Hey, my name is Ben and I'm an illustrator and drawing instructor. I've taught over 18,000 students in my online beginners drawing course and I also share cute styled art on Instagram. I love digital art, not only is it fun, it can also be a great career choice. So what tablet setup should you get yourself into?
If you already own a desktop or laptop computer, you might want to pick up either a pen tablet or a pen display to get started with.
If you do NOT own a computer, I recommend Apple iPad Pro. iPad is a 'stand-alone' device, meaning you don't need a computer to use it. Pen Tablets and Displays are dependant on a computer. Here's my short take on the iPad for drawing.
Wacom : Quality
Wacom was founded in 1983 and has been a leader in this space for some time now. Their customer support has a good reputation and their products are well supported across Windows and Mac systems. They are well-known for reliable products which is reflected in their pricing.
I have personally used Wacom for over 15 years and vouch for their hardware quality and ongoing software updates. They're such a great product.
Huion is relatively 'new' to the industry entering the market in 2011, but have positioned themselves as the lower-cost alternative in drawing devices. It's hard to say if their support or product is the same or better than Wacom, but their price point has kept a few budget-focused customers happy in the last 10 years.
The two main pen tablet/display brands I would look at are Wacom and Huion. If you hunt around Amazon long enough you'll discover a dozen different manufacturers, but in my opinion these are the top two.
Wacom is known as 'refined and reliable', with Huion leaning towards 'cheap and cheerful'. Depending on your budget, both can be great options.
Apple: Gold Standard
Not much needs to be said about Apple and their amazing tech. iPad isn't the cheapest thing you can buy, but everything about it is simply amazing. The Apple Pencil + iPad Pro is THE standard for mobile artists. More about the iPad here..
Budget in mind
Both Wacom and Huion have large and small sized tablets. The smaller tablets are inevitably cheaper, but if you're more serious about drawing and can afford a bigger sized tablet then it can't hurt. It gives you more room to sketch without zooming or sliding around the workspace.
Small Sized Pen Tablets
Wacom Intuos Small
Drawing Area: 6.0” x 3.7”"
This Wacom Intuos is designed for those who are new to drawing digitally. Simply plug it in and download a drawing app like Sketchbook to get started.
Drawing Area: 6.3" X 4.0"
The HS64 is slightly bigger than the Intuos Small. There are smaller Huion models but I feel they are too small to feel useful so have chosen this model to compare against. This would be my choice in Huion's "smaller sized" tablets.
Large Sized Pen Tablets
Wacom Intuos Wireless Medium Drawing Area: 8.5" x 5.3”
This is the Medium Intuos and really steps up in size. The actual working area is 8.5" x 5.3" which is really, really good. Bluetooth connectivity
Huion Inspiroy Q11K Wireless Drawing Area: 11" x 6.87"
Bigger than the Wacom Small, but if you're wanting a device that fits a small footprint due to space limitations, then go for the Wacom. It has less 'dead space' on the side of the device. Good price though!
Wacom Intuos Pro Large
Drawing Area: 12.1” x 8.4”
Noticeably larger workspace than the HS64 and Intuos Medium. Wireless and Cable-free operation thanks to the built-in lithium-ion battery. Good for detailed and zoomed in projects.
Pen Displays are drawing devices with in-built screens, the same as your smartphone or iPad. They're essentially like drawing directly onto your computer screen, except the screen is comfortably positioned under your hands to mimic natural sketching.
These tablets are a solid choice for established artists and those who find it easier to draw more naturally, looking down on your artwork as if it were paper. They cost more, but more many it's well worth it.
Many artists invest heavily into powerful desktop computer setups to do other tasks like video and photo editing, so using and connecting to what they already have makes perfect sense.
..draw "naturally" looking down on your artwork as if it were paper, rather than up at a computer screen.
Pen Displays: 16" Models
Wacom Cintiq 16
Screen: 15.6" | 1920x1080 HD
Depending where you are living, the Cintiq 16 is the entry level Pen Display offered by Wacom. I own the 13HD, but that is a much older model now. This is a serious option for artists wanting a more natural drawing experience.
Huion Kamvas 16
Screen: 15.6" | 1920x1080 HD
Price-wise this is a great alternative to the Cintiq. Some users have commented that colours don't perfectly match their computer screens, however I imagine most users wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
No Computer, No problem
It really is the best digital all-in-one alternative to paper and pencil I've experienced.
However, there are so many different versions of iPad it's easy to get lost in what is the best option for you. It really all depends on what you plan to do long-term.
Admittedly when starting out in drawing any model iPad that has Apple Pencil capabilities will be sufficient, but if you're planning on taking up drawing as a full-on hobby or career option, the iPad Pro is the pinnacle.
..when starting out, any model iPad that has Apple Pencil capabilities will be sufficient.