• Laura

The best drawing tablets for digital illustration



The wonders of the digital evolution make it possible to shift the act of creating art from analogue workflows onto a screen.

Since there are now so many different brands and types of devices on the market, this overview should help you keep track of them and make the decision easier. Let’s go! :D





The different types of digital drawing devices

When you google this topic you will find tons of different brands, tablet types, and price levels. This can be quite overwhelming! To spare you some precious research time, here’s a quick overview of different tablet types that are available, with their pro’s and con’s.



1. Drawing tablets without displays


A so called pen tablet (or also known as graphic tablet) is the most basic version of a drawing tablet as it has no display but only a flat surface to draw on. They all come with a pen of course, but in order to actually use it, you need to connect it to a PC or a Mac. Many graphic designers use this type of tablets instead of a classic mouse as they find it more natural to navigate with a pen.



Most tablet brands offer different sizes of their tablets so you can choose if you want go with a small one that fits your bag or a bigger one for easier handling which is best for a stationary workspace. For example, the 4 Inch XP-PEN Deco Fun XS is one of the smallest ones available while the VEIKK A30 V2 is quite a bit larger. If you're in the mood for a more colorful tablet, I'd recommend the Parblo Intangbo.


Pros

  • Cheap

  • Comes with a pen

  • Can be used with any computer

Cons

  • No display so you’re drawing on the tablet but need to look at your computer monitor

  • Needs a computer to work with

  • The responsiveness of the pen is depending on the power of your computer, so it can feel a bit laggy on slower machines



2. Drawing tablets with displays


A drawing tablet with a screen, also called pen display, (like the Artist 24 Pro in the picture above) is basically an additional screen to draw on for your computer. So just like the pen tablet, you need to connect it to your PC or Mac to work with.


The advantages of a pen display are obvious - you draw and look directly at the display, just like with normal drawing. For many people, working this way is more pleasant and less abstract than with a pen tablet. There are many different brands and models out there, like the small Wacom One or the bigger Huion Kamvas 22 Plus.

If you want, you can use the pen display as a normal computer monitor (or a second monitor) without the need for drawing on it.

Pros

  • Easy handling because you draw directly on your screen/ in your graphic program

  • Can be used as a monitor

Cons

  • Needs a computer to work with

  • The responsiveness of the pen is depending on the power of your computer, so it can feel a bit laggy on slower machines



3. Drawing Computers


A drawing computer (or pen computer) is basically an all-in-one solution: It combines a drawing tablet and a computer, so it's all you could possibly need in one single device. It’s a great choice for professionals that are drawing a lot and need to process their work with additional software on a daily basis. There are devices available from many different brands, like the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 or the bigger but much cheaper Huion Kamvas Studio 22.

Another option is the Microsoft Surface Studio 2, the royal class among drawing computers.


Pros

  • All in one device, no separate computer needed

  • You can use is for anything else, because besides of the touch screen it’s an actual computer

Cons

  • Expensive

  • Not ideal if you’re often on the road as an artist



4. Standalone Tablets


A standalone tablet is working without connecting it to a computer and is therefore very flexible to use. The cool thing about these tablets is of course their small form factor. You can draw on your couch, quickly move it to your office or make a sketch while sitting in the train. My personal choice for digital drawing is the Apple iPad Pro, because in my experience it is the only drawing device that has absolutely no lag while moving the pen and it has an unsurpassed build quality.



For those who are not in the Apple ecosystem, there are many alternatives with Android or Windows, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ or the Microsoft Surface Pro 8.

Pros

  • Great mobility

  • Wide range of creative apps

  • Awesome pen handling, especially with the iPad and the Apple Pencil


Cons

  • Rather expensive

  • No really big display options available yet


 

Conclusion

Although there is a big range of options for digital drawing, each device has its target group as every artist works differently and has different requirements for a tablet.


When I started digital drawing, I was working on a tablet without a display and I didn't really like it. It didn't feel like drawing, it felt more like working... you know what I mean?

So if I could change that in my past, I'd rather save up a little longer and buy a tablet with a display, because once the motivation is gone, it sometimes takes a long time to find it again.


If you value flexibility and mobility when working, I would recommend a standalone tablet, especially the iPad Pro as it’s super fun to work with because it's so snappy and easy to use. This tablet is part of my personal drawing setup, which looks like this:



Phew, that was a lot of information! I hope I was able to give you a technical overview with this article and make it easier for you to get started with digital drawing. :) <3



Check out our blog "Which drawing program is best for me?" to learn more about the best drawing programs!

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