- Aug 07, 2021
- in News
The best drawing tablets in 2021: our pick of the best graphics tablets.
When shopping for the best drawing tablets, it pays to know what you're looking for. There's a lot to consider, including how much resolution you need, how big a screen you want, and whether you need extra features like WiFi. Also, importantly, how much do you have to spend? Even when you factor in all your preferences, there will likely be multiple viable options.
That's why we've put together this guide, to help you whittle it down. We're aware that lots of different people will be looking for new drawing tablets, from experienced professional artists to total newbies and everyone in-between. Some may want a dedicated tablet that's used for drawing and nothing else, while others may want something they can also watch Netflix on when the day's work is done. Here, you'll find both.
Our guide has tablets that cover every skill level and major price point, as well as a broad swathe of the manufacturers on offer. So, you'll find plenty of models from market leader Wacom, but also its main competitors like Huion and XP-Pen, and newcomer Xencelabs. We've also included general-purpose tablets from the likes of Apple, but don't be fooled into thinking these are a compromise. The iPad Pro offers one of the best drawing experiences on the market.
Some of these tablets come with a stylus in the box, while others (most notably the iPad) require you to purchase it separately. This means that while we've included the best deals for each model, some may cost a little extra once you've got the stylus, too. We've noted where this is the case.
Without further ado, let's get to the best drawing tablets! If you want to pick up a bargain, you may also want to see our list of the best tablets for students. And if you're shopping for a little one, check out our roundup of the best drawing tablets for kids.
Xencelabs is a brand new company, though its team includes ex-Wacom employees. At present it only offers one tablet, but it's a corker. The Medium Pen Tablet bundle is seriously impressive. The pen tablet itself is a delight to draw on, and responds deftly to every mark of the stylus, it's a decent size – big enough to draw on but not too big that you can't easily carry it around, and it's very reasonably priced. It also comes with a customisable Quick Key Remote and two styluses. The only bugbear is that it's a pen tablet, so you need to connect it to something else (albeit wirelessly) to view your creations. But that's not necessarily a problem, depending on how you like to work.
Find out more by reading our full Xencelabs Pen Tablet medium bundle review.
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. For an optimal balance between price and functionality, however, we reckon the Wacom Cintiq 22 is the best offering from Wacom right now.
Read more: Wacom Cintiq 22 review
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).