Best Drawing Tablets for Illustrators and Designers in 2021

If you are a graphic designer, you’d want to know a lot about the best drawing tablet, their basic features, specifications, and differences. Also known as a graphic tablet, it is a versatile, highly functional device that provides creative souls of artists, graphic designers, and illustrators with an opportunity to find a common language with the computer. 

Nowadays, an increasing number of new and experienced drawing-related specialists are turning towards using tablets to deal with their art projects. It is essential to mention that a perfect tablet is an ultimately responsive, handy, convenient, and lightweight item to speed the work and advance its quality to a completely new level.

best drawing tablet
Wacom MobileStudio Pro / Illustration by Sam Gilbey

The process is easy, and the only things you will have to do are to connect the tablet to your PC (if needed), buy and install the software, and immerse yourself in the creation of art, drawing, painting, sketching, and even making animated cartoons (yes, it’s real having just a tablet and software). Thus, by purchasing a graphic tablet, you get the desired freedom to create diagrams, utility maps, CAD designs, images, and numerous other things fast and easily. 

Due to the increasing demand, the number of drawing tablets available on the market is also growing. I have personally chosen and tested a range of drawing tablets to select the best ones for your work and pleasure in 2021. Being an illustrator and designer, I was able to set optimal and unbiased requirements to choose the best drawing tablet 2021 for artists, illustrators, designers, and other people of art. You will just have to mind your own goals and preferences.

10 Best Drawing Tablets for Illustrators and Designers

#1. Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) – Best Drawing Tablet Overall

Active drawing area: 10.32 x 7.74in

Resolution: 2,732 x 2,048

Connections: Bluetooth, Lightning, Wi-Fi

OS: iPad OS 13.4

A new A12Z Bionic chip and an 8-core graphic engine have contributed to the advanced functionality and efficiency of the tablet. Currently, it is appreciated as a class-leading device that is highly demanded by illustrators and artists all around the world. Unfortunately, you should be ready to spend extra if you strive to draw with Apple Pencil, which is a perfect combination. However, the result is 100% worth the cost. Using the professional iPad Pro 12.9 with an Apple Pencil, you will have a chance to get a sublime experience with accurate and intuitive touches.

Apple iPad Pro is my personal choice, and I have been working with it for quite a while. Using it in a combination with Apple Pencil and ProCreate, I have been creating sketches and deep, profound illustrations for a variety of projects.

The Good:

  • Excellent performance;
  • Sleek design:
  • Large display.

The Not So Good:

  • High cost;
  • Apple Pen is not included.

#2. XP-Pen Artist 15.6 – Best Drawing Tablet with Well-Sized Pen Display

Active drawing area: 13.54 x 7.62in

Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080

Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels

Connections: USB-C

OS: macOS or Windows

A high-quality screen, large drawing area, and assistive pen are the key features that make X-Pen Artist 15.6 stand out from the variety of similar options. It may take some time to get used to the specifications of the stylus and cursor functioning, but once you succeed, your vision of digital creativity will be fully transformed.

The Good:

  • Perfect drawing surface;
  • Reasonable cost:
  • Sensitive pen.

The Not So Good:

  • Unusual stylus and cursor;
  • Stand is not included.

#3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 – Best Drawing Tablet with a Stylus

Active drawing area: 7.65 x 5.04in

Resolution: 2,560 x 1,600

Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels

Connections: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB-C

OS: Android 8.0

Experienced illustrators and designers understand the true value of the stylus that comes with the tablet. If you want to get a cost-effective device, Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is undoubtedly the item you should consider. Due to the wide range of beneficial features and specifications, the tablet is multi-purpose and can be used for quality drawing experience, as well as general use.

The Good:

  • High-quality pen;
  • Unique design.

The Not So Good:

  • High cost.

#4. Wacom Cintiq 22 – Best Affordable and Functional Drawing Tablet

Active drawing area: 19.5 x 11.5in

Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080

Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels

Connections: USB 2.0, HDMI

Ultimate functionality at an affordable cost is the best description of Wacom Cintiq 22. Wacom Pen 2 is included in the box, so you will have a chance to experience its intensive pressure and exclusive sensitivity inevitable for impeccable illustrations. Additionally, a large, full HD screen will contribute to the experience.

The Good:

  • Reasonable cost;
  • Excellent pressure sensitivity.

The Not So Good:

  • ExpressKeys are not built in.
  • Low screen resolution.

#5. Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5 inches) – Best Drawing Tablet for Windows

Active drawing area: 11.25 x 7.5in

Resolution: 3000 x 2000

Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels

Connections: USB, USB-C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

OS: Windows 10 Pro

Microsoft Surface Book 3 is a premium-quality device that has become an immediate hit. The device can be used as a tablet or a laptop, which contributes to its functionality and efficiency. If you want to get an even smoother experience, you will have to spend around $100 on an impressive Surface Pen, which will advance your drawing to a completely new level.

The Good:

  • Affordable cost;
  • Reliable and highly functional.

The Not So Good:

  • Surface Pen should be additionally purchased.

#6. XP-Pen Deco 03 – Best Alternative to Wacom

Active drawing area: 10 x 5.62in

Resolution: 5080 lines per inch

Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels

Connections: USB-C, wireless

OS: macOS, Windows

An exclusive combination of versatile functions and unique style are the features valued by users. Large drawing area, excellent resolution, and high-quality pen are the best characteristics that make XP-Pen Deco 03 one of the best tablets for designers and illustrators. Additionally, artists highlight helpful Express keys and multi-functional dial that make drawing easier, faster, and more productive.

The Good:

  • Large drawing area;
  • Top-quality pen;
  • Multi-functional dial.

The Not So Good:

  • Ultimately fragile.

#7. Wacom Intuos Pro (Small) – Best Drawing Tablet for Designers

Active drawing area: 6.2 x 3.8in

Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels

Connections: Bluetooth, USB

OS: macOS, Windows

Searching for a Pro version tablet at a competitive cost sounds crazy. However, with Wacom Intuos Pro, it has become real. This device is a perfect choice for novices who strive to learn and master their skills. The gadget is compact and lightweight enough to take everywhere and use it anytime. Irrespective of its exclusive affordability, Wacom Intuos Pro is durable and highly functional.

The Good:

  • Excellent cost efficiency;
  • High-quality pen.

The Not So Good:

  • Limited drawing area.

#8. Wacom Intuos Pro (Medium) – Best Drawing Tablet in Terms of Functionality

Active drawing area: 8.7 x 5.8in

Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels

Connections: Bluetooth, USB

OS: macOS, Windows

High functionality and simplicity of use are the principal features designers, illustrators, and other professionals in the field of art are looking for as they search for the best drawing tablet. Wacom Intuos Pro combines all the best features and guarantees smooth and flawless experience. A Touch Ring, a large drawing area, numerous shortcut keys, and multi-touch fingertip gestures make the tablet versatile and user-friendly.

The Good:

  • Advantageous multi-touch support;
  • Easy drawing experience;
  • Extra buttons and shortcut keys.

The Not So Good:

  • There may be problems with the driver.

#9. Wacom Intuos Pro (Large) – Best Drawing Tablet in Terms of Convenience

Active drawing area: 12.1 x 8.4in

Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels

Connections: Bluetooth, USB

OS: macOS, Windows

The main desire of illustrators and designers that start working with drawing tablets is for each experience to be realistic. It means that the digital device should offer a large drawing area and high-pressure sensitivity. These are the features you will find in the up-to-date Wacom Intuos Pro.

The Good:

  • Beneficial pen sensitivity;
  • Modern design;
  • Wireless connection.

The Not So Good:

  • Comparatively limited drawing area.

#10. Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 – Best Drawing Tablet for Amateur Illustrators and Web-Designers

Active drawing area: 11.6 x 6.5in

Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440

Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels

Connections: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3 x USB-C 

OS: Windows 10

Amateur illustrators and web-designers who just start exploring the field can take maximum advantage of a dependable and quite functional MobileStudio Pro 13 tablet. Additionally, it is a top choice for users who are not ready for considerable investments yet. Intel Core processor and impressive drive storage capabilities combined with a large drawing area make the tablet a total pleasure to draw with.

The Good:

  • High resolution;
  • Convenient drawing due to a large area;
  • Maximum functionality.

The Not So Good:

  • Stand is not included.

Types of Drawing Tablets for Illustrators and Designers 

Drawing tablets are getting increasingly popular among new and experienced designers and illustrators. How can you make the right choice and opt for the best device that will aid your work? Here are the basic types of drawing tablets for you to consider:

  • Traditional graphic tablet. It is the simplest and the most easy-to-use graphic tablet that consists of a pad-like panel and a stylus. Resembling a pencil, the stylus is likely to replace a usual computer touchpad or mouse. As mentioned in some reviews, it is preferable to purchase a tablet that will proportionately reflect the size of your monitor as all your motions on the tablet will be reflected on the monitor. 
  • LCD graphic tablet. Unlike the previous option, this device is equipped with a screen you can draw on. The stylus is usually included, so you can use it to craft the best illustrations and authentic designs. An advanced version of the drawing tablet is more convenient for people who need to edit their works often. Additionally, there is no need to connect the tablet to a computer or laptop, which gives users more freedom to use the item in different places.

Once you’ve decided which tablet you need, you can proceed to reviewing the basic features that will speed up your work.

best drawing tablets 2021
Illustration by Kyle Lambert. Interview for ProCreate

What Features Should Illustrators and Designers Pay Attention to When Choosing the Best Drawing Tablet?

Choosing between a drawing and graphic tablet is hard but selecting a specific brand within the category is even more complicated. Check out some features you should pay attention to before you make your final choice:

  • Size. It is crucial to mind two specifications: the size of the device and the size of the work area. If you are looking for a lightweight drawing tablet you can use outside your home, for instance, on the site, you should focus on middle-sized devices. At the same time, it is crucial to remember that the bigger the active area, the larger drawings you can get;
  • Pressure sensitivity. Various drawing tablets feature different pressure sensitivity, which may range from 300 to 3,000 levels. The higher this level, the more accurate your illustrations, with the original details and thickness of the lines preserved;
  • Resolution. Working with small illustrations with tiny details, you need to look for a high-resolution drawing tablet that will help you create high-quality works;
  • Type of the stylus. There are three basic types of tablet styluses, including rechargeable, electromagnetic resonance, and battery-powered. All of them are effective, and their choice will depend on your needs and preferences;
  • Controls. In the overwhelming majority of up-to-date devices, you will find numerous buttons that will simplify your work and help you perform specific actions faster;
  • Battery. On average, the battery of the graphic tablet lasts for 3-4 hours. Check this feature before you make the final choice, especially if you strive to use the tablet in the office, on the site, etc. without a constant need to charge it.

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Glenn Collins

Glenn is a graphic designer, illustrator, and sketch artist involved in a range of sculptural projects all over the world. Through illustrations and sculptural and architectural design, he is focused on creating bold projects and investing all of his passion for art in them.