If you work as a graphic designer, a pen tablet – also known as a graphic tablet – is an indispensable tool to have at your disposal. With it, you can draw directly onto your tablet and have the images you create appear on your computer screen, no scanning required.
As is the case with any electronic item, there are many brands and models of pen tablets available. It can be a challenge to sort through them and pick out the best one for your needs, and that’s why we’ve done the legwork for you. Let’s start by talking about some of the features you may want to consider before making a purchase.
What to Look for in a Pen Tablet
There are only a few real competitors in the market for pen tablets, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have choices. Here are the main components to review.
The first and most important element to consider is the pressure sensitivity of the tablet in question. When you draw with a pen or pencil, you’re limited to three or four points of sensitivity. Not so with a pen tablet. In fact, the tablets available can provide anywhere between 512 and 2048 points of sensitivity. The more sensitivity a tablet has, the better you will be able to control the intensity and flow of your strokes. What you’re looking for is a tablet that gives you the maximum amount of control.
Some pen tablets offer designers a series of hot keys that they can program to eliminate the need to use keyboard shortcuts. This option can save a lot of time, particularly if you use the same shortcuts frequently. After all, the goal is to make your designs better and make your job easier to do.
The size of the tablet matters too. You might prefer a small tablet that you can easily take with you on the go, or if you’re using it for CAD, a large tablet might be the best option for you. Tablets come in a wide range of sizes so there is an option for everybody.
It would be great if we never had to worry about price, but for most of us, it’s a consideration. Some tablets are more affordable than others. You’ll have to think about what you need and what you can afford to spend and then set an appropriate budget for your new tablet.
Best Pen Tablets for Graphic Designers in 2017
Now that you know what some of the key options to consider are, it’s time for us to reveal our picks for the top 10 pen tablets for designers.
Table of Contents
- 10. Huion Micro USB Drawing Big Size Graphics Tablet with 8G SD Card and Rechargeable Pen
- 9. Ugee M708 Graphic Drawing Pen Tablet with 10×6 Inch Large Working Area
- 8. Wacom Intuos Art Pen and Touch
- 7. Wacom Intuos Photo Pen and Touch
- 6. XP-Pen G430 OSU Tablet Ultrathin Graphic Tablet
- 5. Huion H610 Pro Graphic Drawing Tablet with Carrying Bag and Glove
- 4. Ugee M1000L 10 x 6 Inch Graphics Drawing Digital Pen Tablet
- 3. XP-Pen Star05 Wireless 2.4G Graphics Drawing Tablet
- 2. Wacom Intuos Draw CTL490DB Digital Drawing and Graphics Tablet
- 1. Huion GT-185 Graphic Drawing Tablet Monitor
10. Huion Micro USB Drawing Big Size Graphics Tablet with 8G SD Card and Rechargeable Pen
Our first pick is the Huion Micro USB Drawing Big Size Graphics Tablet. We like this product because of its 2048 pressure sensitivity, which gives designers the maximum amount of control available. It comes with a rechargeable pen that works for 450 hours on a single charge – and the pen weighs only 14 grams so it won’t wear out your hand to use it. This product also comes with 12 programmable hot keys, 10 pen tip replacements and an art glove.
There are a few potential downsides to this product. For one, it doesn’t work as well with Corel Draw and Photo Paint as it does with some other design software. Also, because both the tablet and the buttons are black they can be hard to see. Finally, the pen does not come with an eraser – something that can be handy. Still, its affordable price may make it attractive for designers on a budget.
9. Ugee M708 Graphic Drawing Pen Tablet with 10×6 Inch Large Working Area
Our #9 pick is the Ugee M708 Graphic Drawing Pen Tablet. We like this particular tablet because of its large drawing service, which measures 10 inches by 6 inches. It has 2048 points of sensitivity and 8 programmable hot keys. The included pen runs on one AAA battery, and it comes with 8 replacement nibs. It works with both Windows and iOS operating systems.
There are some issues to keep in mind. First, while the pressure settings are good, they work better with the Ugee settings than with some of the available design software. The pen isn’t as easy to control or as sensitive as some of the other options on the market.
8. Wacom Intuos Art Pen and Touch
Coming in at #8 on our list is the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch. This product makes our list because, as you might expect from Wacom, it’s a high quality product with great features. In addition to having high sensitivity that allows for a great deal of precision, the pad maps exactly to the screen so you don’t have to worry about drawing outside the lines. It’s compatible with both Windows and Apple operating systems, and it comes with four programmable hot keys.
On the downside, this tablet is more expensive than some of the others on our list, although it is still quite affordable for a professional quality tablet. You may have to jump through some hoops to install the correct drivers on this tablet, but once it’s up to date it works very well.
7. Wacom Intuos Photo Pen and Touch
The #7 item on our list is another product from Wacom, the Intuos Photo Pen and Touch. This product makes our list because it has the quality you might expect from Wacom and you can use to edit photos as well as to draw. It won’t pick up pressure from your hand if you rest it on the tablet, and it integrates with all of the most popular graphic design software.
There are a few negatives to consider. This product has a relatively small screen, a little over 8” by 5”, so if you need a larger surface area, look elsewhere. Depending on the software you want to use with it, you might need to seek out and download new drivers. However, it’s affordable so that may offset the potential issues.
6. XP-Pen G430 OSU Tablet Ultrathin Graphic Tablet
Our number 6 pick is the XP-Pen G430 Ultrathin Graphic Tablet. We like this tablet for its thin, lightweight design. Its pen requires no charging so you can use it continuously, and this table has 2048 pressure sensitivity for maximum control. It’s compatible with both Mac and Windows computers.
The potential cons of this tablet include that it’s got a relatively small surface area, only 4 inches by 3 inches. It also doesn’t require any drivers so you can use it right out of the box. If you like the control of having programmable hot buttons, this tablet doesn’t come with any.
5. Huion H610 Pro Graphic Drawing Tablet with Carrying Bag and Glove
Coming in at #5 on our list is the Huion H610 Graphic Drawing Tablet. There’s a lot to like about this tablet. It comes with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 2 programmable buttons. It has a 10” by 6.25” drawing surface, and it comes with a carrying bag and art glove.
On the downside, this stylus for this machine needs to be charged – however, you can still use it while it’s attached the charger if you don’t mind being tethered. There’s also not as much tilt as you might want. Finally, it may at times be difficult to control the opacity of your strokes, but it gets easier as you grow accustomed to using the tablet.
4. Ugee M1000L 10 x 6 Inch Graphics Drawing Digital Pen Tablet
The #4 pick on our list is the Ugee M1000L Graphics Drawing Digital Pen Tablet. It makes our list thanks to its 2048 point pressure sensitivity and 4000 LPI resolution. It comes with 16 pre-programmed express keys as well as 8 customizable hot keys for easy use and automation when you need it. It has a large 6” by 10” screen, too.
You should be aware of a few potential negatives as well. First, you’ll have to work a bit to decipher the manual. Second, while it comes with preprogrammed buttons they may not be the ones you want, since designer preferences vary.
3. XP-Pen Star05 Wireless 2.4G Graphics Drawing Tablet
Coming in at #3 on our list is the XP-Pen Star05 Wireless Graphics Drawing Tablet. We like this tablet for several reasons. First, its 2048 point pressure sensitivity gives you a huge amount of control over what you draw. It will run for 14 hours when fully charged, and the stylus does not require charging. It also has a spacious 8” by 5” screen for drawing.
While we like this tablet a lot, there is one potential downside to keep in mind. The primary issue is that depending on what software you want to use with it, you may have to do some legwork to figure out the best drivers to install. However, once you get that sorted out this is a very good tablet at a reasonable price.
2. Wacom Intuos Draw CTL490DB Digital Drawing and Graphics Tablet
The #2 pick on our list is the Wacom Intuos Draw CTL490DB. We chose it because it has great responsiveness and some useful features, including free drawing software and a stylus that doesn’t need charging. It’s also very reasonably priced.
The biggest potential issue with this tablet is that the screen is small. For some graphic designers that might not be an issue, but if you prefer a large screen then you should probably pick another tablet. Using the stylus may also require some trial and error, but once you get the hang of it, it works very well.
1. Huion GT-185 Graphic Drawing Tablet Monitor
Our number one pick is the Huion GT-185 Graphic Drawing Tablet Monitor. There are a lot of reasons to love this particular tablet. First, it has a super-fast response time and excellent pen sensitivity so you can control every stroke of your pen. It’s got a large work area with 5080 LPI resolution, it works with almost any graphic design software you can imagine, and unlike some other tablets, the battery doesn’t get hot with use.
There isn’t much we don’t love about this product, but here are some things we should mention. The primary issue is that it’s not truly portable – you have to leave it plugged into your computer for it to work. However, the overall quality is so high that we still recommend it. It’s a great alternative if you don’t have the budget for a Cintiq tablet.
Whether you’re a professional graphic designer or an aspiring artist, having the right pen tablet can help you express yourself through your work. The 10 tablets on this list have some amazing features, and they are our favorites for 2017.