Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.The RundownBest Overall:XP-PEN Artist12 at Amazon"The best choice for both professional and hobby artists."Runner-Up, Best Overall:Gaomon PD1560 at Amazon"The Gaomon PD1560 is a surprising offering from a little-known, overseas brand."Best for Beginners:Simbans PicassoTab at Amazon"Has superior speed and power to handle the most demanding art applications."Best for Graphic Designers:Huion H420 at Amazon"Ideal option for designers who work primarily with vector images."Best for Photoshop:Wacom Intuos Pro at Amazon"Allows you to use various brushstrokes and edit photos with unparalleled precision."Best with Screen:Wacom Cintiq 16 at Amazon"The HD display features an anti-glare coating to cut down on reflections and glares."Best for Kids:Ansel LCD at Amazon"Easy for kids to use, the included stylus feels like a traditional pencil."Best for OSU:XP-PEN StarG640 at Amazon"No need to download any extra or special drivers to be able to use OSU!"Best Splurge:Wacom Cintiq 22 at Amazon"What makes the Cintiq 22 different is the truly massive 21.5-inch display at play here."Best Budget:Wacom One at Best Buy"Featuring Wacom's excellent build quality, it fits the aesthetic of the budget-but-still-premium-feeling devices."in this articleExpandOur PicksAbout our Trusted ExpertsFAQsHow We TestedWhat to Look for in a Drawing Tablet
Drawing tablets are slates that come with a pen/stylus, offering a precise input for illustrators, artists, and photoshop geeks everywhere. Just about any creative task on a computer requiring pinpoint precision can benefit greatly from the tactile response of a pen in your hand. The size and resolution of the tablet will determine the total active area you can draw on and how precisely the tablet will translate your input with a stylus. The stylus itself can also have a huge impact on your tablet experience, ranging from thick, battery-powered options, to slim, wirelessly rechargeable pens. If you want a more fully-featured tablet though, you may want to take a look at our list of the best tablets. Without further ado, take a look at our list of best drawing tablets.
Best Overall:XP-PEN Artist12Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on EBayWhat We Like
Great warrantyWhat We Don't Like
Not a standalone tablet
Light bleed on some screens
Traditionally, a drawing tablet was basically a giant trackpad with a stylus and pressure sensitivity. Nowadays, the options that contain an actual display are truly impressive, and the XP-Pen Artist12 for right around $200 offers a nice cross-section of a lot of features available. First, the touchscreen display: a 1920x1080 HD IPS display isn't the highest resolution, but with 72% NTSC Color Gamut accuracy, its focus is on reproducing your work with as much precision as possible. What's great about having an 11.6-inch display inside your drawing tablet is that you don't need to look at your other screen while drawing on a separate surface—you're drawing on the device where your lines and colors are appearing. This makes it feel like you're really creating art in the real world.
When you are creating that art with the Artist12, the passive hexagonal pen (that feels very pencil-like) will allow for 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity so that you can really get the hand-sketched feel in your work. It can actually be a good thing that that pen is passive because it would otherwise be just another thing you have to charge. In addition, the Artist12 gives you a full-high touch bar that you can program to fulfill certain commands on your computer (XP-Pen recommends mapping it to the zoom-in/zoom-out feature), and you can harness six different assignable shortcuts keys. This makes it less of a drawing-only tablet, and more of a full-featured control surface for your design programs. The device is compatible with Windows 7, 8, or 10 (in 32 or 64 bit) and Mac OSX as old as version 10.8.
Runner-Up, Best Overall:Gaomon PD15604Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on EBayWhat We Like
Big, bright, beautiful display
Active pen with great pressure accuracy
Tons of function buttonsWhat We Don't Like
Big and awkwardly wide footprint
A little expensive
The Gaomon PD1560 is a surprising offering from a little-known, overseas brand. In fact, thanks to a big, bright, 15.6-inch display with a 1920x1080 resolution, you might even think this gives the Wacom Cintiq a run for its money. Truth be told, on features alone, it does rival the Wacom options, but because it doesn't feature a touch wheel or flashy multi-touch options, we think its a more suitable rival with our top pick from XP-Pen. Because of the 72% color gamut accuracy and the 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity from the active pen, it really does have many of the features of the Artist12. What makes it different is that it offers 10 assignable function keys (lined up in a column on the left edge of the device) which is more than the Artist12. However, you'll have to pay $299 for this device, making it nearly $100 more expensive. The brightness of the IPS display and the extra function keys might be enough for you to spend that higher price tag, but the awkwardly wide form factor (different from something like the less-sprawling Cintiq 15) make it a device that really will take up a lot of space on your desk. There's no denying, though, that this is a great peripheral, with wireless, battery-houred operation and truly impressive pen specs.
"This tablet really does present an impressive display for the price, but because of the awkwardly wide footprint and the unfortunately high price tag, it might not be the best fit for everyone."—
Best for Beginners:Simbans PicassoTabBuy on AmazonWhat We Like
32 GB internal storageWhat We Don't Like
Some unit have inconsistent displays
The Simbans PicassTab is, admittedly, a standalone tablet (despite the fact that we were steering clear of these for this review). But the reason this unit, to us, stands as a drawing-specific tablet is because that's the thing it does best. If you want an Android tablet for media consumption and web browsing, this will do fine, but you can get just as good of an experience on the cheaper Amazon Fire tablets. What this tablet does better is drawing. And that's for two reasons. First, it comes with an active stylus right out of the box, allowing for solid palm rejection (crucial for avoiding mis-presses while drawing), and second because it comes with Autodesk Sketchbook and Artflow preinstalled—two excellent beginner sketch apps for Android.
As far as tablet specs go, these are pretty run-of-the-mill. There's a 1.3GHz quad-core mobile processor, a 10.1-inch IPS display that sports a resolution of 1280x800, and even a 2MP front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even a microSD card slot are here. You also have the capability of using a micro-HDMI port to connect this tablet to an external computer. And it's that latter point that makes this really friendly for budding artists. They can start with the on-board sketch app basics, but then graduate to real Adobe apps and use an external monitor… using this tablet as a peripheral. It's a good balance of both worlds, and it goes for right around $200.The 9 Best Digital Art Software of 2021
Best for Graphic Designers:Huion H420Buy on AmazonBuy on EBayBuy on Aliexpress.comWhat We Like
Great for vector art
Plug-and-playWhat We Don't Like
Pens can feel inconsistent
The Huion H420 is a no-frills drawing tablet which gives you a lot of bang for your buck. And we mean a lot—for right around $30, this is one of the most affordable drawing tablets out there that still gives you a lot of what you're looking for as a designer. This makes it great for graphic designers just starting out, because it gives them new ways to interact with compatible software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and more.
But what corners are you cutting for that price? Well, with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, you have some precision, but far less than you'd find on more expensive tablets. The “resolution” (essentially how many sensors there are per inch of the board) sits at 4000 LPI, which is a little lower than other options, but totally serviceable for young designers. There are even three assignable keys on the left side of the unit that give you function options for your design programs, available right at your fingertips. Another interesting feature here is that the pad actually only measures about 4.5 inches by almost 7 inches. While the smaller size might seem limited, that fact is helpful for designers on the go as they can just toss it in their bag and use it with their laptops. This package comes with an active pen that allows you to use digital functions (like push-button scrolling), and it offers plug-and-play compatibility with both Windows and Mac OSX.The Best Apps for Graphic Artists in 2021
Best for Photoshop:Wacom Intuos ProBuy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
Includes 2 months of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
Low latency trackingWhat We Don't Like
Reports of failing pens
Reports of driver problems with Windows
Reports of disconnection issues
Wacom has been near the top of the drawing tablet game for some time, and their Intuos Pro is arguably their flagship line of drawing peripherals. This version, what Wacom calls the “medium” size is sort of the Goldielocks of the lineup: giving you an 8.7-inch by 5.8-inch active surface area but occupying only a footprint of 13.2 inches by 8.5 inches. This means it won't be quite as cumbersome at your desk setup, but will still offer a lot of real estate for work. Some other impressive features are the eight dedicated function buttons you can assign to programs on the fly, the assignable touch wheel for navigating programs more fully, and even the hand-recognition switch that allows the tablet to respond to gestures much like a trackpad would.
Of course, it's Wacom's Pro Pen 2 that brings with it the most notoriety. This active pen provides a whopping 8192 levels of pressure-sensitive, allowing for excellent sketching precision. Wacom has also baked in a latency time that is four times faster than the first-gen pro pen and has even included tilt support for sketching more natural, fading lines. It also includes Bluetooth in addition to the wired connectivity. The whole package works with the latest operating systems and most modern design software, and though it isn't the most affordable tablet out there, at under $400 at the time of this writing, it's a pretty reasonable price for a creative professional.
Best with Screen:Wacom Cintiq 16Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
Includes Clip Studio Paint Pro
Two sizesWhat We Don't Like
Heavy (4.2 pounds)
Reports of bad screens
Similarly to the Artist12 from XP-Pen, the Wacom Cintiq 16 aims to offer artists a true digital canvas to work on: a standalone touchscreen display that packs in the same precision of Wacom's non-screen pads, but with a colorful visual to offer immediate feedback on your work. That display measures 15.6 inches diagonally and features a pretty-solid, HD resolution of 1920x1980. The glass that encases the top of the display, while a bit glossy, features a glare-reducing coating that's easier on your eyes. Speaking of accuracy, the Cintiq can portray up to 16.7 million distinct colors, giving it a Gamut accuracy of 72 percent. This is pretty standard for design needs and will work well for most art projects.
The other side of the Wacom equation is the physical feel of drawing on the tablet. Wacom is known for their accuracy and functionality, and they've done their best to include it here on an actual screen-based tablet. At the center of that is their Pro Pen 2, providing 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity (great for sketching), up to 60 degrees of tilt recognition (for fattening up your lines), and an impressively low level of latency that is basically undetectable to most users. You'll sacrifice some control, like the multi-touch capabilities and assignable function buttons found on other Wacom units, but you're doing so to get the best possible display-oriented tablet you can for a steep, but not exorbitant $650.
Best for Kids:Ansel LCD Writing TabletBuy on AmazonBuy on EBayWhat We Like
12-month battery life
Pen includedWhat We Don't Like
May not be suitable for very young children
The Ansel LCD Writing Tablet is, very obviously, a tablet focused on children's art projects. It's a small (10 inches), light (7.1 oz) device that sits somewhere between a Kindle and an Etch-a-Sketch. So how does it work? The screen looks like a normal black LCD display, but instead of providing fully moving, color pictures, it just reacts to the marks that you're making by “scraping off” the black layer and exposing the multicolored background underneath. Of course you aren't physically scraping any material off; it's just software emulation. But that's the appearance.
What's interesting is that Flueston (the manufacturer) has managed to adapt the flexibility of LCD crystal to allow for something that lets children press down with the included stylus to make it feel more like a marker. It's a really beautiful idea, and it will allow for endless creativity. There's eraser functionality, screen lock options, and even the ability to save drawings to look at later. Because it doesn't have a backlit screen, this is only meant for use with the lights on, but that will end up helping children's eyes by limiting the amount of traditional “screen time” they have. And because the unit is using non-backlit tech, the replaceable watch-style battery will last upwards of 12 months. The whole package comes for a mere $20 (and at the time of this writing you can even save more with an Amazon coupon).The 9 Best Tablets for Kids
Best for OSU:XP-PEN StarG640Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on EBayWhat We Like
Designed specifically for OSU!
No extra drivers needed
Right and left-handed configurationsWhat We Don't Like
Reports of failing units
Reports of unpredictable stylus sensitivity
Reports of failing pens
As graphics tablets have grown in prevalence, so have their use-cases. One extreme example of this is the beatmapping, rhythm game osu! and its sequels. The game can be (and is most often played casually with) a standard mouse, but many serious and professional-level players prefer a graphics tablet. So, if you want to get into that level of gaming, a great place to start is with the XP-Pen StarG640 tablet. Why? Well, for starters, at only about $40, it's a great, low-cost, low-risk way to try out this new way of playing. The 6-inch by 4-inch writing surface is enough space for most players to cover their needs, and the passive stylus that comes with it allows for 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity.
This is, in essence, XP-Pen's budget non-screen drawing tablet, so to be fair, it will work for design programs as well. It's compatible with Windows and Mac, requiring no drivers, so you can just plug it in and play. This makes it ideal for other non-art processes, like capturing signatures for your business or even just taking notes on a laptop. And, because the thing is so compact, it'll slip right into your bag.The 10 Best Drawing Tablets of 2021
Best Splurge:Wacom Cintiq 22Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on Buydig.comWhat We Like
Massive, 21.5-inch display
Great color accuracy
Excellent Pro Pen 2 techWhat We Don't Like
Perhaps not as high-res as it could be
We've already covered Wacom's Cintiq line above, and because of the gorgeous displays inherent in Wacom's products and their tried-and-true drawing tech, it's no surprise to see it again on our list. Really what makes the Cintiq 22 different is the truly massive 21.5-inch display at play here. In fact, that's really the only reason this unit will run you about $1200. That massive display means a lot more real estate that Wacom has to cover with its pressure-induced sensors and color accuracy—driving the manufacturing price up. But you do get truly excellent performance here.
The 72% Gamut accuracy is every bit as professional as you would expect, and the excellent 1920x1080 HD resolution is strikingly beautiful. This is a massive screen, so perhaps Wacom could have loaded in a bit more resolution to go with the high price tag, but that's a small gripe. The build quality here is really second to none, and the impressive Pro Pen 2—Wacom's proprietary second-gen active pen technology—provides 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition for more accurate line widths, and virtually no detectable latency. This really is the option for the designer who already loves their laptop but wants the functionality of something like a Microsoft Surface Studio: tons of touchscreen real estate, beautiful accuracy, and a workhorse for your design needs.
"If you want something to replace the functionality of a Microsoft Surface Studio, but want to keep the laptop and design programs you're used to, the Cintiq 22 could be a great bet."—
Best Budget:Wacom OneBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
Excellent build qualityWhat We Don't Like
Low-end pressure sensitivity specs
Limited surface area
No bells and whistles
A lot of big-name tech brands are going the way of “attainable” when it comes to pricing. Alongside options like the Microsoft Surface Go and the entry-level iPad, you'll find the Wacom One. Now, the One isn't a standalone tablet like the above, but at only around $50 or $60, and featuring Wacom's excellent build quality, it fits the aesthetic of the budget-but-still-premium-feeling devices. This 8.3-inch by 5.7-inch tablet measures only 0.3 inches thick, and has a nice, durable plastic build with rounded edges. This makes it a joy to use and ensures that it can be tossed into your laptop bag for use on the go. The pressure-sensitive stylus does offer only 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity—akin to the rest of the budget tablets on the market–and at 2540 lines per inch of sensor density, it isn't the most accurate tablet out there. But what it lacks in raw specs, it makes up for in ease of use and, of course, affordability. It connects via USB, works right out of the box with Windows and Mac operating systems alongside all your favorite design apps, and this package comes with a premium-feeling stylus at no extra charge.Final Verdict
While tablet options from Wacom do find their way onto a bunch of spots on this list, we're settling on the XP-Pen Artist 12 for our Best Overall for a few reasons. It gives you excellent pressure sensitivity underneath a really rich, color-accurate display. It lacks some extra controls, but it manages to give you almost everything you could want in a decent-sized drawing tablet for right around $200.Our overall Runner-Up, Gaomon's 15.6-inch version offers a lot of the same functionality, but gives you more assignable buttons (but no touch bar like on the Artist12) and of course, a bigger display. These are notable improvements, but because it costs almost $100 more, we couldn't give it the top spot here. But, if you have the money, you really can't go wrong with Wacom's Cintiq line for the breadth of quality and features available.
About our Trusted Experts
Jason Schneider has a degree in music technology and communications from Northeastern University. He has been writing for tech websites for nearly 10 years and brings even more years' of consumer electronics expertise to the table.
Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for IndieHangover, GameSkinny, TechRadar, and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.
What is the best Wacom tablet for drawing?Wacom is one of the most popular brands of drawing tablet, and for good reason. Our top choices like the Wacom Cintiq 16 may be costly, but it offers a gorgeous 15.6-inch touchscreen, a 1080p resolution, and 8,912 pressure levels with the Pro Pen 2. For a more budget option, we like the Wacom One. It won't break the bank, has a portable size, and solid build quality.
Which drawing tablet is best for beginners?For beginners, we like Simbans PicassoTab. It comes with plenty of accessories, functions as a standalone tablet, and it has an active stylus right out of the box with Autodesk Sketchbook and Artflow preinstalled. For kids, we suggest the Ansel LCD Writing Tablet. It's 10 inches and works similar to an Etch-a-Sketch with a black LCD display that reacts to the marks you make on it. For children, this makes the stylus feel like a market with pressure resistance and it's easy on the eyes.
What is the best drawing tablet for animation?We like the XP-PEN Artis12 for animators, illustrators for most users. It features an 11.6-inch display, has programmable hotkeys, and has a pen with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity for the hand-sketched feel. It works with Windows 7, 8, 10, and Mac OSX even for versions as old as 10.8
How We Tested
We haven't had a chance to put any of these drawing tablets through their paces just yet, but we'll be trying each tablet with a variety of creative applications and machines to help determine the best use scenario for each particular model. Because drawing tablets are all about bridging the gap between your inputs and seeing them on screen, our testers will also be judging each unit on its overall feel and ergonomics as well as their hard specs and compatibility.
What to Look for in a Drawing Tablet
Type of tablet - While drawing tablets are more expensive, they're a bit more intuitive because you draw with a stylus directly on the screen. Graphic tablets — which need to be hooked up to a computer — usually deliver a faster workflow because they're backed by more processing power. They also don't need to be charged and are usually more durable.
Pressure sensitivity - Pressure sensitivity determines how much you can vary the width of the lines you paint, based on the amount of pressure you apply to the stylus. The standard tablet offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, which should be more than enough for most creatives.
Budget - Drawing tablets prices can start as low as $30 and creep up to nearly $1,000. The difference in price is largely related to the display. The better the resolution and pressure sensitivity, the more expensive the tablet. But of course, if it doesn't have a display, you'll likely get it for a lower price.