In this edition of the Art Tools we look at the best drawing tablet for those starting out, or those who may be on a budget. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorites, and addressed some of the differences between the best options for an affordable drawing tablet.
Our first tablet is the entry level Wacom art tablet, the updated Intuos Draw. Watcom is the most popular and makes arguably the most reliable tablets.
Some people prefer this updated version, and some favor the last Intuos (we discuss some of the differences here, and the older version next).
The main difference between the last Intuos model and the update is the tablet’s multi-touch surface which allows users to use gestures and scroll, zoom, rotate, and flip through photos and documents. This was a feature on some of the more expensive Intuos in the past and now is on the entry level tablets as well. Another difference is that the drawing surface of the newer Intuos is not as smooth as the last tablet. It has more of a “gritty” feel, as there’s more drag when drawing. (Its rougher surface also seems to wear out the pen nibs faster.) Another criticism is that the hotkeys are a bit small and the pen is very, very light. All of this is why some prefer the older version.
The updated Intuos comes in two sizes: the smaller is 6.0 x 3.7 inches; and the medium comes in at 10.75-by-8.75. The medium is about $100 dollars more. The two different sizes have the same specs: each have 4 hot buttons, 1024 pressure level, and come with a pack of pen nibs (5).
So what’s the difference between the comic, art and photo versions?
All of the packages have the same Intuos Tablet but come with different assortments of programs. The Comic version has Clip Studio Paint Pro and Anime Studio software, online tutorials, and 10 free comic book copies if you purchase 25 copies; the Photo version has Shutterfly Photo Album, a Horizon Canvas Print, and photo editing software (Mac: Macphun Creative Kit and Corel AfterShot Pro software download; and last but not least, the Art version has the Corel Painter Essentials drawing and painting software, online tutorials, a free 8″ × 10″ metal photo print, and an 8″ × 8″ Shutterfly Photo Album.
Keep in mind that while it is not necessary to register the tablet in order to use it right out of the box (if you have your own drawing program), to access the software included with the Intuos you must register the product. But to use the tablet straight away all that needs to be installed is the tablet driver. The drivers can be installed via the included disc, or found at Wacom’s support page
Arguably the best low-cost drawing tablet is this version of the Wacom Intuos Pen and Tablet. The pressure-sensitive pen stylus lets you scribble, draw, edit photos and create artwork – and do it all easily and with the natural feel of traditional brushes and pencils. It has four shortcut keys available.
There are two models to consider. The CTL480 is the slightly cheaper version, and the CTH480, more expensive, but has the multi-touch abilities of the newer models, which allows you zoom, scroll and navigate with intuitive gestures. Both digital drawing tablets have 1024 levels of press sensitivity, which is standard for this price point but less than the Ugee and the Huion which are further down the article. The Wacom also has a smaller active area than some of the other computer drawing pads on the list, but in terms of total package and reliability, this could be the best drawing tablet for budget buyers. The medium version (more expensive) does have a larger active area, but the smaller size does lend it’s self to being transported, and with a lot of people using this as a replacement for their mouse (easier on the hand/arm), the smaller sizes is probably a better option for them.
The Wacom Intuos comes with some very good free software options, for those who don’t already have a drawing program. It also comes with 3 replacement heads.
The other competitor for best drawing tablet in our opinion is the Ugee brand of tablets. The Ugee Drawing Pen Tablet. is a great value and very easy to use and install on Mac or PC. It has a large drawing/writing area, a 10 x 6 active area, and is great for doing artwork or editing photos.
If precision is important to you, than this could be the best tablet for you. It is very sensitive to pressure. It has 2048 pressure sensitivity levels and 5080 LPI, making it very accurate.
The pen has been updated to a rechargeable one, the older pen took one AAA battery. The Ugee digital drawing tablet has a very realistic feel – very close to good old pen and paper.
The Ugee digital drawing tablet comes with a cool sketch program and some interesting demos. It has a good battery life and comes with 8 pen tips. It’s compatible with most editing software (Adobe, Autodesk, SAI, Sketch Express, among others), and you can set up 8 customize shortcut keys. But the USB cable it comes with is a bit short.
The Huion H610 has a drawing surface just a bit smaller than the medium Walcom Intuos tablet discussed above but is more sensitive than the Watcom Intuos (1024 vs 2048 levels of pressure), has 8 customization buttons on the side and 16 hotkeys along the top, in addition to its rechargeable pen which has two programmable buttons.
Huion has tried to create a papery textured surface that gives a realistic feeling of drawing on a light grain paper. (It is a much smoother surface than the newer version of the Wacom Intuos.) The cord to the PC is a bit short, so you might also have to get a longer one.
These tablets do not come with software like the Wacom but do work with the vast majority of art programs out there, including the freebies like Inkscap, Gimp , and FireAlpaca.
The upgrade to the Huion H610 is the Huion 1060. The 1060 has “direct pointing” which allows you to move the cursor and manipulate menus on the screen by hovering the pen tip over the tablet’s surface. It has 12 express keys physically, but the driver only supports 8 (I know, weird). The Huion H610 and the Huion 1060 have the same hardware and the same surface area (10 x 6.25 inches).
Some may have as issue with the USB –on the 610 it was in the top left and out of the way; on the 1060, it is directly in the center of the left and more in the way.
If having a lot of function keys is important to you, then the Huion Graphic Tablet H580 my be for you. It has 26 function keys, a 8×6 active area, and a sleek feel to it. It’s easy to get up and running on your favorite software program. But the provided software does not work with Mac, though you can download what you need from the net.
The pen has two programmable buttons and requires one AAA battery. It comes with four spare tips. There are 2048 levels of pressure and the resolution is 4000 lines per inch.
The Huion does not come with its own drawing software (as many other computer drawing pads do), so if you don’t have one that’s an extra expense. But it does work with most software programs for those who own one, and it will work with Microsoft Word. It also connects to the computer via USB.
The Huion is also sold as the, “Turcom” Graphic Drawing Tablet, so check for the best deal.
The last digital art tablets we’ll take a look at are a pair from the Genuis company. The first is the cheaper option, the Genuis 4×6 graphic tablet. What sets the Genius EasyPen apart from the other digital drawing tablets mentioned above is that the pen requires no battery, making it especially light weight. The Genius falls short of the Huion spec wise but matches up with the Walcom – it has 1024 pressure levels and a 2560 LPI.
The other option from Genius is a little more expensive, but the EasyPen M610XA (about $100) come bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Corel Painter Essentials 4 (full versions). That makes it a good value for anyone interested in software. The tablet is a good value alone. It has a large 6×10 working area, 4000 LPI and 1024 pressure levels. Not as easy to get up and ruining as some drawing tablets above (because of the software), so it may not be best form computer novices, but the process is very manageable.
If you’re looking for great digital art software to use with your tablet, be sure to checkout our article on the best digital art software.
Best Drawing Tablet for Those on a Budget
tags: best drawing tablet, computer drawing pad, digital drawing pad, digital art tablet