These Are the Best Drawing Tablets for Beginners

You have made up your mind: you want to learn to draw digitally! (good decision ;))

But now you stand in front of a wall of questions: Where should I start? What to draw first And so on. But before you can even draw, there are two things to clarify:  What hardware and software will you be drawing with?

The first part – the hardware – I’ll show you in this post. So in the end you will know everything to be able to make the right purchase decision :).

1. Why a graphics tablet?

If you can own a computer, in theory you already have everything you need to be able to draw digitally! With a computer mouse or trackpad, you can draw your first lines in a simple drawing program. And such a program brings with it almost every operating system (example: Paint for Windows).

Unfortunately, practicable looks different. As a rule, you will hardly be able to draw really well and in detail this way. For this, the mouse and trackpad as input devices are simply too far removed from the drawing devices and the drawing posture, as we are used to.

That is why there were very clever people who invented the graphics tablet – a “drawing board” that records and thus digitizes the movements that are carried out on it with the appropriate pen, called a stylus. So you are imitating traditional pen drawing. It just doesn’t leave “real” lines on the graphics tablet, they are transferred to the computer. This already shows a huge advantage of digital drawing compared to traditional drawing: you don’t use any material, you can use computer commands to undo inputs and thus lines and you don’t have to wait for colors to dry, for example. In addition to drawing, the entire computer can also be controlled with a graphics tablet similar to a mouse.

Here is an example of the differences in precision between a graphics tablet and a simple computer mouse:

Of course, as with all things, there are exceptional artists who also create magnificent works with the mouse, but that is the exception. If you really want to learn to draw digitally, you can’t avoid getting a graphics tablet.

2. Differences & criteria in the selection

As with all products, there is no one size fits all. Every artist has a different focus and individual preferences. I will give you recommendations in this article, yes, but the final decision still has to be made by yourself based on your own needs.

In order to make the selection a little easier for you, I have put together all the criteria and differences that currently exist in graphics tablets. Decide for yourself which of them is most important to you and how and then check my recommendations for that too.

  • Pen vs. Display tray

Basically there are two types of tablets: pen tablets , which are only used for input and where you have to look elsewhere when drawing, namely at the connected computer or monitor (like a computer mouse, only in tablet form) and display -Tablets in which you draw directly on a screen surface, some of which even have your own computer integrated ( pen computer or all-in-one tablets ). The display tablet comes closest to traditional drawing, but the integrated screen means that this is often much more expensive.

For me personally, pen tablets are the first choice: they are cheaper, the hand does not cover anything when drawing, there is no offset between the pen and the drawn line (which irritates me personally) and I often draw stationary at my desk, which means that there is no space problem the extra tray gives. However, looking at the screen instead of the hand is a matter of getting used to. If you don’t like that or prefer to draw digitally on the go, a display all-in-one tablet is best advised (e.g. the iPad). As the name suggests, you have everything together and you are much more flexible.

What can you do if you are not sure? In the end, you can only find out which type is best for you through direct testing. Usually anyone can get used to working with the pen tablet and for beginners it is often the only option because of the cost alone.

Either you buy a cheaper pen tablet first and take enough time to test it out and, if necessary, send it back or sell it if it doesn’t fit, or you go to a trade fair or a corresponding electronics store to test the devices on site .

At Gamescom and many other games, art and comic conventions there is actually always at least one Wacom stand where you can try out the most famous brands.

  • costs

The decisive factor for you at the beginning will certainly be the price. Graphics tablets are available from around € 40 and up to around € 3,000 – a wide range.

For a start and especially if you want to test out whether digital drawing is really something for you, the cheap tablets are definitely sufficient. You can already draw wonderfully with these. More expensive prices then usually only arise through larger drawing areas, additional options, brand names, display functions, better support and higher quality material.

Think about what budget you have available. If you are sure that you will definitely draw digitally, I would recommend that you rather think long-term and at least not take the cheapest of the cheapest just to save a few euros, but really choose the options that suit you. Your future self will thank you and you can use branded products (e.g. Wacom) for years or even decades without problems.

However, don’t confuse a higher price with a better quality of your images. In the end, each graphics tablet is just a tool and you can get good results with any one. Any additional options are actually just luxuries. If you can’t draw, a $ 2,000 Cintiq won’t make you a better artist.

As an alternative compromise, there is of course the option of buying expensive branded products that are normally used and / or an older version. In this way you can often save several 100 €. I did the same and bought an older Wacom Intuos Pro M for about 150 € instead of the usual 400-500 €.

  • Right of use

Can you already estimate how extensive your drawing work will be? Do you sketch more than work out fine and detailed pictures? Do you want to work purely in 2D or also in 3D? With pen tablets, all of these things can be done with no problem. The connected computer still takes over the computing power. The iPad and other all-in-one products that contain a built-in computer may still have performance differences that you should be aware of. But here too, the first question would be: Do you need a new laptop / computer in addition to the tablet? Then all-in-one tablets would be worth considering. The cost-benefit factor simply has to be balanced here too.

As it is at the moment, I would not rely on such an all-in-one device alone, for example because of the computationally intensive 3D work and detailed drawings that often consist of many levels, or would be compared to a normal one Computer too expensive.

If you come completely from the hobby area, then the latter will certainly not be a big topic for you at first. But maybe you are already a professional graphic designer or 3D artist and want to familiarize yourself with digital drawing as a new discipline. Then you have a completely different starting point and different goals and should also think about them accordingly.

In general, however, software and hardware should match. For example, have you already caught your eye on the “Procreate” software? Then an iPad is currently the only option for you, as the app is only supported on it. So also research whether the software you plan to use is compatible with the device (but it will mostly be the case).

  • flexibility

Would you like to work mainly stationary at a desk, for example, or also on the go? Or isn’t a normal sketchbook enough for on the go?

With a pen tablet it can very quickly become cumbersome or even impossible to work on the go like in the train, as you need an additional computer with a screen and possibly a keyboard. Imagine you have to build it all up before you can draw. Not impossible, but very cumbersome. You can sometimes lose your desire to draw. Then it would be better to use a display tablet!

If, on the other hand, you actually only work at home, a pen tablet is the first choice because of the lower cost if you can get used to it.

  • size

One of the most noticeable differences between graphics tablets is their size. The standard has leveled off between A3 and A6 (i.e. less than 20cm in width to wider than 30cm). Of course, there are also special forms here.

Smaller tablets mean less space, but because the screen is larger, movements are not implemented immediately. A small line on the tablet creates a much larger line on the screen. This can feel very annoying, but it again differs from person to person (just test it!).

Larger tablets also have the advantage that you can draw more with your arm and less with your wrist, which makes for more confident strokes and also causes less joint pain. With display tablets, larger screens are of course easier on the eyes.

However, the bigger the tablet, the more expensive it becomes. I think a larger version than about 40cm is unnecessary. For example, Wacom offers the sizes S (small = small), M (middle = medium) and L (large = large), of which I can recommend the M version. Not too small, too big.

I had a Wacom L-size tablet for years and at some point it just bothered me. The “drawing routes” were too long and I couldn’t quickly pack up the large tray either. Then I tried S for a while, but my wrist quickly hurt and there weren’t enough quick access buttons in the tablet itself, without which I wouldn’t work anymore. With the M version, I’ve had the best of both worlds for several years now: it fits in every laptop backpack compartment, I can work easily from my arm and for details from my wrist, there are enough buttons and it doesn’t take up too much space gone on the desk.

  • Pressure sensitivity & more

The more pressure levels a tablet has (usually between 1024 and 2048), the more precisely you can draw. That means: depending on the pressure you exert while drawing, this is digitally transferred to your lines more precisely. Drawing looks more natural. Conversely, the lower the pressure levels, the less naturally you will be able to draw.

However, the differences between models from € 100 / € 200 and up are sometimes barely noticeable. Only when you really take the cheapest of the cheapest will you often notice a massive difference.

But that’s why cheap doesn’t mean bad. It always depends on your requirements. This is also the case with other additional options such as different pen tips for different media sensitivity (pencil, brush, etc.), multi-touch option (touch gestures possible on the tablet) or the additional buttons and more.

I would always prefer to cut corners and ask myself: What do I really need? Of course, if you have a lot of money and / or you don’t want to do without certain options, treat yourself;).

3. My graphics tablet recommendations for beginners & advanced users

overview

1. Wacom Intuos S (earlier version: Bamboo)

2. Huion H640P

3 . Wacom Intuos Pro M

4.  iPad Pro

1. Wacom Intuos S 

You should opt for this tablet if you are completely new to digital drawing (want to test it out first), are willing to test the drawing style with a pen tablet and are interested in high quality, yet low costs, matching software and brand quality value especially from Wacom.

What specifically speaks for it?

  • Cost: Inexpensive. 80 € new price and with B-goods or used (also consider the earlier variant with the designation »Bamboo«!) You can save further costs. (Wacom itself always offers B-goods on their shop page ; otherwise e-Bay classifieds and the like.)
  • Brand:  Wacom is the leading manufacturer of graphics tablets from Japan and you get the right quality with one purchase: high precision, pressure sensitivity and an ergonomic pen. Even if this brand is more expensive than others, it pays off in the long run. I only bought my new graphics tablet to be more mobile (the first tablet was too big for that), because the old one still worked perfectly after over 6 years of continuous use and I was able to resell it.
  • Space : Wacom often offers its trays in three different sizes: »S« for »Small«, »M« for »Medium« and »L« for »Large« (only in the Intuos Pro version). With this »S« variant, which is the smallest variant, you are best advised if your primary concern is to be able to transport your graphics tablet easily and / or to take up little space on your desk.
  • Performance: If you can get used to drawing with a pen tablet, which the Intuos S is, (drawing on the tablet but looking at the monitor), then you can control practically your entire computer. The performance of your tablet is then only limited by these. All-in-one tablets still often suffer from performance degradation. With the pen tablet, however, both 2D and 3D programs can be controlled without any problems.
  • Software: Depending on the model, you will also receive a software package with a new purchase (Corel Painter Essentials, Corel AfterShot or Clip Studio Paint). There is also the Wacom Desktop Center, with which you can easily change your tablet settings and save them in a cloud.

What speaks against it?

  • Pen-tablet: If you don’t get along with the way you work (drawing on the tablet but looking at the monitor), then this tablet is certainly not for you. However, as already mentioned, you can only find this out through active and repeated testing.
  • Costs: If you are mainly concerned with costs, you like to compromise on quality and you don’t care about the Wacom brand, then you should go for something like in point 2.
  • Mobility: If you want to draw while on the move, for example on the train, this can be a hassle. An all-in-one drawing tablet is better suited for this
  • Size: If you know that you are someone who tends to make larger movements when drawing or who feels cramped with drawing surfaces that are too small, then this graphics tablet may already be too small. The active drawing area is only approx. 15 × 9.5 cm.

You should opt for this tablet if you are completely new to digital drawing (want to test it out first), are willing to test the drawing method with a pen tablet and the cheapest  price  with still very good quality plays the main role for you . Alternatively, you can also find similarly good tablets with XP Pen.

What specifically speaks for it?

  • Costs: It hardly gets cheaper. Approx. 45 € new price and with B-stock or used you can save further costs.
  • Brand:  Huion is one of the largest manufacturers of graphics tablets in the world alongside Wacom. I would always prefer Wacom, but that’s more personal. The performance differences are otherwise, at least in the lower price segment, small.
  •  Space : Similar to the Wacom Intuos S, the Huion H640P is kept small, but it is still larger than the Intuos. While the Intuos is almost square (200 x 160 mm), the Huion H640P is wider (260 x 147 mm) and, in contrast to the Intuos (152 x 94 mm), offers a slightly larger, active drawing area (160 x 99 mm). In any case, you are well advised if you have no problem drawing in a small space and you attach great importance to low space consumption and easy transport.
  • Quick access buttons: While the Intuos S only has 4 quick access buttons, there are even 6 on the H640P. This means that you could assign hotkeys to these keys (like the popular »back function« CTRL / CMD + Z). More of a luxury and taste difference, but still worth mentioning.
  • Pressure sensitivity : The H640P is clearly ahead here. With 8192 pressure levels there is a clear difference to the 4096 pressure levels of the Intuos S. However, you have to press a little harder from the feel.
  • Performance: If you can get used to drawing with a pen tablet, which the Huion H640P is, (drawing on the tablet but looking at the monitor), then you can practically control your entire computer. The performance of your tablet is then only limited by these. All-in-one tablets still often suffer from performance degradation. With the pen tablet, however, both 2D and 3D programs can be controlled without any problems.

What speaks against it?

  • Pen-tablet: If you don’t get along with the way you work (drawing on the tablet but looking at the monitor), then this tablet is certainly not for you. However, as already mentioned, you can only find this out through active and repeated testing.
  • Mobility: If you want to draw while on the move, for example on the train, this can be a hassle. An all-in-one drawing tablet is better suited for this.
  • Size:  If you know that you are someone who tends to make larger movements when drawing or who feels cramped with drawing surfaces that are too small, then this graphics tablet may already be too small. The active drawing area is only approx. 16 x 9.9 cm.
  • Software: If you want to get the right software (both drawing program and pen settings) with your graphics tablet, you should rather use a Wacom Intuos tablet. This is not included here.

3. Wacom Intuos Pro M 

You should choose this tablet if you are completely new or experienced / professional in digital drawing (but you already know that you want to draw digitally in the long term), are willing to learn how to draw with a pen tablet and are a comfortable size as well high quality of the Wacom brand plays the main role for you. This tray is my personal favorite and I currently use it myself for my professional work.

What specifically speaks for it?

  • Cost: Definitely not cheap compared to the first two trays, but one of the cheapest among the professional trays. I bought mine used on eBay for 180 € (as much as the “S” version costs almost new).
  • Brand: Wacom is the leading manufacturer of graphics tablets from Japan and you get the right quality with one purchase: high precision, pressure sensitivity and an ergonomic pen. Even if this brand is more expensive than others, it pays off in the long run. I only bought my new graphics tablet to be more mobile (the first tablet was too big for that), because the old one still worked perfectly after over 6 years of continuous use and I was able to resell it.
  • Size: For me, as I said, a crucial point. In my opinion, the “M” version of the Intuos Pro series is the perfect size for drawing. For years I owned a previous model (Intuos 4) in size L and especially when I wanted to pack my things and draw in another place, it quickly became a pain. In addition, my arm got tired faster than he did because of the longer drawing distance now with the Intuos Pro M.  I also tried the smallest variant (Intuos Pro S) for a short time and found that the drawing lines here were again too small for me. Everyone has to decide for themselves what they need, but I would say that the size “L” is rarely necessary.
  • Quick access keys:  The larger area of ​​the tablet naturally also offers more space for the keys, which is why there are 8 pieces here that can be assigned individual hotkeys. (In comparison: the Wacom Intuos S only has 4 and even the Huion H640P only 6)
  • Touch ring: In addition to the quick access buttons, there is also a touch ring with which you can set 4 different modes. This feature is extremely useful. For example, you can very precisely and intuitively control the size of the brush, the zoom on the image or the rotation of the drawing area with a circular movement on the touch ring. This saves a lot of time in contrast to menu operation in the drawing programs or the quick access keys. This makes digital drawing much more efficient.
  • Multi-Touch: The newer generations of the Intuos Pro series offer the option of operating the tablet with multi-touch gestures. That means, what you can do on your smartphone (e.g. zoom by bringing two fingers together or apart) also works with the tablet. However, I see this option as a gimmick. I don’t use it myself. However, this can vary from user to user.
  • Pressure sensitivity : Here Wacom catches up with the 8192 pressure levels of the Huion H640P and thus offers an excellent, natural character pressure simulation.
  • Eraser: In contrast to the normal Intuos, the Wacom Intuos Pro Pen comes with an eraser attachment on the other end of the pen. Those who come more from traditional drawing will appreciate this feature.
  • Performance: If you can get used to drawing with a pen tablet, which the Wacom Intuos Pro M is, (drawing on the tablet but looking at the monitor), you can practically control your entire computer. The performance of your tablet is then only limited by these. All-in-one tablets still often suffer from performance degradation. With the pen tablet, however, both 2D and 3D programs can be controlled without any problems.

What speaks against it?

  • Costs: If the price plays the main role for you and you just want to test digital drawing first, you should go for the cheap Intuos S variant or the Huion H640P.
  • Pen-tablet: If you don’t get along with the way you work (drawing on the tablet but looking at the monitor), then this tablet is certainly not for you. However, as already mentioned, you can only find this out through active and repeated testing.
  • Mobility: If you want to draw while on the move, for example on the train, this can be a hassle. An all-in-one drawing tablet is better suited for this.
  • Software: If you want to get the right software (both drawing program and pen settings) with your graphics tablet, you should rather use a Wacom Intuos tablet. This is not included in the Pro version.

4. iPad Pro

You should choose this tablet if you are completely new or experienced in digital drawing (but you already know that you want to draw digitally in the long term), want to have a mini-computer for on the go, you want to draw digitally on the go or in a flexible position and Prefer display tablets. I also have the iPad Pro. If you have enough money, the iPad is certainly the best tablet / computer solution right now.

What specifically speaks for it?

  • All-in-one tablet: The iPad is primarily a mini-computer that can be equipped with apps, similar to a smartphone. You can read books, write texts, listen to and record music, surf the Internet, create your own videos and much more with the iPad – just like with a small, mobile computer. With the help of the Apple Pencil (an input pen specially developed for the iPad) and a drawing app such as Procreate, you can also use the iPad as a graphics tablet.
  • Display and pen tablet: In contrast to all the other tablets presented, the iPad has a direct display that can be used for drawing. So you don’t have to get used to it first, you draw almost exactly as you would with a pencil. But there’s more: with apps like » Astropad«The iPad can even be converted into a kind of pen tablet. That means: The app establishes a connection between your Mac and the iPad so that you can access the programs on your Mac and draw or work in them with your iPad. This also gives you even more performance, as your computer basically takes over the computing power and the iPad only acts as a display or input device. In my research I came to the conclusion that pure image processing programs like Photoshop already work very well with it. With 3D programs like ZBrush, the whole thing unfortunately still looks different. Here again it depends on your individual requirements. What do you need?
  • Brand & Future: Those who value high quality and stylish design are always well advised with Apple products. In addition, these are also good investments, as they generally have a long service life and can be sold on at very good prices even after many years. Last but not least, the product is currently so popular with both Apple and customers that it is being further developed. If you like to act in a future-oriented way, you should not miss this product.
  • Software: The software for drawing is not included, but many free drawing apps can be downloaded for free. The currently most popular drawing app ” Procreate ” is available in the store for less than € 10. Photoshop is now also available in a slimmed-down version on the iPad.
  • Flexible & mobile: Since you have your computer with the iPad with you, you can transport it easily thanks to its comfortable size (11 or 12.9 inches) and use it to draw anywhere – whether on the train or on the couch at home. With all other pen tablets you would always have to have an external computer or laptop with you and connect it, which can be very cumbersome or even impossible.
  • Size: The iPad Pro has a pleasant display size in contrast to the normal iPad, which is a few inches smaller. Nevertheless, I would recommend a connected second monitor to professional draftsmen for longer work in order to protect the eyes.
  • Touch & keyboard: The iPad is based on multi-touch technology, which is why the device works completely without a keyboard. However, if you miss quick access keys, you can order a special iPad keyboard and set your hotkeys just like a real keyboard (i.e. more than 4 or 8 keys in contrast to the other pen tablets).

What speaks against it?

  • Cost:  Quality always has its price. If the price plays the main role for you and you just want to test digital drawing for now, you should go for the cheap Intuos S variant or the Huion H640P. However, there is also the option of used variants from around 600 € and if you consider that it is a mini computer and not just a tablet, this is also completely acceptable.
  • Performance: I would personally still carry out more complex drawing and work projects on a real computer with a graphics tablet. The performance of the iPad Pro is not (yet) enough for me, even if it is far superior to that of the normal iPad (and if I am already spending a lot of money, then go for the iPad Pro version as it simply offers a lot more). Especially for working with many layers, as I am used to in Photoshop, or working with 3D programs such as ZBrush, I currently lack the usual support (also with regard to Astropad). In the end, it’s just a tablet and not an independent, full-fledged computer. But should this change accordingly in the future, the iPad would certainly be the dream hardware solution for every artist.

4. Survey – drawing tablet recommendations from other draftsmen

At the beginning of my research, I started a survey in a Facebook group and asked both drawing beginners and drawing professionals which graphics tablets they work with. So you can get an even more complete picture.

Survey results

Respondents: over 100 (multiple selection was possible)

1st place: iPad Pro (65 votes)

2nd place: Wacom Cintiq (Pro) (43 votes)

3rd place: Wacom Intuos Pro (38 votes)

4th place: Huion (10 votes)

5th place: XP-Pen (7 votes)

  • Note: Wacom Cintiq (Pro) 

As you can see, my graphics tablet recommendations are supported by the other artists – with one exception: the Wacom Cintiq (Pro). I have deliberately not listed this tablet because it is one of the most expensive professional graphics tablets, which shouldn’t be of any importance for beginners. The Cintiq Pro version is between € 900 and € 2700 (if you want an integrated computer, even significantly more at € 4000 to € 8000).

For years, the Cintiq has been considered the dream model among graphics tablets for many artists. But even for professionals, in my opinion, this investment is not worth it – at least not anymore.

With the iPad Pro listed, which has its price, but already comes with an integrated computer, there is actually no reasonable reason to prefer the Cintiq to this one. Luxury and taste are of course personal preferences that cannot be argued about, but in terms of options and performance alone, the iPad Pro is in no way inferior to the Cintiq.

Yes, the 11 to 12.9 inch iPad display is much smaller than the 13, 16, 24 or 32 inch display of the Cintiq. But the iPad can easily be connected to a monitor, like the Cintiq with a suitable holder or the keyboard can be tilted and, in contrast to the Cintiq, you are always mobile with the iPad. In addition, for € 1000 you get a small computer with the iPad, which is only possible with the Cintiq from around € 4000 (and for the money it’s an absurdly bad computer). Here again, personal usage requirements are in demand. But as I said, in my opinion the Cintiq is no longer profitable. Either the iPad or a pen tablet with a computer, which also offers far more performance for less money than the Cintiq with a built-in computer.

5. Summary of graphic tablets

In the end, it doesn’t matter which tray you choose because it’s still just a tool. You are the only one who can achieve the true creative work. There are professionals who still draw on Wacom tablets that are over 10 years old in the smallest version or other cheap variants. Each tray won’t do your work for you, but it can make it a lot easier. Accordingly, you should primarily choose which individual requirements you yourself have.

  • In a nutshell 

Are you a complete beginner in digital drawing? Then the Wacom Intuos S * or the Huion H640P * are ideal for inexpensive testing and your start in the digital drawing world.

However, if money is not an issue and you know that you want to draw digitally in the long term or are already an advanced draftsman or even a professional, then I recommend the iPad Pro *  (as a mobile all-in-one solution or if you want it as a display connect to a Mac) or the Wacom Intuos Pro M * if you want to use another computer as a base, you want to draw primarily at home and you can get used to the way a pen tablet works.

Tell me your opinion!

For which graphics tablet now you have made up your mind finally? Could I help you? On which topic would you like to have a contribution in the future? 🙂

Maybe you already own a graphics tablet. Then write to me how satisfied you are with it! Let’s share the knowledge and help as many people as possible! <3

Sources:

[1] – Technical data Huion H640P:  https://www.huion.com/pen_tablet/H640P.html

[2] – Technical data Wacom Intuos:  https://www.wacom.com/de-de/products/pen-tablets/wacom-intuos

[3] – Using iPad as graphics tablet and screen extension: https://www.crystalintmedia.com/how-to-use-ipad-as-drawing-tablet-for-mac/

[4] – Wacom Cintiq Pro vs. iPad Pro, 2019  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMYtbmxEcG8

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