Until relatively recently, artists and graphic designers were limited to working on paper and pencil.
That required a lot of tools, such as pencils of different thicknesses, and if they made a mistake, correcting it was not easy.
For this reason, the appearance of programs such as Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator caused many designers and illustrators to move to digital drawing.
However, both the mouse and the keyboard had great deficiencies in the accuracy they could offer. Have you ever tried to draw using the touch panel of your computer? It’s terrible, so imagine how complicated it could be to create an illustration or to retouch a photo with precision.
Until the graphic tablets appeared.
A graphics tablet is a device that connects to a monitor via USB cable or wirelessly. Basically it consists of a rigid and touch-sensitive board on which you can use a stylus to transfer your drawings to the computer screen with spectacular precision.
The graphic tablets make illustrating, animating in 3D, retouching photos or drawing a comic becomes a much more comfortable and natural process. Although it takes some time to get used to using the stylus, once you master it, the possibilities of these devices are spectacular.
A graphic tablet together with a good design program can offer you an almost infinite color palette, perfect finishes and a multitude of graphic effects. And correcting errors can be as simple as turning the stylus around and erasing as you would with a normal pencil.
Some even incorporate a screen on its surface to design without the need for an external monitor. This provides an almost identical experience to draw on paper and avoid the feeling of working on the table while looking at the screen.
Note: however, they are usually quite more expensive and are not 100% recommended for beginners, since if you do not have practice it is easy to cover part of what you are designing with your arm.
If you are interested in the design but you are not sure which graphic tablet to buy, in this guide I will show you what you should look for next to the ten best tablets in relation to value for money in the market. Go for it!
The best cheap graphic tablets
On the market, there are products that have excellent quality at reasonable prices.
In this economic section, under the $75 mark, we have chosen two models with high precision.
Huion H610 Pro: the best cheap step
- Large active area
- Many programmable buttons
- High sensitivity
- Good resolution
- Hardly transportable
- Complicated driver installation
The first tablet comes from Huion brand, holder of some models of excellent quality.
This is a solid tablet size A5 larger than the H420 you will see below (35.3 x 24.4 x 1.5 cm). It is logically heavier also (1.18 kg). There are wide borders, so the space is large enough to draw on an active surface a little smooth and granular at the same time, giving a paper impression.
The excellent resolution of 5080 LPI (impressive in this price range) allows to carry out very detailed works and turns out to be an interesting tool, even for the professionals.
The stylus is rechargeable. A two-hour charge provides 80 hours of work time and a button also saves battery life when you’re not using it anymore. He is light and his grip is very pleasant. Spare mines come with the tablet. The pressure sensitivity of the pen is 8192. On the other hand, there is no tilt sensor that allows a better line on the screen.
The tablet connects with a USB cable. On the top, there are 16 programmable shortcuts (5 times more than the Huion 420) that can be configured according to the needs of a program.
It is compatible via Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, Mac, Linux … however, the installation of drivers can quickly become complicated if you are not a little familiar with the basics of computing.
In the end, the Huion H610 pro has all the necessary features for a simple but enjoyable use. Even if it can be used by a professional, if you are a designer and you want to make it your working tool, you will prefer a model allowing even more possibilities and comfort. It will therefore go up in price and you orientate to a mid or high-end tablet.
Huion H420 USB: the cheap alternative
- ABS material
- Excellent resolution
- Good sensitivity
- Active area a bit too small
The next model in our selection is an entry-level graphics tablet, made by Huion again. The Chinese company (rival of Wacom) offers here an interesting alternative (even cheaper) to his big sister H610 Pro.
Very thin and light (127 gr), we are a little mixed with the format of this tablet. Its small size makes it convenient to carry or to place it on its desk without monopolizing all the space, but suddenly, the active zone is a little too narrow to draw easily (10 x 5.6 cm).
It is made of a shock-resistant ABS material and also has a quality surface similar to that of the Wacom. The excellent resolution of 4000 LPI is 4 times higher than the need to obtain a quality drawing.
Given its economic price, it will not be suitable for those who want to use it as a professional tool, but is very easy to master for beginners. They will thus be able to benefit from its simple installation with a customizable setting.
The stylus is accompanied by 4 replacement mines and has two buttons a little hard to the touch. Its 2048 pressure levels give a good control of the drawing, it is more than correct for a model of this price range. To make it work, get an AAA battery, which is easy to hold for one year, for 1 to 4 hours of use a day.
To accompany the stylus, 3 shortcut keys retranscribe the following actions: close, save and cancel. You will also see an entrance to slide the long USB cable since it does not work without. It is compatible with Photoshop, SAI, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 and Mac 10.8 or higher.
In the end, for about $30, we should not expect miracles either. Its use is more intended for mini-games (OSU, for example) than for drawing, but it offers a lot of advantages for the investment it costs. Its stylus, its surface and its resolution are certainly its greatest assets.
The best mid-range graphics tablets
In this second range, around $200-$300, we offer two models with a high resolution and incredible screen quality, to refine more complex drawings.
Wacom Intuos Pro Small: the best mid-range
- Multitouch screen with high resolution
- Precise stylus
- Ideal size
- Pen tips quickly damaged
We could not do our selection without including the Wacom Intuos Pro, flagship tablet of the Japanese brand Wacom, which presents here, its sixth generation model Intuos.
Neither too small nor too big, Wacom offers different formats to please everyone. The smallest (model S), that we present to you, has dimensions of 269 x 170 x 8 mm, for a weight of 450 grams. The ergonomics are quite spectacular and it does not discriminate since the software (put by default for the right-handed), can be changed to make it, a tablet accessible to left-handed people.
It can be connected with two options: either with the USB cable or via Bluetooth with a range of up to 8 hours. You can enjoy it on PC and MAC.
The stylus, which is used without battery and wireless, is extremely comfortable, hyper accurate (2048 pressure levels), gives a perfect Grip Pen (grip of the stylus) and has a good inclination. In the packaging, there are 10 mines and it is not a coincidence that there are so many because they are quickly damaged because of the texture of the active area. It has two buttons and an eraser.
The 6 buttons on the tablet (8 for M and L models) are customizable, they offer many possibilities and different features. It also has a Touch Ring Touch wheel, which can take 4 additional functions (zoom, rotate, etc.).
A resolution of 5080 LPI and a multi-touch screen make this tool, a product regularly used by professional graphic designers. The term “PRO” found in its name makes sense.
In the end, we can see through this model, all the professionalism of Wacom. They produced a precise, ergonomic and functional graphic tablet with a high resolution screen and a perfect grip. If you are a graphic designer or draw regularly and love it, this tablet is, in our opinion, the best investment you can make.
XP-Pen Artist 15.6: the mid-range alternative
- Full HD IPS screen
- High sensitivity
- 3 in 1 cable
- Pen mines that damage the screen
This model comes from the Japanese company XP-Pen. This brand is a little less known than Wacom or Huion in Europe but is already well developed on other continents.
This tablet is thin (11 mm), for a weight of 1.47 kg. With a size of 27.60 x 43.80cm, it takes a lot of space on a desk. Its rubbery borders surround the active zone and allow, on the one hand, to avoid any slipping and on the other hand, to have a maximum of comfort.
Unlike other models, this ambidextrous tablet is made of a solid glass surface. The 6 shortcut buttons visible on it are programmable and the installation of drivers is simple.
In addition to its IPS and full HD screen, its angle of view is very correct (178 °) and its brightness is excellent and adjustable in many shades of color. The screen is powerful and equipped with an anti-glare function that rests the eyes.
In the pack, there is a stylus that works without battery and without charge. Its tilt function rises to 60 ° and the 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity make the lines more refined giving the impression of drawing on real paper. The 8 replacement mines are essential because the stylus tends to damage the screen if its tip is in poor condition.
The product is compatible with Windows 10, 8, 7, Mac OS 10.8 or higher and with basic graphics software (Photoshop, Painter, Illustrator, Clip Studio, etc.). A special feature of this tablet is its 3-in-1 cable, which serves as both a power supply, a USB cable and an HDMI jack, also allowing it to tune with a 4K display.
In the end, this model is especially qualitative compared to its brightness (with its IPS screen) and the extraordinary sensitivity of its stylus, which allows for precise drawings. It also stands out with its cable 3 in 1, which facilitates the life of its user. Even if it defends itself extremely well, we have slightly preferred its competitor Wacom which, for a smaller investment, proposes equally interesting functionalities.
The best high-end graphics tablet
In this last section, from $700, it is possible to acquire models mainly dedicated to the professional environment, a guarantee of quality and durability.
This is the case of the Wacom Cintiq 13 HD which, for $800, will provide you all the necessary comfort to draw for hours.
Wacom Cintiq 13 HD: the best high-end
- IPS LED Full HD screen
- Many functions for keys
- Pleasant surface
- Easy installation of drivers
- No multitouch
- Fragile plastic base
This model of the Wacom brand is similar to the Intuos but by its price, it is more advanced and becomes an excellent professional tool for the realization of projects that require extreme precision and finesse.
Its small size (37.5 X 24.8 X 1.4 cm) and its light weight (1.2 kg) gives it a comfortable ergonomics, while keeping a fairly spacious active area.
This tablet has a non-slip removable base that can tilt at 22 °, 30 ° or 50 °. However, this plastic base is perhaps a bit too fragile for a model of this price range.
On the other hand, for an optimal visual comfort, the 13.3 “Full HD IPS screen is matte. The surface is nice and relatively close to the authenticity of the paper. As for the previous one, it has a viewing angle of 178 ° and offers a display of 16.7 million colors.
The stylus is light and ergonomic enough to fit comfortably in the hand with a remarkable precision of 2048 levels. The Pro Pen comes with 9 spare mines. On the side, the 4 express keys are configurable among 4000 functions, just like the wheel RockerRing.
At the driver level, it installs easily on Mac, Windows or Linux. If you want to use it with Mac, you will still need an HDMI adapter. On the other hand, it will add one more cable to the 3 others that already take up space.
In conclusion, this little graphic gem has an impressive resolution offering an optimal comfort. Despite its small size, its built-in screen is extremely well optimized and will provide a pleasant working feeling. Accompanied by its ergonomic and precise stylus, this tablet deserves its place in our selection.
Huion Inspiroy Q11K: lightweight and comfortable size, this model has a good autonomy (up to 40 hours) and a high sensitivity (8192 pressure levels). It also offers 8 customizable keys and is compatible with a majority of existing programs. However, there are some connection problems and ergonomics questionable stylus, leaving a little impression “cheap”.
Gaomon PD1560 15.6: This model has an IPS HD screen with good colors. Its good size allows it to have a large active area, with 8 customizable buttons and a lightweight stylus, pleasant to the touch and rechargeable. In addition, the drivers are easy to install and it has a high sensitivity (8192 pressure levels). Unfortunately, the cables are short and there is some latency between the stylus and the screen.
In conclusion, which graphics tablet to choose?
If we had only one tablet to advise you, this would be the Wacom Intuos Pro Small. Ambidextrous and ideal size (if you want more space, there is a model M and L), it combines the presence of an ultra-precise stylus with a multitouch screen of high resolution. It is the ideal product for professional use but it is also very suitable for amateurs.
Our economical choice is for the Huion H610 Pro which, for its very affordable price, has a great sensitivity and excellent resolution. With its comfort, it will be ideal for any beginner who wants to start with a graphics tablet in order to improve.
Finally, if you are ready to put the price, we advise you to opt for the Wacom Cintiq 13 HD. Equipped with an embedded IPS screen, it represents a safe bet in the field. With its many features, and its flawless colorimetry and ergonomics, it will accompany you without worries in your professional environment.