet is still going to perform well. Plus, the portability of a tablet itself is going to give you much more freedom in taking your hardware around. All good stuff.
Obviously, you then have to think about moving your finished illustrations and works to your main PC for editing (if that is where you mainly edit). The thing is though that this is incredibly simple in today’s day and age – you don’t even need an external hard drive or a flash drive to do so (though it might be recommended if you want a digital hard copy of your work that you can always access). No, nowadays with the creation of a Google Drive, moving your work from device to device is as simple as logging un, uploading, and then downloading.
And that’s simple enough for the drawing tablets that act as their own computer. Then, there are drawing tablets that act as external hardware to your computer – and these aren’t much more difficult at all. You will need to connect your tablet to your computer (usually through a USB cable), and then the drawing tablet acts as a keyboard would with your PC, with your PCs software recognizing inputs from your drawing tablet that it converts into your brushstrokes.
There may be a little more involved with the initial setup of your drawing tablet on your computer – you might have to install some drivers, possibly do a restart of your PC so that any software you use to facilitate the use of your drawing tablet works – but otherwise that’s about it.
Onto the drawing tablets.
Let’s just jump right into what the best, most impressive drawing tablet on the market today is, and then I can diversify by operating system and individual use…but if you want the best of the best, this is it.
The Large version of the Wacom Intuos Pro is probably the best drawing tablet on the market today when it comes to illustrating on the computer. First off, you are getting yourself a 12.1 by 8.4-inch drawing area, which by itself is impressive when you think about some of the different drawing spaces available on tablets today – but that’s only the beginning.
Outside of the larger drawing space, you will find that the Wacom Intuos Pro recognizes 8,192 pressure levels and tilt recognition from the pen itself – so when you are creating, you aren’t going to be bogged down by incorrect input, and that’s just one of the reasons that this tablet has been taken up so enthusiastically by the professional creative industry.
The pen also doesn’t require charging or have a battery life to speak of – so as long as the Intuos Pro is connected to your PC you are going to be able to work on it easily. Add into that the fact that there is virtually no lag between the input of the pen and it appearing on your screen, and you are going to have a pretty simple and seamless drawing experience.
As far as the technical details go, the Intuos Pro is pretty well decked out. You have Expresskeys on the tablet itself, which work alongside a touch ring to make in program navigation easier (and quicker), which is a really welcome addition to any kind of creative hardware.
Then there is the connectivity: which is wireless if you want it. The Intuos Pro is fitted with Bluetooth, so you aren’t ever going to be stuck running a cable and cluttering up your desk – though this tablet does come with a 6.6 foot USB cable if wired connectivity is your preference.
Setting up is a doddle as well, and this tablet is easy to use in all of the major software that accompanies creative illustration and animation, with no real lag to speak of and full functionality in the likes of Adobe Animate, Maya, Cinema 4D, and FlipBook.
Basically, if you are looking for a tablet that has professional-grade hardware and software features that allow for seamless, simple, and cohesive drawing on your computer, then this is the drawing tablet for you. Be aware, it is just a piece of hardware and it does need to be connected to your PC in order for it to function, but if that isn’t a problem for you (and it shouldn’t be) then this is definitely the tablet to go for.
If you are looking to get into drawing on your computer, but you aren’t ready or willing to put down some of the amounts that the more expensive computers require, then it could be well worth checking out the Wacom One.
This tablet is going to allow you to draw digitally with ease, sure, but be aware that this product is marketed mainly at hobbyists and amateurs. It isn’t going to cut it if you are a professional illustrator or animator. Just so you know.
Regardless, if you are just entering the hobby then this could be the perfect solution. The Wacom One comes with the ability to not only draw and create animations but also to edit photos and other images in closer detail with the use of the battery-free pen. You’ll also be able to annotate notes and other word documents for easier notetaking and feedback – which is nice if you don’t like fiddling about with keyboards.
Let’s look closer at the animation and illustration elements of this tablet though, as that’s why we are here. You aren’t going to be shy of drawing space with a 13.3 inch display, with a FHD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) on the tablet’s own screen, which is great for when you are drawing on the tablet alone.
That screen this tablet uses means that you are able to set it up and use it wherever you want – it has little kickstands on the back so you can have it set up in a slanted mode on a desktop, or you can have it on your lap. Either way, your free to use it wherever – and you aren’t restricted to using it as an individual piece of hardware. You can connect it to your smartphone, or your computer, and use it as an extension of these devices as well, allowing for direct interaction and use with the likes of Adobe Animate, Maya, Blender, and all of the other popular animation software.
You might not need that level of accessibility though. To be honest the included software with the Wacom one is more than capable of supporting a fledgling artist, with the likes of Bamboo Paper supporting traditional illustrations and the Clip Studio Paint being more of an outlet for those looking for a more comprehensive artistic experience.
You get Adobe Fresco (when it releases) too, with Premiere Rush CC included as well for video and photo editing, so all in all you will have yourself a comprehensive little tablet that’s more than capable of handling all the needs of a beginner artist.
To be honest, the features and included extras with this tablet make it a really attractive choice – and at such a low price its no wonder that it’s such a popular drawing tablet.
If you are looking to spend a little more money on your drawing tablet, and want to make sure what you are using is good for more than just drawing, you might be interested in getting a tablet that doesn’t just have a great display – but also that works well as a functional Windows-based handheld device.
So, here I’m going to talk about the Microsoft Surface Book 3 tablet, and how it functions as a drawing tablet (before I jump into why it’s handy to have on the whole). Firstly you will be happy to learn that you can install pretty much any Windows-based applications onto the Surface 3 without any problems at all. What that means is that any time you are working on a drawing, animation, or illustration, you are going to be working on the same hardware that’s capable of both editing and uploading your work.
If that isn’t the case though, you can always save your work to a cloud-based memory system and access it from your desktop editing station in the future. Because it’s Windows-based, you could theoretically sync your work with Onenote so it all uploads and updates automatically.
Outside of that though, the Microsoft Surface 3’s CPU is well equipped to handle all the different illustration programs out there. That means the likes of Adobe’s Creative Suite, Mischief, Blender and all the other animation apps are going to be easy to use. That’s because the Surface Book 3 is equipped with a 10th gen Intel CPU the cheapest model with an i5 in fact, that’s going to be more than capable of handling all of these creative applications with ease, allowing you to work, draw and sketch with no slowdown or lag to annoy you as you work.
The screen itself is pretty great as well, supporting full HD picture quality which is brilliant for a tablet of this size. If you wanted more specs to impress, then you should be aware that you can select a version of the Surface 3 that comes with a discrete graphics card like the 1660 Ti, which is no bad thing at all (except where your wallet is concerned).
If we are talking about hardware though, we do have to address the fact that the Surface 3 does not come with a compatible pen included with which to draw. You are going to have to reach in your pocket again to buy yourself a pen compatible with the Surface 3 – preferably the stylus. The stylus pen has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, which compared to some of the other options on this list is nothing at all – but realistically its something you can live with as you use the pen itself.
You can adjust the pen’s sensitivity on the Surface itself so that you have a more comfortable setup as you are working – but it can still be annoying. This is all made up for the fact that using the pen on the Surface 3 is insanely accurate and pretty much lag-free in programs like Photoshop and the like.
Depending on the model that you go for as well, you are going to find a price that’s in line with the offerings from Apple – and on top of that you are getting a fully operational Windows PC with your purchase, so even if drawing is only a side hobby for you, and you are looking for a new laptop that can support your illustrations whilst still being fit for work and other uses like browsing the internet, listening to music or just general use, then this is a fantastic option to choose.
There wasn’t really any other option here when it came to picking a drawing tablet based on Apple’s own hardware, was there?
But that’s not a bad thing at all really, as the newest iPad Pro is the most powerful and user-friendly tablet that Apple has ever made. This translates well for those who want to use it purely for illustration and drawing.
First off, you have a 12.9-inch display on which to do and view all of your work. This is a 120hz display as well, with true color support so you know you are going to be getting a fully accurate and brilliantly vivid display at all times. That screen isn’t just pretty either. It works tremendously well with the Apple Pencil (because what other pencil would Apple allow you to use, right?), and you will be able to expect lag-free input to whatever program you are working on with, alongside pressure-sensitive input and tilt recognition, all of which is pretty standard (and required) for a drawing tablet in the modern-day.
If you are worried about the hardware running the iPad Pro – don’t. It costs a little more for a reason, with an A12Z GPU sitting inside the tablet discreetly, which allows for applications like Procreate are absolutely going to take advantage of when they are being used.
Bundle all of that hardware-specific joy in with the fact that the camera on the iPad means you will be able to draw and edit fully HD photos on the tablet itself without having to move the files over to a desktop-based computer first, and you have a pretty fine drawing tablet. Plus, any illustrations you do finish off on the iPad you can always touch up easily on a desktop-based Mac rather than sticking to the iPad itself – but that’s entirely optional, as the iPad Pro is totally capable of handling complex editing tasks in the likes of the Adobe Creative suite all on its own.
Now, the price tag might turn some people off, and that’s fair enough – there are cheaper options on this list as far as specific drawing tablets are concerned – but this should be considered if you are a professional in the creative field, and you need yourself a tablet that can handle creative based tasks alongside the rigor of everyday use and professional-grade software, then this really is the solution for you.
Think of the iPad Pro as the drawing tablet of the serious professional, someone who needs their work accessible, on a device that promotes ease of use and quality above all else.
This is just about all of the best options when it comes to drawing tablets – if you want to get yourself a piece of hardware designed specifically for drawing go for the Intuos Pro, and if you want a tablet that’s capable of supporting freehand drawing as well as taking you through the editing process and more then you should probably look into something like the Microsoft Surface 3 or the
If you have any suggestions as to what drawing tablets are out there that illustrators should be aware of, or if you have any questions about any of the tablets highlighted in this article just leave a comment below and we will do our best to answer!