Best graphic tablet 2023 • 7 graphic tablets Reviews
When it comes to the world of illustration and graphic design, having a graphics tablet isn’t only helpful, but essential for any professional in the field. Graphics tablets provide high precision and sensitivity when it comes to design creation.
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What is a graphics tablet and how does it work?
Graphics tablets, pencil tablets, drawing tablets, or digitizers are digital devices consisting of a hard plastic surface that functions as a drawing pen and pad that responds to physical pressure. It allows artists and graphic designers to easily transfer their vision directly into their computer program. This new-age technology allows artists to manipulate and edit their designs and drawings on a whole new level, enabling them to produce smoother lines, smaller details, and more complex shapes.
What types of graphics tablets are there?
Today, we can separate graphics tablets into two main categories; those that come with built-in screens, and those that don’t. Those with screens offer a wider variety of features and are the common choice amongst professionals in graphic design, illustration, and 3D modeling.
Those without screens are much more affordable and their applications range from basic photo retouching to more efficient computer drawing.
However, since the emergence of models with built-in screens, the number of complex features have sky-rocketed, transforming them into multipurpose tools able to carry out a larger number of different functions.
No built-in screen
- Features: They replicate and transfer drawing patterns as if they were sheets of paper, information is transferred to the synced computer monitor, where you can see and manipulate the design further.
- Main applications: Used for simpler graphic design tasks and photo retouching. They can easily replace the mouse taking over all its usual functions.
- Price: Their price is usually considerably cheaper, even in the higher-end models.
With built-in screen
- Features: The design is reproduced directly on the tablet’s screen as well as on the computer monitor, except for those that work completely independently.
- Main applications: They are mainly used for graphic design and illustration at a professional level.
- Price: Their price is significantly higher, especially high-end devices.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Graphics Tablets
With graphics tablets, you can draw just as you would if you were using a traditional pencil and paper pad. Drawing and painting with pencil-shaped tools (whether it be a pen, paintbrush, etc.), is much more natural and efficient than attempting to draw on a computer with a mouse. The movements are much more predictable and more easily controlled with a pencil. Graphics tablets combine technology with the ease of pencil drawing, providing a pencil-shaped tool that is paired with a touch-sensitive pad that responds to pressure. It allows graphic designers to create directly through their design programs with more control and accuracy and less frustration.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that because this product functions via relatively new technology, most of the top models come at higher prices. Although they are, overall, very simple to use, they can take some getting used to. Many have programmable shortcut keys and distinct operating systems, requiring a bit of a learning curve. However, once you learn its tricks, your whole creative process will take a new route and you’ll never want to work without it again. Below we’ve summarized all the different pros and cons of using these handy new tech tools.
- Much more precise lines than those created with a mouse
- Sensitivity to pencil pressure on the tablet makes it possible to create shaded tints and easily draw darker, thicker lines
- Easier to use when making quick changes
- Incorporate a touch screen
- High-end models are often an investment
- Technique comes with a learning curve
Shopping Criteria for Graphics Tablets
To make sure you select the best graphics tablet for your needs, there are several features and characteristics you’ll want to carefully analyze and compare. To help, we’ve compiled a short overview of purchase criteria that will help you narrow down the best product for you at the best possible price.
- Pressure and precision points
- Display resolution, color, and contrast
Deciding whether or not you want the tablet to come with a built-in screen will be one of the most important early decisions. Not only does it greatly affect the price of the tablet, but also, its performance capabilities. If you want a tablet for graphic design, high-level animation, or 3D modeling, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll need a tablet with a screen. They allow for higher quality design production and are key tools for professionals.
For those with screens, you must choose one with high resolution and high contrast. However, if you’re simply looking for a digital pad to collect basic written information or designs, a tablet without a screen may be perfectly sufficient. They’re great for replacing mouse functions and for collecting signatures. Often, a simple drawing pad is all that is necessary, and they come at more affordable prices.
Pressure and Precision Points
Low-end tablets usually have pressure sensitivity ratings around levels of 1024. More advanced models have a sensitivity to both pressure and tilt, usually at 2048 levels. The level of sensitivity you want will be determined by how complicated your projects are, the amount of fine detail or retouching you’ll be doing in your various tasks. For basic photo retouching, for instance, lower levels of pressure sensitivity will more than likely suffice.
However, for illustration or graphic design, high-pressure sensitivity is almost always preferred. The ability of the screen to transfer information accurately and precisely onto the surface of the tablet or the computer is crucial. If the movements of your hand and pencil cannot be replicated exactly and the tablet is constantly lagging, it won’t be useful. The brand and model you choose must be reliable and function flawlessly.
Display Resolution, Color, and Contrast
In the case of graphics tablets with their own screen, a good screen resolution is essential. If you want it for semi-professional or professional jobs, it should be at least 1920 x 1080. Today, you can find drawing tablets with resolutions up to 4K. If you’re buying a tablet made with a built-in screen, it’s important to check the quality of resolution that it provides. For both semi-professional and professional jobs. Having perfect screen resolution is necessary for producing the highest quality designs, images, and photos.
You want to make sure the design you are creating in front of you will produce a final product that matches exactly the image you have in your mind. The colors, depth, and contrast created should be as accurate as possible. A good tablet has the capability to produce and differentiate at least 16.7 million different colors and shades. Most tablets, even lower-end ones, have this ability. Good viewing angles should range anywhere from 160 to 178 degrees. Good contrast levels range between 700:1 and 3000:1.
Choosing the right pen is another very important aspect when looking for a graphics tablet. It’s good to think about if you’d want an extra-long pen, a thicker pen, a thinner pen, or a pen with a special grip, among many other varying characteristics. Pens can differ also in size, weight, and the materials it’s made out of to accommodate the preferences of the user. Additionally, the pen should be well-made, offering high levels of precision.
In this sense, it’s good to take a close look at the different types of tips that each pen can have as well as the presence of buttons on the side. Some pens are quite simple and are made just to draw, while others are equipped with shortcut buttons and other special features that can be individually programmed. Some tablets include more than one pen, allowing you to continuously have one available as the other charges.
In general, the dimensions of your graphics tablet should match those of the computer monitor you own. However, if you’re purchasing a tablet for the first time, it may be wise to purchase a smaller one, enabling you to handle and maneuver it much more easily. Good, compact-size tablets range between 10 and 12 inches. The use you intend for it should be the main determining factor for the dimensions you choose.
For collecting signatures and basic photo retouching, you probably don’t need a very big graphics tablet. However, professional illustrators and designers that work on several large projects will more than likely want a large, good-quality screen where they can see everything with the utmost detail. For these kinds of users, 24- to 27-inch tablets will be the preferred choice.
Today, most tablets are compatible with both Windows 7 and above and Mac OS 10.8 and above. However, it never hurts to make sure before you buy a new device that will work with your tech. You should always double-check that the tablet you’re interested in purchasing is compatible not only with the computer you own but with all the design programs and tools you use.
Some of the most common programs are Photoshop, SAI, ZBrush, Maya, Illustrator, Krita, and Toon Boom. Also, having a tablet that regularly receives updates from its internal systems is advised, so you can be sure you’ll get the most out of your tablet and it will last you for years.
Choosing a good manufacturer is usually a guarantee of a quality product. However, since the graphics tablet market is not as well known to the general public, some of the most prestigious and reliable brands may not be as recognizable. This is the case with Wacom Business Solutions, XP-Pen, and Shenzhen Huion Animation Technology Co.
For many people today, Wacom is the best brand on the market. Its tablets incorporate the multitouch function so you can work with both hands. With one hand you can work with the stylus pen, while simultaneously zooming, scrolling, or rotating the canvas with the other. Also, almost all devices come with a two- to three-year warranty.
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What are graphics tablets used for?
While graphics tablets can be multipurpose, their main function is to replace or complement the work of computer illustration programs that allow artists to draw, write, edit images, and do other graphic design work. Many are used to replace the computer mouse, performing the same functions but with increased efficiency and precision.
What are the main functions of graphics tablets?
Graphics tablets are indispensable tools for drawing, illustration creation, photo editing, and 3D modeling. From movie creation to developing marketing material, to photo retouching, they are great for both professional and amateur artists. Graphics tables have large roles in architecture firms, industrial design companies, and even educational settings.
Banks and other similar businesses often use small and simple graphics tablets to collect customer signatures. It’s quick, easy for the customers to use, and saves directly into the company's database. Some of the best programs that can be used with graphics tablets are Photoshop, Pixelmator, Blender, Illustrator, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Photo.
How do graphics tablets work?
Via touch technology, graphics tablets instantly replicate the drawing movements of the electric pen as if it were a pen on paper. When you draw with the stylus, the information is transferred and the corresponding image is created and recorded on the computer and on the tablet’s screen—if it comes with one. Most pens will come with an eraser setting, mimicking pencils.
The speed of response and lag will depend on the model, quality of the processing system, and brand. The cheapest ones will, of course, be the least reliable and often the slowest. High-end models respond instantly without lag and produce the best quality images. Keeping the system up to date and the tablet in good condition is crucial for maximum and long-lasting performance.
Is it necessary to include the stylus pencil when investing in a graphics tablet?
The primary advantages and benefits of a graphics tablet are all related to the stylus pencil. With these electronic tablet pencils, you can effortlessly create and modify your ideas directly onto your graphics programs, just as you would if you were brainstorming on a piece of paper. It completely eliminates the need to transfer your vision from paper to a computer program. Most tablet pencils function via a small battery that is charged through a USB cable. There are some newer models that come without it, making them lighter.
Many styluses have slightly different features, so it’s good to look carefully at the distinct characteristics of each to decide which is best for you. However, generally speaking, it’s best to have pens with pressure levels between 2.048 and 8.192. Some models come with one or two small, programmable buttons on the side that allows for shortcuts and quicker creation processes. It’s important to make sure you have spare tips, as they can wear down and break with years of use. And of course, it’s important that you choose one that is comfortable and easy to use.
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