A drawing tablet translates the strokes from a pen or stylus to your computer. Illustrators or animators often use this type of device when they require the precision of a stylus input. A stylus can even be useful for a variety of other creative work, such as when photographers want to retouch their images. Although a mouse is fine for everyday tasks like surfing the Web or scrolling, a drawing tablet grants a much higher degree of precision while also feeling more comfortable and natural for the user. Anyone who has ever struggled to recreate their signature with a mouse or trackpad knows it’s far more intuitive to use a pen, so it’s a given that a tablet is more suited to tasks like painting, illustrating, animating, or retouching. Arguably, via the use of a stylus, a drawing tablet's most important feature is pressure control. The higher the pressure sensitivity, the more control you have over the thickness and opacity of a line, based on how much pressure you exert on the tablet.
Whether you're buying your first drawing tablet or replacing an old one, drawing tablets can be found at just about every price point, but the higher-end versions can be an expensive investment. This guide is designed for those looking to buy a drawing tablet to create digital art. We've put together a roundup of some of the best drawing tablets available on the market today, based on factors ranging from budget to size.
Best Tablet Overall: Wacom Cintiq 22
Wacom is a household name in the drawing tablet world and for good reasons. The brand’s tablets offer great value and more artist-first features than any of the competition. The Cintiq 22 from Wacom is a pen display tablet that can go head-to-head with fully featured stand-alone tablets. We think it’s a great all-around option in terms of its value, display size, and feature set. The 22-inch panel gives artists ample room to work and, paired up with the Wacom Pro Pen 2, which has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, it’s a fantastic choice for hobbyists and professionals alike. While this model isn't the sharpest or flashiest tablet from Wacom, we think it represents a good tradeoff, considering its more affordable price tag. The quoted color gamut for the Cintiq 22 is 72% NTSC and 96% SRGB, which is solid in terms of the latter. There is also a stand built into the Cintiq 22 that enables you to tilt the display to your preferred drawing angle. It's also important to note: the Cintiq 22 needs to be plugged in via USB to work at all. Regardless, this is one of the best tablets you can get if you're looking to break into digital art professionally.
Best for Pros: Wacom Intuos Pro
The Wacom Intuos Pro is the go-to device for most professional illustrators. It has become the industry standard, thanks to its lag-free pen tracking and large drawing area. The Intuos Pro has an unassuming design. It’s slim, yet sturdy, and comes in three different sizes so you can go with the one that best fits your workspace. Wacom also sells a variety of alternative Texture Sheets if you want to change the feel of drawing on it. It also has a variety of ports for connecting it to your desktop. Those who like their workspace to be cable-free will be happy to learn that this tablet also supports a wireless Bluetooth connection. It comes with the universally loved Wacom Pro Pen 2, which is the same one that comes with the Cintiq 22 and features 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support. Another notable feature of the Intuos Pro is the eight dedicated function buttons and touch wheel that are all assignable. If you're a professional artist looking for an incredibly precise drawing experience, consider the Intuos Pro for your primary tablet. While the price tag can get a bit high, depending on the size you choose, it’s worth it for a fully featured tablet like this one.
Best Budget: Wacom Intuos
Wacom's Intuos is an amazing option for those looking for a tablet on a budget. While Wacom has made some design and feature concessions to keep the cost low, we think it’s still capable enough to be a great companion, even as your drawing skills develop over time. Comparing it to some of our other selections, the small version has a 6 x 3.7-inch surface area, which is a tad tight, so consider the medium version if you need a bit more space. Regardless of the size, the Intuos still features a great textured surface that feels closer to using analog pen and paper. Included is the Wacom Pen 4K Stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, which we think is plenty for beginners. But unlike the Pro, this model does need to be connected via USB. It also comes with trial versions of Corel Painter Essentials 8 and AfterShot Pro 3 to help you get a feel for which software-based tools work for you.
Best Stand-Alone Tablet: Apple iPad Pro 12.9" M2
It should really be a surprise to no one that the iPad Pro is the best stand-alone tablet for drawing and general use. The most recent iPad Pro is powered with Apple's in-house M2 chip that delivers performance rivaling some laptops. The OLED display is bright and crisp, and the 12.9-inch version makes for an incredible canvas for artists. It also features a 120 Hz refresh rate, meaning drawing on this tablet is going to feel extremely responsive when used in combination with a second-generation Apple Pencil. The Pencil is one of the best parts of using the iPad Pro and the latest model even allows you to see previews before making a mark on the screen. We think anyone who’s planning to get into digital art should absolutely consider the iPad Pro as their workhorse tablet. There is a plethora of apps available for artists on the platform. One of the most popular creation apps, Procreate, is also only available on iOS, for example. The iPad versions of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are also on par with their desktop counterparts. A dedicated stand-alone tablet like this can offer a lot of utility for artists and can perform double duty as a second display or everyday tablet, too.
Overall, the best drawing tablets allow you to create digitally in different ways and can serve a variety of uses, whether you're just getting started drawing or you're a professional digital illustrator. Let us know if you swear by a tablet that didn't make the list, in the Comments section, below!