We purchased the The 5 Best Drawing Tablets so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full products reviews.
A drawing tablet allows you to input data onto a computer screen using a pen or stylus. The tactile response of a pen in your hand can greatly benefit just about any creative task on a computer that requires pinpoint precision, but drawing tablets can be especially useful for presenters, artists, graphic designers, and Photoshop geeks.
While some drawing tablets are designed to be stand-alone devices that don’t require a computer connection, others are designed to be computer accessories that allow you to take notes more accurately by hand, draw in an illustrator program, or work in a design program. Our experts tested dozens of drawing tablets and have compiled a list of our favorites below.
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Best Overall: XP-PEN Artist12
Because of its compatibility, customization, and reasonably low price, the XP-Pen Artist12 (Check latest price on Amazon) earns our top spot. The touchscreen display, which has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 HD IPS, isn’t the highest resolution available, but with 72 percent NTSC Color Gamut accuracy, it’s designed to reproduce your work as accurately as possible.
The advantage of having an 11.6-inch display built into your drawing tablet is that you don’t have to look at your other screen while drawing on a separate surface—you’re drawing on the device where your lines and colors appear. This gives the impression that you’re actually making art in the real world.
The passive hexagonal pen (which feels like a pencil) has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing you to achieve a truly hand-drawn feel in your work. It’s actually a good thing that pen isn’t active because it would otherwise be yet another device to charge.
Additionally, the Artist12 features a full-height touch bar that you can program to perform specific computer commands (XP-Pen recommends mapping it to the zoom-in/zoom-out feature), as well as six assignable shortcut keys. This turns it into a full-featured control surface for your design programs, rather than just a drawing tablet. The device is compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10 (32 and 64 bit) as well as Mac OS X versions 10.10 and older.
Screen Size/Active Area: 11.6 inches | Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Pen Type: Passive | Standalone: No
Best Display: Gaomon PD1560
The Gaomon PD1560 (Check latest price on Amazon) has a 15.6-inch display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution that is large and bright. It competes with the Wacom options in some ways, but because it lacks a touch wheel or flashy multi-touch, we believe it is a better match for our top pick from XP-Pen.
It has many of the features of the Artist12, such as 72 percent color gamut accuracy and 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity from the active pen. What sets it apart from the Artist12 is that it has ten assignable function keys (arranged in a column on the left edge of the device). This device, however, will set you back nearly $100 more.
The brightness of the IPS display and the extra function keys may be enough to justify the higher price tag, but the device’s awkwardly wide form factor (as opposed to something like the Cintiq 15’s less-sprawling form factor) means it will take up a lot of space on your desk.
However, there’s no denying that this is a fantastic peripheral with truly impressive pen specifications. The pen performed flawlessly during testing, according to our reviewer Jeremy Laukkonen, though the side buttons could be more prominent.
Screen Size/Active Area: 15.6 inches | Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Pen Type: Active, rechargeable | Standalone: No
Best Standalone Drawing Tablet: Simbans PicassoTab
Despite the fact that we avoided standalone tablets for this review, the Simbans PicassTab (Check latest price on Amazon) is actually a standalone tablet. Because that’s what it excels at, we think this unit could be classified as a drawing-specific tablet. If you’re looking for an Android tablet for media consumption and web browsing, this one will suffice, but the Amazon Fire tablets are also a good option.
Drawing is something that this tablet excels at. And there are two reasons for this. It comes with an active stylus that allows for solid palm rejection right out of the box (crucial for avoiding mis-presses while drawing). It also comes preloaded with Autodesk Sketchbook and Artflow, two excellent Android sketch apps for beginners.
These aren’t particularly impressive tablet specs, but they’ll suffice for a standalone drawing tablet. A 1.3GHz quad-core mobile processor, a 10.1-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, and a 2MP front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera are all included.
There’s Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even a microSD card slot. You can also connect this tablet to an external computer via a micro-HDMI port. And it’s that last point that makes it so welcoming to aspiring artists. They can begin by learning the basics of the on-board sketch app, then progress to real Adobe apps and an external monitor while using this tablet as a peripheral. It’s a good compromise between the two worlds, and it costs around $200.
Screen Size/Active Area: 10.1 inches | Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800 | Pen Type: Active | Standalone: Yes
Best for Beginners: Huion H420
The Huion H420 (Check latest price on Amazon) is one of the most Best Drawing Tablets on the market, while still providing a lot of the features a designer needs. This makes it ideal for new graphic designers, as it allows them to interact with compatible software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and others in new ways.
But, for that price, what compromises are you making? With 2,048 pressure sensitivity levels, you get some precision, but not nearly as much as on more expensive tablets. The “resolution,” or the number of sensors per inch of the board, is 4,000 lines per inch (LPI), which is slightly less than other options but perfectly adequate for young designers.
On the left side of the unit, there are three assignable keys that give you function options for your design programs right at your fingertips. Another interesting feature is that the pad is only 4.5 x 7 inches in size, with the active area measuring 4 x 2.25 inches.
While the smaller size may appear to be a drawback, it is ideal for on-the-go designers who can toss it in their bag and use it with their laptops. This set includes an active pen with digital functions (such as push-button scrolling), as well as plug-and-play compatibility with both Windows and Mac OS X.
Screen Size/Active Area: 4 x 2.23 inches | Screen Resolution: 4000 LPI | Pen Type: Active | Standalone: No
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Best for Photoshop: Wacom Intuos Pro
Wacom has long been a leader in the drawing tablet market, and the Intuos Pro (Check latest price on Amazon) is the company’s flagship line of drawing tools. This version, in Wacom’s “medium” size, is like the Goldilocks of the lineup, with an active surface area of 8.7 x 5.8 inches but a footprint of only 13.2 x 8.5 inches. This means it won’t be quite as clumsy at your desk, but it will still provide plenty of workspace.
The eight dedicated function buttons you can assign to programs on the fly, the assignable touch wheel for more comprehensive program navigation, and even the hand-recognition switch that allows the tablet to respond to gestures similarly to a trackpad are all impressive features.
Of course, Wacom’s Pro Pen 2 is the most well-known of the bunch. This active pen has an incredible 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing for extremely precise sketching. Wacom has also built in a four-times faster latency time than the first-generation Pro Pen, as well as tilt support for drawing more natural, fading lines.
In addition to wired connectivity, it also has Bluetooth. The entire package is compatible with the latest operating systems and design software, and while it isn’t the cheapest tablet on the market, it is a fair price for a creative professional.
Screen Size/Active Area: 8.7 x 5.8 inches | Screen Resolution: 5080 LPI | Pen Type: Pro Pen | Standalone: No
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The Final Word
While Wacom tablet options appear in several places on this list, we’ve decided to go with the XP-Pen Artist12 as our Best Overall pick for a few reasons. Underneath a rich, color-accurate display, it provides excellent pressure sensitivity. It lacks a few extra controls, but for around $200, it provides almost everything you could want in a decent-sized drawing tablet.
The Gaomon 15.6-inch version has many of the same features as the 15.6-inch version, but with more assignable buttons and, of course, a larger display. If you have the cash, you can’t go wrong with Wacom’s Cintiq line, which offers a wide range of quality and features.