How to Choose a Graphics Tablet

How to Choose a Graphics Tablet
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When looking for a graphics tablet, it can be confusing with hundreds of different devices available to buy. Here, I’ve gone through the various features and specs you should consider when buying a graphics tablet. At the bottom are a selection of popular tablets categorised based on skill level, size and type to help you choose the right graphics tablet.

Skill Level

Your skill level is an important factor to consider when choosing a graphics tablet. Just as it is not appropriate that an expert illustrator buy a bottom-of-the-line tablet, it is also unwise that a beginner invests in an overpowered and expensive tablet with all the bells and whistles.

Standard Tablet or In-Screen

There are generally two types of graphics tablet: standard tablets and ones with a built-in screen. Those without a screen are available for budget prices, however those featuring a screen start at a much higher price point. Generally, absolute beginners should first buy a regular tablet to get used to drawing digitally, then move onto an in-screen tablet when they feel they are ready, or feel that using one will increase their productivity.

Express Keys and Other Buttons

The majority of tablets feature express keys of some sort, allowing you to switch between different tools in drawing programs to adjust brush size and for zooming in and out. Depending on your workflow, these may be useful, but can be a waste of space if you use them rarely.

Touch Gesture Support

Higher end tablets let you use the tablet as a pseudo-touchpad, for using multi-finger gestures to help you navigate the canvas more easily. This can add a premium however, so you will need to consider if this is a feature that you will actually use or not.

Support for Wireless/Bluetooth

Some tablets can run completely wirelessly, meaning less wires and more freedom. The disadvantages that come with this feature are higher initial costs and the addition of yet another device that needs to be charged.

Tilt Support

For simple sketches, tilt is unnecessary. If you want to take advantage of tilt brushes though, look out for tablets with this feature.

Colour Accuracy

Applying only to tablets with a built-in screen, colour accuracy is something to keep in mind when looking at the various tablets available. Although less accurate screens mean a cheaper device overall, colours may translate to other screens differently to how you expect. Generally, it’s best to aim for 100% sRGB coverage.

Active Area Size

One of the most important aspects to consider is the size of the active drawing area. It’s best to keep in mind the size of the monitor you will be using it with – too big of a difference and it can lead to it being difficult to use, as you will be forced to zoom in to compensate.

For in-screen tablets, this largely depends on how much space you have to dedicate to it. If you have a large desk available and don’t mind keeping it in one spot, a larger tablet could be viable.

Portability

If you don’t want to be chained to your desk when using your graphics tablet, something to consider is the portability of the device. Smaller tablets can fit into a backpack just fine, letting you take it outside to use away from home.

Connectivity

Most modern tablets let you connect with USB C, a connector that you can plug in both ways (no more plugging things in upside-down!). For in-screen tablets, if your computer has a USB Type-C connector and the tablet supports it, you can connect your tablet up with just one cable instead of separate USB, power and HDMI cables.

Driver Software

Driver software varies a fair bit among different makers. Wacom, the king of graphics tablets arguably has the best, most stable software, with others lagging behind in customisation features and stability.

Best For Beginners

Small Sized Regular Tablets

Wacom Intuos Small

Wacom Intuos Small

A basic graphics tablet from Wacom in a small form-factor.

Buy on Amazon

Huion Inspiroy H640P

Huion Inspiroy H640P

A good, compact starter tablet for beginners.

Buy on Amazon

Huion HS64

Huion HS64

A minimalist tablet with only the essentials. Great for starting out.

Buy on Amazon

Medium Sized Regular Tablets

Wacom Intuos Medium

Wacom Intuos Medium

This is a medium sized entry-level graphics tablet from Wacom.

Buy on Amazon

Huion Inspiroy H950P

Huion Inspiroy H950P

This is a great starter tablet from Huion with a spacious work area.

Buy on Amazon

Pen Tablets

Huion Kamvas Pro 13

Huion Kamvas Pro 13

This is a solid entry-level pen display from Huion.

Buy on Amazon

Wacom One

Wacom One

This is Wacom’s most basic pen display boasting solid performance.

Buy on Amazon

XP-Pen Artist 12

XP-Pen Artist 12

This is a relatively compact pen display from XP-Pen. A good choice for beginners who prefer in-screen tablets.

Buy on Amazon

Best for medium-Advanced Users

Regular Tablets

Wacom Intuos Pro – Medium

Wacom Intuos Pro - Medium

The Intuos Pro series is Wacom’s high-end line, with a focus on accuracy and excellent build quality.

Buy on Amazon

Wacom Intuos Pro – Large

Wacom Intuos Pro - Large

This is a larger version of the “medium”, great for those who prefer a larger workspace.

Buy on Amazon

Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M

Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M

A wireless tablet from Huion, featuring plenty of express keys and an intuitive scroll wheel to help speed up your workflow.

Buy on Amazon

In-Display Tablets

Huion Kamvas Pro 16

Huion Kamvas Pro 16

This medium sized pen display is a good fit for experienced artists.

Buy on Amazon

XP-Pen Artist 15.6

XP-Pen Artist 15.6

A solid choice for someone looking for a medium sized pen display that covers the basics.

Buy on Amazon

XP-Pen Artist 22 Pro

XP-Pen Artist 22 Pro

A whopping 22-inch pen display. If you’re serious about digital art and have the space, this is for you.

Buy on Amazon

In-Depth Reviews

Have a look at some of my more in-depth reviews in the articles below.

About Michael Knights

I am a graphic designer and JP-EN translator who came to Japan in 2015 to pursue a career utilising my Japanese skills. Over the years I have worked in various retail positions. Now, I am specialising in creating marketing materials relating to recording equipment and musical instruments, in addition to translating various materials to and from English and Japanese.

About Me

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