28 Aug Best Drawing Tablets the Ultimate guide for 2021
Don’t panic! Super El Profesor at your service!
Should you buy an Ipad or a Wacom Cintiq?
As a stand alone station or as a peripheral device?
Wacom or affordable Huion tablets?
Big or small drawing area?
With or without screen?
We won’t bore you with technical jargon, we will bore you with our very personal opinion instead 🙂
1.- WHAT IS A DRAWING TABLET?
Have you ever trying drawing with a mouse? It is hard… but imagine that your mouse is like a pencil that perceives acceleration, angle inclination and most important… pressure!! More you push, thicker is your path.
There is marvellous software like Procreate, Painter or Photoshop that mimic any traditional medium, so it is actually like drawing on paper or painting on a canvas. It can increase your learning curve dramatically since you have all advantages of a digital environment.
El Profesor’s word:
Drawing with a mouse is harder than myself after reading a good book…
There are mainly 3 options: drawing pads also named pen tablets, drawing screen peripherals and stand alone stations. They have different features and prices that we are going to review.
We intentionally take out sketching on paper smartpads like Bamboo Folio, as El Profesor doesn’t consider it optimal for artwork production.
2.- AVAILABLE DIGITAL DRAWING TABLETS
Depending on the features we have drawing devices cheap as chips, or expensive like popcorn at the movies.
It is basically a pressure sensitive mouse with the form of a pencil (i.e. Bamboo).
No portable at all
Not good for drawing
The smaller the better
25 – 300 US$
Same as the previous one but you draw over a screen (i.e. Huion or Wacom Cintiq tablets).
A bit portable
Good for any purpose.
Ideal size 21″
Advanced or Professional
300 – 1,500US$
Standing alone devices (i.e. Ipads, Surface or Wacom Mobile Studio).
Good for any purpose.
The bigger the better
1,500 – 3,000 US$
So which drawing tablet is the best?
It really depends on your budget, the art you want to create and how you want to use it.
3.- BEST DRAWING PADS FOR BEGINNERS
Our recommendation for beginners is starting off with a drawing pad or pen tablet. If you really have a future tied to graphic design or illustration, it will be more than enough to start off.
If not we can guess your nephew’s Xmas gift… check!
Any low range device from any top brand (i.e. Bamboo, One by Wacom, Inspiroy Huion) is a good choice for beginner artists. Keep in mind those pen tablets doesn’t include screen, so very precise tasks like freehand drawing could be tricky.
BUY A PEN TABLET
If illustration is just a temporal hobby
If you only want to paint or photo edition
Your budget is below 200US$
DO NOT BUY A PEN TABLET
If you are (or try to be) a pro artist
If you want to freehand drawing
If you have more than 200US$
Which pen tablet brand should beginners buy?
At this level our suggestion is that you base your choice depending on your budget… easy as 1 2 3. Wacom is the industry standard for years so more expensive. Huion has great reviews on Amazon and are more affordable.
Which tablet size and model should I buy?
For drawing pads I would say the smaller the better so you can use it together with keyboard for shortcuts. If you have a reasonable budget, better an upper range (i.e. Intuos over One) than a bigger size (the smallest A6 is perfect).
Does every professional artist have a drawing pad?
Not really, drawing pads are not really ideal for freehand drawing or for vectors. They work beautifully for photo editing or digital painting.
Which software is better for pen tablets?
You can use it with any professional software for graphic editing, my preferred is Photoshop. You can also use it under Illustrator but it is not so smooth. For vector illustrations I rather prefer creating artwork in Photoshop and then vectorise with Vector Magic.
El Profesor’s word:
Search on Amazon for good reviews… avoid unknown brands, marry a good woman and have kids.
4.- BEST DRAWING SCREENS FOR ADVANCED TO PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS
Our recommendation for advanced or professional artists are screen tablets. They have middle range price but you can eventually create any kind of artwork. They have the best value for the money.
Any middle budget device from any top brand (i.e. Wacom Cintiq or Kamvas Huion) is a good choice for advanced or even professional artists. In this case size matters, our recommendation is any tablet between 16 and 21 inches.
BUY SCREEN TABLETS
If illustration is your passion
If you specially want to freehand drawing
If you will work close to your computer
If your budget is 300-1000US$
DON’T BUY SCREEN TABLETS
If it is just a hobby
If you want to paint, design or photo editing only
If you need full portability
If you have a small budget
Which drawing screen brand should advanced artists purchase?
El Profesor has been a Wacom user for more than 15 years. Believe it or not, any of the 5 Wacom devices he owned (Intuos 2 A6, Intuos 3 A6, Cintiq 20″, Cintiq 13″ and my current Cintiq 21″ HD) never had a single fault. As we said, it is the industry standard so it is more expensive. Huion has great reviews on Amazon and are more affordable but El Profesor never tried them.
Which screen size should I purchase?
For screen tablets any size around 20″ is perfect. Space matter for him since he still uses a keyboard instead of tablet built-in express keys. Those bulky 27″ screens are just too big. So we rather prefer a handy device that can be moved and rotated than a giant and fixed one.
Which range should I purchase?
Again, it is better having a higher range than a bigger screen. El Profesor loves his Wacom Cintiq 22″ HD, it is just perfect.
Does all professional artist have a screen tablet?
It is a must specially if you are serious about freehand drawing or appreciate the extra space of a nice secondary monitor.
Which software is better for screen tablets?
Same as for pen tablets, you can use it with any professional software for graphic editing. Photoshop is the cornerstone of any professional illustrator or graphic designer while Illustrator is key for vector design.
5.- BEST DRAWING WORK STATIONS FOR ROCKSTAR ARTISTS
Those expensive work stations are also named Pen Computers. This kind of device has its own operative system so they are fully portable just like a Windows tablet. Which is the best -and only- selling point in our opinion. The biggest downside is the price and the lack of power as primary work station.
Wacom Mobile Studio with top specs (which can’t be compared to a top range laptop) are expensive as hell. And reviews are not great for a device that cost +3,000US$. The lower end of the range is more affordable but it has not power enough to run heavy stuff. So it is more a secondary station than an all-terrain primary station.
At any case, for 3000US$ you can get a top refurbished Macbook Pro, a lovely refurbished Wacom Cintiq 22″ and probably a few bucks left in your pocket for a good dinner. Lots of power, lots of space, lots of options… and a full belly!
BUY A PEN COMPUTER
If you already have a good primary station
If you value portability
If money is not an issue
DON’T BUY A PEN COMPUTER
If you don’t have a good primary station
If you value productivity
If you care about money
Which drawing pen computer should rockstart artists buy?
In our opinion, pen computers are a no go for now. Hopefully in the near future manufacturers will increase power and software developers will provide not so limited products so they can be used as primary work stations.
Do all professional artists have a Pen Computers?
Big NO. You don’t need such a expensive tool to be a pro. Buy it only if you already have a good primary station, need portability and money is not an issue.
What about Ipad Pro and Surface tablets?
Microsoft Surface tablets suffers similar limitations, expensive and not power enough to be considered as a good primary station. Perfect if you can afford an expensive secondary portable device.
Technically speaking we wouldn’t consider Ipad Pro as a work station because of the limited operative system (so limited software), but it is fully portable. Together with Apple Pencil and Procreate you can create nice artwork but you need lots of RAM to handle a decent amount layers at high resolution, which means $$$$. Again, it is not an ideal primary station… it is more a very specific tool for painting or sketching on the go.
El Profesor’s word:
There are only 2 good reasons for buying a Pen Computer: you really need a 100% portable – but limited- drawing device or you are Justin Bieber. You will pay for it at any case.
6.- EL PROFESOR’S RECOMMENDED SETUP FOR PRO ARTISTS
As already discussed, in our opinion, the best primary setup possible for professional artists would be a reasonably powerful laptop and a Wacom Cintiq or Huion Kamvas of around 20″.
Everything included into the package
No software limitation
Power depends on your computer
Giant displays available
For drawing and painting on the go
Must buy Appel Pencil
Limited software like Procreate
Limited display size
Play the video to watch Photoshop + Wacom Cintiq at work:
As a secondary device, if you can afford it, an Ipad Pro + Apple Pencil + Procreate would be a good option to draw on the go. Feel free to play the video to see them at work.
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