With the best tablets for animation, you can start bringing your ideas into motion and life. Offering compatibility with a range of animating software, these handy tablets have everything you need to get started, no matter your ability level – and there are options available from a broad range of manufacturers.
So, as well as drawing tablet stalwarts like Wacom, XP-Pen and Huion, there are also options from big-name tech firms like Apple and Samsung. If you need the different types of tablets explained in a bit more detail, you can scroll to the bottom of this page where we run through it all in our section on what to look for when buying an animation tablet.
We've included options for all different budgets, so there's a mix of tablets of different sizes on the list. As well as recent models, we've also made sure to add in some older tablets that we feel represent fantastic value for money – as you don't always need the latest tech!
Want more choice? If you're looking for a more general drawing tablet, then we have a guide to the best drawing tablets (you can expect a fair amount of crossover with this guide though). We also have a dedicated list of the best drawing tablets for kids if you're shopping for someone younger. For now, let's get into the best tablets for animation.
The best drawing tablets for animation available now
Wacom in still deservedly one of the top names when it comes to tablets for drawing and animation, and the Wacom Cintiq 16 is an ideal tablet to choose if you're starting to get serious about your animation ambitions. With a beautifully smooth drawing experience, top-of-the-line stylus compatibility, and multiple animation software options, pretty much any animator is going to be happy here.
The Wacom Cintiq 16 gets its name from its 16-inch screen, which is a good size for most users. It's not the biggest, with Wacom tablet screens going as large as 32 inches, but most people probably don't need that much display real estate. The Wacom Pro Pen offers 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, and if you're into 3D animation, you also get compatibility with the Wacom Pro Pen 3D.
Wacom has made some savvy overtures to animators with its tablets, including full compatibility with lots of useful animation software. This can mean a lot of time-saving quality-of-life improvements, like the ability to move characters' body parts rather than having to withdraw them. It makes up for one of the things the Cintiq 16 is lacking – built-in shortcut ExpressKeys, which can also be remedied with the purchase of a Wacom Express Key Remote (can generally be picked up for $99).
Discover more about this tablet in our Wacom Cintiq 16 review.
Those who are looking for a cheap tablet for animation will want to look at something like the Huion HS610. An affordable graphics tablet, it plugs into an external display to allow you to see what you're drawing, and still offers plenty of premium features like 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity in the pen.
Other welcome features include the 16 customisable keys, which can be assigned to toggle your preferred functions like brushes or the erase tool, speeding up workflow. There's a good-sized drawing area to work with, and general compatibility with dedicated animation software like Adobe Animate. Having to view what you're drawing on a different display is a bit of a pain, but that's the price you pay for the money you save on a graphics tablet compared to a pen display. Plus, the fact that it can be plugged into an Android smartphone (not an iPhone, sadly) really ups the potential for on-the-go drawing, no matter where you are.
Huion and Wacom both produce a range of tablets, including premium and affordable models. To find out more, check out our Wacom vs Huion comparison guide where we run through the pros and cons of tablets from each of these major manufacturers.
- Read more: The best Huion drawing tablets in 2022
iPads have radically shaken up the drawing tablet market, as Apple has made huge improvements to both its styluses and the sensitivity of its tablet displays. This means that the likes of Wacom have serious competition on their hands, as the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (M1) is not only one of the finest tablets ever made, but also one of the most potent tools for animators.
The new M1 chip makes this tablet an absolute powerhouse, with ultra-fast performance that essentially puts this iPad on the level of a Macbook. The mini-LED powered XDR display is also best-in-class, with 1,600 nits of peak brightness, 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness, greater contrast and better control of local dimming. Drawing with the Apple Pencil also feels fantastic, with incredible sensitivity and that unmistakeable Apple design that makes it comfortable to use in the hand.
Of course, since this is an Apple product, you already know what the downside is. The iPad Pro 12.9-inch M1 is a very, very expensive tablet, and if you don't need its blistering, top-of-the-line performance, there are options on this list to suit smaller budgets. But if you can afford it, you won't regret it – our iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) review explains why.
Not everyone has loads to spend on a tablet for animation, and we really rate the XP-Pen Deco 03 for those who just need a simple solution that works. Plugging easily into a computer or smart device via the USB connection, the Deco 03 provides a generous drawing surface and a battery-free stylus with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. You don’t get the fancier features like tilt sensitivity, but the broad compatibility means this is a drawing pad pretty much anyone will be able to use. It's lightweight and slim, with a pleasingly sleek design and customisable keys that can be mapped to your preferred function. Here's our XP-Pen Deco Pro review for more.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is part of a welcome update to the firm's tablet range. It's the middle child of three, bigger than the S8, smaller than the S8 Ultra, and this pitches it at a good level for a lot of users. Like all stylus-compatible Samsung tablets, it comes with an excellent S-Pen bundled in the box, meaning you've got all the physical tools you need for animation right away.
It's got one of the best displays in the business: an utterly gorgeous 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display, with vivid colors and deep, dark blacks. Design-wise, it's basically the same as the previous S7+, with more or less identical physical proportions. It's still comfortable to hold and draw on at the same time, if you like.
Android offers plenty of animation apps, though we do wish the Android tablet experience wasn't STILL so poorly optimised. Google has been promising to look at this for years now – but so far has not appeared to do so. Still, the Android tablet does have one ace up its sleeve over Apple alternatives: a micro SD card slot for storing apps and media.
Check out our iPad vs Samsung tablets article for more on how the two tech giants' tablets compare.
While Wacom makes tablets used by top industry professionals, it also has a few entry-level models for those just starting to dip their toes into drawing or animation. A good example is the Wacom One, which is a great beginner’s tablet and offers tremendous value, providing that Wacom drawing experience at a very friendly price point. Okay, it’s not as cheap as some others on this list, but you are getting a Full HD screen and a tablet that interfaces seamlessly with Mac and Windows alike. We wouldn’t have minded the screen being a bit brighter, and the stylus is a less sophisticated model than you get with the top-range Wacom models, but this is a fantastic starter tablet for animators nonetheless. Need more info? Here's our Wacom One review.
If you're looking to draw some manga, we'd really recommend the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro. It's a high-quality tablet that’s obviously been specifically tailored to undercut Wacom, offering a comparable experience to the Cintiq 24 but for about a third of the price. The battery-free stylus is perfect for manga drawing, providing top-of-the-line pressure sensitivity as well as tilt response, delivering superior definition of even the finest lines.
Give your manga drawings more detail and depth than ever – the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro makes it easy. The 2K QHD display also features 90 per cent coverage of the Adobe RGB colour gamut, which is very impressive for a tablet at this price. Our XP-PEN Artist 24 Pro review explains all.
We've recommended two Wacom tablets on this list already – the Cintiq 16 and the One, which are for reasonable experienced animators and complete novices, respectively. The reason we'd also recommend the Intuos Pro Large for animation is that it’s a solid all-rounder that'll work for pretty much anyone! Easy to hook up to a laptop or other device, the Intuos Pro provides a dependable drawing surface, and is easy to take with you wherever you go. It's also compatible with the Wacom Pro Pen 3D, which is a great asset if you're looking to create 3D animation. Head over to our Wacom Intuos Pro review to explore more.
Best tablets for animation: what to look for
If you’re looking for a new animation tablet, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the key differences between the various models. Here, we’ve put together a quick guide to the main criteria it’s worth thinking about when choosing a tablet for animation
Display vs graphics
The two main types of tablet you’ll be looking at for animation are display tablets and graphics tablets. Display tablets are just as they sound – tablets that have their own display screens – while graphics tablets are drawing surfaces that need to be connected to an external display like a monitor.
Display tablets are the better choice for animation where possible, as having your drawing surface and your display in the same place makes for a smoother experience, and makes it easier to take advantage of the various animation software programs. However, they also tend to be more expensive than graphics tablets – and if you already have invested in a high-quality monitor, a graphics tablet may be the more cost-effective choice.
When we talk about a tablet’s size we are of course talking about two things – the overall physical size of the tablet, and the size of the screen or drawing surface. A tablet’s size matters of course because you’re going to need to keep, store and potentially transport it, but also because a larger tablet will likely have more inputs, and more space for controls (more on which shortly).
In terms of screen size, it’s worth thinking about how much drawing space you actually need. While it may seem like the obvious thing would be to get as big a tablet screen as possible, this will drive the cost of the unit way up, and it may simply be more space than you need. This will of course depend on the nature of the animation you’re doing – it’s worth looking at your art with a critical eye to determine how much space you need.
Controls and shortcut keys
This may not seem that important to an inexperienced user, but trust us, having a suite of customisable shortcut keys that you’ve mapped to your preferred functions can super-charge the speed of your workflow. Some tablets will have one or two customisable keys, some will have as many as 16, and others will have none – though many of these will be tablets like iPads, which offer other advantages.
One of the main reasons that tablets are so useful for drawing and animation is the incredible level of pen pressure sensitivity they’re capable of. With pen sensitivities routinely going as high as being able to recognise as much as 8,192 levels of pressure, you can get truly granular with line thickness and shape.
We’ve mentioned this already a few times of course, but it is simply a fact of life. Deciding which is the best animation tablet for you will of course in part be dictated by how much you’ve got to spend. This will vary for everyone of course, and while the more you spend, the more you’ll get, there are plenty of great cheap animation tablets out there – we’ve included some in the guide above!