Drawing tablets have come a long way since the only game in town was a Wacom Intuos. Today there are options to suit all budgets – from powerful, feature-packed pen displays with high-resolution touchscreens to mid-range and cheap drawing tablets that balance price with power.
There are also three categories of drawing tablet, each taking a different approach to the central challenge of helping you draw on your Windows PC or Mac as if you were drawing on paper.
So which style of drawing tablet is best for you? Before we bring you our pick of the best options – which you'll find further down this article – we'll take a look at the different types.
Roughly speaking, drawing tablets break down into three broad categories:
So which type and model should you go for? That's where we can help. Read on to find the best drawing tablet for your needs and budget – and the best prices.
The best drawing tablet 2018 overall
Probably the most desirable drawing tablet on the market, the Wacom Cintiq 22HD touch enables you to draw direct onto its screen. It's generously sized so you can go large with your brush strokes, but the stylus is sensitive enough to cope with your most subtle expressions, too. The stand takes some getting used to, but enables you to switch between a near-flat configuration for drawing and an upright position for when you want to use the Cintiq 22HD touch as a regular monitor.
The best cheap drawing tablet
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.
The best graphics tablets
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 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.
Designers don’t typically require the range of movement that illustrators demand, making this smaller edition of the Wacom Intuos Pro graphics tablet just the job. As well as the drawing area, eight shortcut keys and a Touch Ring give you access to your most-used commands and tools, so you don’t have to keep flipping between your tablet and your keyboard while you’re focusing on iterating a concept. The Intuos Pro also supports multi-touch fingertip gestures, making it easy for you pan and zoom around your current document.
The best drawing tablet for beginners
If you’re not sure whether a drawing tablet is something you’ll use regularly enough to justify the cost, the H430P gives you all the basics without requiring an 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.
The second Huion drawing tablet on our list is the H640P, which boasts a comfortable drawing experience in a convenient size for travel. If you work between studios or like to draw from a laptop on the move, you’ll need a drawing tablet like this that packs away handily – but still lets you draw with expression. The Huion H640P measures just 10.2 x 5.8 inches and is no thicker than a smartphone, but offers a set of shortcut keys as well as its drawing area.
The best tablet PC for drawing
If you have the budget, the MobileStudio offers everything you could want in a drawing tablet. With a choice of Intel Core processors and solid-state drive storage capacities, it’s a fully fledged Windows computer. But it also benefits from the same technology Wacom brings to its Cintiq pen display range, making the MobileStudio a pleasure to draw with. And if you want, you can even tether it to the more powerful PC or Mac in your studio with the optional Wacom Link. A 16in MobileStudio is also available.
The best Windows tablet for drawing
The Surface Book 2 delivers true versatility for the designer on the go. You can use it as a regular laptop, then twist the screen to turn it into a flat tablet with a touch-sensitive screen. For drawing, you need to add the optional Surface Pen, which provides a respectable 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. You don’t get the deep drawing experience of the Wacom MobileStudio, but you do get a device that keeps up with your needs wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.
The best iOS tablet for drawing
The deluxe edition of the popular iPad doesn’t offer any single major benefit over a regular iPad, but rather a series of small improvements that make their presence felt in daily use. The display presents more colours and has a higher refresh rate. An optional keyboard enables you to use the iPad Pro in a similar way to a laptop, and the optional Apple Pencil ($93/£94) is a delight to draw with. iOS creative apps don’t offer all the features you’d expect from a Windows or macOS program, but the gap is narrowing all the time.
Read more: iPad Pro 12.9 (2017) review
The best Android tablet for drawing
A high-quality OLED display and – yes – a stylus you don’t have to pay extra for form the foundation of a capable digital drawing platform, and that's what you get with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Adobe offers good support for Android, and other big names like Autodesk SketchBook are also available. However, bear in mind that iOS still has more app choice for designers and artists. And while the glass back feels classy, it perhaps isn’t the best surface for resting the tablet on your desk. All in all, this is a very capable digital sketchbook – and Samsung’s pen-operated Air Command menu system means the stylus is useful for more than just drawing.
Read more: TechRadar’s Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review
Drawing tablet accessories
Need a recap? Here are the best drawing tablets and graphics tablets of 2018…
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