Ever looked at a digital artist and marveled at their results and wanted to give it a try yourself?
Going from traditional to digital isn’t easy and using a keyboard and mouse probably won’t give you the results you want.
Regardless if you want to do a few quick sketches or an elaborate study, using a graphics tablet will give you an experience much closer to the traditional pen and paper.
Today we look several cheap but good drawing tablets that are ideal for beginning digital artists.
What to Look For in a Good Drawing Tablet?
Tablets come in a wide variety and choosing the right one for you can be a daunting task. Depending on your goals and current experience you might be looking for a different tablet. Here are the most important features you need to keep in mind when buying a new tablet.
- Size and active area: not the entire area of the tablet can be used to draw on. Only the middle area, also called the active area, can detect your pen strokes. The total size of the tablet and the size of the active area are different. You want a sufficiently large active area to allow for natural wrist motion while drawing or else you might end up with a cramp in your fingers. An active area of at least 8.5×11 inch is recommended, but if your budget allows it bigger is often better.
- Pressure sensitivity: while moving the pen over the active surface of your tablet, not only will the movement be recorded, but also how hard you press down. Pressing harder will live a thicker line while pressing softly will only leave a thin line. Higher pressure sensitivity will thus give smoother lines and bring your drawing to life more. If you are looking for the best drawing tablet for beginners, then a tablet with at least 1024 pressure levels is a must.
- Controls: as mentioned before, not the entire surface of the tablet is part of the active area. The remaining part may include several buttons. Even the pen itself can have additional buttons. These buttons can be programmed to have the desired functions such as the eraser, color picker, undo or right mouse buttons. This way you can immediately access the functions you used the most and save a lot of time. Although not strictly necessary, these buttons are very nice to have.
- Response time and latency: the response time indicates how long it takes between the stroke you make on the tablet and the same line appearing on the screen. If there is too much lag time in between, you will often draw lines too long or too short and end up redoing it. Except for some tablets on the cheap side of the spectrum, most tablets will have minimal latency.
- Compatibility: if you are lucky your drawing tablet will come with complementary software as well. But if this is not the case you have to make sure that the tablet is compatible with the software of your choice. Some of the popular digital drawing software programs are Photoshop, Corel Painter and Paint Tool Sai.
Recommended Drawing Tablet For Beginners
To save you the time and effort of going over all the drawing tablet reviews, we have compiled our own list of recommended tablets. Note that the tablets below were selected with digital artists in mind that want to focus on painting, illustrating and comics.
Many beginners look for a drawing tablet with a screen. This has the advantage that it is very similar to traditional drawing because you can see exactly where the pen is relative to the digital painting. But most of these tablets come at a rather high price point that most beginners don’t feel comfortable investing right away.
If you are looking for more of a budget drawing tablet then buying a tablet without the screen might be a better option. These tablets have a little steeper learning curve, but plenty of people have gone before you.
Wacom Intuos Art Pen and Touch
Second on our list is another Wacom tablet. Although the Intuos Pen and Touch comes in both small and medium size, we recommend the medium size. The 10.75 x 8.75 inch active area is big enough to allow for natural arm motion, while it is small enough to still be portable. The pen does not require batteries and just like the Wacom Cintiq Touch edition, you can use your fingers to navigate.
In addition to the tablet, customers can choose between several software packages that come with the tablet, indicated by their art, comic or photo style. Finally, there is a wireless option for people as well if your USB cable keeps getting in the way. Considering its price, the Wacom Intuos is probably the best drawing tablet for beginners.
Pros: 1024 pressure levels, optional wireless kit, comes with drawing software
Cons: some people experience difficulty setting up the required software
Huion H610 Pro
The Huion H610 Pro might be a good alternative to the Wacom Intuos Art Pen and Touch. For the lower price, you get a smaller 10 x 6.25 inch active area but the table does come with 2048 pressure levels.
Moreover, the tablet has 8 programmable buttons and the pen has 2 additional buttons, allowing for fast access to your favorite options. The free drawing glove reduces any friction between your hand and the Huion tablet and prevents possible scratches. Unfortunately, the drawing software needs to be bought separately since it is not provided with the tablet.
Pros: many programmable buttons, drawing glove, 2048 pressure levels
Cons: no drawing program
For more info, read our full Huion H610 Pro review
Drawing Tablet Where You Can See The Screen
One of the most common complains about cheap drawing tablets is that you can’t see what you are drawing on the tablet it self. Therefore you need a lot of practice and good hand-eye coordination such that you can look at the computer while drawing on the tablet.
If you are willing to pay a little bit extra, you can can also buy a drawing tablet where you can see what you draw directly on the screen. These types of tablets are also refered to as direct tablets.
Parblo Coast 10
Although not as popular as the previously mentioned tablets, some people swear by their Parblo Coast 10 tablet. Although the 8.54 x 5.34 inch active area is a little small, it is one of the cheapest direct tablets so you won’t have to look at the computer screen. Like the Huion H610 Pro, it comes with an anti-fouling glove but lacks any drawing software.
The Parblo Coast 10 shines when it comes to its pen though. Since it requires no battery it feels lighter than normal, which gives a more comfortable and natural feel while working.
Pros: lightweight and battery-free pen, 2048 pressure levels, drawing glove, direct tablet
Cons: no drawing software, small active area
Like the Wacom Cintiq and Parblo Coast 10, the Ugee HK1560 is a direct tablet. With its 15.6 inch active area it can be considered to be a Cintiq alternative; ideal for people that feel like the Parblo Coast 10 is a little too small but are not ready to buy a Wacom Cintiq.
Besides the tablet, it comes with 2 pens, 1 drawing glove and a screen protector. Unfortunately, the Ugee tablet does not come with any programmable buttons. Since we are looking for the best drawing tablet for beginners this might not be a huge problem, since a beginner might not use them very frequently. But more experienced artists might find the absence of buttons rather limiting and quickly move to a different tablet.
Pros: Direct tablet, 2048 pressure levels, free pens + glove + screen protector
Cons: no programmable buttons on the tablet, no drawing software.
Admittedly not very cheap but definitely one of the best tablets out there. The Wacom Cintiq is every digital artist’s dream. It comes in 4 different variations: 13HD, 13HD Touch, 22HD and 22HD Touch, which allows you to choose both your preferred size and if you need the Touch option. The Touch option will let you not only use the pen but also your fingers for easier zooming, rotating and navigating your work.
Moreover, the Wacom Cintiq is a direct drawing tablet. This means you will see your drawing show up directly on the tablet instead of a computer screen, elimination the tricky eye-hand coordination you need with most other tablets.
Due to its high price point, it might not be the best drawing tablet for beginners, but if you are serious about pursuing digital art it might be a worthy investment.
Pros: large active area, 2048 pressure levels, direct drawing tablet