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Professional illustrators who work only with pen and paper are getting harder to find. Whether you’re creating your next masterpiece wholly on a computer, or polishing it off with digital detailing, a tablet can be an invaluable tool. At its best, it effortlessly brings your unique human touch to the ones-and-zeroes process.
Tablet computers and displays have come a long way. Apple’s iPad no longer has the creative game cornered. Microsoft’s line of Surface tablets, with its special attention to artistic endeavors, has garnered a passionate following. And brands like Wacom have continued to evolve, keeping their cult customer base.
Your tablet doesn’t need to be a full computer to suit your needs. It essentially serves as an extra monitor, responding to touch and a stylus for drawing needs. There are also tablets with no screens at all, whose pad-like surfaces instead pick up and transmit your doodling to a computer (more on that later).
Whatever tablet type you choose, you want a fast, accurate response to the stylus. The device should be able to sit upright in a comfortable position for drawing. The idea is to replicate the old ink (or paint) and canvas method as much as possible while making everything way, way easier. In the digital sphere, you can sketch, ink with a “marker,” or throw a whole faux-paint bucket on your piece, and clean it up with a swipe.
We carefully scoured through the current tablet landscape at every budget, from Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung tablet computers to niche brands like Wacom. After testing the devices by hand, we landed on the best options — whether you’re an amateur doodler or a pro studio artist.
The Best Tablets for Drawing at a Glance
For this roundup, we researched hundreds of tablets to select seven options to suit any consumer’s budget or needs. We tried out the units for over a month, furiously drawing and redrawing various kinds of illustrations and digital paintings, testing out a range of features to maximize our (admittedly limited) talents. We tested the units’ ability to replicate natural hand-drawing movement, response speed, stylus operation and comfort, and helpful built-in software for drawing. We can confidently say that you’ll find an excellent tablet option for you here.
- BEST OVERALL Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (Intel Core i7), from $1,300 — Amazon | Best Buy | Microsoft | Walmart
- BEST FOR MAC USERS 2022 Apple iPad Air, from $559 — Amazon | Best Buy | Target | Walmart
- BEST FOR ANDROID USERS Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+, from $790 — Samsung | Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart
- BEST DRAWING-ONLY TABLET Wacom Cintiq 16, from $650 — Amazon | B&H Photo and Video | Best Buy | Wacom
- BEST FOR STUDIO PROS Xp-pen Artist24 Pro, 23.8-inches, from $900 — Amazon | Walmart | Xp-pen
- BEST BUDGET Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M, from $100 — Amazon | Huion | Walmart
- BEST FOR KIDS Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids, from $200 — Amazon | Best Buy
THR Drawing Tablet Reviews: How We Tested
We received complimentary review units from tablets and tested each one’s drawing app using the brand’s stylus (or a third-party one, in the case of the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids tablet).
We assessed each tablet based on the following criteria:
Overall user interface How easy is it the tablet to use in general? Is there a learning curve?
Performance How well does the tablet handle multi-tasking across apps?
Stylus responsiveness How closely does the pen mimic natural drawing? What is the pressure sensitivity range?
Stylus ergonomics How comfortable is the pen to use and hold?
Display quality How vibrant is the screen?
Portability How easy is it to travel with?
Built-in apps How easy are the included drawing apps to use for beginners and advanced artists alike?
Based on the above, we honed in on seven of the best tablets for drawing for every skill level — read on below for our honest reviews.
1. Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Tablet
BEST TABLET FOR DRAWING OVERALL
- Super-fast, laptop-like power
- Incredibly responsive and sharp, bright touchscreen
- Easily portable pairing with the Slim Pen 2
- Not as light as some tablets
Microsoft has thrown just about everything you could want from a regular PC inside this sleek Surface Pro 8 tablet. It runs Windows 11 with the laptop-level power of the 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM (you can upgrade to 32 GB). The solid-state drive with 256 GB of storage (upgrade to up to 1 TB) means there’s room for everything creative pros, or joy-seeking hobbyists, need at their fingertips. (If your usage isn’t as demanding, you could opt for the less powerful, more affordable Surface Pro 8 with the Intel Core i5 processor, currently priced at $1,196, regularly $1,400.)
This is the only tablet on the list I would be more than happy to also use as my dedicated home computer — and I say that as a Mac guy. While there’s a learning curve if you’re not a regular PC person, I found running apps from Adobe Express to Word dead-simple and lightning-fast.
But the best thing about the Surface Pro 8 is the crafty hardware design. You can tell how much attention the developers paid to its pairing with the detachable keyboard and the (not included) Slim Pen 2 stylus. Encased in pleasant, felt-like material, the keyboard doubles as a handsome cover. The built-in, adjustable metal kickstand is flexible for various surfaces, sturdy and solid. Like the keyboard-plus-cover that houses it, the Slim Pen 2 (currently on sale for $95, reg. $130) magnetically snaps into its slot. You can forget it’s there, and then quickly pick it up for an intense illustrating session.
The pen is ideally light while holding enough weight to keep it steady. I spent hours penning colorful illustrations on Microsoft Whiteboard, the lovely included app for artists of all kinds. (I illustrated a turtle that made my friend’s sea creature-loving mom happy.) The 13-inch touchscreen is enough real estate for all but expert large-scale works (if that’s your thing, look below).
The Surface Pro 8 makes creative, and not-so-creative, work breezier than on a laptop. While retaining all the power. Yes, it comes with a laptop-like price tag, but it may change the way you look at tablets. My trusty iPad suddenly seemed sadly lacking after playing with it. Microsoft’s tablet is also heavier, yet built to be slim enough to slide into a backpack. In a word, it’s the best drawing tablet for creative pros and hobbyists who want maximal laptop power in one screen.
This is a no-brainer upgrade for Windows users who want more out of their Surface, or a replacement for their laptop. The Surface Pro 8 does spectacular double duty. Others may be enticed to finally cross to Bill Gates’ side.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Tablet (Intel Core i7) Specifications
- Price from $1,300
- Display size 13 inches
- Image resolution 2880×1920
- CPU & RAM 4.8 GHz Core i7 with 16 GB LPDDR4
- Storage 256 GB SSD
- Battery life Varies based on usage
- Ports 2x USB-C with USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4; Surface Connect port; Surface Type Cover port; 3.5mm audio jack
- Dimensions 9.1 x 12.2 x 2 inches
- Weight 2 pounds
2. 2022 Apple iPad Air
BEST DRAWING TABLET FOR MAC USERS
- Apple’s trademark simplicity
- Gorgeous display
- Light, compact packaging
- Pleasing price point
- Not drawing-centric
- Screen is on the smaller side
Those already living the iPad-on-the-couch life more or less know what they’re getting here. And it’s not a bad life: Apple’s tablet may not be the reason people buy into the company, but it has defined the user-friendly nature of the modern tablet for perusing articles and documents, streaming movies and TV, and increasingly… serious drawing.
That simplicity is still hard to beat in the latest iteration: 2022’s brand-spanking-new iPad Air. It runs the fast-enough proprietary M1 chip and doesn’t get hot in your hands, but don’t expect it to run like a full-fledged computer. Especially if you opt for the meager 64 GB of storage capacity (you can upgrade to 256 GB).
The second-generation Apple Pencil ($129, not included) is shaped and works similarly to Microsoft’s Slim Pen 2. It magnetically attaches (if a bit awkwardly) to the side of the device, just kind of… hanging out there. More disappointing is that the famously creative-friendly Apple hasn’t thoughtfully designed its iOS for drawing from the get-go. There’s no native drawing app, though you can start drawing in a document (on Notes, Pages, etc.) by tapping the Apple Pencil on the screen, which opens up the drawing toolbar. The barebones options like pen, pencil, crayon, fill tool, and eraser are here, but Microsoft’s Whiteboard provides more fun elements for illustrating. (You may want to download the beloved $10 Procreate app for iPad sketching and painting, instead.)
Despite the minor drawbacks for the doodlers out there, the 2022 iPad is a handy sort-of computer to have when you’re on the go. We can’t complain about the $570 discounted price tag (it’s regularly $599). And while it’s on the smaller side, Apple nails the hardware of its stunning 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display. Vivid color practically jumps out from the screen, and the anti-reflective coating fights against glare better than competitors. This model may not beg for an upgrade, but if you’re an iPad enthusiast, it’s a worthy step ahead.
2022 Apple iPad Air Specifications
- Price from $570
- Display 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone, P3 wide color and an anti-reflective coating
- CPU & RAM Apple M1 chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture with 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, Next-generation Neural Engine
- Storage 64 GB (upgrade to 256 GB)
- Battery Life Up to 10 hours
- Ports USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack
- Dimensions 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24 inches
- Weight 1 pound
3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+
BEST FOR ANDROID USERS AND DRAWING GEEKS
- Fun drawing tools
- Large-ish display
- Stylus is included
- Pricey for what it is
Android users will likely be pleased with how Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8+ tablet interconnects to the rest of their digital setup—and how it suits the tablet-drawing experience. It comes with more out of the box than Apple’s iPad, albeit at a significantly higher price point: an included low-latency S-Pen stylus (magnetically attaching to the tablet’s side), 128 GB storage, and a 12.4-inch screen on par with the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (it’s also, unfortunately, as heavy as the Surface Pro 8).
More importantly for our purposes, Android’s built-in Notes app far exceeds the meager drawing offerings of Apple’s corresponding app. I especially liked how finely rendered the spray paint can is, and the optional canvas-like textured background looks surprisingly cool. The S-Pen shows no sign of delay, and is on the light side without being so light that it accidentally veers all over the place.
This tablet may be pricier than it needs to be, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is a welcome illustration-minded addition to the Android family.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ Tablet Specifications
- Price from $790
- Display size 12.4 inches
- Image resolution 1752 x 2800 pixels
- CPU & RAM Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (4 nm), Octa-core, with 128GB ROM, 8GB RAM
- Storage 128 GB
- Battery life Up to 15 hours
- Ports USB-C
- Dimensions 10 x 8 x 1.5 inches
- Weight 1.96 pounds
4. Wacom Cintiq 16
BEST DRAWING-ONLY DISPLAY TABLET FOR BEGINNERS AND PROS
- Sweet spot of drawing capability and accessible price
- Streamlined design
- Hyper-responsive stylus
- Lack of USB-C
Digital drawers, rejoice! Wacom, the pioneering Japanese tablet brand, continues to thrive even in today’s crowded tablet market with an array of options. The display-only Cintiq 16 acts as a bright, beautiful extension of your computer’s creative space. Importantly, this is not a computer. Yet there’s plenty of utility built into its smartly streamlined shell. The sole three-in-one cable connects to the tablet on one end and, on the other, power and your computer (through USB and HDMI). (The lack of USB-C is a minor annoyance, since many new laptops have ditched the older USB port altogether, but an adapter is easy enough to grab.)
The 1080p display provides a rich visual landscape for creative work, and the built-in foldable legs give it just enough incline off a desk. The included Wacom Pro Pen 2 contains a precise removable nib at the tip (three replacement nibs are also in the box). The pen’s nuanced ability is impressive, capturing movements within a plus-or-minus 60-degree tilt range. Plus it has 1,892 pressure levels.
For the casual doodler, would-be animator, or modest pro, this tablet really offers a lovely overall drawing experience to accompany your already existing computer and suite of creative apps. And the price hits an amateur-accessible sweet spot.
Wacom Cintiq 16 Drawing Tablet Specifications
- Price $650
- Display size 15.6 inches
- Image resolution 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)
- Ports 3-in-1 connection cable (power, USB, HDMI)
- Stylus Battery-free stylus included
- Dimensions 16.6 x 11.2 x 0.4 inches
- Weight 4.2 pounds
5. XP-PEN Artist24 Pro
BEST DRAWING-ONLY DISPLAY TABLET FOR LARGE STUDIO WORK
- The feel of a sweeping canvas
- Numerous customizable shortcut buttons
- Pricey for display-only device
- Larger than the average consumer needs
Xp-Pen’s Artist24 Pro is a giant piece of equipment for what it is by most people’s standards. (“That’s a tablet?” a friend commented when she stumbled upon it in my apartment. Well, technically, yes.) But for the professional artists the brand calls out in the product name, it’s a digital, widescreen version of a sweeping canvas awaiting their hand’s careful creation.
The 2K HD resolution sprawls over 23.8 inches (other sizes available), giving you space and clarity to detail a larger-scale piece without having to scroll or shift the view, at least too much. (An adjustable stand on the back keeps it propped up on a desk surface.) A bevy of buttons on either side of the device (20 in all, plus 2 dial wheels) is customizable, so you can quickly punch in the colors, brush type or other programming you would otherwise have to hunt down. That’s a huge relief when you’re already deep into your painstaking illustration. And on that front, the gripped, flared, fountain pen-like stylus is comfy enough for extended use. It’s also keenly aware of every small shift and press-in-hand movement (it boasts 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, the same as the Wacom tablet).
Careful note: Like the Wacom and Huion tablets above and below it, this is not a standalone product—the stylus-included touch display works in conjunction with your computer. As such, $720 (with Amazon’s coupon) might seem steep. But dedicated artists will appreciate the absorbing, almost cinematic experience of rendering and fine-tuning a project on it. And if it’s more beast than you need, XP-PEN has several smaller (and cheaper) versions available.
XP-Pen Artist24 Pro Specifications
- Price from $900 (additional $180 off with Amazon coupon)
- Display size 23.8 inches (also available in 15.6, 15.7 4K and 21.5 inches)
- Image resolution 2K QHD
- Ports 2x USB, USB-C, HDMI
- Stylus Battery-free stylus included
- Dimensions 24.88 x 14.57 x 1.76 inches
- Weight 15.43 pounds
6. Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M Drawing Tablet
BEST DRAWING-ONLY, NON-DISPLAY, BUDGET-FRIENDLY TABLET
- Customizable dial that speeds up the drawing process
- Paper pad-like feel
- Accessible price point
- High learning curve
The most budget-conscious of the bunch here is, not surprisingly, also the only one lacking a display. Veterans of the tablet space will know its type well, however: The Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M acts as a stripped-down accessory to your computer artwork, picking up your stylus’s strokes on its paper pad-like surface and transmitting them over.
Younger digital natives, meanwhile, might just be confused looking at it. But the non-display tablet has its uses. While drawing on one surface and watching the visual come to life on a separate monitor takes some getting used to, handling the stylus on this tablet feels more natural than on a slicker glass screen. You can also unplug and operate it wirelessly. Old-school creative tablet connoisseurs might prefer it. They’ll also appreciate how the customizable dial can toggle functions at the flick of a wrist.
Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M Drawing Tablet Specifications
- Price $110 (extra 15% off with Amazon coupon)
- Working area 10.5 x 6.6 inches
- Ports USB-C
- Connectivity USB 2.4G wireless receiver with battery that holds charge for 20 hours; 5 to 10 meters in wireless range; wireless mode compatible with Windows 7/Mac OS 10.12/Android 6 or above (iPhone or iPad not supported)
- Stylus Battery-free stylus included
- Dimensions 14.8 x 8.66 x 0.31 inches
- Weight 3.12 pounds
7. Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet
BEST DRAWING TABLET FOR SMALL KIDS
- Near-indestructible for tykes
- Kid-friendly usability
- Parental controls
- No Amazon-approved stylus
Amazon doesn’t offer a stylus for its kid-friendly edition of the Fire HD 10 (there are third-party pen options, however), but tykes with Picasso ambitions will probably perform better with their hands, anyway. Think finger painting for the digital-all-the-time era, with apps like Kids Doodle 2 and Paint Pad HD to help them learn the true fundamentals of hand-drawn artistry. Parents have control over what their kids can and can’t access on the tablet, and Amazon has mastered the thick plastic outer guarding that makes this product basically break-proof. Which is probably why you’ve seen kids everywhere clutching these devices with protective zeal, taking in whatever entertainment they please while their caregivers discuss boring adult stuff. (For older kids ages 6 to 12, the Fire HD 10 Pro is also a great option).
Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet Specifications
- Price $200
- Display size 10.1 inches
- Image resolution 1080p (1920×1200)
- CPU & RAM Octa-core 2.0 GHz with 3 GB of RAM
- Storage 32 GB
- Battery life Up to 12 hours
- Ports USB-C (2.0) connector for charging; microSD slot for external storage; 3.5mm audio jack
- Dimensions 8.2 x 10.6 x 1.1 inches
- Weight 1.6 pounds
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