Best Graphic Design Tablet (2023)

In my 12 years of experience in the industry, I’ve learned a lot about the different kinds of tablets. From the best cheap drawing tablets to the best tablet for beginners, you’ll find it all—and more—in this concise guide.

One valuable thing I’ve learned is that more expensive drawing tablets aren’t necessarily better. Sure, they may have more bells and whistles, but the act of drawing and making digital art remains mostly the same.

So, in this article, I’ll compare tablets by XP-Pen, Apple, and Wacom to determine which delivers the most value. This is based on the most essential features such as connectivity, responsiveness, and size.

I’ll also tell you why many think Wacom is the best, whether a graphics tablet is better than a pen display, and if getting a graphic tablet is worth it. Finally, I’ll give you tips on the best tablet size, so you can avoid making a costly mistake.

After all, the point of getting a drawing tablet is to make your work more efficient and have fun doing it, but you must choose the right one to reap the benefits.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, and I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. To learn more, visit my editorial guidelines.

What Is the Best Graphic Design Tablet?

1. Wacom Intuos Pro Medium

Overview

It should be no surprise that Wacom sits at the top of my list of the best graphics tablets. The industry leader has built a stellar reputation for the highest quality products. The Intuos Pro is no exception.

The medium tablet feels solid but not clunky. You won’t break your back carrying it around, but it has enough weight to make it feel premium and well-built.

If you’ve never used a Wacom Pro Pen, you’re in for a treat. Wacom’s patented EMR technology makes it feel like you are drawing on paper. Not only that, the pen is comfortable to hold and incredibly responsive.

The touch ring and express keys are nice added bonuses. If you do a lot of repetitive actions, you can program the buttons to suit your needs. Then, once you get familiar with the shortcuts, your workflow will get a boost.

Best Graphics Tablet
Best graphics tablet, Wacom Intuos Pro Medium

Wacom Intuos Pro Medium

Wacom takes the cake in an increasingly competitive market for tablets. You’ll love the express keys and Bluetooth, but the real reason to get the Intuos Pro is the complete drawing experience. Work was never supposed to be this much fun.

Key Features

  • Active Area 12.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Weight 1.54 pounds
  • Connectivity Bluetooth
  • Stylus Wacom Pro Pen 2
  • Express Keys 8

Bottom Line

Professional or not, if you’re serious about creating digital art and want the best graphics tablet available, you can’t go wrong with the Intuos Pro.

I’ve used several other tablets over the years, and this Wacom is undoubtedly one of my favorites.

By now, you’ve heard all about the features such as Bluetooth and express keys, but the main thing to take away is what a joy this graphics tablet is to use.

Of course, you can always find cheap drawing tablets on the market, but once you start using the Intuos Pro daily, the cost will become irrelevant.

2. XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro

Overview

Although Wacom is known to produce some of the best drawing tablets, there are a few excellent alternatives for people looking to spend less and get more. The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro may be the perfect option if that sounds like you.

The display is one of the best things about the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro. The 15.6 screen size is generous, has excellent sRGB coverage (120 percent), and uses full-laminated technology. This means it feels more like drawing on paper.

Another great feature is the Red Dial. You can use this to rotate your canvas, zoom in and out, or do anything else you want it to do. Along with the shortcut keys, it allows you to fully customize your drawing experience.

Let’s talk about the stylus: It has over 8,000 levels of pen pressure sensitivity, and the responsiveness is incredible. It doesn’t slide too much or feel too grippy. Just know it may take some initial calibration, but then you’ll be set.

Best Drawing Tablet
Best drawing tablet, XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro

Wacom is great, but if you’re looking for incredible value, check out this drawing tablet by XP-Pen. The Artist 15.6 Pro has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a premium tablet, but when you get down to it, it’s simply a joy to use.

Key Features

  • Display Size 15.6 inches
  • Resolution 1920 x 1080 
  • Weight 3.31 pounds
  • Connectivity 3-in-1 cable
  • Stylus PA2 Battery-free stylus
  • Express Keys 8

Bottom Line

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro gets a lot of love from graphic designers and illustrators for good reason. It’s a phenomenal pen display that feels ultra-premium for a non-premium price.

Forget about all the extras like the stand, the drawing glove, and the nibs. The real reason you want this drawing tablet is the overall experience.

Once you program the shortcut keys, you’ll get your work done faster. Thanks to the top-notch pen stylus and gorgeous IPS display, you’ll also have more fun doing it.

With a sleek, slim profile built for portability, you can’t go wrong with this excellent XP-Pen display. It’s the best drawing tablet overall.

3. Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Overview

If you already own Apple products, such as the iPhone or MacBook Pro, getting an iPad Pro makes a lot of sense. The main reason is that your workflow is streamlined by staying within the Apple ecosystem.

However, there are other reasons to get the iPad Pro 11-inch (2021). First is the M1 Chip. Apple’s processor improves user experience running Adobe CC apps. So, if you plan on using Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, your experience will be silky smooth.

Remember that unlike the graphics tablets and pen displays on this list, the iPad Pro is a standalone drawing tablet. It doesn’t need to be hooked up to a computer screen, so you can take it outside or curl up on your favorite couch to make a digital painting.

The Retina display might be the best tablet screen on this list. You’ll get bright and vibrant colors, crisp details, and a high refresh rate, thanks to ProMotion.

Add to that the Apple Pencil 2, and you get one of the best drawing tablets on Earth.

Best Apple Tablet
Apple iPad Pro 11-inch

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

From Apple’s speedy M1 Chip to its gorgeous Retina display, the iPad Pro 11-inch is an embarrassment of riches. I wish it came with an Apple Pencil, but that’s my only complaint. I use my iPad for work every day, and it’s a purchase I don’t regret.

Key Features

  • Display Size 11 inches
  • Resolution 2388 x 1668 
  • Processor Apple M1 Chip
  • Weight 1.03 pounds
  • Operating System Mac OS
  • Connectivity USB-C

Bottom Line

The Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) is an excellent drawing tablet, but it’s also one of the most expensive. Not to mention, it doesn’t come with a pen stylus. You have to buy the Apple Pencil separately.

That said, if you take your design and illustration seriously, you won’t regret getting an iPad. It’s the sort of device that will inspire you to create digital art more often.

Since it functions as a standalone drawing tablet, you can also check your email and watch YouTube videos whenever you’re not drawing on Procreate.

Everything about the iPad Pro is top-notch, from the Retina display to the M1 Chip. If you have the money, it’s one of the best drawing tablets you can buy.

4. XP-Pen Artist12 11.6

Overview

If you’re not ready for the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro, the Artist12 is an excellent alternative. It has many of the same features and functionality as the pro version but at a much lower price.

The most noticeable difference is the size. However, it does come with an anti-reflective screen protector pre-installed, a battery-free stylus, a pen holder, and a drawing glove (if that’s your thing).

The screen protector, in particular, is a nice bonus. You don’t want to install this yourself or, worse, have a drawing surface with lots of glare.

XP’s battery-free digital pens are phenomenal, offering high levels of pen pressure sensitivity. Combined with an FHD display, this feels like a Wacom tablet at a non-Wacom price.

Best Budget Tablet
XP-Pen Artist12

XP-Pen Artist12 11.6

The XP-Pen Artist12 is one of the best deals around. I like the shortcut keys, the FHD screen, and the stylus. Overall, it’s an excellent drawing tablet for beginners and professionals who demand high quality but also want to save a few bucks.

Key Features

  • Display Size 11.6 inches
  • Resolution 1920 x 1080
  • Weight 2 pounds
  • Connectivity 3-in-1 cable
  • Stylus PA2 Battery-free stylus

Bottom Line

There are many great things about XP-PEN displays, but remember that they are not standalone drawing tablets. They must be hooked up to your computer at all times.

However, if you’re a beginner at digital art, this might be the best budget tablet you can buy.

It offers many pro-like features, such as shortcut keys, a battery-free pen, and a full HD display, but it costs much less than a Wacom Cintiq (see below) and other tablets like it.

Also, note that XP-PEN has excellent customer support. The Artist12 is a pretty accessible drawing tablet for beginners. Still, if you experience any issues, help is just an email away.

5. Wacom Cintiq 16

Overview

For graphic designers, tablets are an essential tool; for many, Wacom tablets are a must. The Wacom Cintiq 16, in particular, is a fantastic option.

First off, the pen display is an ideal size. It’s large enough that you don’t have to zoom in and out constantly but small enough that it can be portable if needed.

There are no shortcut keys. Depending on your preference, this may be a good or bad thing. Either way, you’ll adjust quite quickly once you start using it.

The drawing surface has just enough grip to feel like paper, and combined with the Wacom Pro Pen 2, with an incredible 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, it feels like a premium pen tablet.

Best Mid-Range Tablet
Wacom Cintiq 16

Wacom Cintiq 16

I had the pleasure of trying out the Cintiq this year and was smitten instantly. Perhaps it’s the near-perfect display, or maybe the excellent Pro Pen 2. There are many different drawing tablets on the market, but few are quite like this.

Key Features

  • Display Size 15.6 inches
  • Resolution 1920 x 1080 
  • Weight 4.19 pounds
  • Connectivity Wired with HDMI
  • Stylus Wacom Pro Pen 2

Bottom Line

The Wacom Cintiq 16 is a lot of fun. Granted, it’s not the cheapest pen display you can buy, but you get a lot of bang for your buck.

One potential downside is the 1080p display, which is a non-issue for most people. If you’re hypersensitive to screen resolution or coming from 4K, you may not be satisfied with the pixel density.

For me, though, the most crucial thing with pen tablets such as this is the overall drawing experience. Everything else is just bells and whistles.

The sturdy feel of the Wacom Cintiq 16, a good refresh rate, excellent pen pressure sensitivity, and ease of use make it my pick for one of the best graphic design tablets.

6. Wacom One Creative Pen Display

Overview

The One Creative Pen Display is one of the best cheap drawing tablets. It’s excellent for beginners, but I know some professional graphic designers who also use it. That says a lot.

The pen is one of the biggest benefits of buying a Wacom tablet. The Wacom One Pen has 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity compared to the 8192 levels of the Wacom Pro Pen 2. Still, the difference is unnoticeable for most people.

The most important thing is that the pen is lightweight, responsive, and feels pretty natural to draw with.

Another benefit is that the Wacom One can be used as an external monitor for your computer. So, when you’re not drawing, you can use it as an extended display. This is great for graphic designers who need more screen real estate than their laptop or desktop computer allows.

This display tablet comes with a software bundle that includes Bamboo Paper Pro, Magma Studio, and several Affinity programs. Though geared more towards beginners, it’s a nice bonus, nevertheless.

Best Tablet for Beginners
Wacom One Creative Pen Display

Wacom One Creative Pen Display

I like the Wacom One because I can use it as an extended monitor for my computer. It’s also super fun to draw with and comes with various extras. Though more of a beginner tablet, don’t be surprised if you hang on to it forever.

Key Features

  • Display Size 13.3 inches
  • Resolution 1920 x 1080
  • Weight 2.2 pounds 
  • Connectivity Wacom One X-Shape Cable
  • Stylus Wacom One Pen

Bottom Line

The Wacom One Creative Pen Display has a lot going for it. The build quality is good for the price, the pen is accurate and responsive, and the pen display has a textured feel.

Not only that, but it’s small enough to draw in your lap and comes with a bunch of software programs that may be useful to a beginner graphic designer or illustrator. This includes a free trial of Skillshare, which is pretty sweet.

To be fair, I must also mention a few downsides.

The X-Cables are a bit awkward. It’s not a dealbreaker, but if you don’t like clutter, you’ll probably be annoyed by the “all-in-one” cable system.

Lastly, the screen brightness and color are decent but not spectacular. Keep in mind that this is a starter tablet. If you need to see something in greater detail, simply use your computer screen to cross-reference.

7. One by Wacom Student

Overview

It’s no secret why this graphics tablet made the cut. The price is so low it feels like you’re stealing something!

I love how Wacom has taken all the technology gained from four decades of existence and produced a budget tablet for drawing even a broke student can afford.

Let me let you in on a secret, though: It’s not just for students. Even professional designers can find much value in this budget drawing tablet.

Use it to sketch out ideas, take notes, retouch, mark up presentations, and more. It’s a handy tool and costs less than a night out at a restaurant.

Best Tablet for Students
One by Wacom Student drawing tablet

One by Wacom Student

Sometimes, the best things come in the smallest packages. One by Wacom Student is one of the cheapest tablets you’ll find, but don’t let the price fool you. This nifty little device is insanely useful (and fun) for anyone doing graphic design.

Key Features

  • Active Area 8.3 x 5.5 
  • Weight 15.5 ounces
  • Connectivity USB
  • Stylus Battery-free pen
  • Express Keys 4

Bottom Line

One by Wacom fits in your hand, requires a single USB cable, and includes a Wacom stylus. It does precisely what a drawing tablet should do.

The pen is surprisingly grippy and responsive. It’s a Wacom, after all, so you can expect a certain level of quality from this acclaimed brand.

It’s also worth noting that this particular graphics tablet is compatible with Chromebook, Windows, and Mac. Therefore, compatibility shouldn’t be a problem.

For all these reasons, I think it is the best budget drawing tablet you can buy.

Therefore, if you’re not ready to invest in the more luxurious Cintiq or Intuos Pro, this affordable graphics tablet is an excellent alternative.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium is a phenomenal graphics tablet based on overall drawing experience. The build quality is fantastic, it has 8 shortcut keys, and the pen is a joy to hold.

On the other hand, look no further than the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro if you need a tablet with an HD display. It’s one of the best for photo editing, illustration, and design. Though not the cheapest drawing tablet, it does have a reasonably affordable price tag.

XP-Pen graphic design tablet in action

FAQ

Is Wacom Still the Best?

Wacom is still the best when it comes to quality. Its top-of-the-line pen display tablets (such as the Cintiq series) are exceptional in terms of screen resolution, sRGB coverage, and matte glass. 

While some competitors are making huge strides with their drawing tablets each year, Wacom remains the industry leader for the time being.

What Is the Difference Between a Graphics Tablet and a Drawing Tablet?

The terms graphics tablet and drawing tablet are often used interchangeably, but, in fact, they are two separate things. 

A graphics tablet is a digital canvas without a screen. It needs to be hooked up to a computer screen to see what you’re drawing. 

On the other hand, drawing tablets have a display, so you can look down and see what you’re doing, much like real paper. Some have processors and can function like standalone devices, while others must be powered by a computer. 

Is Getting a Graphics Tablet Worth It?

For many graphic designers, getting a tablet is worth it, especially if you want to get your work done faster and have more fun doing it. 

Drawing with a mouse doesn’t feel natural compared with holding a pen in your hand. 

With a decent tablet, all those tedious tasks like drawing paths and fine-tuning shapes will become much more palatable. 

What Is the Best Size for a Graphics Tablet?

The best size for a graphic tablet depends on your specific situation. 

For example, if you have limited desk space, you will probably want one smaller than 12 inches. On the other hand, 12–16 inches is an ideal range if you have plenty of space. 

Also, take into consideration how you work. A larger tablet (16 inches or more) may be ideal if you’re at your desk for hours. However, sitting with it in your lap may be too cumbersome. 

What Is the Best Android Tablet?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is my pick for the best Android drawing tablet. 

Some consider Wacom and Huion to be Android tablets, and, sure, you can attach them to an Android computer to make them work. However, the Galaxy Tab S8+ is a standalone device that can be taken anywhere. 

With the AMOLED display, Snapdragon chip, and S Pen, this is one of the best in the tablet market. 

Further Reading

If you’re an analog lover who values paper and pencils, check out my guide to the best books on drawing that will help hone your craft. You may also be interested in learning about branding for small business.