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The best drawing tablets in 2021: our pick of the best graphics tablets

Included in this guide:

Best drawing tablets
(Image credit: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash)

Our guide to the best drawing tablets is here to help you find the right tool for your digital art. Drawing tablets come in all sorts of sizes and configurations, with a range of different features for different types of artists. Some have their own displays, some need to be plugged into monitors, and some are multifunctional tablets that also allow you to watch Netflix.

This guide is designed to help you narrow down your search and find the tablet that’s right for you. Whether you’re an experienced professional artist or a complete newbie who’s never held a stylus before, there are tablets here that represent a great buy. We’ve aimed to cover every skill level and price point to suit all budgets. 

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If you are new to tablets, you may want a quick rundown of the types available. Broadly drawing tablets can be split into three categories – graphics tablets, pen displays and tablet computers. Our explainer goes into detail about the differences between each type – jump straight to the types of tablet.

We’ve included models from market leader Wacom, as well as keenly priced competitors like Huion, XP-Pen and Xencelabs. But it would be remiss not to include one of the most disruptive drawing tablets of recent years – none other than Apple’s iPad Pro, which is one of the best drawing experiences around. We’ve assessed the pros and cons of each model to help you get a sense of which is right for you. 

If you’re shopping for a tablet to start your studies, you may want to check out our guide to the best tablets for students, and if you’re buying for a little one, we have a dedicated guide to the best drawing tablets for kids. But for now, let’s get to the best drawing tablets you can buy!

Xencelabs tablet mediumcb badge

(Image credit: Xencelabs)

The best pen tablet comes with some excellent accessories

Specifications
Active drawing area: 10.3 x 5.8in
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192
Connections: USB-C to USB-A
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic build quality+Lovely drawing experience+Accessories included
Reasons to avoid
-Requires external display

This dazzling new kid on the block is turning some serious heads in the digital art world. Xencelabs is a new company that counts a few ex-Wacom employees among its roster, and as such, its Medium Pen Tablet clearly takes a few pointers from the market leaders. So successfully, in fact, that we reckon it’s the best drawing tablet you can buy right now. Its size is pretty much optimal for most users, neither too large nor too small, and its price undercuts a lot of the professional competition.

Having a customisable Quick Key remote packaged in the box is a nice extra touch and gives you real flexibility when it comes to control. It’s not the industry standard (yet) so if you’re embarking upon a career then you may want to consider a Wacom so you’re used to the tablets most people are using. But really, there’s no reason not to try the Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet – except if you’d prefer a tablet with its own display.

Find out more by reading our full Xencelabs Pen Tablet medium bundle review.

Best drawing tabletsCB

(Image credit: Wacom)

This drawing tablet is still fantastic

Specifications
Active drawing area: 19.5 x 11.5in
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: HDMI, USB 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Excellent pressure sensitivity+Fantastic price
Reasons to avoid
-Low screen res for the size-No built-in ExpressKeys

Wacom has put together what we consider to be the optimal balance between functionality and affordability in its Cintiq 22 drawing tablet. The large, Full HD drawing screen is delightful to use, with immense freedom to make broad, sweeping pen strokes. The surface too is well-designed, with an anti-glare finish, and the provided Wacom Pen 2 has extensive pressure and tilt sensitivity, for capturing the subtlest variations in angle and movement. It's just immensely satisfying to use, as good for artists near the start of their journey as it is for seasoned professionals looking to upgrade. 

If you need even more quality then seek out the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24. If you need something with a lower asking price and don’t mind compromising on screen size, then we’d recommend the excellent Wacom Cintiq 16. For an optimal balance between price and functionality, however, we reckon the Wacom Cintiq 22 is the best offering from Wacom right now.

Find out more with our Wacom Cintiq 22 review.

Best drawing tablets: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021)cb badge

(Image credit: Apple)

An incredible drawing tablet with plenty of features

Specifications
Active drawing area: 10.32 x 7.74in
Resolution: 2,732 x 2,048
Pen pressure sensitivity: Not specified (requires optional Apple Pencil)
Connections: Thunderbolt 4, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
OS: iPadOS 14.6
Reasons to buy
+Unbeatable processing power+New ultra-powerful display
Reasons to avoid
-iPadOS needs a refresh-More than you need?

Apple is basically just showing off now. Like a Mario Kart player who's so effortlessly crushing the competition they start doing donuts in front of the finish line, the firm's latest tablet is simply miles ahead of the rest. The 2021 refresh of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch comes with the M1 processing chip, which was previously only found in Macs. This enables apps to run faster than ever, and when it's paired with the all-new mini-LED-powered XDR display, produces a system for making and displaying digital art that's simply unrivalled.

Drawing with the Apple Pencil 2 is still a smooth and intuitive experience. The new screen really is an improvement across the board, with not only greater overall brightness, but improved control of local dimming, meaning that areas of contrast have greater nuance and definition to them. 

So why, with all this, is it not our top pick? Well, it does depend on what you need. The iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) 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. Still, let's not lose sight of the fact that this is the best overall tablet on the market right now, and one of the greatest for drawing, no question (see our iPad Pro 12.9-inch M1 (2021) review for a detailed look at why, and also note that the 11-inch iPad Pro is another excellent, though expensive, choice).

best drawing tablet: XP-Pen Artist 15.6 pen displayCB endorsed

(Image credit: XP-Pen)

04. XP-Pen Artist 15.6 pen display

A well-sized pen display at a price that might surprise you

Specifications
Active drawing area: 13.54 x 7.62in
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB-C
OS: Windows or macOS
Reasons to buy
+Highly affordable display+Good pen and drawing surface
Reasons to avoid
-Sound build quality-Stand not included

All the basics you could want from a pen display are covered by the XP-PEN Artist 15.6: a reasonably sized drawing area, a comfortable pen with plenty of sensitivity levels, and a good screen. You don’t get quite the attention to detail or the advanced ecosystem of extras that Wacom provides, and the offset between the stylus tip and the on-screen cursor takes some getting used to, but this remains a pen display that can transform your digital creativity without breaking the bank. 

Hands-down one of the best cheap drawing tablets right now, the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 pen display is a perfect starter tablet, or a good choice for anyone who wants an affordable upgrade.

best drawing tablet: Huion H430P

(Image credit: Huion)

05. Huion H430P

Get started with this low-cost but very usable mini drawing tablet

Specifications
Active drawing area: 4.8 x 3in
Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels
Connections: USB
OS: Windows or macOS
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant starter tablet+Low cost
Reasons to avoid
-Four shortcut keys-Drawing area small for some

If you’re not sure whether a drawing tablet is something you’ll use regularly enough to justify the cost, the second Huion tablet on our list, the H430P, gives you all the basics without requiring a big investment. The drawing area is small, yes, but the pen is sensitive enough to give you a true sense of the creative benefits drawing tablets can bring. It may not take long before you outgrow this tablet, but it’s a very affordable way to get started.

Best drawing tablets: Huion Kamvas Pro 24

(Image credit: Huion)

06. Huion Kamvas Pro 24

Huion's premium drawing tablet boasts some serious specs

Specifications
Active drawing area: 20.7 x 11.6in
Resolution: 2.5K 2560 x 1440 QHD
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: HDMI/DP/VGA
Reasons to buy
+Super high-resolution+Responsive
Reasons to avoid
-Display may be more than you need

Huion refreshed its lineup in 2020 with the swanky new Kamvas range of drawing tablets, and the Kamvas Pro 24 is the top of the line. Despite being more reasonably priced than big-ticket tablets like the iPad Pro 12.9, it's got pretty serious specs, with a 1440p QHD display that looks utterly fantastic. Its colours are punchy, its details are tack sharp; it's quite simply a joy to behold.

The drawing experience on the Kamvas Pro 24 is immensely satisfying thanks to the supplied stylus with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. You've got a big, satisfying space to work on, and the tablet covers 120% of the sRGB colour gamut, able to display 16.7million colours and ensure your image is always rendered with perfect accuracy.

This is, of course, a brand new tablet, so it's generally for sale at full whack, and the asking price is pretty hefty. For the same amount you can get one of the multi-functional tablets on our list, so it may be worth asking yourself if you want to drop that kind of cash on something that's so specialised. However, this is one of the best drawing experiences going right now. 

For more on the different tablets Huion offers, see our best Huion drawing tablets piece.

Best drawing tablets: XP-Pen Artist Pro 16

(Image credit: XP-Pen)

A swish-feeling tablet that offers a ‘pro’ experience at a tempting price

Specifications
Active drawing area: 13.42 x 7.55 inch
Resolution: 1920×1080 (full HD)
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Excellent drawing feel+Minimal parallax
Reasons to avoid
-No stand included-Screen could be brighter

XP-Pen continues to carve out an impressive niche in the mid-range of drawing tablets, with the XP-Pen Artist Pro 16 offering a premium-feeling experience at a consumer-friendly price. A minor upgrade on the Innovator 16, it offers an excellent drawing surface with 99% Adobe RGB coverage and virtually no parallax. 

The XP-Pen Artist Pro 16 boasts a new stylus with an intelligent chip, promising a 10-fold increase in touch sensitivity. This allows for some real lightness of touch when it comes to making fine lines, requiring just 3g of pressure to make a mark. Having dual dials and eight customisable shortcut buttons makes controlling the Artist Pro 16 a pleasingly tactile process, as does the all-metal casing that surrounds it.

The lack of an included stand is a little disappointing, and some monitor setups may require a bit of a mess of cables to get working, which may annoy those who prefer a clean desktop. But otherwise this is an impressive, sleek, tempting tablet. 

Read more with our full XP-Pen Artist Pro 16 review

The best drawing tablets

(Image credit: Microsoft)

08. Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5 inch)

The best Windows tablet for drawing – but it comes at a price

Specifications
Active drawing area: 11.25 x 7.5in
Resolution: 3000 x 2000
Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels (with Surface Pen)
Connections: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, USB-C
OS: Windows 10 Pro
Reasons to buy
+Impressively versatile+Excellent build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Surface Pen costs extra

One of the latest of Microsoft’s impressive laptop/tablet hybrids, the Surface Book 3 is very clearly a premium product from the moment you take it out of the box. Its build quality is gorgeous, and the display looks exceptional. Once you add the highly impressive Surface Pen to the equation (which does add an extra $100/£100 or so onto the already not-inconsiderable cost of the enterprise) then you’ve got a fantastic drawing tool that’ll synergise beautifully with any Windows workflow you already have going. If this isn’t quite enough display for you, there’s also a 15-inch version – though this of course jacks the price up still further. 

The best drawing tablets

(Image credit: Wacom)

Wacom's most affordable release, bringing a great tablet to the masses

Specifications
Active drawing area: 11.6 x 6.5in
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels
Connections: USB-C, HDMI
OS: Windows, macOS or Android (some devices)
Reasons to buy
+Great on the go+Peerless Wacom quality
Reasons to avoid
-No iPhone compatibility-Small-ish drawing area

Wacom's confusingly named Wacom One (not to be confused with any previous Wacom Ones) is an excellent and portable 13-inch tablet at an extremely competitive price point, no doubt designed to tempt users away from cheaper brands like XP-Pen. Its Full HD display provides 72 per cent NTSC colour and an anti-glare treated film, and the tablet even comes with little legs for standing up when you're out and about and want to quickly get some ideas down. An ideal tablet to slip into your day bag, the Wacom One provides a great drawing experience without costing the earth.

Read our in-depth Wacom One review for more on exactly what to expect from this device. 

Best drawing tablets

(Image credit: XP-Pen)

Highly affordable Wacom alternative, though lacking a few features

Specifications
Active drawing area: 11 x 6in
Resolution: n/a
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB-C
OS: Windows, macOS or Android
Active drawing area: 11 x 6in
Resolution: n/a
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB-C
OS: Windows, macOS or Android
Reasons to buy
+Superb value+Solid build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Software a little janky-No iPhone/iPad support

Undercutting Wacom considerably on price, the XP-Pen Deco Pro is an alternative to the likes of the Intuos Pro, offering a smaller slate of features but for about a third of the cost. So while the software drivers are a little janky, the fundamental drawing experience is rock-solid. The pen may not have the premium feel of a Wacom, but it still offers 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, and the overall design of the tablet has picked up a Red Dot awards. This isn't just a cheap knock-off – it's a premium knock-off, and if you're an artist on a budget, it definitely merits consideration.

Our XP-Pen Deco Pro review will tell you more.

best drawing tablet: Wacom Intuos Pro (large)

(Image credit: Wacom)

The best graphics tablet for artists and illustrators

Specifications
Active drawing area: 12.1 x 8.4in
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
-Drawing area could be larger

When you’re creating artwork, you want room to sketch freely and a pen that feels as close as possible to the paper equivalent. You’ll find both in the Wacom Intuos Pro Large graphics tablet: it's one of the purest drawing experiences you can get from a digital device. The pen provides over 8,000 levels of pressure sensitivity and a drawing area that – while it’s not the biggest available – gives you more than the area of a magazine to play inside. All this is supported by Wacom’s broad ecosystem of alternative pens and Texture Sheets to give your drawing surface a distinctive feel.

The Intuos Pro is also available in other sizes, so if the asking price is a little steep and you’re willing to work with a smaller screen, you may want to consider the Intuos Pro Medium or Intuos Pro Small. Both of these tablets offer similar functionality to the largest version, just with smaller working areas. 

Find out more in our in-depth Wacom Intuos Pro review

The best drawing tablet accessories

Wacom Pro Pen 3D
A third button may not sound much of an innovation, but it enables the Pro Pen 3D to support pan and zoom in three dimensions, giving 3D artists unfettered navigation at their fingertips.

Wacom Inking Pen
For that traditional feel, the Inking Pen enables you to place a sheet of paper on your Wacom tablet then draw onto it with ink, while the tablet captures your drawing movements at the same time. The Inking Pen is only for Intuos tablets: it can damage the screen on Cintiqs and MobileStudios.

Adonit Jot Pro
If the Apple Pencil doesn’t appeal or your iPad isn’t compatible, the Adonit Jot Pro is a stylish pen that works on any iPad (or Android tablet). The nib, combining a fine-point tip with a plastic circle to register on the tablet screen, looks curious but works well in practice.

The best drawing tablets: What are the different types?

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

In terms of drawing tablets, there's everything from professional, high-resolution graphics tablets, to portable tablets that cost less than £40 and fit in a small backpack. There's also a growing market of drawing tablets for little ones, and you can check out our dedicated drawing tablets for kids guide if this is something you're looking for. Want to go unplugged for a bit? Have a look at our best lightboxes for more hands-on creativity. And if you're looking specifically for a tablet for editing, see our best tablets for photo and video editing.

Graphics tablets

The best drawing tablets

(Image credit: Wacom)

The traditional drawing tablet features a flat, featureless surface that you draw on with a stylus, with the image displayed on a computer monitor. Graphics tablets 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

The best drawing tablets

(Image credit: Wacom)

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 experienced with graphics tablets, are more portable and cost more. However, you get a lot of cables between the display and computer (see the best computers for graphic design), and the display surfaces don’t offer the ‘bite’ that graphics tablets do. 

Tablet computers

The best drawing tablets

(Image credit: Apple)

Android 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

The best drawing tablets: Which one should you buy?

Right now, we're confident in saying that the absolute best drawing tablet you can buy is the Wacom Cintiq 22, which provides Wacom's famous quality in a pleasingly large tablet at a surprisingly affordable price. If you want something a bit smaller (and cheaper), then go for the Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet bundle, which comes with some surprisingly cool accessories and is very affordable. 

If you're completely new to this market, it's worth pointing out that there are three different categories to be aware of.

  • Graphics tablets, which you draw directly onto with a stylus
  • Pressure-sensitive pen displays, which are hooked up to a monitor
  • Tablet computers, which can be adapted for drawing with an app

Need a recap? Here are the best drawing tablets, graphics tablets and tablet computers right now...

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