Art Tablet Buying Guide

Artists need tablets to draw and sculpt.

Tablet choice depends on what you have, need to do and can afford.

What do you need a tablet to do?

To choose a tablet, first consider which apps you want to use with stylus input.

2D Drawing, storyboarding & concept art

If 2D drawing is the only thing you intend to use a tablet for, you may find iPad or Android drawing apps suffice. But even for 2D art, being able to control full desktop computer Photoshop or other apps requires a computer graphics tablet.

  • Microsoft OneNote (great for design sketches)
  • Adobe Photoshop

3D Texturing

Texturing apps go beyond 2D texture painting with colors and allow you to paint complex PBR materials onto 3D models.

Substance Painter

Paint objects with materials of incredible realism and complexity.

You can download materials from their huge Substance Source library.

You can find amazing materials, brushes and more at Substance Share.

3D Sculpting

3D modeling sculpting apps let you make characters and organic objects. Read this guide to the top sculpting apps for details about them. You should probably start with Sculptris.

Pixelogic Sculptris (FREE)

A fun and engaging way to start off your digital sculpting journey. If you’re new to the world of digital sculpting, Sculptris is the ideal ground on which to get started. Sculptris provides an excellent gateway into the exciting world of 3D. It’s features are easy to learn, even for someone with no experience in digital art, yet robust enough for creating base models that can then be refined in other applications, such as ZBrush. When you’re ready to take art to the next level, the skills that you’ve learned in Sculptris easily translate to ZBrush.

ZBrush

ZBrush is the most widely-used digital sculpting application in today’s market and is the industry Standard. When you’re ready to take your Sculptris creations to the next level for detailing, rendering and integration into even the largest of projects, ZBrush has a host of robust, unique and revolutionary tools.

Others

  • Autodesk Mudbox
  • Blender
  • Cinema4D
  • Modo

Pressure sensitive tablet options

  • Intuos non-display tablet: $50
  • iPad ($269) + Adonit Pixel stylus ($60) + Astropad ($40) + Mac
  • iPad ($269) + Adonit Pixel ($60) + Duet Display ($10) + Mac or Windows
  • iPad Pro ($599) + Duet Display ($10) + Mac or Windows
  • Microsoft Surface Pro ($900)
  • 15″ Huion tablet ($400)
  • Wacom Cintiq 13HD ($800)
  • Wacom 13HD Touch ($1000)

iPad + stylus + Duet Display or Astropad

If you already have an iPad, you can use a pressure sensitive stylus with your computer.

Install the Duet Display (Mac/Windows) or Astropad (Mac only for now) software and you can use your iPad to draw directly into your computer like a $500+ Cintiq tablet would do.

  • $500 cheaper than a Monoprice and $1000 cheaper than a Wacom.
  • Mac only for now, though Astropad hints at a 2017 Android/Windows support.
  • Won’t work in Bootcamp Windows. You’ll have to boot Mac if you’re using both.
  • Most powerful portable option if your computer is faster than a tablet PC

Adonit Pixel $60

This bluetooth pressure sensitive stylus for iOS can draw into ProCreate, Concept, Adobe Sketch, etc., but the real magic is pairing it with a Mac using Astropad or Duet Display.

iPad Pro $599 9.7″ or $699 12.9″

If you don’t have an iPad and want one, iPad Pro has a Pencil that works.

Android Tablets won’t work

For the moment, there are no good pressure-sensitive fast apps like Duet for Android tablets. Spacedesk lets you use them as touch screens, but it lacks stylus and USB support.

Tablet PCs

surfacehome_4_contentplacementpanel3up_1_v1-pngIf you have a tablet PC with a touch screen and a pressure sensitive stylus, you can draw directly using that.

If it doesn’t have a stylus, you can buy one that is compatible.

surfacehome_4_contentplacementpanel3up_3_v1If you really like Surface and want it to be your primary laptop, you can get a Surfacebook.

Not as good a workstation as the MacBook Pro and not as powerful graphics as the Razer or MSI Stealth, but for a heavy pen user this might be great Cintiq alternative.

Generic Tablets

Monoprice and Huion make capable clones of Wacom Cintiq.

  • Pros: You may have to press harder and have difficulty making lighter strokes.
  • Cons: you get a big tablet for less money that might fit your budget.

Wacom Cintiq Tablets

Wacom costs double what Monoprice does so you may have to get a smaller tablet to afford a real Cintiq.

13HD and 13HD Touch both let you get a Wacom Cintiq for 800-1000 dollars.

wacom-13hd-touch

 

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