Looking for a recommendation on a digital artist’s drawing tablet? Well, then I think I can offer you some tablet specifications to consider and what my personal experience has been working with several drawing tablets that have been sent to me to test out. This information will be broken down into display tablets and graphics tablets.
Depending on how you landed on this information, you may or may not be aware of my YouTube channel. I’ve been a digital artist and educating others about the creative industries for many years. That said, drawing tablets are an important tool for me to do my work so hopefully my experiences will help point you in a good direction. You may be considering getting a tablet to help with digital art such as 2D illustrations, digital painting, 3D texture painting, 3D sculpting, or other common uses.
The Two Types of Tablets
The first thing to know about digital tablets is that there are two main types without consideration to regular mobile tablets like iPads. (Some digital art programs are now natively supported on those devices). The naming of the two types of tablets can be confusing, so let’s understand what they’re called and the main differences.
The first type of digital drawing tablet is called a graphics tablet. In and of itself, it does not display anything graphically. However, it allows you to interact with a graphical program such as Krita or Photoshop. Usually, the tablet is interacted with a pressure sensitive pen with the surface of the tablet mapped to the display of the monitor or visual device.
Notably, graphics tablets are relatively inexpensive at about $20 - 30 USD, and perfect for beginners. A graphics tablet is typically better than using a mouse, but you will still find a rare digital artist that prefers the mouse because of their workflow. However, precision is much easier to control with a graphics tablet for most uses.
There is a learning curve of feeling your position on the tablet with what you are seeing on your monitor or other display device. Consider that your tablet size is mapped and scaled to your monitor size. In most cases, your biological feedback will adjust to the size differences quickly. However, in the case of a graphics tablet plugged into a small display such as a mobile phone, you can expect the large difference to really feel awkward for longer as your brain adapts.
A display tablet actually displays the visuals that you can draw or paint on top of. Keep this in mind as you shop around because you will see some shady vendors selling graphics tablets with edited photos to make them look like display tablets; and usually for much less the cost than to be expected. As we’ll discuss later, display tablets come in a variety of sizes and display resolutions.
Display tablets allow you to see where your pen point is to give you even further control over a graphics tablet and is therefore a fit for someone progressing into intermediate stages, serious about their hobby, or going pro. The learning curve is much less than the hand-eye disconnect experienced with a graphics tablet.
The obvious disadvantage of a display tablet is the increased cost which can exceed $1000 USD. However, there are great options for much less than that or as a simple upgrade to the graphics tablet that will be in the recommendations.
Recommended Graphics Tablets
Specifications to consider
When you are searching for a graphics tablet the main things you want to look for are pen pressure, how the pen feels as you hold it, and whether or not the pen is rechargeable. The ideal pen pressure is over 2000, but anything far exceeding that value will be hard to notice. The comfort of the pen in your hand will be up to your preferences, so it’s nice if you can try before you buy but that’s not always possible. Finally, you want to avoid rechargeable (or battery-based pens) as they can have connectivity issues, tend to be prone to breaking and provide a bad experience .
Overview of the market
As alluded to in the introduction, I’ve had the ability to test many tablets with sponsors and tablet makers asking for a review. Besides my own experience, you’ll probably find the following to be true from product reviews you come across as it pertains to graphics tablets. Wacom is considered the premiere brand, high quality, and great driver support. Huion has come around as a Wacom alternative in terms of quality but their driver support is lacking. Finally, XP Pen has decent quality, great driver support, and a low price point which makes it a great value pick for beginners.
Price differences in the US means slightly different recommendations.
If you’re in Europe, check out the XP Pen Deco 1 which is well built, sized appropriately, has good driver support, but no extras.
If you live in the US or North America, you may want to instead have a look at the Ugee s640. Though this brand hasn’t been discussed up until this point, I think this is a great introductory tablet that is priced for value.
The Wacom One is a good pick for a graphics tablet if you’re on a tight budget or just trying out digital art. It doesn’t have any frills, but it’s backed with the assurance of the Wacom brand. However, while the Wacom One is a good budget choice in Europe, a similarly priced alternative for the US is the One by Wacom (a different product name).
XP Pen Deco 3 light and portable, wheel tilt support and well built
While a real dream pick is to jump to a display tablet, it’s understandable that it may not be the right time. So if you have the budget and want to go with a graphics tablet with a little more performance, check out the XP Pen Deco 3: light, portable, well-built, and comes with wheel tilt support.
Europe: XP Pen Deco 3 in Europe
Recommended Display Tablets
Specifications to Consider
Things get trickier when considering the specifications of display tablets. As it probably will be a relatively expensive purchase, here are some things you want to look out for:
- Parallax between pen and canvas.
- Stroke rate or stroke lag
- Pen wobble or stroke smoothness
The parallax between the pen and canvas is the visual offset of where your pen point actually is on the canvas versus where you perceive it is. It’s a similar effect to light refraction in water. Pay close attention to the reviews of tablets rather than what any marketing tells you.
The stroke rate is how fast your line stroke (if you’re drawing) stays caught up with your pen point as it’s moving. Cheaper, less quality tablets will have a worse effect on lag. Again this isn’t something that should be relied upon with a metric given by marketing, but instead read through several reviews.
Finally, the pen wobble will be noticed the most when you are drawing and the tablet picks up the finest pen moves resulting in unclean line strokes. Of the several considerations with display tablets, this will be the least of your concerns. Using some amount of stroke smoothness setting whether on your tablet or within the settings of the software you are interacting with will more than likely solve any issues.
Overview of the market
As much as in the same fashion as graphics tablets, the best quality tablets will come from Wacom and XP Pen. Of course, with quality comes price. If you’re going with a Huion, which has less driver support, make sure you double-check that it will be compatible with your Operating System and Software. Usually, a quick dive into reviews will help you figure things out. In order to remain competitive Huion is updating their driver support, but it’s a good idea to be somewhat cautious before making a purchase.
The value picks for display tables are the XP Pen Innovator 16 if you are in Europe and the Huion Kamvas in the United States. Both come packed with quality and features while being less expensive. They both meet all of the desired specifications with a decent screen size.
If you’re on a budget and want to have a beginner’s experience with budget-friendly display tablets, you’ll like these picks. The main disadvantage attributed to the budget builds because of the lower cost is the sacrifice of the display size. The hardware does relatively good for the money, however. If you’re in Europe check out the XP Pen 12, and the Gaomon PD 1161 if you are purchasing from within North America.
If you’ve got the money to spend and want to go for the elite model of display tablets, then it would without hesitation be the Wacom Cintiq 22. The large display size, tight parallax, and pen stroke responsiveness really make this the dream tablet in 2022. The Cintiq 22 is extremely well built and comes with the wide driver support that is to be expected from the trusted brand in the digital artist space. You can check out these links if you’d like to check it out. You can find the Wacom Cintiq 22 here if you’re in Europe, and a link to the dream pick display tablet if you live in North America
In this article we looked at the main differences between graphics tablets and display tablets as well as the key specifications you want to look out for in both. I’ve had the opportunity through multiple reviews and sponsorships to try many of the recommended brands and tablets out myself. If you landed on this page from a search engine and haven’t had the opportunity to visit my YouTube channel, please stop by and say hello! You’ll find a lot of great content and reviews created for digital artists like yourself. I hoped I provided you with the valuable information you were looking for as you research an exciting tablet purchase!