Top 11 Drawing Tablets of 2020!

Top 11 Pen Tablets of 2020!

When drawing illustrations and animation on a computer, you need drawing software and a pen tablet that support pen pressure. Here, we introduce and compare pen tablets recommend for first-time users.

 

What types of Drawing tablets are out there?

Tablets can be broken down into roughly three categories. Digitizer tablets (tablets without a monitor), monitor tablets (also known as display or LCD tablets – these are tablets with a monitor), and tablet PCs (PCs and tablets in one device).

 

 

 

Digitizer Pen Tablet

Pen tablets are input devices that connect to your computer. When you draw on the tablet with its pen, you can operate your computer like you would with a mouse. However, in addition to the usual mouse operations, you can also draw lines. If you choose software that supports pen pressure sensitivity, you can create art with lines that change in thickness and opacity as you draw.

Some of these tablets can be purchased for less than US$100, making initial investment costs lower than other options. For digitizer pen tablets, you will need to acclimate to looking up at your monitor while drawing on your tablet below. Despite this learning curve, many choose this type of pen tablet because their hand doesn’t cover their image as they draw, which makes it easier to see the whole illustration. Another advantage is the ability to draw while retaining good posture and without getting tired since your face is held in an upward position.

 

Monitor Tablet

This is a tablet with a built-in monitor. When connected to a PC, you can operate it with the pen from the screen of the tablet. It’s easier to start using this kind of tablet since you can draw while looking at your hand like you normally would when drawing traditionally with paper and pen. However, the price point for monitor tablets is higher than digitizer tablets, so it costs more in the outset if you go this route.

Small products of 10 inches or less can be purchased from around US$300. For products larger than 10 inches, expect to spend about US$400 or more. You may be able to purchase one at a lower price during a sale.

 

Tablet PC

This is a PC with a touch screen. A tablet PC that supports pressure sensitivity and in which you can draw on the screen with a pen, allows you to forego connecting a pen tablet altogether entirely. Like the monitor display, you can draw while looking at your hand, which is convenient.

Tablet PCs that support pen pressure have recently started to be available at a lower price point, about US$500 and under, so this is a compelling option for those looking to purchase a PC as well.

 

iPad

With the Apple Pencil (sold separately), you can create illustrations and manga using pen pressure. The iPad (7th generation) or iPad Air (3rd generation) supports pen pressure drawing with both the Apple Pencil or the Wacom Bamboo Sketch (Note: The iPad Pro does not). You can also take advantage of unique features, such as taking and instantly importing photos.

Please note that Tablet Pcs and iPads have different operating systems, and drawing software apps available to each vary. For example, Clip Studio Paint is compatible with iOS (iPad), but SAI, however, is not. Among the apps available for color illustrations, Procreate, and Ibis Paint X are popular choices.

The iPad is a good option because its performance is the same as a laptop. It can also have a similar price point. Furthermore, depending on the model and generation, an iPad and the Apple Pencil can both be purchased for about US$500.

 

 

How to choose the right tablet for you

 

Think of the following points when choosing the best device suited to your needs.

 

・Pen tablet compatibility

Check that your pen tablet’s driver and the PC it will be connected to are compatible.

 

・Mapping area

The mapping area is the active area that can be interacted with by either pen or by touch (if your device supports touch). It is also called the “Tablet area” or “Screen area.”

 

 

・Product dimensions

When using a pen tablet, you will need a stable surface, such as a desk, to place it on when in use. Monitor tablets, in particular, tend to be large. Make sure to double-check that you have the right amount of space for the size you want.

For more on pen tablet and monitor sizes, refer to the “Match your hand movements with the movements on the screen” section in the article “Must-Know Tips to Improve Your Tablet Drawing Experience!”

 

・Pen pressure sensitivity

This is the amount that a pen tablet registers pressure. For example, for 2048 levels, the pressure applied to the tablet will be registered as one of these 2048 levels. The standard pressure sensitivity on a tablet is 4096, but there are not many people who can see the difference between tablets of higher or lower levels. So, if you are drawing as a hobby, you don’t have to worry about this too much.

 

・Screen size and resolution

When purchasing a tablet PC or monitor tablet, also check its screen size and resolution. The screen size is the area that can be drawn on. The resolution is the number of vertical and horizontal dots that can be displayed on the screen. Even with the same screen size, the higher the resolution, the sharper the display.

 

・Video cable

Monitor tablets have a video cable in addition to the PC and USB connector cables. Since a computer treats it as a second monitor, you will have to check your OS display settings. The latest pen tablet models are increasingly using USB Type-C cables, but you should still make sure that your computer has an HDMI port.

 

・PC specifications

When purchasing a tablet PC, be sure to check its specifications as it directly equates to its performance level. Also, check its product dimensions and pen pressure sensitivity.

Tablet PCs may have multiple lineups depending on performance. For example, the Surface Pro allows you to choose from devices with different storage capacities: 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB. However, the better the performance, the higher the price. For more information on PC specs for drawing, please see “Tips for beginners! Getting Started in Digital Art.”

 

 

Pen Tablets

Let’s take a look at some tablets recommended for beginners. These are all available for both Windows and macOS.

 

 

The above tablets were tested using the following specifications:

 

  • OS: Windows 10
  • Drawing software: Clip Studio Paint
  • Product purchase period: 2017 ~ 2019
  • The device had the most updated tablet driver and used with its default settings.

 

Line weight will fluctuate depending on personal preference, but we recommend the “light and thin” option to start. You can always adjust this later. You can also adjust your drawing weight and line thickness by adding a pen cover or a small weight to the pen stylus.

 

 

・ Wacom Intuos S with Bluetooth

An introductory model pen tablet that comes bundled with Clip Studio Paint PRO!

 

 

Wacom’s Intuos series is a high-quality line of pen tablets that covers a wide range from beginners to advanced users. The pen is about the same thickness as a mechanical pencil or ballpoint pen, so it fits comfortably in your hand. Additionally, there is no need to insert batteries into the pen, making it light and easy to handle.

In the spring 2018 models, the pen pressure sensitivity was raised to 4096. You need to change your driver settings to take advantage of this.

The tablet’s overall size was also reduced, although the drawing area remains the same.  It can be connected wirelessly via Bluetooth, which frees up vital desk real estate. When you aren’t using the pen, you can place it in the grove above the express keys, allowing you to forego the traditional pen stand.

The benefit of the Wacom brand is that large electronic retailers often have samples displayed in stores that you can try out before purchasing them. After you do buy one, you can then download the drawing software you prefer, such as Painter Essentials 7 or Clip Studio Paint PRO. In the case of the Wacom Intuos S, which does not support Bluetooth, the drawing software that can be downloaded is limited, but the purchase cost of the pen tablet is cheaper. If you have already purchased drawing software, we recommend choosing this pen tablet option.

 

This pen tablet comes in three colors: Black, Berry Pink, and Pistachio Green.

 

 

 


As of November 2019, The Wacom Intuos S models are now compatible with select Android smartphones and tablets that use Android OS 6.0 or later. You can connect one using a compatible USB OTG adapter.
For details, please check the official website: https://community.wacom.com/making-your-wacom-intuos-mobile-introducing-android-compatibility/

 

 

・ H430P (HUION)

Handy little tablet for your life on the go.

 

The H430P by Huion is the cheapest pen tablet we introduce in this article.

Portability-wise, if you want to carry a pen tablet for use with a laptop with a small screen, this might be an option for you, however, due to its small size, you may find it difficult to draw on when using a large display when you’re at home.

It has drawing capabilities as well as a pen pressure sensing function. The pen tablet’s drawing surface is very smooth, and the pen tip sinks into the pen as you apply pressure. The depression in the tablet’s surface results in a strong pen pressure deflection.

The product is from a Chinese manufacturer, but both the driver and manual are in Japanese. You can only purchase it online via sites such as Amazon. While this little tablet will be easy on your wallet, please be aware that it isn’t made from highly durable materials, and it also cannot be tested out in-store.

We recommend this model for those that want a cheap pen tablet.

 

  • Product dimensions: 186.6 x 139.2 x 6.3 mm
  • Drawing area: 121.9 x 76.2mm
  • Pen pressure sensitivity: 4096
  • Price: US$59.95 (tax included, as of January 2020)
  • Official website: https://www.huion.com/pen_tablet/H430P.html

 

 

・ Intuos Pro M PTH-660 (Wacom)

Step up to the next level with 8192 levels of pen pressure sensitivity!

 

 

The Intuos pen tablet model has 8192 levels of pen pressure sensitivity. This is four times the levels found in IntuosDraw and IntuosComic and allows for smoother drawing. Its high-precision allows for nuanced line work, such as calligraphy or comic book inking. With an Intuos pen tablet, you can adjust line strength and depth using pen pressure. It also supports pen tilt, so you can sketch using the side of the pen stylus in drawing programs that also support this. This is a tablet that an artist of any level would feel confident in purchasing.

The surface of the tablet has a moderate amount of friction, mimicking how it feels when you draw on paper. This model also has wireless Bluetooth capabilities, which helps keep the area around your desk less cluttered, even if the tablet itself is large. Like the Intuos Comic small, large electronic retailers often have a sample displayed in stores that you can try out before purchasing it.

 

 

 

Monitor Tablets

Introducing Monitor tablets at affordable prices.

 

 

Tested using the following specifications.

 

  • OS: Windows 10 except when noted
  • Drawing software: Clip Studio Paint
  • Product purchase period: 2017 ~ 2019
  • Unless limited in some way, the pen is used with default settings.

 

 

・ Wacom Cintiq 16 (DTK1660K0D) (Wacom)

A simple and inexpensive monitor tablet with the same Wacom pen tablet quality.

 

 

This is a simple Wacom monitor pen tablet model specialized for drawing.

It has a low price point without sacrificing drawing comfort and quality of a Wacom pen tablet. The parallax between the pen tip and the cursor is minimal, which allows for accurate drawing. The pen slides with ease, producing long natural pen strokes. It has 8192 levels of pen pressure sensitivity and supports pen tilt so you can draw intuitively. The pen itself is also durable, so you don’t have to worry about applying force to it when drawing. Its cables are bundled into a single cable, with the end of the cable split into multiple plugs, which helps to reduce desk clutter. Overall, its structure is very solid and durable.

 

However, it may be necessary to additionally customize it. For example, there is no button on the main unit to register shortcuts. If you want to access these buttons, you need the optional ExpressKey Remote or left-hand device to do so. Furthermore, it does have a stand but is attached to the body of the tablet, and the angle is fixed at 19 degrees. If you purchase the optional stand (scheduled for release in February), you can change the angle anywhere from 19 to 68 degrees. So, if you are particular about your drawing set-up, you may need to make additional investments.

The screen color accuracy isn’t as good as Wacom’s top models, but it is still more than enough for hobbyists. If you want to draw color illustrations professionally, however, we recommend the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 model.

 

 

 

Wacom One LCD Monitor tablet 13 (DTC133W0D) (Wacom)

Expand your Android device! The perfect monitor tablet for first-time digital artists!

 

 

The Wacom One is a monitor tablet developed and sold by Wacom. Price-wise, it is one of the more affordable of its type, even for first-time digital artists.

While this affordability comes at the cost of slightly lower image quality and color accuracy, a slight delay in strokes and 4096 levels of pen pressure, the tilt detection and pressure are very accurate, allowing for linework comparable to high-end models.

The tablet can be connected to Android devices as well, and with a smartphone and drawing app that supports pen pressure, you can start drawing with a monitor tablet even if you don’t own a PC.

While high-end stylus pens such as the pro pen are unavailable, the pre-packaged Wacom One Pen is exceptionally lightweight, easy to use, and doesn’t need recharging. If the Wacom One Pen doesn’t feel right, third party stylus pens such as the  STAEDTLER Noris digital  are available, giving you a range of pens to try out.

 

 

 

・ Coast10 (Parblo)

A 10-inch monitor tablet with a low price tag.

 

 

This is a small sized-monitor tablet made by a Chinese manufacturer. It’s great for those with limited desk space.

The pen is thin, light, and comfortable to draw with and there is a pen holder grove on top of the monitor to hold it when not in use. It has good pen pressure, and you can change the drawing angle of the tablet as needed. The downside is that the pen is so thin and light that it’s hard to add force with it when drawing. If you are the type who draws with a heavy hand, you might need to work out an alternative. Also, the parallax, or displacement between the pen tip and the drawing point on the screen, is large.

Another strong point of this tablet is that it only needs a USB port to connect it to a PC. This makes it compatible with PCs that only have a limited amount of graphic output. While drawing is doable, 3D data can cause PC to lag since the graphic memory isn’t being used. Some computer skills are needed to adjust driver settings. Another point to note is that the monitor isn’t capable of adjusting brightness, contrast, or RGB values, so its color reproduction isn’t very good. We suggest frequently checking the color on your PC display instead.

If you are just drawing as a hobby, this tablet is a good option. If you are moving to a monitor tablet from a digitizer tablet, this might be a good in-between model as it’s cheap, and it can help you get used to using a monitor tablet before you take the plunge and purchase something more expensive.

 

Note: this monitor tablet does not support macOS.

 

  • Product dimensions: 290 x 210 x 18.5 mm
  • Drawing area: 10.1 in model (Resolution: 1280 x 800)
  • Pen pressure sensitivity: 2048
  • Price: US$259.00 (as of January 2020)
  • Official website: https://www.parblo.com/products/coast10

 

 

Tablet PCs

Here, we will introduce several tablet PCs we recommend. We chose products that can be tested in-store before purchasing.

 

 

The above tablets were tested using the following specifications:

 

  • OS: Windows 10 except when noted
  • Drawing software: Clip Studio Paint
  • Product purchase period: 2017 ~ 2019
  • The pen is used with default settings.

 

 

・Wacom MobileStudio Pro

Wacom’s unique tablet PC that focuses on drawing.

 

This is Wacom’s tablet PC. Drawing software is not included, so you need to purchase it separately. It runs Windows, so you can use graphic software such as Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, and SAI. It sports 8192 levels of pen pressure and has excellent responsivity. This tablet PC is highly recommended for those transitioning from paper to digital as it also supports pen tilt, so if you sketch with a program that also supports this feature, such as Clip Studio Paint, you can draw digitally using the side of the pen as if you were drawing traditionally with pencil and paper. Drawing with Clip Studio Paint’s watercolor brush also makes it easy to create shades that match pen pressure, making drawing incredibly intuitive.

The main unit has function keys in which you can register keyboard shortcuts on. It’s also convenient when transferring from a Wacom tablet as it too has function keys. Furthermore, if you connect a keyboard and mouse to it, you can use it as an ordinary PC. It can also be connected to an existing PC like a monitor tablet.

Getting a high-end model like this allows you to draw illustrations with a lot of layers or comics with many pages without worrying if your PC can handle the workload. The 15.6-inch model weighs about 2.10 kg or 4.6 lbs, which is a bit heavier than other tablet PCs, but still a good choice if you want to carry it outside and draw.

 

 

 

・Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Models from entry-level to high-end models! Select your PC according to your budget and purpose.

 

 

The Surface Pro isn’t a tablet PC solely for drawing. Rather, it is a tablet PC that can also draw. By purchasing optional peripherals, you can tailor it according to your needs. For example, Word and Excel come with it, so if you purchase an optional keyboard, you can use the Surface Pro for creating business documents and reports. If you want to draw with it, then you’ll want to purchase a Surface Pen (sold separately) and install drawing software so that you can take advantage of its full pressure sensitivity capabilities.

What makes the Surface Pro excellent as a tablet PC for drawing is that the dedicated Surface Pen can draw at up to 4096 levels of pen pressure and also supports pen tilt. It does a good job a recreating a traditional drawing experience digitally. Connecting the Surface Pen to the tablet can be easily done by simply pressing and holding the pen button. The Surface Pen is battery-operated, so we recommend keeping extra AAA batteries on hand in case it runs out of power. The Surface Pen tip refill kit comes in a multi-pack with three types of tips.  If you only use one type, you cannot purchase just that type.

The original kickstand attached to the device is well made and helpful for artists because it allows you to angle your device as needed without having to purchase any additional peripherals. Microsoft also took into consideration those who draw while at a desk when designing the Surface series. The Surface GO, for example, has a 10 inches display, which is a good size for drawing on the go. The specifications for it aren’t as high end as the SurfacePro, but if you want to keep your start-up costs low, it is a good option to consider.

 

 

 

iPad

We will review the following iPad with iPad pencil options:

 

 

The above tablets were tested using the following specifications:

 

  • OS: iOS
  • Drawing software: Clip Studio Paint
  • Product purchase period: 2017 ~ 2019
  • The pen is used with default settings.

 

 

 ・iPad 10.2 inch 7th generation  + Apple Pencil (1st generation) (Apple)

Small tablets for beginners for around US$500.

 

 

The 7th generation iPad released in October 2019 has a larger screen size than its 6th generation predecessor, but with its release, older generations become even more affordable. These can be purchased with an Apple Pencil for under US$500.

The color gamut and parallax aren’t as good as the iPad Air, but this doesn’t interfere with drawing, and overall, it’s cost-performance ratio is high. The same Apple pencil can be used on either model, so both devices feel the same when drawing on them. It also supports the Smart Keyboard.

The cheapest model will have the least amount of storage capacity, but if you use Clip Studio or an external cloud storage service, you can draw without worrying about space. Also, please be aware that there is a risk that OS upgrades might eventually be phased out as it is an older generation model.

 

  • Product dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5 mm
  • Drawing area: 10.2 in model
  • Pen pressure sensitivity: Unspecified
  • Price: US$329.00 ~ (tax included),
    Apple Pencil (1st generation) US$99.00 (tax included, as of January 2020)
  • Official website: https://www.apple.com/ipad-10.2/

 

 

・ iPad Air (3rd generation) + Apple Pencil (1st generation) (Apple)

A simple, lightweight, and easy to use digital drawing set!

 

 

The Apple Pencil has excellent line tracking and draws smoothly on the 10.5-inch iPad Air. It also supports pen tilt, so if you sketch with a program that also supports pen tilt, such as Clip Studio Paint, you can draw digitally using the side of the pencil as if you were drawing traditionally with pencil and paper. Apple Pencil pairing and charging can be set up simply by connecting the Lightning connector to the iPad Pro, making it extremely simple to use. The Apple Pencil produces lines that are the thickness of a pencil, and despite being heavier than one, it is still easy to use. There are no variations of the pen body and nib. (as of January 2020)

The iPad Air fits in an A4 size bag (standard copy paper size) and weighs only 456g, making it ideal for those on the go. It’s cheaper than the iPad Pro, and it is compatible with the first generation of the Apple Pencil only. Both of these factors help keep the initial price low. For even lower prices, you can combine the 7th generation iPad with the (1st generation) Apple Pencil.

 

  • Product dimensions: 174.1 x 250.6 x 6.1 mm
  • Drawing area: 10.5 in model (Resolution: 2224 x 1668)
  • Pen pressure sensitivity: Unspecified
  • Price: From US$499.00 ~ (tax included),
    Apple Pencil (1st generation) US$99  (tax included, as of January 2020)
  • Official website: https://www.apple.com/ipad-air/

 

 

・ 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation) + Apple Pencil (2nd generation) (Apple)

This version of the Apple Pencil is easier to use, and the iPad screen size is also bigger!

 

 

The combination of the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil is extremely smooth, and it is now even simpler than ever to use. The way it connects to the iPad when not in use has been upgraded. It can now be attached to the iPad Pro via magnet, which allows it to both pair and charge. However, this makes grip customization tricky as it might prevent it from being paired or charged. Because of this, there are now some grips that leave the area that connects to the iPad unobstructed, so we recommend looking into those if you want a customized grip for your Apple Pencil.

The iPad Pro is bigger than the iPad Air, but still a good portable size for using it around the house or in a cafe. It has a large screen for a tablet that gives a nice, big drawing surface. The specs of the iPad Pro are good enough to be used in professional settings. There are professional illustrators and manga artists who create works only with iPad Pro.

 

  • Product dimensions: 214.9 x 280.6 x 5.9 mm
  • Drawing area: 12.9 in model (Resolution: 2732 x 2048)
  • Pen pressure sensitivity: Unspecified
  • Price: iPad Pro (3rd generation) US$699 (including tax),
    Apple Pencil (2nd generation) US$129 (including tax, as of January 2020)
  • Official website: https://www.apple.com/ipad-pro/

 

 

Final Recommendations

 

Overall, we recommend a Wacom brand digitizer or monitor tablets due to their functionality, track record, stability, and support.

There is a sense of security when buying one because you can try them out at electronic retailers before purchasing one.

Although the price point for a Wacom tablet is higher compared to many other manufacturer’s tablets, pen refills and stylus replacements are readily available and easy to buy. It is also safe in terms of maintenance, allowing the tablet to be used for a long time before it needs replacing. It’s hard not to go with a top brand and leader in pen tablets!

 

 

It’s also easy to try the comfort of drawing with the Surface Pro and the iPad Pro!

 

The Surface Pro and the iPad Pro are also available to try at many consumer electronics retailers. However, they may be located in different sections of the store, as apple and windows products are usually separated. At some stores, you can even draw with software such as Clip Studio Paint. However, unlike a pen tablet, it is not a device developed exclusively for drawing, so even if you can use a pen with it, some stores may not offer this option.

 

 

Fully laminated display screens can reduce parallax.

 

If you’ve tried using a pen monitor but are still wondering about purchasing because you can’t draw as you’d like, let’s focus on parallax.

 

Unlike drawing with a pencil on paper, a monitor tablet is made up of multiple panel layers. These layers cause a gap between the physical pen tip position and the digital line input location. This is the most common cause of the inability to draw lines when drawing with a pen monitor for the first time. You may be able to improve the situation by getting used to your monitor tablets particular parallax or by calibrating your pen’s position.

 

For this reason, we recommend checking whether or not the display screen has been fully laminated when you are looking to buy a new tablet. Fully laminated screens merge the multiple layers that make up the display, reducing the gap between each layer, which in turn reduces parallax to almost zero. If you are used to a non-laminated monitor tablet, you may feel uncomfortable switching to a fully laminated tablet, so be careful when buying a new one. If you are considering a replacement, and your current monitor tablet is fully laminated, you may want to make sure that your next tablet is also fully laminated.

 

The following products are fully laminated:

Artist 15.6 Pro (XP-Pen)

Kamvas Pro 12 (HUION)

iPad Pro 11 inches & 12.9 inches (Apple)

 

 

Final words

 

Digitizer and Monitor tablets are essential factors when creating digital illustrations with a PC. A tablet’s comfort impacts how easy it is to draw on. Your best strategy is to try out all the tablets you are interested in in-store. If there isn’t anything in your area or you are interested in a tablet that is only sold online, we recommend thoroughly researching it before purchasing it.

Here’s to finding the right pen tablet for you!

 

(Written by Art Rocket)

 

For more information and the latest comparison of drawing software, see “Best Drawing Software and Apps in 2019 (Free & Paid).”

Best Drawing Software and Apps in 2020 (Free & Paid)