The best tablets for animation are the ideal way to push your animating aspirations further. With the simple application of a sophisticated stylus and a good animating program, you can use any of these tablets to vividly bring your animating ideas to life. Whether you're venturing into animating for the first time, or have some experience and know-how already and are looking to push yourself further, the best tablets for animation will help you realise your goals for 2022.
With so many options available it can be tricky to know which tablet is right for you – and this is where we come in. Our guide to the best animation tablets includes eight excellent products for all sorts of different users.
There are three main types of tablet you'll be picking from – the aforementioned tablet computers, which refers to general-purpose tablets like iPads, which these days offer powerful artistic tools. Then there are also graphics tablets and pen displays, which are dedicated drawing tools, the main difference between them being whether they have their own display or need to be plugged into an external one. You may want to click to jump to our what to look for when buying an animation tablet if you want these different types explained in more detail.
The tablets we've picked for this list are especially suited to animators; we also have a more general guide to the best drawing tablets, as well as a list of the best drawing tablets for kids if you're shopping for someone younger.
The best drawing tablets for animation available now
Though competition in the market of artist's tablets is as tough as it's ever been, Wacom is still arguably the top dog, and a Wacom tablet is never not going to be a great choice for animators. To that end, the Wacom Cintiq 16 makes for a superb buy for anyone with an interest in animation, with Wacom's trademark smooth drawing experience, and loads of handy tools to make the process easier.
The Cintiq 16 is so-named because of its 16-inch screen. This isn't the largest Wacom offers – that honour belongs to the enormous CIntiq 32 – but we reckon that it'll be well-sized for most users, and offers a great balance between performance and price. It's got 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing you to get extremely precise with the thickness of your lines, and it's also compatible with Wacom's Pro Pen 3D, meaning it's great for 3D animation as well as 2D.
Wacom encourages animators to use its products, and its tablets are compatible with animation software to make life easier. This means you can do things like move character's body parts independently, meaning you don't have to completely redraw a character every time they move.
One strike against the Cintiq 16 is its lack of built-in ExpressKeys – Wacom's customisable shortcut buttons used to speed up workflow. You can get a Wacom Express Key remote to remedy this, though this will add about $99 onto the price of the tablet. In all other respects, we'd thoroughly recommend the Wacom Cintiq 16 to animators at almost all skill levels. It's only users on really strict budgets, or who absolutely need a larger drawing space, that it might not be suited for.
Discover more about this tablet in our Wacom Cintiq 16 review.
If you are on a budget, a graphics tablet like the Huion HS610 is an excellent port of call. It needs to be plugged into an external display like a computer monitor or an Android smartphone (not iPhones, unfortunately), but this means the tablet itself is much more affordable and portable than a powerful pen display like the Wacom Cintiq.
And you still get tonnes of fantastic features, including the 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. What's more, the Huion HS610 is super-customisable, with 16 customisable keys that can be assigned to your preferred functions, allowing you to create a tactile workflow that's specific to you. The drawing area is generously sized and well-proportioned for a tablet at this price point, and the plug-and-play USB connection makes it extremely easy to set up and get working. Huion products will generally work with any animating software you might be using like Adobe Animate, so you can simply crack on and create.
We know not everyone has a huge budget for their next tablet, so we'd really rate the Huion HS610 for anyone who's trying to control their spending. If you're deliberating between this and the Wacom, 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.
If you're already an Android user, it may make sense to use an Android tablet for animation. We'd recommend considering the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, which is top of the range right now and the best drawing tablet with screen for animation. Its gorgeous display is ideal for drawing on, with punchy colours and a generous working area, while the up-to-date processing power ensures that your chosen apps should run well. Having the S-Pen included in the price is also welcome, giving you everything you need from the moment you open the box. If this version is too expensive, consider also the Galaxy Tab S7, which uses a smaller, non-OLED screen but still works really well. Find out more in our Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review.
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!