Digital Art and Graphic Design Guide

How to Choose a Drawing Tablet for Digital Art

wacom intuos vs xp-pen deco 03 graphics tablet

computer drawing tablet is a must-have tool for any digital artist, but there are too many things to consider when selecting one. The features of the drawing tablet directly affect your productivity and quality of your art. Here we will try to explain the key features when selecting a drawing tablet.

1. Pressure Sensitivity

Pressure sensitivity is the ability of your tablet to recognize how much you press the pen and so that it adjusts the line thickness and color, like a real pencil. Many tablets offer at least 2048 pressure levels, although there are a few entry-level models with 1042 levels. High-end models come with 8192 levels, which is great for working on high-resolution drawings.

2. Active Working Area and Screen Size

A bigger screen will make working easier, so one of the things to consider when choosing a drawing tablet is the size of the screen. You will be able to draw with less panning and zooming with a bigger screen but it also means less portability. The active working area is where you draw your work and it is even more important than the screen size. A big drawing area means you can make arm gestures more comfortable.

Having read many many different reviews, opinions and comparisons online, here are my overall summaries.

1.) People buying tablets for photo editing should buy a smaller tablet.

General consensus is that this allows extra fine detail and editing with less arm/wrist movement.

2.) People buying tablets for drawing and painting should buy a larger tablet.

General consensus is that this allows greater artistic freedom because of a larger surface area. It also stops your hand getting cramped.

3. Responsiveness and Report Rate

You can think of responsiveness as the speed of your drawing tablet. For example, if the response rate of the tablet is 25ms, the line you draw will show up on screen at most 25 milliseconds later. Of course, the operating system, drivers and the host computer’s hardware are important too.

Report rate or points per second is, how many times the pen or the touch sensor notifies the computer every second. You will see this number as RPS or PPS in the specification of the tablet. The higher values mean more responsive drawing experience and smoother lines.

4. Type of Stylus

There are mainly three types of stylus; battery-powered, rechargeable, and those powered by electromagnetic waves that the tablet emits, but the most important thing about stylus is how well it feels in your hand. A good stylus will feel like a real pen.

Also, some tablets have a special kind of textured surface to make you feel you are drawing on real paper.

5. ShortCut keys

Hotkeys and buttons: These will allow you to program your commands and shortcuts so that you can reach your favorite functions in a single button press, so look for tablets with lots of hotkey buttons.

Scroller Wheel: Some tablets have a scroll wheel to pan and zoom which makes drawing easier.

Other Handy Features to Consider

6. Physical Material

What your tablet is constructed from is also a factor. The majority of graphics tablets are made from cheap plastics. Clearly there is an advantage if the construction of the tablet exterior contains more metals than plastics, because it will provide extra strength.

Obviously the drawing surface is even more important than the frame, and in this case it is not so much about what material is used, it is more about the texture of the material. Ideally you want the surface to be as smooth as possible.

7. Connectivity

How your tablet can connect to your computer (or even if it needs to) is another important factor to consider.

If you have an older computer, your only option will be USB 2. It is rare for a tablet in the current generation to have (or require) USB 3. In any case, a USB 3 connector will plug into a USB 2 port and work perfectly fine.

More modern computers may be able to communicate with some graphics tablets using BlueTooth. Not all graphics tablets have BlueTooth technology installed, so you'll need to check this if it's how you'd prefer to work.

8. OS and Software Compatibility

Your choice of graphics tablets may be restricted by the operating system you use. also with the popular graphics software .

The users will still have to manually install drivers as usual. Other brands of tablets will most likely require the manual installation of drivers regardless of which operating system you use.

9. Bundled Software

If your tablet comes with bundled software, it will be potentially better value, but only if it doesn't cost you more and only if you actually need that software. In many cases the bundled software that comes with hardware products is not really suitable for professional use, though it may be fun to play with.

10. Cost

This is clearly the factor that will have the most significance in terms of what you can choose, no matter how much the other factors are in play.


Whether you’re looking for a graphics tablet or a drawing tablet, there are lots of options on the market, and they are probably all pretty compelling. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of options.

Two particular heavyweights are Wacom and XP-Pen ( ) . Both manufacture graphics tablets and drawing tablets and have different strong and weak points.

While XP-Pen tablets are generally cheaper than Wacom tablets and have more features, Wacom tablets tend to have more of a premium and durable build, and a lot more brand recognition.