Will help you release your inner Picasso
There has never been a better time to get into digital art. Whether you’re coming from a background in traditional physical media or you’re looking to learn as a beginner, there’s no shortage of digital drawing tablets to choose from.
There are so many options, especially in the budget segment, that you probably have no idea which ones are good. To get you working on your next masterpiece as quickly as possible, we’ve found some of the best affordable tablets for drawing that you can buy today.
Two Types of Drawing Tablet
There are broadly two types of drawing tablets. Standalone drawing tablets don’t have to be connected to another device, like a Mac or PC, to work. This category includes mainstream tablet computers that support a stylus, although many don’t have an integrated pen holder.
The other drawing tablet has to be connected using a cable or wireless connection to another device.
These drawing tablets may or may not have a screen of their own. The ones that don’t have their screens are a little trickier to use and more popular for photo editing, but many digital artists also use them. It doesn’t take long to adjust to looking at a screen while drawing on a tablet.
We’ve covered all types of drawing tablets here to help you choose the right one for your needs. Especially if you need to remove it on the go, a standalone option is your best choice.
Important Features for a Drawing Tablet
There are quite a few things to consider when evaluating a drawing tablet. This is even more important when we’re talking about budget products. High-end drawing tablets offer you the best of everything, but you may not have a budget of thousands of dollars.
The most important considerations are:
- Tablet size and working area: The tablet has to be big enough to accommodate the style of drawing you need or to cut down on pinch-and-zoom operations as you move around the virtual canvas.
- Type of drawing surface: Some tablets have a matte finish, others have a smooth finish, or tablets with screens might have an anti-glare coating. Combined with the nib material of the stylus pen, this is a major part of the drawing experience.
- Stylus pen pressure sensitivity: With more pressure sensitivity the stylus has, the more subtle the detail you can put into your artwork.
- Tilt functionality: Tilt sensitivity and having a tilt function may also be important to you. For example, you may do lots of shading, and having that function coupled to simply tilting your pen is a major convenience.
You should also triple-check that a given drawing tablet is compatible with the operating system and apps you want to use. There’s no guarantee of universal compatibility!
1. Best Cheap Drawing Tablet: Wacom Intuos Graphics Drawing Tablet
- Great price.
- Compatible with Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, Android, Chromebooks, but not iOS.
- Perfect for beginners.
The Intuos Graphics Tablet is about as basic as it gets. Still, it’s also quite good, and its limitations aren’t as crucial to beginners for many types of graphic design.
The build quality is excellent for such an affordable tablet, but that’s to be expected from Wacom. After all, they’ve been making drawing tablets for decades.
The Intuos has 4096 pressure levels, which isn’t great for professional artists, but beginners or those with more basic drawing needs should be perfectly happy. You also get four “ExpressKeys” shortcut keys which can be programmed to perform everyday actions such as Undo, Copy, or Paste.
Apart from its sensitivity levels, the other area where the budget nature of the tablet shows is in its size. The active drawing area only measures 6 x 3.7 inches, so be aware of that before you make your purchase. Other than that, this is the best genuinely cheap drawing tablet on the market. Anything with a lower price tag is likely to be complete junk.
2. Best Standalone Drawing Tablet: iPad 8th Generation With Apple Pencil 1st Generation
- The best specifications at this price.
- The Apple Pencil is a class-leading stylus.
- Some of the best drawing apps on any platform.
The basic iPad was designed for the education market, but it’s a tremendous general-purpose tablet and supports the excellent 1st Generation Apple Pencil. Taken together, they cost about as much as a mid-range drawing tablet that still needs to be connected to a computer.
The A12 Bionic CPU and GPU system-on-a-chip has more than enough power to put most laptops to shame, and this is a Retina Display tablet to boot. So you get incredible high-quality images and detail.
The main drawback is that this iPad model doesn’t have a laminated screen. This means there’s an air gap between the screen and touch screen glass. For most people, this isn’t a problem, but some artists feel it can cause a slight drop in accuracy from pen to pixel.
3. Best Affordable Tethered Drawing Tablet: 2020 HUION Kamvas 13
- 8192 pressure levels.
- 60-degrees of tilt.
- 120% of sRGB supported.
Huion has made a real name for itself as a drawing tablet maker, and the Kamvas 13 might be their best bang for buck product so far.
This is a tablet with a built-in touchscreen which you have to connect to another device such as a laptop or Android phone that has a desktop mode, such as Samsung Dex.
The stylus pen is also noteworthy. It uses Huion Pen Tech3.0 to offer a battery-free pen. The pen gets its power from a weak electromagnetic field from the tablet itself, so there’s no Bluetooth and no charging involved.
The Kamvas 13 lets you hook it up using various connection methods. You can use the included 3-in-1 USB cable, where one cable connects to a wall adapter, and the other two connect to HDMI and USB on your computer. Alternatively, you can use a single USB-C cable that carries power, data, and display signals.
4. Best Portable Tethered Drawing Tablet: GAOMON PD1320 13.3 Inches
- A great solution for artists on the go.
- Can be powered solely from USB.
- Great integrated stand.
Despite sounding a little like the latest Pokemon addition, Gaomon is another budget drawing table maker worth keeping an eye on. The PD3120 offers a similar set of features to the Kamvas 13 at almost the same price.
This tablet can be attached to your computer or Android device using a single USB-C cable to carry all necessary power and data. You can also use the two-in-one cable that’s included.
The Gaomon has a battery-free stylus with +- 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity and 8192 pressure levels. The Full HD screen is laminated, too, so no worries about precise accuracy.
One difference between the Gaomon and Kamva 13 is the stand mechanism. The Kamvas has an integrated tilt mechanism to angle the tablet for drawing. The Gaomon is designed to be portable, so it has a foldable cover that doubles as a stand. If you don’t care about portability and need angle adjustments, the Kamvas 13 is a better choice.
5. Best General-purpose Tethered Tablet: Wacom One
- Brings a premium brand to the entry-level.
- Includes several trial subscriptions for drawing software.
- Compatible with Mac, Windows, Chromebook, and some Android phones.
Wacom doesn’t seem content to let Huion or Gaomon have all the fun at the lower end of the price range. While the Wacom One is about $100 more expensive than those tablets on average, it still straddles the line between budget and mid-range drawing tablets.
Wacom has focused on replicating the feel of writing on paper with a real pen. So this tablet is perhaps not laser-focused on digital artists but on users who need a digital sketching and note-taking solution that helps them transition from paper to glass.
We think this is perfect for remote workers, teachers, and anyone else who needs to do drawing work on screen. While it should work competently as an art tablet, too, the art-focused (and more affordable) options from Huion and Gaomon may be the better choice.
6. Best Affordable Premium Drawing Tablet: Wacom Cintiq 16
- Premium specifications for an unbeatable price.
- Large screen.
- Integrated stand.
When we use a word like “affordable,” it’s always relative to something. While the near-$700 price of the Wacom Cintiq 16 isn’t “affordable” in the absolute sense, in the world of professional drawing tablets, anything under $1000 is a bit of a bargain.
This tablet uses a 15.6” screen, larger than all of the tablets we’ve covered in this article but is considered small in the Cintiq range. It’s still only a Full HD panel, but with a physically larger drawing surface, the act of drawing becomes more comfortable.
This is one of the cheapest ways to access Wacom’s Pro Pen 2 technology on a tablet with a screen. The pen is particularly precise and intuitive and uses a battery-free stylus implementation.
To give you an idea of how good the value here is, the Cintiq 22, which is also a ”budget” model, costs nearly twice as much!
7. Wacom Intuos Pro (Medium)
- Multi-touch support.
- High-precision stylus and drawing surface.
The Intuos Pro pen tablet costs more than the Kamvas 13 or Gaomon tablets, yet it doesn’t even have a built-in screen! That’s because this tablet is all about providing a precise, professional-grade drawing feel without charging the price of a Cintiq. This model comes with the same Pro Pen 2 stylus you get with Wacom’s premium tablets. You also have the option of buying alternative pens from Wacom, such as the Pro Pen Slim and Pro Pen 3D.
The other feature that justifies that price here is the large size of the tablet itself. The whole device, including the shortcut keys and handy dial, measures 13.2 x 8.5 inches. The active area you can draw on measures 8.7 x 5.8 inches. So there’s plenty of room to work.
- Cheaper than the base iPad for a similar experience.
- Stylus is included in the price.
Like the iPad mentioned above, this Android Tablet from Samsung is a general-purpose tablet. Unlike the iPad, you don’t have to spend additional money on a stylus pen since the Tab S6 Lite comes with a Samsung S-Pen included in the box.
While the Tab S6 doesn’t stack up to the iPad in terms of quality and specifications, it’s nonetheless an excellent mid-range tablet. The S-Pen is brilliant for note-taking and sketching while you’re in class or in a meeting. It offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt functionality.
While we think the iPad 8th Generation tablet with a compatible Apple Pencil is still the best standalone drawing tablet combo, there’s no denying that the S6 has it beat when it comes to price. So if your budget is tight or you prefer Android to iPadOS, this is a brilliant option.
- Compact, high pixel density screen.
- Dial control for zooming.
The XP-Pen Artist 12 Pro comes in well under $300 and is priced directly against the Kamvas and Gaomon tablets in this list. It’s also a very similar product in general, so whether you’d buy the Artist 12 Pro instead really depends on the finer details.
First, this tablet is smaller at 11.6-inches than the 13.3-inches of the other tablets. The resolutions are the same, so you’ll be getting better pixel density. Many users have limited desk space, so a slightly smaller tablet is a bonus.
A dial control is also a substantial addition over and above the other options at this price. None of the three drawing tablets under discussion here support multi-touch, so you have to zoom in and out or adjust other settings using buttons. A dial is more intuitive and precise.
10. HUION Inspiroy
- Large size, high-resolution pad.
- High-report rate, many shortcut keys.
The Inspiroy is priced close to our top choice for affordable drawing tablets, the Wacom Intuos Graphics. However, there’s a huge difference between them. The Inspiroy has a 10 x 6.25-inch footprint, dwarfing the Intuos with its 7.8 x 6.3-inch size.
It’s also got a high LPI (lines per inch) resolution, along with a high report rate. It also offers twice the pressure sensitivity and comparable tilt functionality. There are 12 Express Keys and 16 soft keys so that you can map all your most important functions to the tablet.
This sounds great, so why isn’t this the tablet to beat the Intuous? There are two reasons. The first is software compatibility, with Wacom tablets having far more software support in general. If you know the specific apps you use will work with Inspiroy (check first!), that’s a non-issue. The second part is that size. This tablet is probably too large for artists buying in this price segment.
Don’t Be Overdrawn!
It’s excellent that beginner or budget artists don’t have to look at four-figure prices to get an excellent tool to make artwork. These tablets are a great way to work yourself up to professional-grade equipment through small gigs or improve your craft until it’s good enough to pay the bills!