Which Drawing Tablet Should You Get?

Drawing tablets by Vincent Bekong


Disclaimer: All opinions expressed within this article are just that, opinions. Civil discourse is always welcomed in the comments.


I wrote a while back about getting into digital art. Long story short, I said hell yes, do it. Now that you’ve made your mind up and are ready to dip your toe into this pond, allow me to guide you. Welcome to Vincent’s quick start guide on drawing tablets.

I began my digital art journey in January of 2017 on a sunny Tuesday — you know what, you didn’t come here for a backstory, what am I thinking? You came here to find out what drawing tablet you should get. I’ll start by saying I won’t give you a list of tablets to go look at, I’ll explain the different kinds and try to see what suites your drawing process and style.

There are four kinds of drawing tablets; the pen tablet, the pen display, the standalone computer, and finally the iPads. Yes, I’m giving iPad its own category.

The Pen Tablet

The pen tablet is what most beginner digital artists purchase to get their feet wet, it’s what I got. The market is saturated with numerous brands that make these like Huion, Wacom, Gaomon, XP-PEN, Artisul, and newcomer Xencelabs to name a few. These tablets are to be connected (via cable or Bluetooth these days) to a separate desktop computer or laptop. From there, drivers are downloaded, and voila you can get drawing provided you’ve acquired your drawing software. The setup goes like this, you have a flat piece of plastic about a quarter of an inch thick that lays on your desk, a pressure-sensitive pen (with EMR usually), and a computer screen (for those with laptops, I recommend getting a monitor).


  • No hand covering your drawing while you draw

  • Many affordable options to choose from

  • Shortcut buttons

  • Portable


  • Takes a bit of hand-eye coordination (HEC)

The Pen Display

The pen display is what the professionals use. It’s as the name says; it’s a display you draw on. This was the second tablet I drew on courtesy of my girlfriend (a Christmas gift). These tablets are like any monitor you’ll use. It’s connected to a separate desktop, laptop, or mini computer via HDMI or display port. The only difference is that it comes with a pen and requires drivers to function properly. The big player in this game is Wacom but if you’re not The Walt Disney Company, high-quality budget options like Huion and XP-PEN come to mind.


  • Direct look at your drawing, no HEC


  • Your hand covering your drawing while you draw

  • Can be pricey

  • No touch function in low budget options

  • Not portable, cable hell

The Standalone Computer

These are what we call pen computers. Wacom’s Mobile Studio Pro comes to mind. It’s a computer designed with drawing and design use cases in mind. It comes prepackaged with a built-in operating system, always Windows 10. Apple isn’t exactly known for its generosity with MacOS. It can be charged for on-the-go use. I think if you’re not traveling often, you’re better off with something stationary like a pen display.


  • Standalone, no external computer required

  • Shortcut buttons on some

  • Portable, no cables


  • Your hand covering your drawing while you draw

  • Very expensive

  • Only windows unless you’re a nerd (meaning you can Hackintosh)

The IPads

When it comes to iPads, I consider myself somewhat of a born-again Christian, metaphorically speaking. My girlfriend uses an iPad Pro for drawing and I’ve used hers in passing, didn’t think much of it. On one fateful day, I sketched on it, and I drew something…the experience was liberating. Long story short, I purchased an iPad Pro 12.9 the following week on swappa. The covers and images you see in this article were drawn on it. The beauty of drawing on an iPad is that you can do so much more with it than draw. Despite their price tags, I believe iPads are an everyman, everyday hobbyist tool. Also, for those who don’t want a dedicated drawing tablet but want something that they don’t have to spend copious amounts of money on design software memberships (I’m looking at you Adobe).


  • Standalone, no external computer required

  • Portable, no cables

  • Multiple uses

  • Affordable software (Procreate, guys, it’s $10)

  • Seamless cloud storage solution


  • Your hand covering your drawing while you draw

  • Higher-end variants are expensive

  • Expensive Apple Pencil

  • Limited screen real estate depending on which one you get

Final Thoughts

Drawing tablets can be very pricey but if you find one of good quality, it should last you for a long time. My Intuos Pro has lasted me since 2017, that's about 4 years! It's still in pristine condition…okay maybe not pristine but I could sell it as refurbished. But I won’t, it now holds sentimental value. To conclude the recommendations, stay within your budget, and get something that looks good on your desk (not necessary).

Stay Creative,

Vincent Bekong | @mrbekong


I am Vincent Bekong, Freelance Illustrator and Character Designer by day, medium article writer by night! You can find me on Upwork for project collaborations or on Instagram @mrbekong for one-off commissions.

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