Until relatively recently, artists and graphic designers were limited to working on paper and pencil.
That required a lot of tools, like pencils of different thicknesses, and if they made a mistake, correcting it was not easy.
For this reason, the appearance of programs such as Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator caused a multitude of designers and illustrators to switch to digital drawing.
However, both the mouse and keyboard suffered from major deficiencies in the precision they could deliver. Have you ever tried to draw using the touch panel of your computer? It’s terrible, so imagine how difficult it could be to create an illustration or retouch a photo with precision.
A graphics tablet is a device that connects to a monitor via a USB cable or wirelessly. It basically consists of a rigid, touch-sensitive table on which you can use a stylus to transfer your drawings to the computer screen with spectacular precision.
Graphics tablets make illustrating, animating in 3D, retouching photos or drawing a comic a much more comfortable and natural process. Although it takes some time to get used to using the stylus, once you have mastered it the capabilities of these devices are spectacular.
A graphics tablet together with a good design program can offer you an almost infinite color palette, perfect finishes and a multitude of graphic effects. And correcting mistakes can be as simple as flipping the stylus over and erasing like you would with a regular pencil.
Some even incorporate a screen on their surface to design without the need for an external monitor. This provides an almost identical experience to drawing on paper and avoids the feeling of working on the table while looking at the screen.
Note: however, they are usually much more expensive and are not 100% recommended for beginners, since if you do not have practice it is easy to cover part of what you are designing with your arm.
If you are interested in design but are not sure which graphics tablet to buy, in this guide I will show you what to look for along with the ten best quality-price tablets on the market. Go for it!
According to experts, the most important characteristics to assess in order to correctly choose a graphics tablet are the following (in order of importance):
Without a doubt, the most important aspect in any of these devices. The higher the pressure sensitivity, the better you can control the thickness of the lines you draw based on how hard you press the stylus on the surface of the tablet.
The most common are tablets that offer up to 2,048 pressure points. This is usually more than enough (it would be equivalent to trying to draw more than 2,000 shades of gray with the same pencil), and although there are models with higher pressure levels, in practice you will hardly notice the difference.
The measurements of the graphic tablet depend essentially on your preferences and type of work. The larger the larger the drawing area, but it will also take up more space.
The smallest ones measure about 6 x 4 inches (15 x 12 cm approximately), they are less tiring (because you must move your arm less) and you can place them perfectly next to your keyboard. Many people even end up using them as a substitute for the mouse.
However, if you work with large monitors (20 inches or more) you probably need a larger size tablet.
The largest ones reach or exceed 10 x 6 inches (approximately 25 x 15 cm), and occupy a space similar to that of a full keyboard. Its users are usually professional graphic designers who need more detail or constantly zoom.
Resolution is the number of lines you can draw per inch (lpi). For practical purposes, determine the level of detail that you can achieve with the surface of the tablet.
Most small graphics tablets have a resolution of 2,540 lpi, while the larger ones reach twice as much: 5,080 lpi. Both are more than enough to reach levels of professional detail.
Although it is not a factor that usually appears in the descriptions of the models, it is a fundamental characteristic.
The graphics tablet drivers is what determines which programs are compatible with it and the absence of input lag. And there is nothing more unpleasant than drawing and that the lines do not appear immediately.
Price is a determining factor, especially when there is so much disparity between models.
Graphics tablets aimed at beginners, with lower levels of pressure and resolution, usually do not exceed 100 euros. The most professional tablets, those that incorporate a multi-touch screen or other extras can go beyond 500 euros.
A stylus is often included with the graphics tablet, and you can find a huge variety of features between models.
There are pencils that do not require batteries or battery, others are rechargeable and others work with batteries. Those with a battery often offer additional extras such as quick functions or tilt recognition for fine lines.
There are pencils that even allow you to change the tip to resemble a pen, charcoal pencil, or brush. Although many manufacturers do not sell pens or nibs separately, Wacom markets various types of nibs and even stylus formats to suit the needs of its users.
Many tablets allow you to program quick functions directly to the buttons on the stylus or on the graphics tablet itself.
The buttons on the pen usually have a right-click and double-click function, although some models allow them to be assigned to other functions. As for the tablet, usually the larger the drawing surface, the more buttons you will find.
Some Wacom tablets, such as the Intuos, also feature a touch circle that allows you to control the zoom, brush size and rotation of the canvas, and can be customized with additional features.
In general, the more customizability a graphics tablet offers you, the more comfort and productivity.
Both characteristics tend to separate what would be a tablet for hobbyists from one for professionals. The multi-touch function allows you to use the tablet surface as if it were a computer trackpad, for example by zooming by separating two fingers or rotating the screen.
Tilt recognition is a function that allows you to vary the type of tracing according to the angle at which the pen is held. This gives you even more control over the thickness and style of the lines, but is a feature intended primarily for professional use.
When it comes to quality graphics tablets, we can’t help but talk about Wacom. Wacom would be to graphics tablets what Coca-Cola is to soft drinks, and most graphic designers use no other model.
However, recently brands like Huion have started to raise the bar and can already be considered very worthy competitors, since they sometimes offer more functions and greater drawing area for the same price as their equivalents in Wacom.
Ideal for beginners on a budget
The Ugee M708 is an excellent choice for those users who want to get started in graphic design without spending a fortune for it, since it offers good performance at half the price of other similar graphics tablets.
It is a 10 x 6 inch 8,192 pressure point graphics tablet that offers great precision. It connects via USB to the computer and does not cause any noticeable delay in response, and it is compatible with most operating systems and editing programs.
It includes 8 shortcut keys on the tablet itself, while the battery-operated stylus incorporates two more. Without a doubt, a perfect choice if you don’t have too much budget and are looking for a complete and quality graphics tablet.
A tablet with a screen for beginners
If you are just starting out in digital graphic design and prefer a tablet with a built-in screen for an experience that is as close to paper as possible, the Huion KAMVAS GT-191 is your choice.
For an exceptionally competitive price compared to models offering similar features, this graphics tablet gives you a HUGE 19.5-inch screen (make sure you have plenty of room on your desk!) With Full HD resolution and excellent color rendering.
The tablet allows you to adjust its angle of inclination so that you work as comfortable as possible, and it offers very good precision thanks to its 8,192 levels of pressure.
It is compatible with Windows, Mac and Adobe Suite, and incorporates a rechargeable PE330 stylus with two programmable quick-function buttons. The box also includes a drawing glove and extra pencil nibs.
Weight: 3,3kg | Size: 47.5 x 29.8 x 3.5 cm | Screen: 19.5 ”| Pressure levels: 8,192 Resolution: 1,920 x 1080 px
Getting started with digital drawing from Wacom
One by Wacom is a simple graphics tablet, without great extras but with the reliability of the Wacom brand. For a very reasonable price you get a well-functioning device, without playing it with other, more unknown brands.
Available in two sizes (7 and 10 inches), the One by Wacom has 2,048 pressure points and offers a texture reminiscent of the touch of paper. This makes the user experience much more natural, but also makes the pen tip suffer a bit. It’s okay: it comes with three replacement tips.
This graphics tablet looks a lot like the Wacom Intuos, but no quick-function buttons or wireless connection. It does not use a battery, so you will not have to be aware of recharging it, but it is necessary to use it with the USB connected.
The second-generation One by Wacom is a great option for beginners who are not sure whether they want to invest too much in this, or for professionals looking for a second tablet to have at home or take on the road without worry.
[Model S] Weight: 0.25Kg | Size: 21 x 14.6 x 0.87 cm | Area: 7 ”| Pressure levels: 2,048
[Model M] Weight: 0.43Kg | Size: 27.7 x 18.9 x 0.87 cm | Area: 10 ”| Pressure levels: 2,048
An inexpensive, high-precision wireless tablet
The XPen Star 06 is a slim, minimalist tablet with a manageable 10 x 6-inch work surface and good response time and precision.
To its left there is an area with controls to maximize productivity, with six quick-function buttons and a dial where you can program the shortcuts that you use the most.
You can use it connected with USB to the computer or in wireless mode. For that it has a 1,050 mAh battery, fast charging. In two hours of charging you get about 16 hours of independent use.
As a point for improvement, the pencil is not very ergonomic (especially if you are used to Wacom). In return, it works without a battery and includes the erase function in the handle.
Includes eight extra tips so you don’t have to worry about buying replacement parts in a long time. And the standard package also comes with a drawing glove, a welcome detail.
It has 8,192 levels of pressure which allows it to offer excellent precision. It allows working with the tablet inclined, something that the wireless also facilitates.
Without a doubt, the XPen Star 06 is an excellent tablet for those who are just starting out in graphic design.
Weight: 0.67Kg | Size: 35.4 x 22 x 0.99 cm | Surface: 16.1 ”| Pressure levels: 8,192
A very complete tablet for less than 100 euros
Despite its tight price, the popular Huion H610 Pro packs most of the features and functions of much more expensive tablets. It has a large 10 x 6.25-inch work surface, 16 shortcuts on the top and eight more keys on the side. In addition, it works without a battery, so you can forget to recharge it
It has 2,048 levels of pressure and its stylus, although it works with a rechargeable battery, offers impressive autonomy. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, and the vast majority of graphic editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Sketchbook, Illustrator, Corel Painter or Manga Studio.
Large but light, it is an ideal graphics tablet for users who do not want to give up anything without investing too much money.
Weight: 1,1Kg | Size: 35.3 x 24.4 x 1.5 cm | Area: 10 ”| Pressure levels: 2,048