Creative arts require a lot of supplies. But what if you could eliminate most of them? Whether it’s a canvas, a sketchbook, paints or graphic pens, a drawing tablet has the ability to condense all the major tools a designer needs, and pack them into a slim, book-sized frame.
It’s not a requirement for every artist, but it does have a lot of advantages, says Hiba Hassan, head of the Design and Visual Communications department at SAE Institute Dubai. She told Gulf News: “While the tablet is not necessary for a graphic designer to do their work, it brings speed in navigating the screen, providing a better and easier flow of work. It also allows drawing directly onto the screen, giving a more natural and intuitive drawing experience, especially for illustrators.”
Different from regular tablets that we use for work or streaming content, drawing tablets mimic the experience of using paper. They can accurately transfer the strokes you make, using a stylus, onto the computer screen, and create digital files that are easy for you to edit, print or send to your colleagues or clients.
What should I look for when buying a drawing tablet?
The devices appeal to a wide range of people in creative fields – from photographers who need to edit or retouch images on the go, to animators, graphic designers and digital illustrators. No matter what your background, there are a few factors you should look out for when picking up a new drawing tablet.
First on the list is screen size and resolution. Hassan said: “Try to meet your screen’s resolution with the tablet. An A4 size should be a good starting point. My personal preference has always been an A5 size (for fewer hand movements and a smaller size for portability); however, with external monitors, it gets tricky to map wide screens to a smaller tablet size where parts of the tablet itself will be dead area. And for a small-sized tablet, there isn’t much space in the first place.”
Next, consider the tablet’s pressure sensitivity. The higher the sensitivity levels, the more precise and fine your creative work can be. Hassan advised: “The required pressure sensitivity will depend on the individual’s needs and preferences. For illustrators, a generally higher level of pressure sensitivity, of 8,192 levels, offers incredibly fine control over line weight and opacity. For designers, a lower level could still do the job – 4,096 levels provide enough control and precision when creating digital art and design at a lower cost. Even 2,048 levels could be an option, depending on the kind of work the designer does.”
Lastly, go for tablets that are compatible with your computer and other external devices, and look for ones that are lightweight and portable.
Which tablet works best for you also depends on whether you’re a professional, a student or a hobbyist. Luckily, there are now plenty of options in the market to suit every creative style and budget.
Hassan recommends the Wacom Intuos Pro for a well-rounded drawing tablet that has a compact design, with high pressure sensitivity levels and tilt recognition. She added: “While the iPad Pro has high resolution and great pen tracking, great battery life, it is not compatible with personal computer operating systems. However, it is a great choice for illustrators on the go.”
We go into detail for both of Hassan’s recommendations, along with other favourites, based on user reviews and ratings, and present them to you in the list below. Get your favourite with Amazon Prime, and enjoy up to 20 per cent off on some of these devices, thanks to the Electronics Fest, which is running until February 28.
1. Best Overall: Wacom Intuos Pro, Medium
- Spacious drawing space
- Over 8,000 pressure sensitivity levels
- Works as both a wireless and wired device
- Slim design aids in portability
- Stylus nibs need to be replaced frequently
- Bluetooth connectivity is not stable, reviewers say
As our expert’s top pick, this versatile, sleek drawing tablet is ideal for professional illustrators. It features lag-free pen tracking and tilt response, and supports 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. This version has a spacious active area that measures 16.8 by 11.2 inches, although Wacom Intuos Pro does come in two other sizes – large and small. Reviewers rave about its incredible precision and commend the drawing experience, especially because its multi-touch gestures make it easy to use. The device has customisable express keys, radial menus and switches on its Wacom Pro Pen 2 (included) for easy access. However, some reviewers cautioned against switching to wireless functionality, since there is noticeable lag when the device is connected via Bluetooth.
Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh105.75 for 12 months with select banks.
2. Best for General Use: Apple iPad Pro (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 128GB), 12.9-inch, Space Gray
- Fast performance
- Excellent display
- Premium design
- Access to wide range of tablet-optimised apps
- No stand or accessories included
- No textured screen finish
The latest Apple iPad Pro is an excellent general-use tablet for drawing, largely in part to its new M2 chip, which makes it faster and more responsive than ever before. The brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR (extended detection and response) display brings all your vibrant art to life. It’s ultra-portable, unlike many other graphics tablets, which need to be plugged into external devices to work. Images on the iPad Pro refresh twice as fast as most other tablets, thanks to its 120Hz refresh rate. You’ll also never have to worry about lagging – the device features both Wi-Fi 6E and 5G connectivity. While the device’s screen doesn’t have a pen-to-paper feel, you can pick up a paper-textured screen protector to achieve the texture. Reviewers also say their major gripe with the iPad Pro is that they have to an Apple Pencil separately, which is an added cost.
Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay 354.83 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers 1-year extended warranty for Dh256, 1-year accidental damage protection for Dh427, and 2-year damage protection with 1-year extended warranty for Dh545.
3. Best for Professionals: Wacom Cintiq 22
- Excellent drawing experience
- Robust, sleek design
- Large drawing surface
- No express keys
A beautiful drawing tablet that will appeal to both professionals and amateur illustrators, Wacom’s Cintiq 22 has a lot going for it. With a large, 21.5-inch screen, and a Full HD (high definition) display, it offers excellent visuals, with plenty of space to create. The slate boasts an impressive 5080 lines per inch (LPI) resolution – which translates to extremely accurate detection – and its Wacom Pro Pen 2 (included) engages with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. So, it’s easily one of the best graphic tablets for precision out there, right now. Reviewers enjoy thoughtful additions, like the tablet’s adjustable stand that lets you tilt it up to 82 degrees, but wish the device featured express keys or shortcuts. To avail yourself of this functionality, you’ll have to buy the Wacom ExpressKey Remote separately.
Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh297.56 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers 1-year extended warranty for Dh227, 1-year accidental damage protection for Dh380, and 2-year damage protection with 1-year extended warranty for Dh484.
4. Best Value: XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro
- Good stylus Cons
- Features eight programmable buttons
- Includes accessories
- Stand has to be bought separately
- Build is not very sturdy, reviewers say
At an affordable price, XP-Pen still manages to offer excellent performance and design quality with its lightweight drawing tablet. The Artist Pro pen display can be customised with its eight programmable buttons, which you can use to assign your favourite or most-used functions. Its large, 15.6-inch slate has a fully laminated HD display that’s bright and visually appealing. A red dual-control dial on the side allows you to pan, zoom and change the brush size, among other functions. Its XP-Pen stylus (included) doesn’t disappoint, with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and up to 60-degree tilt. Although reviewers say the tablet and its stand don’t feel very sturdy, lacking the premium build of the iPad Pro or even Wacom Cintiq 22, it still delivers a great drawing experience, at an excellent price.
Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh80 for 12 months with select banks.
5. Best Budget: Huion Inspiroy H1060P Graphics Drawing Tablet
- Lots of express keys
- Stylus does not need a battery
- Affordable price
- Only uses a micro-USB cable connection
If you’re looking for your first drawing tablet and are not sure if it will improve your workflow, it’s worth picking up a budget model that you can experiment on. Huion Inspiroy includes both a tablet and stylus in its cheerful price, but does compromise on features to achieve its affordable price. With a 10 by 6.25-inch active area, it’s spacious enough for sketches, and even offers 12 customised press keys and 16 customised soft keys programmable buttons in the top and left sections of the work space. The stylus has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and stands up well to much more expensive counterparts. The device works with both Windows PC and Mac, and pairs with Android devices, too. However, without a USB Type-C cable connection, reviewers say they find it difficult to connect to their devices.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.