10 Best Tablets for Graphic Design in 2021

Designers use drawing tablets mostly for digital illustration or photo retouching work, it makes it easier and more fun than just using a mouse.

Searching the best tablet for your graphic design needs is certainly not easy, because there are so many options available on the market.

As a graphic designer the question I get asked the most is:

What's the best tablet for graphic design in 2021?

I‘ve checked out various brands, from specialized ones like Wacom, to more versatile options like iPad Pro and Galaxy Tabs, to very affordable ones like XP-Pen and Huion.

Every graphic designer will have different requirements, so I made sure my list includes a variety of drawing tablets that you can buy in 2021.

Do graphic designers need a tablet?

Not every designer needs a graphics tablet, it’s certainly an option, not a requirement.

However, many artists, illustrators, and graphic designers in general started to turn towards using tablets to be able to complete their projects faster and easier.

Tablets offer a more natural way for designers to draw and retouch than just using a mouse or a touchpad.

Think about the type of work you will be required to do as a graphic designer in order to determine what qualities you should look for in a tablet.

If you don’t do complex illustrations or photo retouching work, you won’t necessarily need an expensive tablet with a screen.

Below you will find my list of 10 best tablets for graphic designers: 6 tablets with and 4 without the screen.

Tablet with a screen is not always needed, but having one will definitely make your job much more enjoyable.

10 Best Tablets for Graphic Design

  1. Wacom Cintiq 22—Best overall
  2. Apple iPad Pro (2020)—Best for iOS
  3. Samsung Galaxy Tab—Best for Android
  4. XP-PEN Artist12—Most budget-friendly
  5. Microsoft Surface Book 3—Most versatile
  6. Wacom Mobile Studio Pro—Best performance
  7. Wacom Intuos Pro—Good for everyone
  8. XP-PEN Deco (V2)—Ultra-slim design
  9. One by Wacom Student—Best for students
  10. Huion Inspiroy H640P—Most affordable

Every designer has different budget and different needs, therefore some tablets are going to suit you better than others.

How do I choose a graphics tablet?

While every tablet may have comparable benefits, not all tablets are created equal.

The cost of a drawing tablet can vary greatly—flat tablets (no screen) will be much cheaper than those with a display.

Additionally, some of them are more precise and with a larger drawing area, while others are small and basic in specs.

So the first choice you need to make is to decide whether you want a simple graphics tablet (without screen) or a pen display (with the screen) or a tablet computer (iPad Pro or Galaxy Tab).

How to choose a tablet for graphic design.

Once you’ve made this decision, then the next step would be to focus on key features and functionalities you’re looking for.

There are various things you need to keep in mind as a graphic designer when buying your first tablet, but the key ones are:

  1. Active area
  2. Pressure sensitivity
  3. Resolution
  4. Hotkeys
  5. Stylus
  6. Scrollers
  7. Connection

Now, let’s shortly  discuss these things one by one.

1. Active Area

A smart move is to think about the screen size prior to purchasing your tablet.

Some of fore mentioned tablets come in multiple size, while others don’t.

So make sure you choose the size that best fits your needs, because the last thing you’d want to happen is to end up with disappointment.

2. Pressure Sensitivity

Everyone has a different drawing or illustration style, so depending on yours, you may want to choose a tablet with an ultra-sensitive and responsive surface.

Pressure levels on tables start at about 300 levels of pressure and go up to around 3000.

The optimal pressure level to look for on a tablet is around the 1,000 range.

3. Resolution

Picking a tablet with a high LPI would be better for you if you work in a sector where you need to produce very high-resolution images or sharp graphics.

Think about LPI the same way people think of the resolution of 4K seen on TVs and computer monitors.

4. Hotkeys

It's becoming more and more popular to see tablets that come with HotKeys built right into is (also known as shortcut keys).

These extra keys that are usually on the side are designed to help you save time and streamline your work process.

Instead of manually switching between tabs, apps, or simply selecting brushes in Photoshop hotkeys will help you save a lot of time.

5. Stylus

Stylus (pen) comes in two forms: battery-operated (AES) and electromagnetic resonance (EMR), but they’re both designed to mimic the feel of pen on paper.

EMR styluses can quickly discern between pen and touch inputs, and this makes for a very smooth pen experience.

AES styluses have significant performance advantages over EMR, though require some getting used to and compensation.

6. Scrollers

Moving around the screen on your tablet using stylus can be inefficient especially if you work on large artwork using a small tablet.

Thankfully, many tablets have a scroller built into it, so that you can zoom in and out, and move around your artwork quickly.

7. Connection

Tablets come in two forms of connection: regular corder one, and wireless bluetooth connection.

While a wired tablet won’t present any connectivity issues and will be cheaper, it might be frustrating always having to connect the cables.

Wireless tablets, on the other hand, will give you the freedom of movement that a corded one definitely won’t.

However, I have reviewed them all, so whether you are a beginner or a pro—I hope you’ll find something interesting.

1. Wacom Cintiq 22

Wacom is a well-known brand that specializes in drawing tablets and I remember buying my first Wacom tablet about 10 years ago.

The best tablet overall for any professional graphic designer.

This is a tablet with display, so that you can draw directly on the screen which comes in 2 sizes: small (15.6”) and medium (21.5”).

Price: $1,151.47

Wacom Cintiq 22 is the best tablet overall for any graphic designer.
Wacom Cintiq 22—Best tablet overall.

With a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 HD, it is the third-largest model of all Wacom drawing boards.

It comes with the Wacom Pro Pen 2, just like its previous versions.

This pen has a whooping 192 pressure levels, low activation force and tilt recognition, which all gives you an amazing precision for most natural drawing experience.

If you’re option for Wacom Cintiq 22 in medium size, your will get a wide full-HD screen that provides you with clarity to see every detail of your work.

The display is very vibrant (16.7 million colors) and is a highly recommended option for any drawing work.

An interesting feature is the battery-free pen that charges off the screen while you’re working.

The pen works really well, and apart from the graphics job, it can be used for other purposes.

This is a perfect tablet for graphic designer who love to draw, or students seeking a premium on-screen experience.

Pros

  1. Large screen display
  2. Natural pen flow
  3. Free design software

Cons

  1. No extra nibs
  2. VESA incompatible

2. Apple iPad Pro (2020)

If you love Apple products (like most designers do) you might consider getting the new iPad Pro.

The best tablet for iOS users and those who need a tablet/computer hybrid.

iPad pro can be used not only as a drawing tablet, but as a quite powerful laptop as well.

Price starts at: $999.00

Apple iPad Pro (2020)—The best tablet for iOS users and those who need a tablet/computer hybrid.
Apple iPad Pro (2020)—Best for iOS

The 12.9” all-screen Liquid Retina display with ProMotion and True Tone will make everything look very clear and sharp.

The pen (Apple Pencil) also charges magnetically just like the Wacom’s one, however you will have to buy it separately of course.

If you own other Apple products—you sort of know what to expect: up to 10 hours of battery life, Face ID, LiDAR Scanner, plus quality cameras and speakers.

You can also buy additional accessories like, for example, a keyboard with a trackpad which will turn you tablet into a laptop.

This is a great option for designers who like to draw, but also need to run other apps simultaneously on one device.

If that’s the case, then with the iPad Pro, you can browse photographs and surf online while drawing at the same time.

A great option for designers who like to have all-in-one device.

Pros

  1. All-in-one device
  2. Top quality and performance

Cons

  1. Pretty expensive
  2. Pen sold separately

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

If you like the ideas of using your tablet as a laptop as well, but you’re not necessarily an Apple fan, then Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 seems like a great choice.

The best tablet for Android users.

The price and features are similar to those of iPad Pro, but unlike with iPad you will get the pen included in the box.

Price: $829.00

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is the best tablet for Android users.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7—Best for Android users.

Just like with iPad Pro you will be able to transform this tablet into a laptop-like experience.

All you have to do is buy the version with a keyboard and a trackpad.

You can also upgrade up to 1TB that will be definitely enough to store all your creative work.

And with the 12.4” super AMOLED display, the blacks are pitch black, and the color and saturation is the deepest.

Similarly to iPad Pro, you will get multiple cameras and speakers so that you comfortable use it as a regular PC as well.

The resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels is very high for the 10.5-inch screen size, which is very desirable for any graphic design work.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 can handle design software that requires good specs without any problems due to its high capacity RAM and CPU.

At around 1.85 pounds, this is a tablet that you can carry easily and do your graphics work anywhere.

When it comes to battery life, it will serve you for up to 15 hours before the next recharge.

A great option for those who value the power of a PC and the mobility of a tablet.

Pros

  1. Quality display
  2. Comes with pen
  3. Long battery life

Cons

  1. One USB-C port only
  2. Pen needs charging

4. XP-PEN Artist12

If you’re looking for a tablet that won’t break the bank, but don’t mind connecting it to your computer—XP-PEN Artist 12 is a great alternative.

The most affordable screen tablet for graphic designers.

A friendly reminder—this drawing pen display must be used with a computer unlike other tablets mentioned above.

Price: $199.99

XP-PEN Artist12—The most affordable screen tablet for graphic designers.
XP-PEN Artist12—Most affordable tablet.

XP-PEN Artist 12 supports Windows 10/8/7(32/64bit) and MAC OS 10.10 or higher and is compatible with Photoshop, Illustrator, SketchBook Pro, MediBang, Clip Studio and many more.

It comes with with a 11.6” display area and is equipped with 8192-levels of pressure sensitivity.

The Full HD display paired with 72% NTSC (100% sRGB) Color Gamut will present vivid images, vibrant colors and extreme detail of your artwork.

The screen has also the anti-reflective coating so that you can use it any environment.

Whether you’re into drawing, photography, animation, fashion, sketching, image editing, 3D sculpting—this tablet will do the job.

It also features a slim touch bar that can be programmed to zoom in and out on your canvas, scroll up and down, and more.

Overall, this is an extremely affordable tablet for those who don’t mind using it with a computer or simply don’t need functionality of an iPad or Galaxy Tab.

A great choice for beginners and graphic design students who need a quality tablet for an affordable price.

Pros

  1. Very responsive.
  2. Great price!

Cons

  1. Work only with computer.
  2. Nightmare to set up.

5. Microsoft Surface Book 3

If you like the idea of all-in-one device and being able to use your tablet as a computer, then Microsoft Surface Book 3 is probably the smartest choice.

The most versatile tablet (turns into a laptop).

With devices like iPad Pro and Galaxy Tab you can go beyond just drawing, but if you need a true all-in-one experience, then look no further!

Price: $1,360.00

Microsoft Surface Book 3—The most versatile tablet (turns into a laptop).
Microsoft Surface Book 3—The most versatile tablet.

I’ve reviewed laptops in my other article, but his is essentially a laptop with functionality of a tablet (detachable display).

When iPad Pro and Galaxy Tab allow you to do other things than just drawing, they won’t give you a full laptop-like experience.

Microsoft Surface Book 3 does just that!—It has a full keyboard and all the specs that you would look for in a laptop, plus you can unplug the touch-screen to use as a tablet.

You get a powerful hardware with a large 15” display that will allow you to handle nearly everything, from heavy video and graphics files to high-octane gaming.

Microsoft Surface Book 3 combines speed, graphics, and long battery life with the versatility of a laptop, tablet, and portable studio.

You will be able to tackle your biggest demands with quad-core powered 10th Gen Intel Core processors and high-resolution PixelSense Display designed for Surface Pen and touch.

You can draw, write and sketch with precision using Surface Pen with Surface Dial and high-end graphics, at the perfect angle for you.

A great choice for graphic designers who would like the best of both worlds but without spending extra money, or having to carry an extra device.

Pros

  1. Very powerful
  2. Laptop and tablet in one.

Cons

  1. Poor battery life.

6. Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

If you’re leaning more towards a powerful tablet, but one that you can also use as a computer, then you should consider buying Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.

The best performance tablet with complete Windows inside.

Push the boundaries of creativity with the most advanced and powerful portable pen-computer from Wacom.

Price: $2,599.95

Wacom Mobile Studio Pro—The best performance tablet with complete Windows inside.
Wacom Mobile Studio Pro—Best performance tablet.

This is the most expensive tablet on my list, but as they say—you get what you pay for.

An awesome display, precise pen, enhanced computing power and a long-lasting battery lets you bring your projects to life whenever and wherever without disrupting your creative flow.

Wacom Mobile Studio Pro comes with Intel Core i7-8559U quad-core processor and Intel Iris Plus 655 graphic card that will meet all of your needs as a designer.

You will be able to work quickly and efficiently on illustrations or photo-editing using its super precise pen with over 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity.

And with its high-resolution WQHD display (up to 2560 x 1440) you’ll see the world in great detail.

Have complete control over your artwork and experience the nuance of every hue on the spectrum thanks to advanced color quality (82% Adobe RGB coverage).

With such a powerful machine, nothing can stand in the way of your creativity and even the most demanding designers won’t be disappointed!

A great choice for professionals and those who opt for quality hardware.

Pros

  1. Extremely powerful.
  2. Great display.
  3. Complete Windows.

Cons

  1. Quite expensive.
  2. No keyboard.

7. Wacom Intuos Pro (PTH660)

As I mentioned before Wacom is a brand that specializes in all type of tablets, with and without the screen.

A solid, good pen tablet for any type of graphic design work.

This is probably the most popular drawing tablet among graphic designers.

Price: $379.95

Wacom Intuos Pro (PTH660)—A solid, good pen tablet for any type of graphic design work.
Wacom Intuos Pro (PTH660)—good for every designer.

Wacom Intuos Pro PTH660 is a good choice for any type of designer who spends hours on image editing, illustration or design work.

It works well with PC or MAC without any problems and you don’t even need any cables either, the built-in bluetooth will do the job.

This tablet comes in three sizes: small, medium and large—so that you can choose something that fits your preferences.

Wacom Intuos Pro has 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity to give you the most accurate performance and realistic pen-on-paper feel.

The pen’s outstanding tilt recognition and virtually lag-free tracking will give you the ultimate control over your creative process.

Intous series is the Wacom’s finest pen tablet to date and it sets the standard for professional-grade pen tablets.

Film-makers, animators, industrial & fashion designers around the world continue to choose Wacom tablets.

I started my career as a graphic designer using this tablet as well (its predecessor) so I would definitely recommend it to everyone.

Pros

  1. Different sizes.
  2. Good quality/price ratio.

Cons

  1. Problem with drivers.

8. XP-PEN Deco (V2)

Similarly as with Wacom, the XP company manufactures tablets both with and without screen, so I present you with both—this one has no screen.

The most ultra-slim design and large tablet for designers.

It’s basically a great alternative to the above mentioned Wacom Intuos, it’s similar in specs but much, much cheaper.

Price: $69.99

XP-PEN DECO-03—The most ultra-slim design and large tablet for designers.
XP-PEN Deco (V2)—The most ultra-slim design

The surface area is also much larger than the one of Wacom Intuos, you get an enormous 10 x 5.62” that will make you feel comfy no matter what you design.

XP-PEN Deco 01 V2 is NOT a standalone product, so similarly as with other drawing tablets, it must be connected to a laptop or a computer to work.

However, It is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, Android 6.0, and even Chrome OS so you can use it with something as simple as Chromebook.

Overall, this inexpensive tablet is quite big, but very slim (only 8mm thick), so you can take it anywhere without the burden of lugging around a heavy tablet!

You’ll also enjoy a natural drawing experience with its 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support up to 60 degrees.

All of this will help you draw smoother and more natural lines and strokes, while also giving you the ability to add diverse level of shading to your creations.

The stylus works just like a real pen, no battery and no charging required!

XP-PEN Deco 01 V2 also features eight, round, customizable express keys that can be programmed to many different software programs to help you speed up your work.

Overall, it’s a great choice for tasks like: drawing, image editing, sketching, handwriting, online education and other usages.

For this price, you really couldn’t expect more as a designer—this tablet delivers everything you need as a designer.

Pros

  1. Great value for money.
  2. Good size and design.

Cons

  1. No additional nibs.
  2. Lousy instructions.

9. One by Wacom Student

As the name suggests, this tablet was made for graphic design students and especially for online education.

The best for students and online education.

If you’re looking for a digital pen to seamlessly collaborate, share work, and interact with other students and teachers—this is a great bargain!

Price: $59.95

One by Wacom Student
One by Wacom Student—Best for students.

Don’t expect too much for this price, but you will definitely move beyond the limitations of a mouse with the One by Wacom Student drawing tablet.

This tablet is an ideal choice for students and teachers seeking a digital pen for their computer to draw, edit photos, express ideas and interact in online classes.

The battery-free, pressure-sensitive pen is comfortable, sturdy, accurate, and it really feels like pen on paper.

As with other non-screen drawing tablet, you will have to use it with your laptop or computer (compatible with MacOS, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS)

One by Wacom has everything you need, and nothing that you don’t, so it’s easy to get started straight out of the box.

As you probably noticed this is the 3rd tablet from Wacom on my list as Wacom delivers the highest-quality products.

They have over 35 years of experience in digital pen technology, so you can trust Wacom to deliver reliable products and support (even for such a low price).

Overall, this is a perfect graphic tablet for drawing—a decent option for beginners.

Pros

  1. Excellent for students.
  2. Compatible with any OS.

Cons

  1. Small drawing area.
  2. No express keys.

10. Huion Inspiroy H640P

If you’re not impressed by byt what you get for you money with the tablets listed above, then you can’t find a better deal than the Huion Inspiroy H640P.

The most affordable tablet for beginners and kids.

If you look at the price you might think this is a mistake, but it’s NOT—Basically for the price of a lunch you’ll get all of the basics that you need in a tablet.

Price: $33.99

Huion Inspiroy H640P is the most affordable tablet on the market.
Huion Inspiroy H640P—Most affordable tablet.

Huion Inspiroy H640P is not only compatible with Mac and Windows, but also supports Android which gives you freedom to use it with basically any computer.

This easy-to-use pen tablet is perfect for beginners who’re into drawing, animation,photo-editing or any other design work.

You will be able to use it with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw, Sketchbook, Manga studio, Clip studio paint and other design software.

Huion Inspiroy H640P is ideal for online education where teachers and students can easily make handwritten edits, or take notes on virtual whiteboard like the one in Zoom.

The drawing area is pretty small, but the pen has enough sensitivity to provide a true feel that a graphic design tablet can offer.

It is perfect not only for taking notes, jotting down ideas and signing off documents, but will also do the job for light drawing and illustration.

You will probably quickly outgrow this tablet but if you just need basic functionality, or something to play with from time to time—give it a try.

Pros

  1. Very cheap!
  2. Great compatibility.
  3. Express keys.

Cons

  1. Pretty small.
  2. Lesser quality.

Conclusions

With all of the tablet choices available out there it might be difficult to decide which one is best for your.

On my list you will find something for everyone, whether you’re a beginner, or professional graphic designer.

Having the right tools is a must for any artist, and when it comes to tablets—this is a device you will probably want to use daily.

With the various choices I’ve highlighted on my list, hopefully you can find something for yourself and take your graphic design career to the next level.

Do you use a tablet for your graphic design work?—Leave a comment below.

More Top Gear for Designers

Branding Guide

Build a brand your customers will love.

Save money

Best Deals for Creatives

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.
Start a project

Need help with your brand?