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How to Choose the Right Digital Art Drawing Tablet

April 28, 2016


With digital art becoming increasingly popular, it’s no wonder that many artists are moving away from a canvass and paintbrush in favor of a computer screen and a drawing tablet. For those that aren’t exactly technologically savvy, it can be easy to get lost in the sea of imitators. What qualities do the best drawing tablets have? Why are some brands better than others? Luckily, we’re going to go over every facet of drawing tablets here, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into when you finally decide to make your purchase.

What’s in a Name?

When searching for a tablet online, one of the first things you’ll notice is how many different names they can go by. Don’t be alarmed though, a graphic tablet and a graphic pad are both referring to the same thing: a digital drawing tablet. These names may sound different, but in reality they all refer to some sort of connecting device (a pad) that plugs into your computer.

How Do Tablets Work?

Put simply, a digital tablet works by applying pressure with a stylus to the pad. Depending on the model you’ve chosen, a different amount of pressure will be required to get the right stroke to appear. It’s important to remember, though, that the tablet’s pen can be manipulated digitally to represent anything you want, whether that’s a paintbrush, a pencil, or something else entirely.

So, now we understand pressure sensitivity. Tablets also differ from one another by the way they present information. Many inexpensive Wacom tablets convey no information to the artist. Instead, these tablets rely on the monitor to show the artist how their work is developing. By contrast, other tablets have built in feedback and display information directly from the tablet to the user. This allows artists to more efficiently adapt and make alterations as they’re working.

Indirect Tablet Recommendations

Over on the Wacom table, there are some great options for budding artists that are on a tight budget. As a brand, the Wacom drivers come highly recommended, and they’re known for being on the higher end of the scale when it comes to finding a drawing tablet for PC or a drawing tablet for Mac. In terms of a specific product, it might be best to take a look at the Wacom Bamboo tablet line. It’s effective for its cost, and cheap enough to not require a large commitment from artists that are unsure about taking the leap to digital. At a step higher is the Wacom INTUO, which also includes free online training tutorials to guide newcomers through the intricacies of digital artwork.

Direct Tablet Recommendations

While we’ve taken a look at indirect tablets, direct tablets are for artists that are much more serious about transitioning to digital. In that case, the Wacom CINTIQ line is a great place to start. A drawing tablet with screen is a serious commitment, but the CINTIQ model can really elevate a digital artist’s work, as well as help them create more efficiently.

When looking at direct tablets, it’s important to look at the dimensions. As you won’t be relying on your computer monitor for seeing your work come to life, having a well-sized tablet can mean the difference between a smart purchase and something you’ll later regret. Furthermore, you’ll want to look at the screen resolution to ensure it presents a crisp image that will help your creativity rather than hinder it.

Of course, artists that are already familiar with Apple products are probably already interested in the iPad Pro. As with the iPad before it, the pro version is certainly a solid product specifically designed for the creative community. With that in mind, its intuitive functionality may be worth looking into for those that aren’t as comfortable with a CINTIQ or Bamboo tablet. This is also true of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, which also comes highly recommended. These two products are also unique in that they’re more than just tablets: they can also effectively act as laptop replacements. Artists that want to take advantage of the digital world, but don’t want to break their budget in the process, would do well to consider Apple or Microsoft’s alternatives to the more popular tablet brands.

Bringing It Together

As daunting as it may be to move into a new form of expression, hopefully this guide has made it a little easier. Whether you’re completely new to the field and are interested in trying out a basic Bamboo tablet, or you’re a seasoned professional looking to make the next big step with a CINTIQ, there are plenty of options available. The most important thing to remember is that digital art is about embracing creativity, and to not let anything constrain that. If you find that the tablet you’ve looked into isn’t working, don’t hesitate to switch gears and try something different. At the cheaper levels this is especially true, as not all tablets are created equal. If a tablet doesn’t provide the drawing space you require, try finding one that’s a little bit bigger in your price range. Whatever your decision is, remember to have fun and take advantage of everything the digital world has to offer.

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