Artists' needs can vary nearly as much as their drawing styles. This has lead manufacturers of digitizers and drawing tablets to create a wide variety of input devices that can fit into nearly any budget. A simple digitizer, for example, will not have a built-in display but can easily be picked up for less than $100. Meanwhile, larger and more advanced graphic display monitors provide the opportunity to draw on the actual screen, but may break the bank with their lofty price tags. Here is our list of the best drawing tablets.
Budget friendly and functional
The XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro sits at the intersection where professional quality meets budget friendly. The large 23.8-inch work space, support for 1440p resolution, and 20 customizable shortcut keys makes this drawing monitor feel feature rich. While the $900 price tag may leave some clutching their pearls, it is a far more affordable price than what competitors like Wacom would want for a similar device.
Top of the line
Wacom is by far the most recognizable name in drawing input devices, and their place at the head of the pack has been earned through continued customer service support and innovation. Boasting 4K resolution, zero parallax, and support for both pen and touch input means the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 is head and shoulders above the competition. Unfortunately, these features come at a premium that leaves Wacom devices unattainable for many beginners and hobbyists.
The sweet spot
While personal preferences vary, many artists consider a 16-inch workspace to be "the sweet spot" for drawing monitors. They're not as cumbersome as their larger brethren, but they provide a decent screen area on which to work. The Huion Kamvas Pro 16 is widely considered to be among the best due to its 15.8-inch workspace making it both portable and affordable. The monitor features a fully laminated screen, which nearly eliminates issues with parallax and glare along with 1440p QHD output.
Aesthetic and budget friendly
XP-Pen's Deco LW graphic tablets have a lot to offer despite being under $100. These screenless drawing tablets come in four different color options, feature a 10x6 inch workspace, and have eight customizable shortcut keys. The LW variant of these tablets supports Bluetooth connectivity for up to 10 hours. XP-Pen's styli have gotten a big upgrade with the new X3 Smart Chip system, as well, offering improved stability and lower initial activation force so you have more control.
Best for beginners
Huion steals the show when it comes to a budget and beginner-friendly graphics tablet without a screen. The Inspiroy H640P is perfect for budding digital artists who may not want to spend to $100 or more on a device for a part-time hobby. Don't be fooled by the beginner-friendly nature of the Inspiroy, however. For just $40, the H640P offers all the same functionality you would expect from a more expensive tablet including customizable shortcut keys and a battery-free stylus capable of more than 8,000 levels of pressure.
If you'd like to opt for a screenless digitizer but want to keep a more premium look and feel, there's a lot to be said for Xencelabs' Medium Wireless Graphics Tablet. Xencelabs' goal is to be a more direct competitor to Wacom, and that is reflected both in their prices and their build quality. Their debut tablet offers a 10x6 active area with a 16:9 aspect ratio and even has some customizable RGB if you're into that sort of thing. The medium tablet comes with two styli, one standard barrel and one slim pen, but the real bonus here is that the pens include a dedicated eraser button — a feature typically only seen with Wacom pens.
Choosing a drawing tablet
Before you click "Add to Cart," you may want to take a moment to consider what type of drawing tablet is going to be right for you. As previously mentioned, some of the more budget-friendly options for drawing tablets do not have built-in monitors. These require a little more hand-eye coordination if you're going to draw on the device while simultaneously looking at a separate screen. Learning to draw without watching your hand can take some time and practice, but for beginners uncertain as to whether digital art is something they want to invest in, these budget digitizers can be priceless.
Screenless digitizers also come with the added bonus of being safe for digital drawing while on the go. There is no concern of a screen that could be damaged while the tablet is in your luggage, so for artists who travel often, these small and portable devices may be the best option. Many digitizer tablets can also be used easily with laptops and mobile devices, providing pen functionality with pressure support for a computer that might not have otherwise had it. They also do not require a lot of computing power to function, and there is no need for a display output connection.
If you are not concerned by issues like computing power and travel, then a drawing monitor may be a good fit. Drawing monitors often open artists up to having a larger workspace as they can span anywhere from 10 to 32 inches. They're also an ideal tool for artists who like to move between traditional and digital art on the fly, as the act of drawing on the canvas via the monitor with a stylus more closely resembles the traditional art process.
For those concerned with portability, a smaller monitor — most notably in the 10- to 16-inch range — can be carefully placed in a protective travel bag for on-the-go use. Smaller drawing monitors also have the advantage of being more budget friendly than their larger counterparts. However, they will require a device that can handle an extra video output source. Knowing how you intend to use your drawing tablet, your budget, and the computing power of the device you'll be creating your digital art with can help narrow down what type of drawing tablet is going to best suit your needs.
Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.
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