You’ve decided to get into digital art and now you need to choose a drawing tablet to begin your journey.
But trying to search out information mostly just brings up reviews of graphic tablets and nothing informative on why you should choose this one over that one if you’re just starting out.
In this article, I’ll go over the specifics that went through my mind in deciding which drawing tablet to purchase. It is my hope that once you’ve seen my thought process, you can make a more informed decision on your own purchase.
Why do I need a drawing tablet?
I have a mouse, isn’t that good enough? I can scan in my drawings in pencil and then color them in with the mouse! This is becoming less and less a common thread as more newbie digital artists become informed but there is still the rare occasion I see someone asking about this and getting immediately shot down in the artist community. It’s a painful experience to go to your peers, ask a question, and then be told harshly why you’re wrong so let’s go into why a mouse isn’t the best option briefly.
Graphics tablets come with something called pressure sensitivity. What this means is the harder you press will determine factors in the program you’re using based on your choosing. The best example is pressure sensitivity controlling the size and opacity of your digital brush, making it more like an actual pen, pencil or paintbrush you would use in traditional media. No matter how hard you try, your mouse click is not going to replicate that functionality.
Not all drawing tablets have the same stylus. Some can be a bit thicker and clunkier than others. The important thing about using a stylus (in combination with a tablet) is to feel like you’re holding a brush or a pen or a pencil. It makes a world of difference mentally, trust me!
Dedicating Time to Choosing the Right Art Tablet
Now that I’ve gotten you away from the decision to use a mouse, if you ever had it in your head, over an art tablet, let me go over why I believe it’s important to take some time in figuring out what tablet is best for you. Sure, you could go to a site that says “this is the best drawing tablet of X year” and just choose the one that fits your price range, but it may not suit your needs. Needs you may not have even considered yet which we’ll get into later in this article.
An art tablet is an expense. I’m sure you already figured this out but if you’re frugal like me and possibly anxious of spending even a few dollars on yourself, you might stress yourself out worrying over what you currently see as an expense for a hobby. Perhaps you’re not sure if you want to actually get into digital art. Perhaps you’re not confident you’ll be any good at it. It’s a lot cheaper to just pick up a pen and any old piece of paper you have around your house to start doodling than investing in an art tablet.
Taking the time to consider which is the right tablet for you will, I hope, remove some of that stress in your purchase choice.
It’s an Investment
Going off my personal experience, I know that I spent a lot of time choosing my first drawing tablet. At least the second time around when I was actually able to afford a wide range of them, I did. We won’t go into that first time. The second time around, when I got back into digital art after a decade of not doing it, I spent weeks agonizing over what tablet I wanted. Why? Because its an investment. It’s something that might be expensive enough that you can cause yourself buyer’s remorse. Take time with your choice and save yourself the post-buy guilts.
Upgrading Too Quickly
Even with all my time researching, I did end up upgrading rather swiftly to a different style of tablet. Within the span of six months, actually. I was lucky and had a windfall of cash, so I was able to do this. You might not be in that spot, and if you purchase a drawing tablet that isn’t the right fit for you, you’ll feel as if you wasted that money on the initial purchase or struggle with your newfound passion.
Creating digital art should be a joy, not a hassle. Dedicate time to your choice of the perfect drawing tablet to suit your needs.
How to Choose a Graphics Tablet
Let’s get into the meat of it: How to choose your drawing tablet. Below we’ll go through the steps I took when making my informed decision of which tablet I wanted to purchase and why they’re important.
Believe it or not, people don’t tend to consider their own personal preferences when it comes to choosing their drawing tablet the first time around. Do you enjoy sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time or would you much rather be on your couch in front of the tv watching your favorite show while perhaps browsing the internet on your phone? Are you left or right-handed? Do you want to be able to work on the go, or just work in a dedicated space?
Think of these things when it comes to purchasing a graphics tablet.
I should hope you’re going to consider price when it comes to choosing your art tablet. Prices can range from as little as $20 to as much as $5,000. Finding something that not only fits your budget but also checks off all your needs can be difficult. Sometimes you may need to compromise but I would suggest (as any sane person should) do not go over a budget you’re comfortable with. Set a price point in mind and stick to it.
This won’t be as much of a concern if you’re picking a drawing tablet that hooks up to your computer but it’s something you need to consider if you’re looking at a standalone device. We’ll get into this later, but do yourself a favor and research your options.
If you’ve already chosen what software you want to use for creating digital art and that software isn’t available on a tablet type you’re looking at, you may need to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate your options. I know I had to when I found software I was thinking of trying was only available on a specific device that ended up being way out of my price range.
Most people today check review ratings on things before they purchase them. It’s just good sense to see what other people have to say on it. Purchasing a drawing tablet, and the decisions you make when choosing which art tablet to purchase is no different. Spend some time digging through reviews and don’t just pay attention to the rating but the meat of the review. Sometimes you’ll find things that may turn you off one particular tablet or another. Watch videos of unboxings and general reviews. Fair warning, there are some stipulations to this we’ll get into in the next section.
Check Your Sources
In the world of the internet, it’s hard to find a completely unbiased review. Drawing tablets, I’ve found and trying to choose one can be one of those subjects that are even more biased than most.
Opinions from Artists
Artists can be some of the most biased people on the planet when it comes to their tools. Drawing tablets, being one of those tools, can become a quickly heated discussion on a forum or in a Discord chat. I’ve heard and seen quite a few veterans of the trade tell newbies “You don’t need more than this type of tablet”. While that can be true, the choosing of your most important tool to create digital art needs to be your choice, with your own preferences in mind.
Drawing Tablet Reviews
There is an unfortunate side effect of doing reviews on drawing tablets. Companies notice and start sending you free things to do more reviews on. You become trapped in a cycle. Art tablet reviews, the ones that are sponsored by a company at least, are very likely to be heavily skewed towards giving a positive review of that tablet. Make sure to view reviews from multiple sources on the same product when choosing your drawing tablet.
Take Everything with a Grain of Salt
There’s a saying: “It’s on the internet so it must be true”. When picking out your art tablet, make sure to take everything you read and hear with a grain of salt until you’ve gained a good knowledge base on your choices.
Types of Drawing Tablets
Okay, so you’ve started to have a general grasp of what should be running through your head when picking out your graphics tablet to create digital art with, but I’ve saved a very important bit for last. What types of drawing tablets are there? They come in three basic flavors: no screen, in screen and standalone.
No Screen Tablets
A drawing tablet without a screen is one that hooks up to your computer and takes input from the stylus on the tablet itself to replicate itself into a cursor on your monitor display that interacts with your drawing program (or a host of other programs). Some companies even use these as document signature pads for their simplicity.
These tend to be the cheapest on the market but they do come with a downside: you aren’t looking at what you’re drawing. You’re looking up at a monitor instead of at your tablet. That disconnect between what your hand is doing and what your eye is seeing is actually a drawing technique practiced in the traditional art world and it can be entirely disconcerting. This tablet is usually recommended to newbies due to its price point.
In Screen Tablets
An in-screen drawing tablet is a tablet that hooks up to your computer and allows you to draw on the tablet itself. This has the advantage of being able to see what you’re drawing right under your stylus. A downside of these is that they can be fairly pricey, depending on what you’re looking at purchasing. If you’re switching from a no screen tablet to an in-screen one, a hilarious side effect can be some minor frustration as your hand is now in the way of the rest of your drawing.
These come in forms you may not be expecting if you’ve done any sort of basic research on art tablets. That tablet you purchased to watch videos on the go with? Did it come with a stylus? Does it have some form of pressure sensitivity? It might just work as a standalone art tablet. It is something to consider when you are choosing a drawing tablet, as you may have one you can already try some digital art with. I know I did this with my Samsung 10.1 Tablet.
Another version of this, however, is a full computer packed into a tablet size. Wacom has a few of these in their Mobile Studio version. These tablets can be very expensive and limited in what programs you can use, so choose carefully!
Ready to Buy Your First Drawing Tablet?
Have you decided what drawing tablet you want to buy to jumpstart your digital art passion? No? Well, go do your homework. Remember to keep these things in mind: choose what’s going to be the best fit for you, check multiple sources of information, and stick to your budget! Choosing the right drawing tablet that suits your needs can last you years.
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Related External Articles
Here are some additional articles I’ve found around the web that might help you get started: