The best drawing tablets

Being able to replicate the feel of using a pencil on paper to interact with a screen is crucial for many jobs, and the best drawing tablets enable this unique interaction perfectly for digital artists and other creatives. 

To help you choose the best option for you, we've extensively tested a wide range of drawing tablets and curated views from our reviewers, assessing their design, performance, software and price to find the best option for different uses. If money is tight, you're a student of beginner, try the best budget drawing tablets for when money is tight or the best tablet with a stylus for the complete package.

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The best drawing tablets in full

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The best drawing tablet overall

The best drawing tablet and accessories overall.

Specifications

Active drawing area: 10.3 x 5.8in
Screen resolution : NA
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192
Connections: USB-C to USB-A
OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic build quality
+
Lovely drawing experience
+
Accessories included

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires external display
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AttributesNotesRating
DesignSolid, comfy and a lovely 'tooth' feel. ★★★★★
PerformanceDelivers an accurate and precise experience.★★★★★
FeaturesQuick Key remote, two stylus and case.★★★★★
PriceAn excellent package at a good price.★★★★★
Buy it if

✅ You need a starter drawing tablet: this comes with two stylus, a case, cables and a Quick Key remote - everything you need.
✅ You need reliability: the build quality and precision impresses; a tablet for all workflows. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ A larger work area is needed: while excellent value, this is a smaller tablet than the Wacom Intuos Pro Large at No.2 on my list.

❌ You don't have a laptop: this is an old fashioned drawing tablet, so you need a laptop or desktop computer.

The bottom line

🔎 The Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium Bundle is a complete starter kit and includes everything you need, including a slim Apple-style and 'fat' Wacom-design stylus. It's also fantastically made and very precise and reliable. ★★★★★

Need to know: The Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium is a drawing tablet that strikes an optimal balance between power, design, portability and price, and in our opinion that makes it the best drawing tablet you can buy right now. Relative newcomers to the market, Xencelabs boast among their roster a number of Wacom alumni, who have brought their tablet design nous to this newer brand. 

Design: One of the most important aspects of a drawing tablet is the texture of its drawing surface, and the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium gets it bang on the money. As our reviewer noted in their five-star review of the tablet, the level of 'bite' against the stylus feels exactly right, and it makes the tablet immensely satisfying to draw on. Having used the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium myself I agree with our reviewer, this one just feels good to use. 

This drawing tablet's design removes the Quick Keys from the device itself and puts them into a Bluetooth remote unit that comes packaged, the upshot is the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium devotes all of its space to a drawing area. Some may find this new approach awkward, in which case the more traditional Wacom Intuos Pro at No.2 on my list is a better choice.

Features: The pressure and 60-degree tilt sensitivity of this tablet and stylus are also practically pitch-perfect, and having two pens bundled in is also great, as you can set them up for different uses (for example one for line art and one for digital painting, or one for 3D and the other for 2D) to enable quick swapping and a smooth workflow.

Stylus pen pressure is 8,192, which is now standard and a solid performance, though the XPPEN tablets on my list blow this away with 16K levels of pressure, which is fast becoming a new standard. The Quick Key remote features eight programmable buttons and an OLED display for ease of use. The calibration and setup interface of the Xencelabs' app is my favourite outside of Wacom, and this tablet works with all the leading digital art and design software, including Photoshop, ZBrush and Corel Painter.

Price: The Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium costs $249.99 / £249.90 with two stylus and pen case, but my recommendation would be the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium Bundle for $329.99 / £289.90, this includes the Quick Key remote which is essential. This is great value, for example the comparable Wacom Intuous Pro (medium) is $379.95 / £329.99.

Read the full review: Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium

The best large drawing tablet

(Image credit: Future)
The best large drawing tablet

Specifications

Active drawing area: 12.1 x 8.4in
Screen resolution: NA
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB, Bluetooth
OS: Windows or macOS

Reasons to buy

+
Great pen sensitivity
+
Fluid drawing
+
Wired or wireless connection

Reasons to avoid

-
Old fashioned design
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AttributesNotesRating
DesignBuilt to last, comfy and large.★★★★
PerformanceAccurate and compatible with all software.★★★★★
Features8 Quick Keys, an excellent stylus and software.★★★★★
PriceNot the cheapest, but Wacom will last a long time.★★★★
Buy it if

✅ You need a large tablet: A large and precise drawing tablet is hard to come by, if you need more drawing space this is the one.
✅ You're a pro artist: this Wacom tablet is a mainstay of the creative industries and is a proven workhorse. Wacom tablets will last you years of daily use. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ Price is an issue: there are cheaper and just as good drawing tablets on my list, but not as large. If price is an issue, the Xencelabs at No.1 is the best value.

❌ You want a modern approach: this Wacom has a traditional design with its Quick Keys on the tablet, so extending its size. If you want a modern design, Xencelabs is the one.

The bottom line

🔎 The Wacom Intuos Pro Large is a pro-grade drawing tablet built to last, with great Quick Keys, reliability and one of the best stylus around. It is, however, a little old fashioned. ★★★★

Need to know: Wacom is a legacy brand for drawing tablets, and as such is compatible with every app you can think of and these tablets are very reliable. For creating artwork on a drawing tablet you ideally need lots of room to work with as well as a pen that feels just like the ones you'd use on paper. In which case you should opt for the Wacom Intuos Pro Large, which delivers pretty much the most natural drawing experience you can get digitally. In our review we found the Wacom Intuos Pro to be responsive and worked well with all leading digital art apps.

Design: This drawing tablet is large, solid to the touch and flat - it measures just 8mm thick. It's made from a black anodised aluminum and fiberglass composite resin which gives it a sturdy feel but also flexible enough to give when you push into it. The Wacom Intuos Pro (Large) measures 16.8 x 11.2 x 0.3 inches, ensuring there's a nice sweep or arc to your arm and hand as you draw. 

Unlike the Xencelabs Pen Tablet at No.1 this Wacom features its trademark stack of Quick Keys down the side, eight buttons and a dial for total control. It's worth noting the Wacom is suitable for both left- and right-handed users. This is a more traditional approach and may appeal more than the Xencelabs remote solution.

Features: The Wacom stylus remains one of the best around, and with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity gets you as close as you can get to using an actual pen. All this is supported by Wacom’s broad ecosystem of alternative pens and Texture Sheets to give your drawing surface a distinctive feel. This drawing tablet is also multitouch for using gesture controls and stylus together - cheaper drawing tablets often lack this.

The Quick Keys are fully customisable, as is the stylus. This is also Bluetooth enabled (the cheaper Wacom Intuos range isn't) and comes with everything you need in the box. It's worth noting that unlike the Xencelabs this only comes with one stylus, Wacom's traditional 'fat' design. If you prefer the slimmer Apple Pencil style of pen, then you can by one separately. It's also worth noting Wacom is one of the best supported brands for alternative stylus.

Finally, something worth mentioning is Wacom's excellent calibration software and compatibility with near enough every digital art and 3D app. It's very easy to setup and customise, and if you're upgrading from cheaper drawing tablets you'll need to uninstall the old driver - Wacom doesn't play nicely with others.

Price: The Wacom Intuous Pro Large costs $499.95 / £449.99 and for a short time comes with a choice of app for free, either Shapr3D, Capture One or MASV. For a limited time US readers can also add a Wacom Intuos Wireless Tablet and save 50%. Wacom's are more expensive than other tablet brands on my list, but they made to last, compatible with every app and industry-proven.

Read the full review: Wacom Intuos Pro review

The best budget drawing tablet

An responsive yet affordable drawing tablet

Specifications

Active drawing area: 8 x 5 inches
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Screen resolution : n/a
Connections: USB, Bluetooth
OS: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Chrome

Reasons to buy

+
Great choice for beginners
+
Optional wireless connection
+
Fun colour options

Reasons to avoid

-
XPPen software isn't the best
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AttributesNotesRating
DesignA little 'plasticy', compact and lightweight.★★★
PerformanceSolid but pros will need more features.★★★★
Features8 Quick Keys, a great stylus, and Bluetooth.★★★★★
PriceAffordable and great value.★★★★★
Buy it if

✅ You need cheap tablet: there are cheaper, but non come with these features and a pro-level stylus for under $70.
✅ You want to go mobile: this tablet is light, cheap and neatly specced, ideal for mobile use. It's also compatible with Android and ChromeOS. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need a pro tablet: the stylus is great, but the tablet itself is a little finicky and won't last as long as a Wacom or more costly XPPen tablet.

❌ You need more custom keys: this has eight customisable Quick Keys, but lacks the dial of more expensive Xencelabs and Wacom tablets.

The bottom line

🔎 The XPPen Deco MW is an affordable drawing tablet that comes with a great pro-level stylus and is ideal for beginners. Pros will need more Quick Keys, improved software and better precision. ★★★★

Need to know: The XPPen Deco MW is an affordable and eye catching drawing tablet that's a great starter option for new artists and beginners to digital art, and in our review we recognised this as a good entry-level tablet that isn't too expensive but features good specs where needed.

Design: Pro artists would need more, especially when it comes to reliability and ease of setup and calibration, but for anyone new to digital art seeking a solid drawing tablet the XPPen Deco MW is recommended. When I've used this XPPen tablet I've found the calibration app and driver less easy to use than Wacom. 

This comes in a pretty range of colours that includes blue, green and pink. The 8 x 5 inch drawing area is decent, but again pro artists will want more. It's 8.5 mm thickness means it's a slim drawing tablet and more portable than most.  

Features: Despite the budget price this XPPen tablet uses the brand's excellent X3 chip-powered stylus that has 8,192 levels of pressure stylus, with 60-degree tilt; for this price, it's surprisingly excellent. The XPPen Deco MW can connect to your main device via USB or Bluetooth too, so you don't need to worry about wires (and boasts over 10 hours of wireless use). It can also be connected via USB and an adapter is included for USB-C connection.

The XPPen Deco MW works with the most common digital art apps, including Photoshop, Krita and Blender. It can also be connected to iPhones and Android smartphones for use with mobile art apps - it works with ibisPaint. 

Price: The XPPen Deco MW costs $69.99 / £59.99 and comes packaged with a stylus, USB cables, USB adapters and spare nibs. Extras like a protective slip case are sold separately. 

Read the full review: XP-Pen Deco MW review.

The best pen display overall

The best pen display overall in terms of design, cost and performance

Specifications

Active drawing area: 20.75 x 11.7 inches
Screen resolution: 3840 x 2160
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: HDMI, USB 2.0, USB-C
OS: Windows, Mac OS, Linux

Reasons to buy

+
Stunningly large display
+
Plenty of accessories in the box
+
In-built solid stand

Reasons to avoid

-
May be too big for some
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AttributesNotesRating
DesignSolidly made and featured unique design ideas.★★★★★
PerformanceSuper accurate, precise and a joy to use.★★★★★
FeaturesAn excellent Quick Key remote and Switch Display is a game-changer.★★★★★
PriceGreat value for the features, build and performance.★★★★★
Buy it if

✅ You want a large pen display: at 22-inches this offers a large workspace, but has some clever design ideas like the remote keys and wider edging for ease of use.

✅ You need quality and value: Xencelabs makes Wacom-like quality tablets for a little less money, and includes everything you could need, including two stylus. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need a smaller pen display: at 22-inches it's very large and you'll need a lot of desk space for this and your laptop. The Wacom Cintiq 22 at No.5 is a good smaller pro choice.

❌ You need a cheaper pen display: if cost is an issue, then this isn't the cheapest. In that case the XPPen pen display at No.6 is a much more affordable option.

The bottom line

🔎 The Xencelabs Pen Display 24 is a pro-grade, large pen display for a little less that offers unique design features, a clever screen sharing app and everything you need in the box to get creative. ★★★★★

Need to know: Xencelabs takes our top spot in this guide to the best drawing tablets, but we love their products so much we needed to include another one in the 'pen display' category. The Xencelabs Pen Display 24 is the latest release from this tablet brand, and our reviewer enjoyed its levels of responsiveness, design and build quality.

Design: What makes this tablet so great? If you can't tell from the name – it's huge. Measuring 24 inches in width, this screen tablet is an absolute beast of a device. The screen features a unique anti-glare glass that is both smudge and scratch resistant. Whilst reviewing this tablet, we found that the screen felt wonderful to draw on. The display makes no sound during long time use, and at no point did the screen heat up and become uncomfortable to lean on. 

As with the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium at No.1 this pen display removes the customisable Quick Keys from the edge of the device to a remote unit (included) that can be attached to any side of the tablet using a unique holder. This frees up the space around the edges of the display, giving Xenclabs room to add an extra wide panel for your hand and wrist to rest on; extra screens like an iPad can also be attached.

Features: The Xencelabs Pen Display 24 hits all the notes a pro needs, such as 4K resolution, 99% Adobe RGB and anti-glare etched glass. But it also features a unique new feature known as Switch Display – this fantastic tool allows you to easily transition between whichever display you're working on without having to drag your mouse over to it, all from the pen display screen. This enables you to quickly do things like open and move files. It was certainly a game changer during our hands-on time with this display.

As with the Xeneclabs Pen Tablet Medium bundle, this pen display comes packed with all the accessories and cables to ensure you have everything you need to get painting. This pen display comes with an in-built stand, various clips for your styluses, the amazing Quick Key Remote and two types of pen stylus - one for 2D art and one designed for 3D and animation. Other notable accessories include a drawing glove, cleaning cloth and rubber feet to make sure this tablet sits securely on your desk. This is easily the best pen display overall.

Price: The Xencelabs Pen Display 24 costs $1,899 / £1,850, which is around $600 / £600 less than the similarly specced Wacom Cintiq Pro 24. The advantage of the Xencelabs is it's not only more affordable but comes with everything you could need in the box.

Read the full review: Xencelabs Pen Display 24 review.

The best Wacom pen display

Our best runner up pen display is a reliable Wacom tablet for pros

Specifications

Active drawing area: 19.5 x 11.5 inches
Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: HDMI, USB 2.0
OS: Windows

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent pressure sensitivity
+
Reliable quality
+
One of the best stylus

Reasons to avoid

-
Low screen res for the size
-
Limited built-in Quick Keys
Swipe to scroll horizontally
AttributesNotesRating
DesignSolidly made and featured unique design ideas.★★★★
PerformanceSuper accurate, precise and a joy to use.★★★★★
FeaturesAn excellent Quick Key remote and Switch Display is a game-changer.★★★
PriceGreat value for the features, build and performance.★★★★
Buy it if

✅ You want a pro Wacom for a less: for the price this is a good-sized Wacom tablet with industry standard features for half the price of the Pro range.

✅ You need reliability: Wacom tablets are tried and tested pro pen displays that will last years. They cost more but over time can save you money. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need Quick Keys and gestures: if you're used to using custom keys and touch control then this Wacom isn't for you; I'd recommend the cheaper but smaller Wacom One 13 Touch.

❌ You need a higher res display: at Full HD is this a little behind some other pen displays, and actually the smaller Wacom Cintiq 16 has a higher res because it's a smaller display.

The bottom line

🔎 The Wacom Cintiq 22 is a solid, well made pen display that will last a long time. It lacks some features like Quick Keys and gesture control, but you get the Wacom stylus, a quality build and good reliability. ★★★★

Need to know: Despite increased competition the Wacom name is still very much one to be reckoned with, and as far as I'm concerned the Wacom Cintiq 22 is definitely one of the best drawing tablets you can get, especially if you're looking for a high-quality pen display that will last you for years. Wacom makes a number of good pen displays, but for value, features and size I think this is the best Wacom.

Design: In our review, we noted the Wacom Cintiq 22 has a list of design touches that compete at the highest level, including a 22-inch display that provides plenty of creative space to play with. It has Full HD resolution, which maybe a drop behind Xencelabs' 4K, but it's good for pro artists and hobbyists alike and features 96% sRGB. You can get sharper screens on other Wacom tablets too, but they cost more, and this model is all about bringing Wacom quality with an affordable price tag. And let's not forget that plenty of pen displays that come in cheaper but lack this resolution.

An advantage of Wacom tablets is that these are pretty much the industry standard and best of all these pen displays last years - and what you really need these days is a tablet that is reliable. This drops to the runner-up pen display slot on my list because the Xencelabs offers a larger screen, new design innovations and more accessories for a good price, but if you need an industry-standard pen display that's slightly smaller and costs a little less, this Wacom is for you.

Features: What really makes the Wacom Cintiq 22 such a pleasure to use is the Wacom Pro Pen 2, with a whole 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity as well as tilt sensitivity. Wacom has been in this game a long time, and it's hard to imagine an artist with any complaints about the Pro Pen 2. It just works really, really well. While XPPen in particular now offers 16k levels, the design, weight and build of the Wacom stylus still feels good.

This pen display features a built-in adjustable stand and an anti-glare scratch resistance display. It doesn't feature any Quick Keys on the tablet, and the Quick Key remote for custom shortcuts isn't included (unlike Xencelabs), so you'll need to pay an extra $100 / £100. This pen display lacks gesture control too. So you can see how Wacom is bringing the price down by reducing features. Though Wacom does include a six month subscription to Clip Studio Pain.

Price: The Wacom Cintiq 22 costs £1,229.99 / $1,299.95, and US reader can get an exclusive offer to add a Wacom Intuos Medium to their basket for half the price ($199.95 to $99.95).

Read the full review: Wacom Cintiq 22 review

Best budget pen display

A reliable and affordable touch-enabled pen display

Specifications

Active drawing area: 13.5 x 8.5 inches
Screen resolution: 2560 x 1600 WQXGA
Pen pressure sensitivity: 16,384
Connections: USB-C, 3-in-1 USB-C
OS: Mac, Windows, Linux

Reasons to buy

+
Nice anti-glare display
+
Incredibly accurate stylus
+
Off-tablet Quick Key remote

Reasons to avoid

-
It's display could be better
Swipe to scroll horizontally
AttributesNotesRating
DesignSolid build, clean lines and I like the wrist rest. ★★★★
PerformanceVery accurate, easy to use and can switch modes.★★★★★
FeaturesQuick Key remote, 16k stylus but the display could be better.★★★★
PriceLots of kit and quality for the price.★★★★★
Buy it if

✅ You want value for money: you get a lot of features, a 16-inch display and accessories other brands charge extra for, for less.

✅ You love precision: the XPPen stylus with 16K levels of pressure sensitivity is a joy to use and very accurate. It comes with spare nibs and a metal case.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need a larger display: if 16-inches at 2K is too small then the Wacom Cintiq 22 is a better option, though more expensive.

❌ You want higher resolution display: while the 2K display is good at 16-inches, it can feel less vibrant than a Wacom.

The bottom line

🔎 The XPPen Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) is an impressive pen display and offers great value for money; it features kit Wacom charges extra for and has a great stylus. Though its display could be better. ★★★★

Need to know: The XPPen Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) is an affordable pen display that manages to squeeze in some excellent tech for less, including a lead-edge stylus with 16K levels of pressure and a design that takes the Quick Keys off the tablet and into a remote, meaning there's more room to draw.

Design: This is a nicely designed pen display with a good feel and some nice touches, like the large curved bar along the bottom of the display to rest your wrist when drawing. It's overall a clean design with a hidden folding stand at the rear, buttons and connections are subtle and the curved edges give it a nice feel. 

As with the Xencelabs tablets the Quick Keys are removed from the display's frame and put onto the included remote control. The stylus 'bulged' Wacom-like design and comes in a neat case. This pen display can also be used as a graphics tablet by switching the screen off, which will appeal to some.

Features: This pen display is easy to setup and use, and I've really enjoyed creating digital art on this budget pen display. It features an excellent stand and the Quick Key remote is fully customisable (and included). The stylus particularly impresses; XPPen's new stylus is worth focusing on as it features an impressive 16,384 levels of pressure sensitivity twice as much as Wacom and Xencelabs stylus.

The display is 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA) resolution with a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is around 1440p (2K) so less than Wacom and Xencelabs, and can feel a little dull against the Wacom, but on a 16-inch screen it's fine. It still features 99% sRGB and has an etched anti-glare covering for a 'toothy' paper-like feel. Like the Wacom at No.5 this lacks touch and gesture control.

XPPen is offering a lot of kit that other brands, such as Wacom, charge extra for, which is why I'd recommend this to students, as it's affordable, well-made and reliable. It can also be used as a drawing tablet or a second screen.

Price: The XPPen Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) costs $599.99 / £529.99, which makes it very affordable. Considering it comes with accessories other brands, such as Wacom, charge extra for, I'd recommend this to students or beginners.

Read the full review: XPPen Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) review

The best pen computer overall

The best pen computer overall for digital artists

Specifications

Active drawing area: 10.32 x 7.74in
Screen resolution: 2,732 x 2,048
Pen pressure sensitivity: Not specified (requires optional Apple Pencil)
Connections: Thunderbolt 4, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
OS: iPadOS 16

Reasons to buy

+
Unbeatable processing power
+
Apple Pencil 2 support
+
New ultra-powerful display

Reasons to avoid

-
Very pricey for a drawing tablet

The iPad Pro offers the best of two worlds; if having the best drawing tablet simply isn't enough for you, and you need to have the best tablet all round, there's really only one choice: the all-new 12.9-inch M2 iPad Pro. It's so far ahead of the rest of the tablet market that it's not even funny.

Not only is the iPad Pro powered by Apple's blazing fast M2 chip for utterly stunning performance, it has a mini-LED XDR display with amazing brightness as well as local dimming to deliver astonishing contrast. Put the two together (and throw in the wonderfully smooth and intuitive Apple Pencil 2) and you have a near-unbeatable all-in-one system for creating digital art as well as showing it off to best effect.

The iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M2, 2022) is so powerful, and so priced accordingly, that if you are only looking for a drawing tablet and won't need its many other features, it probably isn't worth it, and a dedicated tool like those above will offer greater value for money. This is why I've named this my favourite pen computer, in line with the more expensive Wacom MobileStudio Pro. Not everyone needs a pen computer, and Apple has cornered the market for these kinds of drawing tablets, but I'd also recommend buying the Rock, Paper, Pencil screen protector for a feel closer to a Wacom or specialist pen display.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that this is the one of the best overall tablets on the market right now, and one of the greatest for digital art, no question. It's worth noting the amazing Procreate only works on iPads, which is another reason iPad Pro is my pick for best pen computer overall. Read our hands-on iPad Pro (M2, 2022) review for more on what this device is capable of and see our comparison of iPad Vs drawing tablets if you're trying to choose between an iPad or a dedicated device for drawing.

The best pen computer for 3D

The best pen computer for 3D is a tablet powerhouse

Specifications

Active drawing area: 15.6 inch or 13.3 inch
Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (UHD)
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels of pen pressure
Connections: Bluetooth 5.1, WiFi, x3 USB-C ports, Thunderbolt 3, SD card
OS: Windows

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic 4K display
+
Runs full art and VFX software
+
Wacom's excellent build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Too heavy for real mobility
-
Short batter life

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 is a powerhouse and large pen computer that can run full versions of software, unlike iPad Pro that runs paired-down apps. This means you can run task-heavy software like ZBrush and I've had Houdini running on my older MobileStudio Pro. Wacom makes two skews of its only pen computer, the smaller 13.3-inch model and the 15.6-inch model, chosen here. I've picked the more expensive, larger build as this offers a true alternative to iPad Pro - if you're a digital artist who works in 3D and VFX this larger screen is needed too.

In our Wacom MobileStudio Pro review we loved the overall power, GPU performance, display and excellent stylus but also noted this is a heavy tablet (it weighs 2kg) and given the size and weight doesn't come with a built-in stand, you can buy one separately.

I own an older Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 and can attest to the points made in our review, but I would also add that this tablet is a workhorse; I have been using mine for nearly eight years and its still going strong; Wacom really knows how to build drawing tablets and pen displays that last. The only niggle in this time is the battery life has dimmed, and even new Wacom MobileStudio Pro tablets lack the long battery life of an iPad, for example. But then this can run software which will demand more power.

Overall Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 is an extremely well-made 'mobile' pen computer for professional artists, that is larger than iPad Pro but just misses out on being best overall because of its weight and battery life.

The best budget pen computer

A great iPad alternative and affordable pen computer for artists

Specifications

Active drawing area: 12.2-inch, 3:2 ratio
Resolution: 2160 x 1440
Pen pressure sensitivity: 6,384 levels of pen pressure, EMR tech
Connections: Bluetooth 5.1, WiFi, USB-C 2.0
OS: Android

Reasons to buy

+
A mobile tablet designed for artists
+
Light and easy to use
+
Amazing stylus

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack the power of iPad Pro

The new XPPen Magic Drawing Pad is pitched as the first dedicated portable drawing tablet. It kind of is too, while you can use an iPad for digital painting, and the iPad Pro is a perfect, powerful choice, it's not designed specifically for creating art like the Magic Pad.

This is essentially XPPen's excellent drawing tablet tech put into a mobile tablet. So you get a 2160 x 1440 resolution, anti-glare, etched display which is slightly flexible so it reacts more to your sketching and pen strokes than the rigid screen of an iPad. A real star is also the excellent XPPen X3 Pro Pencil that offers 16k levels of pen pressure, the same as XPPen's desktop pen displays and more than iPad (Apple keeps its specs secret but Apple Pencil 2 is around 8K of pressure).

For my XPPen Magic Drawing Pad review I took the tablet out into the hills around where I work for a day of sketching, and it was a joy to use. It is underpowered compared to my iPad Pro, but I would use this instead of an iPad or iPad air (and this is much cheaper than all three Apple options) as it just feels great to use. 

It does run on Android, so you're wedded to the best drawing apps for Android, but you'll also be surprised how far this mobile OS has come, it's a very slick and supports some excellent digital art apps, such as ArtRage Vitae and ibisPaint X, both of which come pre-installed. If you're keen on digital plein-air painting this is a fantastic option and a recommended budget pen computer.

Why you can trust us

I first tried drawing on a computer as a teenager using my Amiga with Deluxe Paint but had to use a mouse, and the results we terrible. Many years later I was lucky enough to work on digital fantasy art magazine ImagineFX where I caught the art bug again, this time I was able to us a Wacom drawing tablet

Over a decade later I've used and reviewed many drawing tablets, pen displays and pen computers to draw and paint. These days I tend to use an iPad Pro (2022) 11-inch with an Apple Pencil 2 and Procreate, but I also love the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium and the new XPPen Magic Drawing Pad with ArtRage Vitae (one of the best drawing apps for Android) for a different feel. 

Who are drawing tablets for?

Though they began as devices for artists and designers, these days a drawing tablet (or a graphics tablet) is a flat, plastic panel with pressure sensors to measure the input of a pen stylus and transfer this data to computer screen. The best drawing tablets come with stylus that also that has above 8,192, the new XPPen and Ugee stylus for example can detect over 16K of pressure, as well as tilt accuracy.

This pressure sensitivity ensures the tablet can sense how much pressure you're pushing onto the screen so you can create thick to thin lines, as well as opacity of marks, for a realistic drawing experience. 

The difference between a dedicated drawing tablet and an iPad that can be used for art is the feel of the screen; a drawing tablet from Wacom or pen display from XPPen will have a etched screen for a tactile paper-like feel, while iPad screens are glossy and hard (the feel of drawing on an iPad comes from the sensitivity of the Apple Pencil). You can also change nibs on a stylus for a different feel, for example felt nibs are good for a softer, brush-like sensation.

Drawing tablets are the ideal way to use the digital art software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Rebelle 7 or Corel Painter. There are different apps for iPad and Android too, for example the iPad exclusive Procreate Dreams has been designed to use Apple Pencil. The best 3D modelling and VFX software really need to be used with drawing tablet too, and it's worth noting many artists prefer the thicker stylus of Wacom when modelling in ZBrush and Maya.

Ugee M908 review; using a drawing tablet on a bus

Different drawing tablets have different uses, and yes, we do try 'mobile' tablets on our train journey to work. (Image credit: Future / Ugee)

For beginners the one or two short cut keys that sit on a typical stylus are all you need for undo and zoom functions, but professionals need more options, this is why you'll see some drawing tablets with a row of programmable shortcut keys and some without. A new design trend that I personally like is the removal of shortcut keys onto a remote device, giving more room to draw and slimmer bezels on the tablet itself. With this in mind, expect to pay below $100 for a good beginner drawing tablet  but around $300-$500 for a professional drawing tablet.

Finally, drawing tablets aren't just for artists and designers. Not everyone loves using a mouse and many of us have suffered from cramp or repetitive strain syndrome when using a touchpad. Drawing tablets can help if you find using typical mice and touchpads as they're more accurate and the movement of using a stylus is more natural. With this in mind, the smaller more affordable drawing tablets, like the Wacom One S, Xencelabs Pen Tablet Small or Huion Inspiroy H430P, are good options.

How to choose the best drawing tablet

Deciding on which is the best digital art tablet for you can come down to a number of factors, including size, resolution and price. But picking a drawing tablet is as much about how you intend to use it and whether this is your first tablet or not. Here I break down the key things you need to keep in mind.

Size If you have the space then a drawing tablet of 16-inches and up is a good size as it enables you to 'sweep' your arm across the surface for a natural drawing motion. Sizes below this are still good, and smaller tablets connected to a smartphone mean you can doodle on the go.

Price There are lots of drawing tablets to choose from in the 'budget' category, and the best Huion tablets as well as those from Ugee and XPPen are excellent options. When considering price also look at what is not included, as some brands omit the drawing stand and some cables. The new Wacom One series is a more affordable entry point for this established brand, too.

Stylus Here you're looking for at least 8,192 levels of pen sensitivity, older or non-specialist stylus drop to 4,096, which okay for general tasks but not ideal for digital art these days. When testing a stylus for reliability I usually track around the tablet, edge to edge, and run strokes across the tablet of varying pressures to create thick and thin lines, and crucially draw small, tight circles - cheap stylus struggle here. 

Drivers A drawing tablet's driver is the software you download to your computer to calibrate the tablet's accuracy, latency and how it connects to installed art software. From experience this is where cheaper tablets stumble, Wacom for example is superb and stable with the all main digital art apps, while budget brands can be harder to setup and work with fewer apps.

Screen type Whether you choose a traditional drawing tablet or a newer pen display can depend on your way of working, some artists prefer the older way of working, especially if they're use to looking up at a large screen. Pen displays can feel more accurate as you're interacting directly with the art on a screen, but cheaper ones can suffer more latency issues than cheaper screen-less drawing tablets. Newer XPPen and Wacom pen displays offer the option to toggle the display on and off.

How we tested the best drawing tablets

We test and review our drawing tablets as they'd be used by you if you bought one. This means we spend weeks using a drawing tablet with a variety of digital art software to create art. This list began at 20 drawing tablets across all types, including pen displays and pen computers, and has been whittled down to these nine.

This list is curated from reviews on our site, including my own reviews. If I've not directly reviewed one of the tablets on my list I have made an effort to use it. When reviewing a tablet I test them on a MacBook Pro (2022), my Android Nothing Phone 2 and my Windows 11 laptop. I try a mix of software including Rebelle 7 and Photoshop for Windows, Procreate for iPads and ArtRage Vitae and ibisPaint for Android devices. I ensure the latest firmware is updated and download the latest tablet drivers for each device. 

Best drawing tablets; line tests

We like to test the accuracy and response of drawing tablets and stylus using regulated strokes and circles. (Image credit: Future / Ugee)

Some of the main things myself and our reviewers look out for when testing are factors like the pressure sensitivity and accuracy, the colour gamut and accuracy, the screen quality and brightness and the ergonomics of the tablet, all of which factor into a whole host of use cases. We run the same stroke tests to gauge how sensitive a style is, for example heavy to light pressure and tight circles.

Things we look for in our reviews and tests include stutter, lag and latency; where possible we try and correct any problems and in doing so test each tablet's driver software and calibration software.

I also like to ask questions directly to the manufacturer if there's an issue, and often there is a known problem and a software update is due. I also like to retest drawing tablets over time to see how it has improved or if a manufacturer has added to its package with a free stand or alternative stylus.

Ugee UE12 Plus review; a dragon illustration on a drawing tablet display

We like to test the setup of drawing tablets and how they connect and fit with laptops. (Image credit: Future / Ugee)

We also want to see a nice and easy set-up, especially for pen displays and tablets which often require specific drivers to be installed on the PC or laptop you're plugging it into. If the tablet includes (or is best compatible with) a specific stylus, we also test these to see how ergonomic they are and assess any features these add to the drawing experience as well as build quality.

I also like to watch for cramp and strain when using a tablet and a stylus. First impressions can often dull after hours and days with a stylus. Only by using a drawing tablet regularly can you find if it's comfortable, if the stylus is too light, too short, too heavy; or if tablet's size hinders or helps arm movement and strokes - the Xencelabs Pen Display 24 (2023) is excellent, for example, because it has larger bezels to rest your wrist. 

Myself and our reviewers also experiment with each tablet's unique settings and features, fiddling with the drivers where relevant to see how far you can push the settings as well as trying them on a variety of connections - this can mean testing a drawing tablet with Mac, Windows and Android devices. You can read a general guide to how we test and review on Creative Bloq.

FAQs

What are the different types of best drawing tablets?

Broadly speaking, there are three main types of drawing tablet. Each takes a different approach to the central challenge of helping you create digital art and draw on your Windows PC or Mac, as if you were drawing on paper. 

Drawing tablets

These connect to a device but don't feature in-built screens, meaning you'll need to use your monitor or laptop screen to see what you're drawing. These are often the most cost-effective options and many artists like using these as it means they can have a large monitor at eye level. My favourite is the Xenceabs Pen Tablet (both Medium and Small).

Good for Affordable and large sizes, reliable and accurate, offer a tactile drawing experience, can be used with large monitors, a replacement for mice and trackpads.

Reasons to avoid You find the 'looking up' setup awkward, prefer the direct response of drawing on a screen, want to replicate a traditional 'easel' workspace, you still need a computer.

Pen displays

These are drawing tablets that feature an integrated screen but must still be connected to a laptop or PC to function. These are the favoured form factor of most professionals and mid-weight creatives, offering a detailed and ergonomic drawing experience. These can be large and come with built-in stands; smaller pen displays can also be used as traditional drawing tablets by turning off the screen - the best of both worlds.

Good for A natural way to draw, offer excellent precision and accuracy, uses a stand for a traditional 'easel' setup.

Reasons to avoid Not all displays are 4K, not all pen displays have touch controls, more expensive than traditional drawing tablets, can feel less tactile, you still nee a computer.

Pen computers

These are tablets made by generalist tech brands such as Apple, Microsoft and Samsung. These don't need to be plugged into a computer, but lack some of the drawing-first features associated with pen tablets and displays, whether that's screen size and texture or stylus sensitivity. New to this type of drawing tablet is XPPen with its Magic Drawing Pad, this mixes dedicated drawing tablet tech with its mobile CPU to run apps like ArtRage Viate from the device.

Good for An excellent mobile art tablet, compliments a desktop setup, no need for a laptop or PC, iPad, Samsung and XPPen offer excellent stylus, touch and gesture controls, bespoke apps like Procreate, can have other uses.

Reasons to avoid These are expensive, smaller than pen displays and drawing tablets, drawing on gloss screens can be 'slippery', not all are specifically designed for digital art.

Are there drawing tablets for kids?

Yes, there's a growing market of drawing tablets for children, and you can check out our dedicated drawing tablets for kids guide if this is something you're looking for. These have been designed to be easy to use and indestructible.

Are there drawing tablets for smartphones?

More drawing tablet brands are now enabling drawing tablets to be connected to smartphones, Android devices and use Linux. These are often smaller than standard drawing tablets and can fit neatly into a bag, as well as using USB-C to USB-C cables. My three best drawing tablets for smartphones and mobiles would be:

Ugee M808 A small 10 x 6.25 inch drawing tablet with shortcut keys.

Parblo Intangbo X7 This one has a unique device switcher.

Wacom One S The new budget option offers superior build quality.

Graphics tablets vs Pen displays: what's the difference?

If you've been around computers for a long time, this is what you probably think of instinctively at the mention of a drawing tablet: a plain surface that you draw on with a stylus, with your work displayed on a separate computer monitor, also known as a pen tablet or graphics tablet. These remain the most affordable drawing tablet category. Their main disadvantage is the sense of ‘disconnect’ between the drawing surface and the screen, although most people get used to this quickly. 

Pen displays consists of a flat-screen monitor with a pressure-sensitive surface that you draw on with a stylus. They don't have the sense of disconnect that you might get with graphics tablets, and they're more portable; however they cost more. Furthermore, you get a lot of cables between the display and computer (see the best computers for graphic design), and many of the display surfaces don’t offer the ‘bite’ that graphics tablets do. 

Are tablets any good for drawing?

Android, Windows and iOS devices like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro take on the other drawing tablets in two ways. You don't need another computer: just download an art app and start drawing with your fingertip or a stylus. Also, when you want to use the Creative Cloud suite on your main computer, these can function as graphics tablets with apps like Astropad. 

As for how good they are for drawing, well, it depends on what you need. The iPad has incredible software like Procreate and the very capable Apple Pencil 2 offers some pretty impressive features and specs, but it's very expensive. The Surface Pro range is better suited for sketching and doodling, but at a push could handle some more detailed art if you're willing to work for it.

Ian Dean
Editor, Digital Arts & 3D

Ian Dean is Editor, Digital Arts & 3D at Creativebloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his experiences to bring the latest news on AI, digital art and video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Procreate, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.