The 10 Best Drawing Tablets of 2021

Create illustrations and animations with these drawing and graphic tablets

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A drawing tablet is almost a second touchscreen for your computer, making it possible for you to use a pen or stylus to input information onto a screen. Just about any creative task on a computer requiring pinpoint precision can greatly benefit from the tactile response of a pen in your hand, but drawing tablets can be particularly valuable for presenters, artists, graphic designers, and Photoshop geeks.

For most people, we think you should just buy the XPEN Artist 12, because of its compatibility and customization features (and it's low price tag).

Our experts evaluated dozens of drawing tablets, and we’ve rounded up our top picks below. If you want a more fully-featured tablet, you may want to take a look at our list of the best tablets.

The Rundown
The XP-Pen Artist12 earns our top spot because of its compatibility, customization, and reasonably affordable price point.
Best Display:
Gaomon PD1560 at Amazon
The Gaomon PD1560 boasts a big, bright, 15.6-inch display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
Best Standalone Drawing Tablet:
Simbans PicassoTab at Amazon
It comes with an active stylus right out of the box and two pre-installed beginner sketch apps for Android.
Best for Beginners:
Huion H420 at Amazon
The smaller size is helpful for designers on the go, as they can just toss it in their bag and use it with their laptops.
Best for Photoshop:
Wacom Intuos Pro at Amazon
The active pen provides a whopping 8,192 levels of pressure-sensitivity, allowing for excellent sketching precision.
Best with Screen:
Wacom Cintiq 16 at Amazon
The Cintiq 16 can portray up to 16.7 million distinct colors, giving it a Gamut accuracy of 72 percent.
It’s a small (10 inches), light (7.1 ounces) device that sits somewhere between a Kindle and an Etch-a-Sketch.
Best for osu!:
XP-PEN StarG640 at Amazon
At only about $40, it’s a great, low-cost, low-risk way to try out this new way of playing osu!
What makes the Cintiq 22 different is the truly massive 21.5-inch display at play here, providing truly excellent performance.
Best Budget:
Wacom One at Amazon
What the Wacom One lacks in raw specs it makes up for in ease of use and, of course, affordability.

Best Overall: XP-PEN Artist12

XP-PEN Artist12
What We Like
  • HD display

  • Programmable hotkeys

  • Great warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Non-intuitive writing connections

The XP-Pen Artist12 earns our top spot because of its compatibility, customization, and reasonably affordable price point. The touchscreen display—a 1920 x 1080 HD IPS display—isn’t the highest resolution available, but with 72% NTSC Color Gamut accuracy, its focus is on reproducing your work with as much precision as possible.

What’s great about having an 11.6-inch display inside your drawing tablet is that you don’t need to look at your other screen while drawing on a separate surface—you’re drawing on the device where your lines and colors are appearing. This makes it feel like you’re really creating art in the real world.

The passive hexagonal pen (which feels very pencil-like) allows for 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity so that you can really get the hand-sketched feel in your work. It can actually be a good thing that that pen is passive because it would otherwise be just another device you have to charge.

In addition, the Artist12 gives you a full-high touch bar you can program to fulfill certain commands on your computer (XP-Pen recommends mapping it to the zoom-in/zoom-out feature), and you can harness six different assignable shortcuts keys. This makes it less of a drawing-only tablet and more of a full-featured control surface for your design programs. The device is compatible with Windows 7, 8, or 10 (in 32 or 64 bit) and Mac OS X as old as version 10.10.

Screen Size/Active Area: 11.6 inches | Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Pen Type: Passive | Standalone: No

XP Pen Artist 16 Pro

Hayley Prokos

Best Display: Gaomon PD1560

Gaomon PD1560
What We Like
  • Big, bright, beautiful display

  • Active pen with great pressure accuracy

  • Tons of function buttons

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't work with ChromeOS

The Gaomon PD1560 boasts a big, bright, 15.6-inch display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. In some ways, it rivals the Wacom options, but because it doesn’t feature a touch wheel or flashy multi-touch, we think it's a more suitable rival with our top pick from XP-Pen. 

Because of the 72% color gamut accuracy and the 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity from the active pen, it really does have many of the features of the Artist12. What makes it different is that it offers 10 assignable function keys (lined up in a column on the left edge of the device), which is more than the Artist12. However, you’ll have to pay nearly $100 more for this device. 

The IPS display's brightness and the extra function keys might be enough for you to spend that higher price tag, but the awkwardly wide form factor (different from something like the less-sprawling Cintiq 15) makes it a device that will take up a lot of space on your desk.

There’s no denying, though, that this is a great peripheral with truly impressive pen specs. Our reviewer, Jeremy Laukkonen, found the pen performed flawlessly during testing, although he noted that the side buttons could be more pronounced.

Screen Size/Active Area: 15.6 inches | Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Pen Type: Active, rechargeable | Standalone: No

"This tablet really does present an impressive display for the price, but because of the awkwardly wide footprint and the unfortunately high price tag, it might not be the best fit for everyone." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Gaomon PD1560

 Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Standalone Drawing Tablet: Simbans PicassoTab

Simbans PicassoTab
What We Like
  • Accessories included

  • A standalone device

  • 32GB internal storage

What We Don't Like
  • Some units have inconsistent displays

The Simbans PicassTab is actually a standalone tablet, despite the fact that we were steering clear of these for this review. The reason this unit, to us, could be considered a drawing-specific tablet is because that’s the thing it does best. If you want an Android tablet for media consumption and web browsing, this will do fine, but you can get just as good of an experience on the cheaper Amazon Fire tablets.

What this tablet does better is drawing. And that’s for two reasons. It comes with an active stylus right out of the box, allowing for solid palm rejection (crucial for avoiding mis-presses while drawing). It also comes with Autodesk Sketchbook and Artflow preinstalled—two excellent beginner sketch apps for Android.

As far as tablet specs go, these aren’t all that impressive, but they’ll work well for a standalone drawing tab. There’s a 1.3GHz quad-core mobile processor, a 10.1-inch IPS display that sports a resolution of 1280 x 800, and even a 2MP front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera.

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even a microSD card slot are here. You also have the capability of using a micro-HDMI port to connect this tablet to an external computer. And it’s that latter point that makes this really friendly for budding artists. They can start with the on-board sketch app basics, but then graduate to real Adobe apps and use an external monitor, while using this tablet as a peripheral. It’s a good balance of both worlds, and it goes for right around $200.

Screen Size/Active Area: 10.1 inches | Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800 | Pen Type: Active | Standalone: Yes

Simbans PicassoTab

Hayley Prokos

Best for Beginners: Huion H420

Huion H420
What We Like
  •  Great for vector art

  • Accessories included

  • Plug-and-play

What We Don't Like
  • Small

  • Pens can feel inconsistent

The Huion H420 is one of the most affordable drawing tablets out there that still gives you a lot of what you’re looking for as a designer. This makes it great for graphic designers just starting out, because it gives them new ways to interact with compatible software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and more. 

But what corners are you cutting for that price? Well, with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, you have some precision, but far less than you’d find on more expensive tablets. The “resolution” (essentially how many sensors there are per inch of the board) sits at 4,000 lines per inch (LPI), which is a little lower than other options, but totally serviceable for young designers.

There are three assignable keys on the left side of the unit that give you function options for your design programs, available right at your fingertips. Another interesting feature here is that the pad measures only about 4.5 x 7 inches, and the active area is even smaller at 4 x 2.25 inches.

While the smaller size might seem limited, it's helpful for designers on the go, as they can just toss it in their bag and use it with their laptops. This package comes with an active pen that allows you to use digital functions (such as push-button scrolling), and it offers plug-and-play compatibility with both Windows and Mac OS X.

Screen Size/Active Area: 4 x 2.23 inches | Screen Resolution: 4000 LPI | Pen Type: Active | Standalone: No

Huion H-420 Drawing Tablet

Hayley Prokos

Best for Photoshop: Wacom Intuos Pro

Wacom Intuos Pro
What We Like
  • Includes 2 months of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop

  • Quality materials

  • Low latency tracking

What We Don't Like
  • Reports of disconnection and hardware issues

Wacom has been near the top of the drawing tablet game for some time, and the Intuos Pro is arguably its flagship line of drawing peripherals. This version, in what Wacom calls the “medium” size, is sort of the Goldilocks of the lineup: giving you an 8.7 x 5.8-inch active surface area but occupying only a footprint of 13.2 x 8.5 inches. This means it won’t be quite as cumbersome at your desk setup, but will still offer a lot of real estate for work.

Some other impressive features are the eight dedicated function buttons you can assign to programs on the fly, the assignable touch wheel for navigating programs more fully, and even the hand-recognition switch that allows the tablet to respond to gestures much like a trackpad would.

Of course, it’s Wacom’s Pro Pen 2 that brings with it the most notoriety. This active pen provides a whopping 8,192 levels of pressure-sensitivity, allowing for excellent sketching precision. Wacom has also baked in a latency time that is four times faster than the first-generation Pro Pen and has even included tilt support for sketching more natural, fading lines.

It also includes Bluetooth in addition to wired connectivity. The whole package works with the latest operating systems and design softwares, and though it isn’t the most affordable tablet out there, it’s a pretty reasonable price for a creative professional.

Screen Size/Active Area: 8.7 x 5.8 inches | Screen Resolution: 5080 LPI | Pen Type: Pro Pen | Standalone: No

Best with Screen: Wacom Cintiq 16

Wacom Cintiq 16
What We Like
  • Low latency

  • Includes Clip Studio Paint Pro

  • Two sizes

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy (4.2 pounds)

  • Reports of bad screens

Similarly to the Artist12 from XP-Pen, the Wacom Cintiq 16 aims to offer artists a true digital canvas to work on: a standalone touchscreen display that packs in the same precision of Wacom’s non-screen pads, but with a colorful visual to offer immediate feedback on your work.

That display measures 15.6 inches diagonally and features an HD resolution of 1920 x 1980. The glass encasing the top of the display, while a bit glossy, features a glare-reducing coating that’s easier on your eyes. Speaking of accuracy, the Cintiq 16 can portray up to 16.7 million distinct colors, giving it a Gamut accuracy of 72%. This is pretty standard for design needs and will work well for most art projects.

The other side of the Wacom equation is the physical feel of drawing on the tablet. Wacom is known for its accuracy and functionality, and the company has done its best to include those features here on an actual screen-based tablet.

At the center of that is the Pro Pen 2, providing 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity (great for sketching), up to 60 degrees of tilt recognition (for fattening up your lines), and an impressively low latency level that is basically undetectable to most users. You’ll sacrifice some control, such as the multi-touch capabilities and assignable function buttons found on other Wacom units, but you’re doing so to get the best possible display-oriented tablet you can for a steep, but not exorbitant, $650.

Screen Size/Active Area: 15.6 inches | Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Pen Type: Pro Pen | Standalone: No

Wacom Cintiq 16 Drawing Tablet

Hayley Prokos

Best for Kids: Flueston LCD Writing Tablet

Flueston LCD Writing Tablet
What We Like
  • Budget friendly

  • 12-month battery life

  • Pen included

What We Don't Like
  • No backlighting

The Flueston LCD Writing Tablet is a tablet focused on children’s art projects. It’s a small (10 inches), light (7.1 ounces) device that sits somewhere between a Kindle and an Etch-a-Sketch. So how does it work? The screen looks like a black LCD display, but instead of providing fully moving, color pictures, it just reacts to the marks that you’re making by “scraping off” the black layer and exposing the multicolored background underneath. Of course, you aren’t physically scraping any material off—it’s just software emulation. But that’s the appearance.

What’s interesting is that Flueston (the manufacturer) has managed to adapt the flexibility of LCD crystal to allow for something that lets children press down with the included stylus to make it feel more like a marker. It’s a really beautiful idea, and it will allow for endless creativity. There’s eraser functionality, screen lock options, and even the ability to save drawings to look at later.

Because it doesn’t have a backlit screen, this is only meant for use with the lights on, but that will end up helping children’s eyes by limiting the amount of traditional “screen time” they have. And, because the unit is using non-backlit tech, the replaceable watch-style battery will last upwards of 12 months.

Screen Size/Active Area: 10 inches | Screen Resolution: N/A | Pen Type: Passive | Standalone: Yes, a drawing board

Best for osu!: XP-PEN StarG640

XP-Pen StarG640 6x4 Inch Ultrathin Tablet Drawing Tablet
What We Like
  • Designed specifically for OSU!

  • No extra drivers needed

  • Right and left-handed configurations

What We Don't Like
  • Reports of failing pens

As graphics tablets have grown in prevalence, so have their use-cases. One extreme example of this is the beatmapping, rhythm game osu! and its sequels. The game can be (and is most often played casually with) a standard mouse, but many serious and professional-level players prefer a graphics tablet.

So, if you want to get into that level of gaming, a great place to start is with the XP-Pen StarG640 tablet. Why? Well, for starters, at only about $40, it’s a great, low-cost, low-risk way to try out this new way of playing. The 6 x 4-inch writing surface is enough space for most players to cover their needs, and the passive stylus that comes with it allows for 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity.

This is, in essence, XP-Pen’s budget non-screen drawing tablet, so to be fair, it will work for design programs as well. It’s compatible with Windows and Mac and requires no drivers, so you can just plug it in and play. This makes it ideal for other non-art processes, such as capturing signatures for your business or even just taking notes on a laptop. And, because the thing is so compact, it’ll slip right into your bag.

Screen Size/Active Area: 6 x 4 inches | Screen Resolution: 5080 LPI | Pen Type: Passive | Standalone: No

What We Like
  • Massive, 21.5-inch display

  • Great color accuracy

  • Excellent Pro Pen 2 tech

What We Don't Like
  • Bulky footprint

We’ve already covered Wacom’s Cintiq line above, and because of the gorgeous displays inherent in Wacom’s products and its tried-and-true drawing tech, it’s no surprise to see the brand again on our list. What makes the Cintiq 22 different is the truly massive 21.5-inch display at play here. In fact, that’s really the only reason this unit will run you about $1,200.

That massive display means a lot more real estate that Wacom has to cover with its pressure-induced sensors and color accuracy, driving the manufacturing price up. But you do get truly excellent performance.

The 72% Gamut accuracy is every bit as professional as you would expect, and the excellent 1920 x 1080 HD resolution is strikingly beautiful. This is a massive screen, so perhaps Wacom could have loaded in a bit more resolution to go with the high price tag, but that’s a small gripe. The build quality here is really second to none, and the impressive Pro Pen 2—Wacom’s proprietary second-generation active pen technology—provides 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition for more accurate line widths, and virtually no detectable latency.

This really is the option for the designer who already loves their laptop, but wants the functionality of something like a Microsoft Surface Studio: tons of touchscreen real estate, beautiful accuracy, and a workhorse for your design needs.

Screen Size/Active Area: 21.5 inches | Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Pen Type: Pro Pen | Standalone: No

What We Like
  • Really affordable

  • Portable size

  • Excellent build quality

What We Don't Like
  • Limited surface area

  • No bells and whistles

A lot of big-name tech brands are going the way of “attainable” when it comes to pricing. Alongside options such as the Microsoft Surface Go and the entry-level iPad, you’ll find the Wacom One. Now, the One isn’t a standalone tablet like the above, but at only around $50 or $60, and featuring Wacom’s excellent build quality, it fits the aesthetic of the budget, but still premium-feeling, devices.

This 6.0 x 3.7-inch tablet measures only 0.3 inches thick, and has a nice, durable plastic build with rounded edges. This makes it a joy to use and ensures that it can be tossed into your laptop bag for travel. The pressure-sensitive stylus does offer only 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity—akin to the rest of the budget tablets on the market–and at 2540 LPI of sensor density, it isn’t the most accurate tablet out there.

But what the One lacks in raw specs it makes up for in ease of use and, of course, affordability. It connects via USB, works right out of the box with Windows and Mac operating systems alongside all your favorite design apps, and this package comes with a premium-feeling stylus at no extra charge.

Screen Size/Active Area: 6.0 x 3.7 inches | Screen Resolution: 2540 LPI | Pen Type: Digital | Standalone: No

Wacom One Drawing Tablet

Hayley Prokos

Final Verdict

While tablet options from Wacom do find their way onto a bunch of spots on this list, we’re settling on the XP-Pen Artist 12 (view at Amazon) for our Best Overall pick for a few reasons. It gives you excellent pressure sensitivity underneath a rich, color-accurate display. It lacks some extra controls, but it manages to give you almost everything you could want in a decent-sized drawing tablet for right around $200.

Gaomon’s 15.6-inch version (view at Amazon) offers a lot of the same functionality, but gives you more assignable buttons and of course, a bigger display. And if you have the money, you really can’t go wrong with Wacom’s Cintiq line for the breadth of quality and features available.

About Our Trusted Experts

Erika Rawes has written for Digital Trends, USA Today, and Cheatsheet.com. She is a consumer tech expert who has reviewed more than 50 products.

Jeremy Laukkonen is a tech writer and the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. He specializes in consumer technology and tested the Gaomon PD1560 on our list.

FAQ
  • What is the best Wacom tablet for drawing?

    Wacom is one of the most popular brands of drawing tablet, and for good reason. Our top choices like the Wacom Cintiq 16 may be costly, but it offers a gorgeous 15.6-inch touchscreen, a 1080p resolution, and 8,912 pressure levels with the Pro Pen 2. For a more budget option, we like the Wacom One. It won't break the bank, has a portable size, and solid build quality.

  • Which drawing tablet is best for beginners?

    For beginners, we like Simbans PicassoTab. It comes with plenty of accessories, functions as a standalone tablet, and it has an active stylus right out of the box with Autodesk Sketchbook and Artflow preinstalled. We also like the Huion H420 for those new using a graphic monitor. For kids, we suggest the Flueston LCD Writing Tablet. It's 10 inches and works similar to an Etch-a-Sketch with a black LCD display that reacts to the marks you make on it. For children, this makes the stylus feel like a market with pressure resistance, and it's easy on the eyes.

  • What is the best drawing tablet for animation?

    We like the XP-PEN Artist 12 for animators. It features an 11.6-inch display, has programmable hotkeys, and has a pen with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity for the hand-sketched feel. It works with Windows 7, 8, 10, and Mac OS X even for versions as old as 10.8

    We haven't had a chance to put any of these drawing tablets through their paces just yet, but we'll be trying each tablet with a variety of creative applications and machines to help determine the best-use scenario for each particular model. Because drawing tablets are all about bridging the gap between your inputs and seeing them on screen, our testers will also be judging each unit on its overall feel and ergonomics as well as their hard specs and compatibility.

Gaomon PD1560

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

What to Look For in a Drawing Tablet

Type of Tablet

While drawing tablets are more expensive, they’re a bit more intuitive because you draw with a stylus directly on the screen. Graphic tablets—which need to be hooked up to a computer—usually deliver a faster workflow because they’re backed by more processing power. They also don’t need to be charged and are usually more durable. 

Gaomon PD1560

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Pressure Sensitivity

Pressure sensitivity determines how much you can vary the width of the lines you paint, based on the amount of pressure you apply to the stylus. The standard tablet offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, which should be more than enough for most creatives.

"The higher the pen pressure value, the weight, and thickness of the line can be easily changed by the amount of force, and the line will be more natural and delicate. The highest standard of pen pressure sensitivity in the market is 8192 levels." — the XP-PEN team

Budget

Drawing tablet prices can start as low as $30 and creep up to nearly $1,000. The difference in price is largely related to the display. The better the resolution and pressure sensitivity, the more expensive the tablet. But of course, if it doesn’t have a display, you’ll likely get it for a lower price.

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